Whether you have dry, sensitive, or oily acne-prone skin, we’ve got a moisturizer just for you.
|Fragrance & Essential Oils/ Alcohol-free
|Fungal Acne safe
|Dr. Oracle | TerpinaC Gel Cream
|Tea Tree Extract; Betaine Salicylate; Hyaluronic Acid; Ceramides; Niacinamide
|Benton | Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
|Aloe Leaf Water; Propolis; Green Tea Leaf Extract
|COSRX | Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion
|Tea Tree Leaf Oil; Birch Sap; Sodium Hyaluronate
|Etude House | SoonJung 5-Panthensoside Cica Balm
Best low pH
|Panthenol 5%; Green Tea Leaf Extract; Madecassocide
|Skin Food | Royal Honey 100 Hour Moisture Cream
|Royal Jelly Extract; Honey Extract; Aloe Leaf Powder
|Tony Moly | Chokchok Green Tea Watery Cream
Best Home Spa
|Green Tea Leaf Extract
How to Pick the Best Korean Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin?
For those of us struggling with oily, acne-prone skin, the word “moisturizer” is sometimes all it takes to set off alarm bells in our heads. And the concern is understandable since some moisturizers can be comedogenic and cause more harm than good. As such, we tend to stay away from moisturizers altogether to avoid triggering or worsening an acne flare-up.
However, it’s important to remember that acne isn’t solely caused by the products you put on your skin. It’s can also be caused by dry or dehydrated skin. What’s the difference, you ask?
]Dry skin produces very little natural oils or sebum. This causes dead skin cells to build up faster and clog pores. Dryness also affects the integrity of the skin barrier. It reduces skin elasticity and impairs its ability to keep acne-causing bacteria at bay.
On the other hand, dehydrated skin lacks water in its outer layers. To compensate for this, the skin’s sebum production goes into overdrive. This creates excess oil that clog pores and trigger the growth of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria.
All skin types, whether dry or oily, can still be dehydrated. So, moisturizing is an essential skincare step to keep sebum levels in check and the skin barrier functioning well.
But with so many Korean moisturizers available, all seemingly touting the same benefits, choosing one with the right ingredients may be difficult or confusing. Fortunately, you won’t need to look any further because we’ve compiled a list of safe ingredients for acne-prone skin. So, let’s get to it!
Look for acne-fighting ingredients
Moisturizers for acne-prone skin need ingredients that’ll help manage existing and future flare-ups. Here are some tried-and-tested Korean acne-fighting ingredients to look for:
Centella Asiatica is derived from the medicinal Gotu Kola plant. It has excellent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, which reduces acne-causing bacteria. It’s also great for healing and calming acne breakouts while preventing new ones.
One of its main components, Madecassoside, supports antioxidative activity and collagen synthesis in the skin. This helps repair skin and improve the appearance of mild acne scarring.
Willow bark extract
Willow bark extract is the main source of salicin, the unmetabolized form of the popular skincare ingredient, salicylic acid. Since it’s a natural plant extract, salicin is gentler on the skin, making it safer for those with sensitive skin types.
Besides having antifungal, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties, willow bark extract also has an exfoliating effect on the skin. It boosts the skin’s turnover rate by melting away dead skin cells that could clog pores and cause acne.
Green tea leaf extract
Green tea extract is rich in polyphenols, which are known for their potent antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. It can also reduce sebum production for those with oily skin, and significantly lessen mild acne lesions.
Look for wound healing ingredients
Technically, acne pimples are wounds because they cause breaks in the skin. So it’s important to look for ingredients that help with wound healing, inflammation, and hyperpigmentation. Here are some effective options:
Aloe leaf water/extract
Aloe vera has been used for medicinal purposes since the time of the Ancient Egyptians. It contains as many as 75 active components that have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, making it an incredibly beneficial ingredient for acne-prone skin.
Aloe vera extract is also known for its regenerative properties, thanks to glucomannan. This works by stimulating the cells responsible for collagen production, boosting wound healing, and improving skin overall integrity.
Birch sap extract is another great ingredient for acne-prone skin. Derived from silver birch trees, birch sap minimizes water loss, making it an excellent moisturizer. It also boosts the functions of important cells responsible for skin repair, ensuring proper wound healing and brighter skin.
