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The Best Mattifying Moisturizers for Shine-Free Skin

Anyone with oily skin understands the agony that is forehead shine. Rather than a rugged, angular, chiseled mug, it gives glazed donut or waxy caramel. The flash bounces off the skin in photos. It sparkles. It’s not great. Also there’s the physical layer of grimy sebum all over the face. There are plenty of toners designed to address the problem, as well as salicylic acid face wash if getting fancy is the goal. But the best way to stop forehead shine is often a great mattifying moisturizer.

Mattifying moisturizers are typically oil-free hydrating products that also contain absorbent or oil-neutralizing ingredients like kaolin clay, zinc, or silica. These moisturizers soak up excess grime produced by the skin skin and, in turn, prevent pesky forehead shine and sebum accumulation elsewhere around the face. (Many use ingredients like salicylic acid to temper oil levels from the jump and prevent further oil buildup.) 

For this story, SPY interviewed two board-certified dermatologists — Austin-based Dr. Kristina Collins of Austin and Dr. Asmi Sanghvi of New York — to help tailor our picks, as well as provide some more insight into what to look for in a mattifying moisturizer.

The Best Mattifying Moisturizers: At a Glance


La Roche-Posay Effaclar Mat Face Moisturizer

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Murad Oil and Pore Control Mattifier SPF 45

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Caudalie Vinopure Oil-Control Moisturizer for Acne Prone Skin

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Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture for Combination Skin

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Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Absorbing Moisturizer with SPF 30

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best for bald heads

HeadBlade HeadLube Matte Moisturizer Lotion for Men

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best for large pores

innisfree Pore-Clearing Matte Moisturizer with Volcanic Clusters

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The Best Mattifying Moisturizers for Men

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Both dermatologists interviewed cited this as a favorite mattifying moisturizer. “The combination of silica and LHA helps absorb excess oil and smooth the skin’s texture,” Sanghvi said of La Roche-Posay’s formula. The inclusion of oil-absorbent perlite also furthers its powers, and makes for a sufficient base layer beneath concealer or makeup. For anyone with large pores, this one will smooth the appearance of the skin, too.

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Here’s another go-to for Collins and her clients. It uses teeny tiny microspheres that contain oil-absorbing ingredients into the skin for long-lasting impact (in this case, those ingredients are avocado and African yellow wood bark extract). Its mattifying agent — tapioca starch — is increasingly common in facial mattifying products and has been a key ingredient in anti-sweat and anti-chafing products for a while now. On top of that, Murad’s moisturizer also provides an SPF 45 layer atop the skin, so it truly leaves no bases uncovered. 

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Key Ingredients: Silica, grape seed polyphenols, java tea extract
Why It Stands Out: While you might suspect an oil-free and salicylic acid-powered product to take this title, Caudalie’s formula bucks tradition. The non-comedogenic formula uses both silica and java tea extract to counter sebum accumulation, while grape seed polyphenols prevent blackheads from oxidizing.
FYI: When targeting a key problem like acne, make sure that the entire regimen caters to the problem. In this case, the mattifying moisturizer doesn’t need to do the lifting when it comes to pore expunging, because other products in the regimen should be doing that instead. Then, this product can do its primary job: preventing oil buildup and blackhead formation.

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Key Ingredients: Glycerin, silica
Why It Stands Out: Combination skin presents a tricky scenario, because all universally-applied products need to work for dry and oily skin alike. Neutrogena’s oil-free moisture is one of Sanghvi’s favorite products in this field, since it delivers a light silica-backed matte finish but focuses primarily on nourishment. 
FYI: Not all mattifying products are necessarily advertised as such. For combo skin, it’s generally effective to apply an oil-free moisturizer all over the face, and once it absorbs, apply a matte primer to oily areas.

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Key Ingredients: Zinc, dimethicone, silica, glycerin, allantoin, SPF 30
Why It Stands Out: The trio of zinc, silica and dimethicone give Cetaphil’s terrific moisturizer its oil-absorbing abilities while coating the skin with a broad-spectrum SPF 30 shield.
FYI: Many dermatologists will stand by an entire regimen built on Cetaphil or CeraVe products. Your wallet will thank you, too.

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best for bald heads

Key Ingredients: Silica, tea tree oil, peppermint extract
Why It Stands Out: HeadBlade is a one-stop shop for bald-headed grooming tools and products, and this mattifying dome moisturizer is an example of its excellence. It tones oil production and counters microbes with tea tree oil, while silica soaks up excess sebum production.
FYI: All oil-free, lightweight facial moisturizers will likely work well on the scalp. Think of it as an extension of the face, albeit an exceptionally oily and irritation-prone extension at that.

