What are the best moisturizers for men with oily skin?

By: Dave Roos
Man putting moisturizer on his face.
man's skin may be tougher than a woman's, but it's also oilier. See more personal hygiene pictures.
Dougal Waters/Getty Images

It's good to be a man when it comes to skin care. Men's skin is 20 to 30 percent thicker than a woman's, naturally helping it look plump and healthy even as their wives and girlfriends fight crow's feet and frown lines with every anti-aging cream on the shelf [source: Sine]. The downside of that thick skin is that men's faces also host more hair follicles and more glands that produce sebum, or what we call oil. Testosterone activates those glands, giving men oilier skin than their female companions [source: Newman].

Oily skin is more prone to clogged pores, leading to acne breakouts or blackheads. While zits may have been more of a concern as a teenager, oily skin is also the source of an increasingly high-profile skin concern: shine. Blame it on the popularity of the clean-shaven noggin, but The New York Times recently reported a sharp rise in skin care products designed to mattify the skin, or give it a shine-free, matte finish. One market research firm expected 36 new "mattifying" moisturizers to hit the market in 2010 [source: Newman].


If you have oily skin, you might think that moisturizers would only exacerbate the problem. But there's a difference between adding oil to your skin and adding moisture. The purpose of a good moisturizer is to draw water into surface skin cells, protecting them against the drying effects of sunlight, wind, shaving, and environmental pollutants without clogging pores or leaving skin with that "greasy" feeling.

Before you go shopping for a moisturizer designed for men with oily skin, first figure out if that's really your skin type. The best way to do that is to visit a licensed dermatologist. Use the search tool at the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Web site to find one near you. Don't rely on the expertise of the folks behind the skin care counter at the local department store [source: Sine]. Believe it or not, those white lab coats don't count as credentials.

On the next page, we'll look at the two major types of moisturizers and tell you exactly which ingredients are safe for oily skin and which should be avoided.



Types of Moisturizers for Men With Oily Skin

As a general rule, men with oily skin should look for moisturizers that are oil-free, water-based and noncomedogenic, meaning it won't clog pores [source: Mayo Clinic]. Understand, however, that these phrases aren't necessarily backed up by scientific studies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes moisturizers as cosmetics and doesn't test products to verify health claims before they go to market. The burden lies squarely on the consumer to read the ingredient list carefully and know which items are safe for men with oily skin and those that are risky.

There are two basic types of moisturizers on the market: occlusives and humectants. Occlusives use oils like petrolatum, lanolin, coconut oil and other artificial or plant-derived fats to create a seal on the skin that traps in moisture. Since occlusives are oil-based, they should be avoided by men with oily skin.


Humectants, on the other hand, use ingredients that draw moisture from the air into the skin. Common ingredients to look for in humectants are glycerin (glycerol), alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and urea [source: Kraft]. Most moisturizers use a combination of occulants and humectants to draw in moisture and then seal it in the skin. If you have oily skin, you'll want to seek out products that rely exclusively on humectants.

To maximize the effectivenes of a humectant-based moisturizer, apply the product right after you cleanse your skin and while your skin is still slightly damp. This way your skin can soak up the excess moisture [source: Mayo Clinic].

The new generation of mattifying moisturizers employs a third set of ingredients designed to soak up oil as other ingredients help replenish moisture levels. A moisturizer called the Matte for Men Complete Face and Head Care Lotion relies on the natural oil-soaking abilities of oats [source: Newman]. The All-Day Oil-Control Lotion from men's skin care company Jack Black includes particles of China clay (Kaolin), cotton and Nylon 12, an artificial polymer, to "absorb facial oils," according to its product description.

Whatever moisturizing product you choose, look for one that includes at least SPF 15 sun protection. If you have fair skin or spend a lot of time outdoors, go for SPF 30. And make sure the sunscreen offers "full-spectrum" coverage, meaning it protects you from both UVA and UVB rays. Oily skin is a problem, but skin cancer is an epidemic, with 1 million new cases reported each year -- 8,000 of them fatal [source: Sine].

For much more information on moisturizers and skin types, take a look at the links on the next page.


Lots More Information

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  • Kraft, J.N. and Lynde, C.W. MedScape Today. "Moisturizers: What They Are - Practical Approach to Selection."(Accessed Jan. 9, 2011)http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/505759_6
  • Newman, Andrew Adam. "Seeking to Shine (Not to be Shiny)." The New York Times. July 21, 2010 (Accessed Jan. 9, 2011)http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/22/fashion/22skin.html?pagewanted=all
  • Mayo Clinic. "Moisturizers: Options for Softer Skin." (Accessed Jan. 8, 2011)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/moisturizers/SN00042
  • Sine, Richard. "Skin Care: It's Not Just for Women." WebMD. (Accessed Jan. 8, 2011)http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/features/skin-care-its-not-just-for-women