Hyaluronic acid/sodium hyaluronate
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the body. It’s a gentle and non-irritating moisturizer capable of holding up to 1000 times its weight in water, making it suitable for both dry and oily skin types.
Look for bee products
Bee products such as honey, propolis, royal jelly, and bee venom are widely used in many Korean skincare products due to their antimicrobial and wound healing benefits. Here’s a quick rundown of what each ingredient offers acne-prone skin:
- Honey: Honey prevents the growth of bacteria and fungi on the skin surface and balances out the pH level of wounds, which helps accelerate wound healing. It also soothes skin irritations and inflammation.
- Propolis: Propolis contains about 12 different types of flavonoids and vitamins, making it a powerful antioxidant. Like honey, propolis has antiseptic properties that keep bacteria and fungal infections in check. It’s especially effective against Cutibacterium acnes (C. acnes) and P. acnes, two types of acne-causing bacteria.
- Royal jelly: Royal jelly is rich in bioactive compounds, giving it excellent antioxidative, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and moisturizing properties. It also helps control sebum production in the skin, which is essential for acne-prone skin.
- Bee venom: Bee venom has potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also an effective treatment against P. acnes and C. acnes bacteria.
Ingredients to avoid
Some moisturizers and toners come with ingredients that can irritate acne-prone skin. Here are a few of the main ones to keep an eye out for:
Many anti-acne toners come formulated with denatured alcohol. In small amounts, it has an antibacterial effect and helps other ingredients better penetrate the skin by removing excess oil.
However, too much denatured alcohol can be incredibly drying on the skin. This pushes sebum production into high gear to compensate for the dryness. It also strips away natural oils that keep the skin barrier healthy, making it weaker against acne-causing bacteria.
Comedogenic ingredients have a thick or heavy composition and are known to block pores and cause breakouts. Some of the most common comedogenic ingredients include shea or cocoa butter, nut oils like coconut and almond, and squalene.
There’s a 0-5 rating that’s often used today to show how comedogenic certain ingredients are. James Fulton used this in a 1989 study he did on the comedogenicity of common skincare ingredients. The issue, however, is that aside from being a 30-year-old study, the tests were also done on rabbit ears, which are significantly more sensitive than human skin.
Ten other studies have been done on comedogenic cosmetic ingredients, many of which yielded mixed results. For instance, one study states that some comedogenic ingredients become non-comedogenic when diluted. Another study states that products containing comedogenic ingredients are “not necessarily comedogenic”.
Ultimately, this means that comedogenic ratings aren’t entirely accurate. And as such, shouldn’t be taken as a golden standard.
That being said, a good way to determine if a product is comedogenic or not is by looking at the ingredients list. If any known comedogenic ingredients are high up on the list, that means the product contains a large percentage of that ingredient. And that can be bad news for acne-prone skin. You can see the full list of comedogenic ingredients on Acne.org for future reference.
Fragrance or essential oils
Some products contain fragrances or essential oils for an aromatic, spa-like experience. However, many of these contain chemicals that can be harsh and irritating for sensitive skin. Some can even cause contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction that looks like a red, itchy rash.
6 Best Korean Moisturizers for Acne-Prone Skin (2021)
Dr.Oracle TerpinaC Gel Cream
- Niacinamide to brighten the complexion.
- Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides for moisturization.
- Tea Tree Extract (4-Terpineol) and Willow Bark Extract to fight acne-causing bacteria.
- Panthenol and Allantoin to calm irritated or inflamed skin.
- Betaine Salicylate for gentle exfoliation.
- Best for all skin types
The Dr.Oracle TerpinaC™ Gel Cream is loaded with lots of ingredients that are great for all skin types. It combines skin-soothing, hydrating, and anti-acne benefits, making it well worth its price. It’s also lightweight, non-greasy, and dermatologist-approved. As such, it’s our best overall pick for acne-prone skin.
One of the main ingredients of the TerpinaC™ Gel Cream is 4-Terpineol, which is a major component in tea tree oil. Together with Allantoin and Panthenol, it soothes irritation and inflammation that’s common in acne-prone skin.
4-Terpineol, along with Willow Bark Extract, keeps acne-causing bacteria at bay. And Betaine Salicylate gently clears away dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores. If hyperpigmentation is your main concern, the TerpinaC™ Gel Cream has a high concentration of Niacinamide to help address uneven spots from acne scarring.
