4 Best Moisturizers for Black Skin (A Derm’s Guide)
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This article aims to address the most suitable and effective ‘skin hydrators’ on the market for darker skin types.
Why is this an important topic?
While it is essential to find skincare products and moisturizers to fit your skin type, whether it is oily, dry, normal, or combination, it is also very important to choose a skin regimen based on your skin tone, type, or color.
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that individuals with darker skin types face a unique set of needs, including greater susceptibility to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which refers to a dark spot that can be residual after a breakout, dermatitis, or other dermatologic insults on the skin.
Similarly, the skin can look particularly dehydrated, dry, flaky, or ashy if it is not appropriately hydrated and moisturized.
One of the most common concerns for individuals with darker skin types is hyperpigmentation, which can sometimes occur on its own or after an insult to the skin, such as a rash, acne, or other trauma.
Within this review, we will be covering the best moisturizer for black skin, as well as some of the indications, benefits, and topics in this realm.
Before you buy: 3 things you have to consider when purchasing a moisturizer for black skin
1. When do you plan on using the moisturizer?
One of the key considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a moisturizer for black or darker skin phototypes is the setting in which you plan on using the moisturizer.
Are you hoping to put it on first thing in the morning after washing your face or using it as a primer for makeup?
Do you have an evening cream that is your go-to, and do you use any additional or coexisting topical dermatologic medications for conditions such as acne, rosacea, or seborrheic dermatitis?
The time of day in which you plan to apply the moisturizer and the purpose it may serve are important aspects of which kind of moisturizer you end up choosing. For daytime use, many individuals prefer a moisturizer with a sun protection factor component, which helps to shield UV light and avoid some of the effects caused by unwanted sun exposure.
2. What are the goals you are hoping to achieve with the moisturizer?
Which type of moisturizer you end up choosing should ideally line up with your goals in skincare.
If you suffer from acne, it may be wise to choose something oil-free and non-comedogenic to avoid further flares or breakouts. If you plan on applying it underneath or with makeup, it may be helpful to use something lightweight to avoid clogging pores.
Suppose you happen to be on topical retinoids or underwent a peel or a dermatologic procedure recently. It may be a consideration to choose a soothing emollient that can help your skin heal faster.
3. What type of skin do you have?
The kind of moisturizer you consider choosing also plays a role depending on what skin type you may have.
Some of us have sensitive skin, which tingles and may become red with the application of many products. If this sounds familiar, I suggest patch testing the moisturizer on an area with pretty thick, tough skin, such as the foot. Avoid applying a large quantity until you know how your skin will react to it.
Others may have dry skin that is continually flaking or ashy in appearance. These may benefit from a moisturizer with hydrating properties and ingredients such as ceramides, glycerin, and other emollients.
The 4 best moisturizers for black skin
ZELEN Life Moisturizer (Best for clean skincare)
- Superb addition to a daily routine as it is natural and mattifying
- Handmade with organic oils
- Packed with antioxidants
- Light, non-weight, and non-greasy formula that absorbs quickly
The best moisturizer for:
Those with sensitive skin. As it is hypoallergenic and can be used in all skin types, including sensitive skin, in both men and women.
Jojoba, calendula, clary sage
ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer is handmade and an excellent choice for hydrating black skin. It contains organic ingredients such as clary sage, calendula, and jojoba oil which, are rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin K.
Vitamin E in this moisturizer is derived from jojoba and is also an important antioxidant that is fat-soluble and is used in many cosmetic products by serving as a scavenger of free radicals to help protect against solar radiation.(2) It can also be used for the treatment of hyperpigmentation.
Vitamin C is derived from orange peel oil and is a powerful antioxidant. It is primarily used to help reduce the effects of photoaging and hyperpigmentation, which is a common skin complaint in many skin types, including black skin.(1)
Vitamin A is derived from calendula. It is a powerful vitamin that assists in reducing the effects of aging, such as the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines. This is due to its rich antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but also because it produces retinol. Retinol is known to stimulate collagen production by penetrating the inner layers of the skin. (9)
Lastly, clary sage is rich in vitamin K, which also plays a vital part in this moisturizer’s anti-aging capabilities. Vitamin K maintains the current collagen of the skin having as a result in a skin that appears smoother and younger. It is an essential vitamin that maintains the skin’s elasticity.(8)
How it performs?
Applying it to my skin, I must say this is a very lightweight moisturizer that spreads easily. It blends in with your skin texture, restoring hydration while not feeling greasy. In fact, my skin felt very smooth and plumped after application. Just a dime-sized amount is enough to get the moisturization needed for the day. However, make sure to add sunscreen afterward.
It is worth noting that I didn’t experience any irritations while using it. It is free from harmful chemicals such as parabens, petrochemicals, silicones, and sulfates. In addition, if you are sensitive to fragrances, then there is no need to worry about using this moisturizer as there is no artificial fragrance or alcohol in its formulation either.
Nevertheless, it is important to note that it has a subtle citrusy/floral scent that comes from its botanical ingredients, which I found to be very majestic. I’m going to be honest, I wanted its aroma to last longer, but unfortunately, it fades away after a minute of application.
While this is a great moisturizer that includes a variety of vitamins providing all-around protection, if you are looking for a moisturizer that is richer in vitamin C, then Mario Badescu Hydro Moisturizer with Vitamin C might be more suitable for you. It contains a good amount of ascorbic acid, a fancy name for vitamin C. However, it is important to note that it is a little bit thicker in texture and contains parabens.
- Moisturizes the skin and does not clog pores
- Suitable for all skin types including sensitive (no harmful chemicals or fragrance)
- Acts as a protective barrier for the skin against external elements
- Contains essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins
- Cruelty-free – it has not been tested on animals
Things to think about:
- This moisturizer does not contain sunscreen, so for sun protection, you may want to consider adding a physical blocker such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide with a sun protection factor of 30 or above
This all-encompassing moisturizer is excellent to add to your daily routine and is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and ethnic skin as well as dark phototypes.
- Value for money
Caudalie Vinopure Natural Oil Control Moisturizer (Best for oil control)
- Restores a hydrating balance to the skin
- Mattifying gel to avoid unwanted shine
- Ideal for many skin tones, including fair, medium, dark, and very dark skin tones
The best moisturizer for:
Oily skin, mainly due to its mattifying effect and its ability to reduce excess sebum and decrease the appearance of blemishes that characterize breakouts.
Olive squalane, grape seed polyphenols, silica powder
Caudalie Vinopure Natural Oil Control Moisturizer is formulated as a mattifying and hydrating liquid moisturizer designed to absorb sebum, reduce blemishes and refine the skin’s texture. This means it is suitable mostly for oily or combination skin types.
What ingredients does it use to make this happen?
This moisturizer is formulated with olive squalane, grape seed polyphenols, and silica powder to promote a clear and fresh complexion.
Natural silica powder, primes, and mattify the skin. Silica is one of the most common minerals on earth. It helps reduce excess oil while assisting your face to adhere makeup better. Silica nanoparticles are used in many aspects of medicine, including cosmetics, dermatology, and dentistry as it was found in improving the treatment effectiveness of several skin conditions.(3)(10)
Olive squalane is a very lightweight oil that mimics the skin’s natural oil, preventing it this way from producing more. Due to that, it hydrates the skin without clogging its pores due to the overproduction of sebum. This results in fewer acne breakouts and blemishes.
Grape seed polyphenols are rich in antioxidants and anti-aging properties. They protect the skin from environmental stressors such as UV radiation. They soften and soothe the skin leaving it rejuvenated and healthier.(4)
Similar to ZELEN Life’s Moisturizer, this is a very smooth and lightweight cream that doesn’t leave a greasy residue. Due to its potent oil control properties, I have found it very effective in reducing acne blemishes as well. This is also supported by Caudalie’s clinical test, which states that 93% of people saw reduced blackheads after 28 days.
As for its scent, it has a light, not overpowering citrusy/minty character. While I find it refreshing, I have read that some people do not. The scent comes purely from its natural essential oils, and no synthetic fragrance is used.
Now for the downsides:
While this moisturizer is one of the best for oil control on our list, its price is on the higher side. Thus, it’s not for everyone’s pockets. If you are looking for an effective moisturizer to control your skin’s oil and reduce blemishes, then ZELEN Life Moisturizer is another great option for you to consider. It contains jojoba, sunflower, and clary sage which are well-known for their acne-fighting capabilities. In addition, jojoba oil -like olive squalane- is also very similar in composition with the skin’s sebum, assisting this way also controlling excess oil. Plus, for a cheaper price, you get a 50 ml bottle which is 10 ml more than Caudalies 40 ml bottle with no reduction in quality.
In addition, both ZELEN Life’s and the Caudalie Moisturizer give you a mattified, non-shiny finish after application. If you are looking for more shine, then Mario Badescu Hydro Moisturizer with Vitamin C is a better option for you. Why? Because vitamin C is known to provide a shiny effect after application due to the abundant amount of antioxidant compounds.
- Mattifies the affected areas instantly
- Moisturizes and hydrates the skin
- Creates a non-shiny glow
- Helps to reduce excess sebum and blemishes that may contribute to breakouts
Things to think about:
- This moisturizer is mattifying, meaning if you want a shiny glow or a degree of luminescence on your face, an additional luminescent moisturizer or powder may need to be applied
- Very expensive for the amount
This magnifying and all-encompassing moisturizer is suitable for all skin tones ranging from light to dark and hydrates the skin while restoring freshness and balance.
- Value for money
Mario Badescu Hydro Moisturizer with Vitamin C (Best for dry skin)
- Rejuvenates the skin
- Leaves skin looking hydrated
- Contains vitamin C antioxidants
The best moisturizer for:
Combination skin or dry skin types, as it is rich and hydrating.
Vitamin C, lemongrass extract
The Mario Badescu Hydro Moisturizer has a lightweight formula that contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and lemongrass extract to help even out the complexion, brighten skin tones, and improve the texture of the skin to promote a healthy appearance.
Topical vitamin C (ascorbic acid) as present in this moisturizer has many clinical applications, including photoprotection, anti-aging properties, and the ability to alleviate pigmentary abnormalities.(5) It is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, making it very effective in stimulating collagen production while reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Lemongrass extract is also rich in vitamin C and antioxidants but also helps to reduce impurities and purify the skin. Also, its aroma is well known for its aromatherapy and stress-reducing calming effects. It also contains mineral oil and squalane to help boost its moisturizing and hydrating properties.
Upon application, you will notice this cream to be very hydrating but a little bit heavier in texture than others on the list. Due to that, it needs a little bit of time to completely be absorbed by my skin. This makes it more suitable for dry or tired skin types.
How does it smell?
It has a strong citrus scent which can be off-putting for some people. While the scent is not necessarily bad, it does take a while to go away so, if you are easily irritated, avoid this moisturizer.
In addition, it is important to note that it is formulated with parabens, which is an ingredient that is very controversial in skincare. If you are looking for a moisturizer that doesn’t contain parabens, then ZELEN Life Moisturizer or Caudalie Vinopure Natural Oil Control Moisturizer are great options to consider. They are both formulated with purely organic botanical ingredients and have a lighter in strongness scent.
- Contains nourishing antioxidants such as vitamin C
- Can be combined with other products such as vitamin C serum or alpha-hydroxy acids
- Very hydrating
Things to think about:
- Since it contains vitamin C, which has a rejuvenating effect, take care when also using other rejuvenating cosmeceuticals or topical retinoids as it may be too irritating to the skin
- Contains parabens
This moisturizer is packed with antioxidants such as vitamin C that help to restore clarity and promote a healthy skin balance to dehydrated skin.
- Value for money
Oars + Alps Natural Face Moisturizer and Eye Cream (Best for men)
- Hydrating and anti-aging moisturizer
- Safe for use around the eye
- Non-greasy and fast-absorbing
The best moisturizer for:
The skin around the eyes, given that part of its indication, is an eye cream.
Shea butter, jojoba oil
Oars + Alps Natural Face Moisturizer and Eye Cream is formulated specifically for men to provide long-lasting hydration throughout the day. It is a moisturizer that can be applied both to the face and the under-eye area. Its main ingredients are shea butter and jojoba oil.
Let’s dive into the ingredients:
Shea butter is made of triglycerides and is frequently used in skin care due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity due to its unsaponifiable compounds. It significantly helps to moisturize dry and parched skin.(6)
Jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial in many skin conditions, including aging, wound healing, and infection. Its presence also enhances the absorption of topical drugs in dermatology as well as sunscreens and moisturizers.(7)
The above ingredients blend together to create a cream that is suitable for all skin types, including black skin. It is lightweight and easily absorbed upon application. Only a small amount needs to be applied to leave the skin moisturized and nourished. It goes on smoothly without leaving any greasy residue after application.
While it doesn’t contain any fragrance, it does have a light scent from its natural ingredients. It is very fresh and fades away quickly. This is a plus for men who wear cologne regularly.
Nevertheless, while this moisturizer offers great hydration due to its inclusion of shea butter, it isn’t that strong in regards to fighting acne. If you are looking for a moisturizer that has stronger acne-fighting capabilities, then consider Caudalie Vinopure Natural Oil Control Moisturizer. It contains natural ingredients such as olive squalane and silica that are well known for their oil-controlling properties. It is worth noting that it is more expensive.