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best for large pores

Key Ingredients: Silica, volcanic ash, salicylic acid, lactic acid, glycolic acid
Why It Stands Out: Ultra absorbent silica and volcanic ash in this moisturizer combine with the exfoliating powers of lactic acid, glycolic acid, and salicylic acid. The result is not only a reduction in oil production, but also visual smoothness of the skin itself — and thus a perceived shrinking of the pores.
FYI: You can’t actually shrink the pores with a topical product — you’d need fraxel lasers or microneedling with radiofrequency for that, said Sangvhi — but products like this can decrease the appearance of pores.

What the Experts Say About Mattifying Moisturizers

A mattifying moisturizer should not be one’s sole defense against oil buildup, according to both Sanghvi and Collins. It is important to introduce other steps into a regimen in order to mitigate oil production and prevent breakouts. 

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First, be sure to wash the face twice a day (morning and night). “This way, you are applying the products to clean skin and you go to bed with clean skin,” Collins said. “This will help the products be maximally effective and also make sure your skin is hydrated while sebum production is controlled.”She advises using a gentle face wash, but one with clarifying (or deep-cleaning) abilities like with glycolic acid or salicylic acid. (Cardon’s clay cleanser is also fantastic for this.) Applying a toner after cleansing and before applying moisturizer is another terrific way to temper oil production.

One key characteristic of mattifying moisturizers is the absence of pore-clogging oils and other comedogenic ingredients. A thorough skincare regimen should reflect this ethos throughout. “Make sure that all products used on the skin are non-comedogenic and oil-free, including sunscreen,” said Collins.

What to Know About Mattifying Moisturizer

According to Collins, mattifying moisturizers essentially act like a sponge for sebum on the skin. (They also take it one-step further than oil-free moisturizers in that they also limit sebum accumulation.)

There is a common misunderstanding that guys with oily skin don’t actually need a moisturizer, since the excessive sebum production keeps skin nourished. While these individuals certainly don’t need the added nourishment that a dry-skinned person might require, it’s important not to skip moisturizer regardless of oil levels.

“Oily skin benefits from use of moisturizer in the same way that combination or dry skin does,” said Collins. “In fact, withholding moisturizer can make oily skin worse because the dehydrated skin produces even more sebum.” She adds that the real aim for oily-skinned people is to nourish the skin further while withholding any ingredients that might stimulate further oil production, or cause clogging of the pores. Hence why mattifying moisturizers are king. 

The Best Ingredients to Look for in Mattifying Moisturizers

Here are some of the best ingredients to look for in mattifying moisturizers, Sanghvi. No products will have all of these ingredients, but instead that these are the key options out there. Some products may combine more than one of them, though.

  1. Silica: “Silica is a natural mineral that helps to absorb excess oil and sebum on the skin’s surface, resulting in a mattifying effect,” said Sangvhi. “It works by absorbing moisture and oil, leaving the skin looking and feeling smoother and less shiny.”
  2. Kaolin clay: “Kaolin is a type of clay that has been used for centuries in skincare,” she explained. “It has a high absorption capacity and helps to draw impurities and excess oil out of the skin, leaving it feeling clean and mattified.”
  3. Dimethicone: “Dimethicone is a silicone-based ingredient that forms a protective barrier on the skin, helping to control oil production and reduce shine. It also provides a smooth, velvety finish, making it a popular ingredient in many mattifying products.”
  4. Zinc PCA: Zinc PCA can reduce sebum secretion and in turn prevent acne formation while preserving moisture levels in the skin.
  5. Niacinamide: “Niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3 that helps to regulate sebum production, making it an effective ingredient for controlling oiliness,” Sanghvi said. “It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to calm and soothe irritated skin.”
  6. Salicylic acid: Salicylic acid is a key ingredient in any anti-acne regimen. “This beta-hydroxy acid that works by exfoliating the skin and removing dead skin cells that can clog pores and contribute to oily skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties and can help to reduce the appearance of pores,” Sanghvi said.
  7. Lipohydroxy acid (LHA): “Micro-exfoliating LHA helps smooth the skin’s texture,” Sanghvi said. It is a derivative of salicylic acid and is particularly gentle on skin while being aggressive on blemishes.