This cream offers long-lasting hydration that feels light and breathable on the skin. The combination of Hyaluronic Acid and Ceramides does this by drawing moisture into the skin, while strengthening the skin barrier so that less water is lost throughout the day. This also helps prevent dehydration, which in turn helps balance sebum production.
Oracle Cosmetics is a dermatologist-led skincare brand. It specializes in breathable products for environmentally stressed skin. All their products are developed using data gathered from thousands of clinical cases.
Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
- Aloe Vera Leaf Water and Extract for moisturization and wound healing.
- Green Tea Leaf Extract to regulate sebum production.
- Propolis Extract and Tea Tree Extract to fight acne-causing bacteria.
- Cucumber Extract and Portulaca Extract to soothe irritated or inflamed skin.
- Best for all skin types.
The Benton Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel contains a range of soothing ingredients to calm skin irritation. It has antibacterial benefits from Propolis and helps control sebum with Green Tea Extract. The combination of these two blemish-fighting ingredients makes this moisturizer a strong runner-up pick for acne-prone skin.
This gel has amazing moisturizing benefits, thanks to its high concentration of Aloe Vera Leaf Water Extract. It improves wound healing due to the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera. The blend of Cucumber and Portulaca Extract also helps calm skin irritations, which is great for acne wounds.
Propolis and Tea Tree Extract make an effective acne-fighting combo. Both have antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that stop the growth of acne-causing bacteria. The addition of Green Tea Leaf Extract is also great for oily skin types. It regulates sebum production, which lessens the occurrence of clogged pores and breakouts.
Although the Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel has small amounts of Citrus Limon Fruit Oil, it’s not likely enough to cause skin irritations. However, those with extra sensitive skin should use it with caution. This gel is also quite light when applied and tends to dry quickly. As such, those who live in dry climates or have very dry skin types may need to use it with a thicker moisturizer.
Benton is a clean K-Beauty brand that specializes in vegan-friendly skincare products.
Cosrx Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion
- Birch Sap to moisturize and repair the skin.
- Tea Tree Leaf Oil to reduce acne-causing bacteria.
- Sodium Hyaluronate to increase skin hydration.
- Allantoin and Panthenol to soothe sensitive, irritated skin.
- Best for all skin types.
The COSRX Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion is a lightweight moisturizer that offers good hydration and oil control. It has skin-soothing benefits essential for acne-prone skin. It’s also very affordable, making this lotion our best budget pick.
Instead of water, this lotion is filled with 70% Birch Sap essence. It’s a hydrating ingredient that minimizes water loss and repairs the skin barrier. Sodium Hyaluronate, a component of hyaluronic acid, further boosts this moisturizing effect. Its smaller molecules allow it to better penetrate the skin, which is beneficial for dry and dehydrated skin.
The dual effect of Birch Sap and Sodium Hyaluronate helps balance out oil production. Both are non-greasy when applied, making them ideal for oily skin types as well.
This lotion also contains Tea Tree Oil, which has antibacterial properties that prevent new acne breakouts. And last but not least, you have Allantoin and Panthenol, which help calm any existing skin irritations.
Although we now know that some oils can be very beneficial for acne-prone skin, there are some types that can be problematic. However, since this is an oil-free formula, it’s perfect for those who want to play it safe and not have too many oils in their moisturizer.
COSRX (Cosmetics + Rx) is a popular and multi-awarded K-Beauty brand. It focuses on simple, skin-friendly solutions that are high in value but low in cost.
ETUDE HOUSE SoonJung 5-Panthensoside Cica Balm
- Panthenol 5% to moisturize and address skin irritation.
- Madecassoside to repair the skin and improve wound healing.
- Green Tea Leaf Extract to regulate sebum production.
- No artificial fragrances or colors.
- Hypoallergenic and dermatologist-tested.
- Best for all skin types, but especially beneficial for dry, sensitive skin.
The ETUDE SoonJung 5-Panthensoside Cica Balm is made to address sensitive skin and skin barrier issues. This balm has oil control, wound healing, and anti-inflammatory properties that work together to improve the skin’s overall resilience. It also has a slightly acidic formula, making this our favorite low pH moisturizer for acne-prone skin.
