How To Moisturize Without Getting Zits

There's a common misconception that moisturizing makes you break out. While some products won't help your acne-fighting cause, it's important to remember that hydrating is not the enemy. In fact, there's a whole host of creams and gels that will keep your face supple without making you an oily mess. And, it turns out, hydration could actually help keep you from breaking out in the first place. (Mind. Blown.)

The secret to finding these perfect products is knowing the right ingredients for your skin type. We chatted with two top pros in the field — Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery, and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas  — to get the scoop on how to select a moisturizer.

Read on for your customized cocktail of anti-breakout ingredients. Smooth, blemish-free skin, here you come. 
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Dry Skin
Dry types tend to have smaller pores, which seems super desirable, but it actually means there isn't enough oil being produced to protect the skin. "You want a thicker, more emollient moisturizer," Dr. Tanzi says. Both she and Vargas suggest a formula with hyaluronic acid. "It keeps the moisture locked into the skin," Dr. Tanzi says.

Vargas says certain oils are best for dry skin. "Look for avocado oil, almond oil, and olive oil," she says. "Omega-3 fatty acids keep water in the skin cells, and these oils won't clog your pores."
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Combination Skin
"This is a really common skin type," Dr. Tanzi says. It's characterized by dry patches, typically on the cheeks, paired with an oily T-zone. Look for a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, which means it won't clog pores. These are often made with non-pore-clogging oils: Vargas suggests jojoba for combo skin. "It's most similar to your skin's natural oil, so it won't make you break out," she says. "It will help control oil production in the skin, and it will be intensely hydrating."

When you apply it, don't slather it all over your face. "I always encourage people to be light-handed with moisturizer in the T-zone," Vargas says. "Very rarely does the nose need to be moisturized, so use a light touch there."
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Oily Skin
There are two different types of oily skin. Your face can over-produce oil naturally, in which case, you may not even need moisturizer, according to Dr. Tanzi. But, you may also go into oil overdrive as a response to harsh, drying products. In both scenarios, Vargas suggests looking for zinc on the ingredient list. "Zinc signals the skin to stop producing oil," she says. "It will also absorb the excess oil that skin is producing." Bonus: It's a natural sunscreen.
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Acne-Prone Skin
"Acne-prone skin can be both oily and dry," Dr. Tanzi says. "Since a lot of the ingredients that treat acne are so incredibly drying, it's very important to use a moisturizer." This seems counterintuitive, but hydrating will help heal things faster, and it defends skin against the elements. She suggests lotions, like good ol' Cetaphil, over creams.

Vargas says gel-like formulas are a safe bet for the breakout-prone. "It's not going to beget more breakouts," she says. A moisturizer with some type of green pigment — like chlorophyll — in it can also help soothe blemishes. "Greens help make your lymphatic system healthy," she says.
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Sensitive Skin
Just a touch of the wrong ingredient can send your mug into a tailspin. Look for something with as few artificial components as possible. Dr. Tanzi suggests Vanicream for this very reason. "It's dermatologist-recommended and formulated with sensitive types in mind."

Keep your eye on natural oils, too. Vargas swears by olive oil. "It's an essential fatty acid, and is awesome for calming sensitive skin and bringing down inflammation," she says. Avocado oil is also clutch for sensitive types.
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