If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

Choosing the Right Product Application Tips The Final Takeaway

When you have oily skin, getting rid of all that excess oil becomes priority number one in your skin-care routine. But while you might think the best way to do this is by doubling down on drying actives like retinoids and hydroxy acids, that’s actually not the case. In fact, it may make things even worse. 

As it turns out, one of the best things you can do to combat oily skin is not to dry it out but to load it up with moisture. Counterintuitive, we know, but don't just take it from us: Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of finding the right moisturizer for oily skin, straight from board-certified dermatologists Julia Schwartz, MD, and Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD.

What Is Oily Skin?

“People with oily skin may find that their skin appears greasy or shiny due to the overproduction of sebum, an oil the skin naturally produces that, in excess, can lead to oily skin,” says Schwartz. “Oily skin can predispose you to acne and breakouts, as well as clogged pores and blackheads.”

No matter what skin type you’re working with, the sebaceous glands in all skin (except for the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet) produce sebum. It’s made up of a mixture of lipids, including triglycerides and fatty acids, and its primary function is to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair to prevent them from becoming dry and brittle. At normal levels, sebum helps your skin stay healthy and function properly. But when your body is producing too much of the stuff, oily skin ensues—and so do all those aforementioned annoying side effects. 

While some people are born with oily skin (it can be genetic, so if one or both of your parents have it, you likely will, too), external factors, like humidity from the environment and hormonal shifts, can kick your sebum production into high gear. This means that some people's skin can be oily sometimes, but not all the time, depending on where they are geographically or seasonally and where they are in their menstrual cycle. 

Your skincare practices also play a role. If you’re over-cleansing or using harsh, skin-stripping actives, your body will start to pump out more sebum in an attempt to combat the dryness and damage your routine is causing Thankfully, “using the right skin-care products for your complexion can lead to your skin no longer having an oily appearance,” says Schwartz, and that’s where a moisturizer comes in.

Why You Should Moisturize It

Simply put, “Moisturizing the skin can help regulate your natural oil production,” says Schwartz. That’s because—as she mentioned earlier—when you don’t have enough moisture in your skin, it will produce excess oils to try to stay healthy. “Additionally, some people can suffer from the double whammy of oily skin and dryness at the same time, especially if they’re overusing numerous potentially irritating active ingredients such as hydroxy acids and retinoids.”

What’s more, just because the skin is oily doesn’t mean it’s great at retaining moisture—which is crucial for keeping it properly hydrated. Regularly moisturizing oily skin (or any skin for that matter) will help fortify the skin barrier to keep water from escaping into the environment while flooding it with the moisture it needs to stay healthy. 

Ultimately, the key here is to keep your skin balanced—much like Goldilocks, you want things to be "just right." Enter: Your p.m. moisturizer.

When to Moisturize

Dermatologists recommend moisturizing oily skin once a day, and your best bet is to do it in the evening. For starters, your skin shifts into “rest and repair” mode overnight, so it’s easier for active ingredients to permeate the epidermis and work their magic. Additionally, Murphy-Rose notes that your skin loses the most water at night, so using a product that will help seal it in (read: a moisturizer) can help keep your moisture levels from teeter-tottering while you sleep. 

Choosing the Right Product

Finding the right moisturizer for oily requires striking a delicate balance. You want something nourishing enough to keep skin hydrated, but not so heavy that it will make it feel even greasier. “Look for lighter weight, oil-free moisturizers and face lotions,” says Murphy-Rose. Anything you use should also have “non-comedogenic” on the label, as these formulas won’t clog your pores and cause breakouts.

As far as ingredients go, “Humectants like hyaluronic acid, polyglutamic acid, glycerin, and aloe are great choices for oily skin as they attract water to the skin’s surface to provide hydration without any occlusive properties that could contribute to breakouts,” says Murphy-Rose. “Oil-free moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides and squalane that are less likely to clog pores are ideal for oily skin, and will support the skin barrier without risking breakouts.”

She recommends avoiding formulas that come in cream, ointment, or oil formats, and steering clear of occlusive ingredients like rich butters, oils, petrolatum, silicones, and vitamin E or tocopherol.

Dermatologist-Approved Product Picks

  • Skincare Junkie’s Megadose Super Antioxidant Face Moisturizer ($68) combines antioxidant, anti-pollution, and anti-aging benefits into an oil-free, silky moisturizer that won’t clog pores or produce excess shine. It is hypoallergenic, vegan, and designed for oily and acne-prone skin. The clinically proven blend of coenzyme Q10, resveratrol, green tea, and vitamin C protects against skin aging and hydrates without causing breakouts. This is a particularly great choice for oily skin at night because it supports skin regeneration while sleeping. 
  • Murad’s Oil Control Mattifier SPF15 ($49) combines a hydrating lotion and sun protection into one product designed for oily skin. Mattifying agents help to remove excess oil and reduce breakouts. For daily use, pair this with an additional sun protectant to achieve an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Cetaphil’s DermaControl Oil Absorbing Moisturizer SPF 30 ($14) is another good choice for oily skin. It is oil-free, fragrance-free, non-comedogenic, and moisturizes while keeping oils in control. 
  • CeraVe’s Ultra-Lightweight PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($15) is a great choice for oily skin in a drier climate. It is slightly richer than many oily skin moisturizers, but still oil-free and non-comedogenic. This is a great drugstore choice for oily or acne-prone skin. 

Application Tips

No matter what type of complexion you’re working with, moisturizer should be the final step in your nighttime routine after you wash your face and apply your treatment serums. But when it comes to oily skin, it’s even more important to ensure your face is properly cleansed before moving on to any leave-on products. “I recommend washing skin twice daily to remove excess sebum as well as skincare products, microbes, and debris, and then applying a moisturizer to protect against transepidermal water loss,” says Murphy-Rose. Additionally, Schwartz recommends pairing your moisturizer with a retinoid (prescription-strength or over-the-counter) to help unclog your pores and keep things balanced. 

In terms of how much moisturizer you should be using, a nickel-sized dollop should be plenty to give your skin the hydration it needs. Massage it in gently (and regularly!), and wait for it to work its magic. 

The Final Takeaway

Breaking the cycle of oily skin requires keeping things balanced, and a nighttime moisturizer is key to doing just that. Look for a lightweight, non-comedogenic product that will flood your skin with hydrating and barrier-strengthening ingredients—like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and ceramides—and commit to using it regularly.

See More from Byrdie Shopping

If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

I Found the 12 Best Amazon Fashion Deals to Shop for Summer, Starting at $15

If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

8 Viral Beauty Products to Shop at Amazon This Memorial Day, Starting at Just $5

If You Have Oily Skin, Should You Moisturize at Night?

Kendall Jenner’s Glowy Tinted Moisturizer Is Just $14 on Amazon Right Now


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *