5 Common Skincare Ingredients to Avoid If You Have Oily Skin

Crafting a skincare routine that works with—not against—your oily skin is easier said than done. Who among us with oily skin hasn't turned to products with strong ingredients in the hopes that they will sop up all our excess oil? (*Raises hand.*) But going overboard with exfoliation and toners may actually backfire and cause your skin to produce even more oil, which can lead to clogged pores. Sigh.

"If you have oily skin, you need to be careful about the products that you are using," Mount Sinai Hospital Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research Joshua Zeichner, MD, says. "The wrong ones can promote breakouts or even cause skin irritation." With that in mind, we asked him which five ingredients those of us with oily skin should avoid at all costs.

Here, five ingredients to avoid for oily skin—and what to use instead. Plus, our product picks for oily skin.

Oily Skin
Joe Robles/Unsplash

Petrolatum (Petroleum Jelly)

Greasy ointments plus your oily skin is a recipe for a pore-clogging disaster. "Stay away from greasy ointments and instead stick to light creams and lotions," advises Zeichner. "Also make sure to look for the term 'noncomedogenic' on the bottle. This means that the products have been shown not to block your pores and cause breakouts."


Hydro Boost Gel-Cream
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream $26.00


Luckily, Zeichner just means this in the context of your skincare products. (Though, alas, giving up booze can actually improve your skin, regardless of your skin type).

"Alcohol-based products like toners may help remove excess oil from the skin but oftentimes goes too far to strip the skin, leading to irritation," Zeichner explains. When you overly dry out the skin, it can disrupt your skin barrier and cause inflammation.


Sonage Tulsi Soothing Tri Clay Mask $48.00

Natural Oils

Most natural oils are going to exacerbate your oily skin and contribute to breakouts by blocking your pores, says Zeichner. He recommends tea tree oil and coconut oil as natural oils that are appropriate for oily skin. 


Soothing & Healing Green Tea Splash Mask 7 oz
Blithe Soothing & Healing Green Tea Splash Mask $31.00

Harsh Scrubs

"While gentle exfoliation may be useful to help remove dead cells from the surface of the skin, over-exfoliating can lead to skin irritation," Zeichner says. "Harsh scrubs can lead to cracks in the outer skin layer resulting in loss of hydration and inflamed skin."


Rice Enzyme Powder Gentle: Dry Skin 2.1 oz/ 60 g
Tatcha Rice Enzyme Powder Gentle $65.00


"What we put on our hair definitely can affect our skin," Zeichner says. Especially if your hair touches your face (e.g. bangs) or you apply product near your hairline. "Thick pomades are known to cause 'pomade acne' where they block the pores in the skin—especially around the hairline—leading to pimples.

Next up: the best skincare regimen for oily skin.

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