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What is an Oil-Free Moisturizer?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 21, 2024
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Oil-free moisturizer is facial moisturizer that does not contain any oil products such as mineral oil, coconut oils, plant oils, or animal oils such as lanolin, which are common ingredients in facial moisturizers. The oil acts as an emollient, and helps to seal moisture into the skin, and also helps to make the skin feel soft and smooth. Some people prefer to use an oil-free moisturizer, however, either because their skin is already oily, or because they want to avoid mineral oils or animal products, for example.

Oil-free moisturizer does not contain any of these oils, and instead uses chemical products to mimic the effect of oil and to act as an emollient, sealing the moisture into the skin. These might include dimethicone and trisiloxane, among others. They function the same way as oil would, but may make the skin appear less greasy. Oil-free moisturizers will be labeled as such on the bottle.

Otherwise, oil-free moisturizer is often exactly the same as other types of moisturizer. Other water-binding ingredients help to keep moisture in the skin, and these may be ceramides or hyaluronic acid. The moisturizer may contain ingredients to soothe the skin, as well as antioxidants and alpha-hydroxy acids to help repair damage caused by the sun or other environmental factors. Many facial moisturizers also contain sunscreen to protect the skin from further sun damage.

Oil-free moisturizer designed to treat acne will likely include either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which are two effective acne fighting ingredients. Some facial moisturizers may also include a small amount of tanning lotion, which can give the appearance of having a great tan without needing to spend any time in the sun. For people with sensitive skin, or who often find their skin to be oily or greasy as the day goes on, oil-free moisturizer can be a great choice for a daily skin treatment.

Very dry skin will probably not respond well to oil-free moisturizer. In that case, it might be a good idea to purchase a richer moisturizer that does contain one of the oils mentioned above, particularly jojoba oil or lanolin. These are excellent choices for softening dry skin that may even be red or peeling; in addition, dry skin does not tend to be as acne-prone as oily skin, so that is usually less of a concern. Some people choose to use an oil-free moisturizer in the summer months, and a heavier, more hydrating moisturizer in the winter months to combat dry winter air.

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