Key Steps for Healthy Skin

Oily skin is one of the most common skin concerns. It presents some unique challenges, like a shiny complexion and acne breakouts.

The good news? With the right skin care routine and products, these issues can be less of a problem.

To help take the guesswork out of how to care for an oily complexion, we turned to a couple of skin care experts. We specifically asked them to share their top tips for developing a daily skin care routine for oily skin.

The result: a simple four-step routine you can use in the morning and evening to keep your skin healthy, clear, and shine-free.

Cleanse with an exfoliating cleanser morning and night

Step 1: Cleanse in the a.m. and p.m.

The most important step of any skin care routine is cleansing your skin.

“If your skin tends to be oily, you can likely tolerate more cleansing,” says Sandra Lee, founder of SLMD Skincare known as Dr. Pimple Popper.

“Though most people should be washing their face morning and night, it’s especially important for those with oily skin to give their face a complete cleanse in the morning,” Lee says.

Even though you might feel like your skin is still clean from the night before, Lee says that during the night your skin is busy shedding skin cells and producing oils.

That’s why washing with a good exfoliating cleanser, both in the morning and evening, is recommended.

She likes to use a cleanser or wash with salicylic acid.

Step 2: Use a toner

Once your skin is clean and free from any makeup, dirt, and oil, Lee suggests you follow with an exfoliating toner that contains either:

  • salicylic acid
  • glycolic acid
  • lactic acid

Step 3: Treat your skin

This step will depend on your specific skin concerns.

In general, if you’re prone to acne, Lee says you should use benzoyl peroxide or sulfur in the daytime to help curb oil production and prevent breakouts.

In the evening, Lee recommends a retinol product to help keep pores clear and skin glowing.

Lee likes to remind people with oily skin that they may be lucky in the long run.

“If you have more oils in your skin, you’re likely to ward off wrinkles and fine lines for a bit longer than someone with dry skin,” she says.

Step 4: Moisturize in the a.m. and p.m.

Moisturizing is a very important step if you have oily skin.

“There’s some belief that if you have oily skin, you don’t need to or shouldn’t moisturize,” Lee says. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

“All skin types need moisturizer, but if you have oily skin, you should be more careful with what kind of moisturizer you’re using,” Lee says.

Her recommendation? Look for a moisturizer that’s:

  • lightweight
  • free of oils
  • water-based

Any moisturizer that’s formulated for acne-prone skin should meet these criteria.

Acne and oily skin often go hand in hand.

“Oily skin is due to the size and therefore activity of the oil glands attached to the hair follicles, so to reduce oiliness we need to reduce the size of the oil glands,” explains Natalia Spierings, consultant dermatologist and author of Skintelligent: What you really need to know to get great skin.

If you’ve tried topical solutions like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, Spierings suggests an oral medication called isotretinoin (Accutane/Roaccutane).

“Some women also find their oiliness and acne improves when taking the contraceptive pill,” she adds.

When it comes to skin care, the term ‘natural’ can mean different things to different people.

You’ll find many oily skin products labeled ‘natural’, but it’s important to remember that this term isn’t regulated across the industry.

If it’s home remedies you’re after, honey may be a good choice for oily skin thanks to its antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

Oatmeal is another store cupboard ingredient that could prove beneficial, as it calms inflamed skin and absorbs excess oil.

Good news! You don’t have to spend a fortune when it comes to treating oily skin.

There are many over-the-counter options that won’t break the bank. If you’re on a budget, look for drugstore products that include effective active ingredients.

And don’t forget to check the reviews before purchasing.

Surprise! Treatment for oily skin in men is the same, with one exception: unless you have a uterus, you can’t take oral contraceptives to target acne.

Experts recommend avoiding the habits below.

Forgetting to blot away excess oil

If your skin seems to shine all day long, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using blotting papers to control excess oil.

To do this, gently press the paper against your skin for a few seconds. This should help absorb most of the oil. Repeat throughout the day as needed.

Skipping skin cleansing after you exercise

In addition to your morning and evening routine, the AAD recommends washing your face after you exercise. This is especially important if you don’t plan on showering soon.

Washing your face will help remove sweat, oil, and dirt that may build up while you’re exercising.

This doesn’t have to be an elaborate four-step process. Simply wash your face with your regular cleanser and apply a light layer of moisturizer.

The sooner you can do this after exercise, the better.

Choosing the wrong products

When it comes to purchasing skin care products, Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, dermatologist and founder of Mudgil Dermatology in New York City, says to choose wisely.