This balm contains Madecassoside, a component of Centella Asiatica that has skin-soothing benefits. Formulated with 5% Panthenol, this balm also minimizes water loss in the skin. Together they work to hydrate and restore the skin barrier.
The SoonJung 5-Panthensoside Cica Balm has a pH of 5.5, making it slightly acidic. This is particularly important for keeping acne-causing bacteria under control. By creating an acidic barrier on the surface of our skin, it creates a hostile environment that prevents bacteria from multiplying. In addition to this, Green Tea Leaf Extract also helps by controlling sebum, which reduces the occurrence of inflammatory acne.
The ETUDE SoonJung 5-Panthensoside Cica Balm is non-comedogenic and dermatologist-approved. It’s also formulated without the following additives:
- Animal products
- Mineral oil
- Artificial coloring
- Synthetic fragrance
- Silicone oil
- Imidazolidinyl urea,
- PEG surfactants
[note]ETUDE has been around since 1985 and first gained popularity for its makeup lines. Today, it offers a wide range of beauty and skincare products that help consumers “discover and master their true beauty”.[/note]
SKINFOOD Royal Honey 100 Hour Moisture Cream
- Beta-Glucan to moisturize and repair the skin.
- Glycerin to restore and protect the moisture barrier.
- Honey and Royal Jelly Extract to soothe irritated skin and heal wounds.
- Aloe Vera Leaf Juice Powder to fight acne-causing bacteria.
- No artificial fragrances or colors.
- Best for dry, acne-prone skin.
The SKINFOOD Royal Honey 100 Hour Moisture Cream contains Honey and Royal Jelly Extract, which have skin healing benefits. It also has loads of conditioning ingredients that can keep skin moist for 100 hours. As such, this cream is our favorite hydrating moisturizer for acne-prone skin.
Those who deal with extra dry, acne-prone skin will benefit a great deal from Beta-Glucan. This humectant contains skin-repairing benefits that help strengthen the skin barrier. It works alongside Glycerin, another humectant that helps lock moisture into the skin.
Honey and Royal Jelly have regenerative properties that do wonders for dry, irritated skin. And Aloe Vera Leaf Juice Powder doubles up on the hydration while keeping acne-causing bacteria away.
Those with combination skin can use this moisturizer. But it’s best to do so with caution as it’s formulated with a lot of oils, such as:
- Olive Fruit Oil
- Sunflower Seed Oil
- Macadamia Seed Oil
- Mango Seed Butter
Sunflower Seed Oil and Mango Seed Butter are not as comedogenic as the other ingredients on this list. However, the combination of all of them may still cause blocked pores that can lead to breakouts in those with oily or combination skin.
SKINFOOD is an eco-friendly brand that dates back to 1957. It delivers food-based organic skincare products ethically sourced from South Korean farms.
TONYMOLY Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Moisture Cream
- Green Tea Leaf Extract to soothe inflammation and reduce sebum.
- Best for all skin types.
The TONYMOLY Chok Chok Green Tea Watery Moisture Cream contains concentrated Green Tea Leaf Extract. It has a lightweight, non-greasy finish that’s excellent for acne-prone skin. It also has a fresh citrusy scent, making it our favorite moisturizer for a spa-like experience at home..
In place of water, this cream contains 63% pure Green Tea Leaf Extract. The extract used is a special type called ‘ChungTaeJeon’, which is fermented for 365 days. This gives it potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits that help calm acne breakouts. It also minimizes sebum production to prevent new flare-ups.
The cream itself has a bouncy, gel-like texture. When applied, it melts into the skin with a watery consistency, flooding it with hydration. It’s a great way to treat tired skin, and is light enough to be used twice a day. Since it tends to be absorbed quite quickly, those with drier skin might feel the need for added moisture. If so, the cream can be paired with a hydrating serum or essence.
One thing of note is that the cream also contains Lemon Seed Oil and Rosewood Essential Oil. And while both ingredients add a lovely fragrance, they may also be irritating for those with sensitive skin.
TONYMOLY has been producing dermatologist-tested and Peta-certified since 2006. Their Chok Chok Green Tea skincare line is named after the Korean onomatopoeia “chok chok” (촉촉) which refers to well-hydrated, glowing skin.