- Rich in antioxidants to fight free radicals
- Alcohol-free, can be used after shaving
- Provides great hydration due to shea butter and jojoba
Things to think about:
- Not great for fighting acne breakouts
This moisturizer and eye cream help to hydrate your skin without the oily feeling. It also contains many organic plant-based ingredients and comes in a travel size, making it convenient to carry on the go.
- Value for money
How we chose these products
To compile a list of the most recommend products, they go through a thorough review process with our dermatology advisory team.
We also sift through many reviews to find the ones that are truly genuine and comment on the product’s quality. We also analyze bad or poor reviews to see areas of improvement and determine the accuracy of the review process itself.
We only choose products with the highest quality of ingredients from the most reputable brands. We also pride ourselves on staying tuned to current trends and listening to others regarding some of their preferred recommendations.
Frequently asked questions
1. How often should you use a moisturizer?
How often you use a moisturizer depends on your skin type and what you are planning to get out of it. It also really depends on your lifestyle.
For example, as a dermatologist, I work for most of the day. I usually will wake up, wash my face with a cleanser, apply a moisturizer with SPF before applying makeup, and then I’m out the door.
The only other chance I have to apply moisturizers on my face is after arriving home from a long day at work, after which I’ll use a different face wash to cleanse (depending on what I have in my bathroom), and afterward, I’ll apply a hydrating moisturizer right before applying my topical retinoids for bedtime.
If you work from home, you may find yourself applying more of the moisturizer. Also, in certain types of weather, such as desert climates or cold, dry weather, it may be necessary to use moisturizers more often to prevent the skin from cracking and forming fissures and to avoid impairing the skin barrier, which is so crucial for our skin health.
2. What kinds of moisturizers can be worn under makeup?
Many moisturizers can be worn underneath makeup, and nowadays, there are also many moisturizers and sunscreens that are implemented into makeup.
Personally, it depends on what I am doing that day and whether or not I will be having or attending a meeting in person, on zoom, or going out to dinner afterward.
For most days, I use everyday makeup, which involves a mattifying flesh-colored powder. However, if I have an important function or event, sometimes I will consider using a primer. Or a 2-in-1 sunscreen with makeup foundation and concealer that can provide excellent sun protection, as well as concealing any blemishes or imperfections I might be experiencing for smoother, blemish-free skin with a better texture.
We hope that our recommended items and ingredients can get you on your way to having healthy and moisturized skin that feels hydrated and not thirsty.
These items are nourishing in darker skin phototypes and are also applicable to many others. We hope that the products recommended will get you through your ideal skincare routine, given their high-quality ingredients.
What is your skincare routine?
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- Telang PS. Vitamin C in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2013 Apr;4(2):143-6. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.110593. PMID: 23741676; PMCID: PMC3673383
- Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatology. Indian Dermatol Online J. 2016 Jul-Aug;7(4):311-5. doi: 10.4103/2229-5178.185494. PMID: 27559512; PMCID: PMC4976416.
- Gonçalves MC. Sol-gel Silica Nanoparticles in Medicine: A Natural Choice. Design, Synthesis and Products. Molecules. 2018;23(8):2021. Published 2018 Aug 13. doi:10.3390/molecules23082021
- Kalekhan F, Bala N, Rao S, Pais ML, Adnan M, Sajan S, Baliga MS. Usefulness of grape seed polyphenols in the prevention of skin cancer: A mini review. Functional foods in cancer prevention and therapy. 2020 Jan 1:159-67. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-816151-7.00009-0
- Al-Niaimi F, Chiang NYZ. Topical Vitamin C and the Skin: Mechanisms of Action and Clinical Applications. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(7):14-17.
- Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. Published 2017 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070
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- Organic, chemical-free formulation, rich in antioxidants and vitamins
- Packed with natural Vitamin C, helps photoaging and hyperpigmentation
- Hydrates and protects the skin without clogging the pores
- Non-shiny gel that balances hydration of the skin
- Mattifying effect
- Assists in oil control, which can help prevent acne breakouts
- Lightweight enough to be used immediately after cleansing and toning
- Rich in vitamin C, brightens the skin and promotes a healthy appearance
- Fast absorption for quick hydration
- Contains anti-aging properties
- Aloe and vitamin E fight bacteria that can cause breakouts
- Multi-purpose moisturizer, can be used as an eye-cream