“Avoid any products with alcohol, which can cause a paradoxical increased amount of oil secretion. Also, avoid anything thick or greasy, like cocoa butter, shea butter, and Vaseline,” he says.

Skipping sunscreen

When outdoors, be sure to wear sunscreen that’s at least SPF 30.

Mudgil suggests using sunscreen that contains either titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. These ingredients can help prevent acne breakouts.

To make things easier, try to wear a daily moisturizer with sunscreen in it so you’ll always be protected.

Some treatments for oily skin, like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, can cause irritation. It’s important to use them as instructed.

Oral treatments like isotretinoin should only be taken on the advice of a dermatologist.

To choose the best products for oily skin, we’ve looked for solutions that contain the most effective ingredients.

We’ve also consulted the reviews and asked Healthline staff with oily skin for their recommendations.

Each product has been vetted by our team for medical and business standards. Learn more here.

Best cleansers for oily skin

Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 5 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: Amazonian white clay, salicylic acid

When it comes to cleansing, one of the biggest challenges for oily skin types is removing dirt, sebum, and impurities without stripping the skin of moisture.

This deep-cleaning cleanser from Kiehl’s is gentle enough to be used every day. It includes salicylic acid, an ingredient that works to unclog pores and can help prevent future breakouts.

Formulated for normal to oily skin, the cleanser has a non-stripping foaming formula that offers a gentle exfoliating effect. It’s designed to reveal smooth, healthy-looking skin and reduce the appearance of pores.

The product has mostly rave reviews, with many reviewers saying it helped to clear up their breakouts.

PanOxyl Acne Creamy Wash, Benzoyl Peroxide 4%

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 5.5 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: benzoyl peroxide, glycerin,

If you experience oily skin with persistent acne breakouts, this creamy face wash may be the one for you.

Formulated with a 4 percent benzoyl peroxide solution, it aims to kill the bacteria that causes acne while being gentle enough to use every day.

The wash is designed to both clear acne and prevent new blemishes from forming on the face, chest, and back. It’s also pH balanced and features four humectants and three emollients for added hydration.

Benzoyl peroxide can be drying and irritating, so if you do choose this cleanser it’s a good idea to start slowly and check for signs of irritation.

Cetaphil DermaControl Oil Removing Foam Wash

  • Price: $
  • Size: 8 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: zinc, glycerin

This foaming cleanser from Cetaphil is made with oil-free ingredients and has a non-comedogenic formula. It’s designed to remove excess shine, impurities, and makeup without drying the skin out.

The wash contains zinc which soaks up excess oils. It’s also ph balanced, paraben-free, and hypoallergenic so may be a good choice for those with sensitive skin.

On the downside, this face wash isn’t medicated. It doesn’t contain active acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Some oily skin types may prefer a stronger solution that includes these.

Most reviewers say this cleanser left their skin feeling thoroughly cleansed and hydrated.

Best toners for oily skin

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 6.4 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: niacinamide, enisoneda, glycerin

Paula’s Choice is a firm favorite among many skin care enthusiasts. The Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner combats a common concern for those with oily skin: enlarged pores.

It has a gentle, non-abrasive formula and is made with anti-oxidants, such as chamomile and burdock root extract which soothe sensitivity.

The formula also includes niacinamide, which is known to promote an even skin tone and reduce the appearance of pores.

Add to that, this lightweight toner also contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides that provide a hydration boost.

Some reviewers say they have experienced fewer acne breakouts since they started using this product.

Neutrogena Pore Refining Toner

  • Price: $
  • Size: 8.5 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: AHAs, BHAs, witch hazel

Another recommendation that fights the bane of every oily-skinned person’s woes, this toner is formulated to refine pores.

Its alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA) formula offers gentle exfoliation benefits. It may be a good alternative to harsher face scrubs which may cause the skin to produce excess oil.

It also contains witch hazel which is known to reduce acne breakouts while eliminating oil. As it’s hypoallergenic, it may be a good choice for people who have skin that’s on the sensitive side.

This toner is also a drugstore favorite and budget-friendly. Some reviewers say the toner has a smoothing effect on the skin, although others found it irritating.

Mario Badescu Glycolic Acid Toner

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 8 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: glycolic acid, grapefruit extract, aloe, AHAs

Mario Basescu products have a bit of a cult following. This particular toner contains glycolic acid which is an effective ingredient for acne – and it has anti-aging benefits too.

Other key ingredients include grapefruit extract and aloe, as well as AHAs. Together these ingredients can brighten and balance the skin, reduce pores, and minimize the appearance of fine lines.

The toner offers gentle exfoliation which may help remove excess sebum from your pores and slough off dead skin cells that can cause breakouts.

According to reviewers, a little goes a long way. Some say it helped clear their breakouts, though others found it too drying.

Best moisturizers for oily skin

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

  • Price: $
  • Size: 1.8 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, glycerin

It can be difficult choosing a moisturizer when you have oily skin. You want to add hydration without making the skin appear even shinier.

This lightweight lotion from CeraVe may be a good choice. Designed to be used at nighttime, it helps to restore the skin’s protective barrier.

As well as being oil-free and noncomedogenic—meaning it won’t clog your pores—it’s also formulated with hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, and glycerin.

The latter forms a protective layer to prevent moisture loss and also hydrates the skin by drawing moisture from the air into the skin’s outer layer.

SkinMedica Ultra Sheer Moisturizer

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 2 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, vitamin e

With a super lightweight, sheer texture, this moisturizer from SkinMedica aims to add hydration to the skin without making it appear greasy.

It’s formulated with hyaluronic acid which improves the skin’s hydration levels. It also contains vitamin C and vitamin E, both of which can protect the skin from environmental pollution.

Although it’s on the pricier side, many reviewers say they found it effective. Many said they loved the non-greasy, lightweight formula and noticed a reduction in breakouts. They also said a little goes a long way.

On the downside, however, it doesn’t contain SPF.

Origins Clear Improvement Moisturizer

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 1.7 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid, bamboo charcoal

If acne and oil-control are your two biggest bugbears, this oil-free moisturizer from Origins may be the one for you.

It contains salicylic acid and witch hazel, both of which may calm and clear acne breakouts. Salicylic acid can also be used to deeply exfoliate the skin

This moisturizer is also formulated with bamboo charcoal, a natural ingredient that clears pores.

Some reviewers say it effectively cleared their breakouts, prevented the formation of blackheads, and gave the skin a refreshed and hydrated appearance.

However, some found it too irritating and said it made their skin feel dryer.

Best serums for oily skin

The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum

  • Price: $
  • Size: 1 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: niacinamide, hyaluronic acid

Balancing oil production is a key concern for people with oily skin. The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum is formulated to control excess oil.

It’s made with 10 percent niacinamide, a naturally occurring B3 vitamin, that targets blemishes and excess oil. The lightweight serum also contains 1 percent hyaluronic acid which adds moisture to the skin.

As well as being a great fix for oily and acne-prone skin, the serum also targets redness and is fragrance and cruelty-free. Oh, and it’s affordable too!

According to reviewers, it noticeably reduces the appearance of enlarged pores and is effective in regulating oil. However, some said it took some time to notice any improvements.

Primally Pure Clarifying Serum

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 1 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: turmeric marula oil, green tea, vitamin C, vitamin E

Acne scars are another problem for those with oily skin and they can be a tricky concern to treat. If you have acne scarring, this clarifying serum from Primally Pure may help.

It’s made with turmeric, marula oil, green tea, and prickly pear seed oil and is rich in vitamins C, E, and K. As well as shielding the skin from free radical damage, it also improves the appearance of discoloration and repairs hyperpigmentation.

Nearly all of the ingredients are organic and the serum is fragrance-free too.

Some reviewers say this serum was effective in the fight against hormonal and cystic acne, although not everyone was sold on the scent.

Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 1 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid, niacinamide, vitamin C

This lightweight and fast-absorbing serum from Paula’s Choice combines two powerhouse ingredients for oily skin: salicylic acid and niacinamide.

Salicylic acid reduces pimples by decreasing swelling and inflammation and sloughing off dead skin cells. Meanwhile, niacinamide is an ingredient that’s used to even skin tone, minimize large pores, and diminish dullness.

Add to that, the serum also contains azelaic acid and vitamin C, which can protect the skin against stressors.

Many reviewers love the serum’s silky texture and the majority said it helped them manage breakouts. However, not everyone is convinced that the product shrinks pores.

Best face masks for oily skin

Skinceuticals Clarifying Clay Masque

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 2 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: hydroxy acids, bentonite clay, aloe

This clarifying clay masque from Skinceuticals promises to deep clean and remove makeup, impurities, and excess oil from your pores.

It’s made with hydroxy acids (known for their exfoliating properties) and bentonite clay, which has a clarifying effect and absorbs excess oil.

Those who are prone to sensitive skin may benefit from the inclusion of aloe and chamomile, as both of these ingredients can soothe and calm the skin.

The masque has mostly positive reviews. Many reviewers say it does a fantastic job of decongesting pores and leaving skin feeling soft and supple.

Many said it was expensive but worth the price tag – particularly as a little goes a long way.

La Mer Treatment Lotion Hydrating Mask

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: pack of six
  • Key ingredients: squalane, algae extract

If you love a bit of luxury and want to give your skin some extra TLC, then look no further than skin care brand La Mer. Their products are made with premium ingredients.

In this hydrating mask, you’ll find squalane, known to moisturize the skin and improve skin texture. It’s said to improve the appearance of fine lines too.

The mask is also made with algae extract, a humectant that gives skin a hydration boost by drawing moisture from the air.

While this mask is certainly on the more expensive side, some reviewers say its worth it for the results. Some say it left their skin glowy, hydrated and refreshed, however, others say it caused redness and irritation.

Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask

  • Price: $
  • Size: 1.7 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: glycolic acid, honey, pumpkin oil

This mask from Andalou Naturals is formulated with glycolic acid which has an exfoliating effect and is used to peel off dead skin cells.

It’s also made with honey which warms the skin, increases cell turnover, and has antibacterial and antiseptic properties.

Pumpkin oils give this mask an incredible scent, making this a luxurious addition to your skin care routine.

However, be warned: this mask may be too potent for sensitive skin and may cause a short burning sensation when first applied.

The reviews are mostly positive. In fact, many reviewers said their skin looked brighter and healthier after the first use.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask to Clear Pores

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3.4 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: activated charcoal

This mineral mask contains activated charcoal and is designed to deeply detox the skin, refine pores, and improve the skin’s texture.

Formulated with an oil-absorbing clay and 1% bamboo charcoal, it draws out impurities and oil from deep within the pores while it cleans.

Many reviewers say it helped to clear their breakouts, revealed healthier-looking skin, and refined their pores.

However, not everyone was sold on the results. Some said they couldn’t see any noticeable differences.

If your skin is on the sensitive side this one may be best avoided as charcoal can be irritating.

Best exfoliant for oily skin

Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 4 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid, green tea

Formulated for oily and acne-prone skin, this liquid exfoliant is quickly absorbed into the skin. It has a lightweight formula that gently exfoliates.

The exfoliant contains salicylic acid which effectively unclogs pores, targets blemishes, and sloughs off dead skin cells.

As well as targeting acne, the product claims to smooth the skin’s texture and brighten the complexion.

Many reviewers say it’s an effective spot treatment and helped to prevent the formation of new breakouts.

However, some say it’s very strong and should only be used once or twice a week to avoid irritation.

Best natural products for oily skin

100% Pure Fermented Rice Water Toner

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 4 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: shiitake mushroom, bearberry, sake, glycerin

Vegan, cruelty-free, and certified organic, this fermented rice water toner is made with plant-based ingredients, including shiitake mushroom, bearberry, sake, and licorice

This product also contains niacinamide which can be used to treat hyperpigmentation and discoloration, so it may improve the appearance of acne scarring too. It contains hyaluronic acid, known for its hydrating benefits, and glycerin, a humectant.

It’s formulated to even skin tone, soften, and hydrate. Many reviewers say their skin is softer and clearer after using this product, and some say their pores appear smaller.

Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 1 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: sea buckthorn extract, camellia oil, vitamin E

This oil-serum hybrid is packed with antioxidants that balance the skin and add moisture. It’s made with sea buckthorn extract, and camellia oil, and also contains vitamin E, which fights free radicals and repairs the skin barrier.

Meanwhile, jojoba adds moisture and is noncomedogenic so it won’t clog your pores.

Many reviewers found this product to be incredibly hydrating, lightweight, and non-greasy, and some say it improved the look and feel of their skin within a few weeks.

On the downside, some say the consistency is too watery.

The oil serum is cruelty-free, vegan, and contains no added fragrance.

Raw Elements Certified Natural Sunscreen SPF 30

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 3 fl oz.
  • Key ingredients: non-nano zinc oxide

Protecting your skin from sun damage is an important part of your routine, whatever your skin type.

This sunscreen from Raw Elements is vegan and cruelty-free and contains SPF 30.

The active ingredient is non-nano zinc oxide, which provides a natural shield against UV rays.

The lotion offers protection against UVA and UVB rays and is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

It has mostly positive reviews. Many users love the scent. Although some found it too heavy and complained that it took too long to rub in.

https://www.healthline.com/health/beauty-skin-care/skin-care-routine-for-oily-skin