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Oily skin can be caused by a number of factors: genetics, diet, stress, and climate being a few. At its core, though, oily skin is the result of increased sebum production, which can lead to clogged and enlarged pores. So while a little extra shine might not be the bane of your existence, the change in your skin's texture isn't ideal. The good news is you can make skin appear less greasy by using the right products (and, of course, avoiding the wrong ones).
Meet the Expert
- Patricia Wexler, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, industry pioneer and founder of Wexler Dermatology.
- Francesca Fusco, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology.
- Joseph Cruise, MD, is a board-certified plastic surgeon and founder of Cruise Plastic Surgery.
To find out the ideal regimen for oily skin, we tapped top dermatologists Patricia Wexler, MD, and Francesca Fusco, MD, and board-certified plastic surgeon Joseph Cruise, MD. Keep reading to find out their tips.
Your New Routine
"For overall good skin health for your face, it's important to cleanse, exfoliate, moisturize, and use sunscreen daily," says Cruise. A common misconception with oily skin is that moisturizer isn't necessary and will make the skin even greasier. Not so, says Cruise. "By not applying enough moisturizer, you're causing the skin to overcompensate and produce more oil."
For cleanser, Cruise recommends Aveeno Clear Complexion Foaming Facial Cleanser, which has a low dose of salicylic acid—so it treats acne without irritating the skin. It also clears up blemishes without over-drying, leaving the skin feeling soft and smooth.
When choosing a formula, Cruise says to look for ingredients that include glycerin and hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin and niacinamide to help even out the skin tone. He also recommends a formula that is (unsurprisingly) oil-free and silicone-free so it won't clog pores.
Jojoba oil is a natural oil produced from the seed of the chinensis plant, a drought-resistant shrub native to southern Arizona, California, and Mexico. It mimics natural sebum and conditions and seals moisture in the skin without clogging pores or exacerbating acne.
Burt's Bees Brightening Even Skin Tone Moisturizing Cream helps "even the skin tone and diminish dark splotches," says Cruise. "It brightens and moisturizes the skin with a botanical blend rich in hydrating oils that includes apricot, jojoba, grapeseed, and olive fruit."
Olay's Moisturizing Face Lotion for Sensitive Skin—formulated with chamomile and aloe, so it soothes rather than irritates—is another option.
"Glycolic acid is beneficial in lotions, peels, and creams to reduce excess oil production and prevent plugging of pores that lead to breakouts," says Wexler.
Fusco agrees: "Glycolic acid peels are good exfoliators as well as NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Smoothing Lotion ($52) and Drunk Elephant Glycolic Night Serum ($90)."
"SkinMedica Essential Defense Everyday Clear SPF 47 is good for oily and combination skin types," says Cruise. "It protects against damaging UVA and UVB rays and won't clog pores. It's also hypoallergenic and is free of oil, fragrance, and parabens."
Avène's tinted mineral sunscreen provides maximum water-resistance and long-lasting hydration. Cruise says it's great for all skin types and works well on all skin tones.
Retin-A (tretinoin) is a form of vitamin A that helps the skin renew itself by encouraging cell turnover. It's commonly prescribed for acne, fine lines, and sun damaged skin.
Retinol helps "thicken" the skin to reduce the look of fine lines and exfoliates for an overall smoother complexion, but it's also a hero product for oily skin types: "The solution [for oily skin] is products that exfoliate, increase cellular turnover, and unplug pores," explains Wexler. "Retinoids reduce sebum, increase cellular turnover, and improve pigmentation. They also keep acne at bay.”
Ingredients to Avoid
Cruise says anything particularly heavy and pore-clogging is a no-go for oily skin types. Steer clear of products that contain vegetable oil, coconut oil, petroleum jelly, and cocoa and shea butters.
Fusco also warns against harsh scrubs, as these strip the skin's barrier and lead to increased oil production to help compensate. And to make things easier, Fusco says to look for anything that has "noncomedogenic" on the label, which means it won't clog pores.
Shop more of our favorite oily skin-friendly products below.
This ultra-lightweight lotion is the perfect moisturizer to apply before makeup. Umbrian clay helps absorb excess oil and meadowsweet extract helps regulate oil production. But don't worry, there's also some moisturizing ingredients in the mix too, namely cucumber and sea algae extract.
Use this oil-free serum both day and night to help reduce fine lines and wrinkles, while also increasing elasticity and firmness. The star of the formulation is alguronic acid, a patented ingredient that's sustainably sourced from algae and is designed to improve the health and look of your skin, even out your skin tone, and increase suppleness.
We love a skincare product that can do double duty, or in this case triple duty. This lightweight tinted moisturizer gives you a natural glow (thanks to the tint), moisturizes your skin and also gives you a bit of sun protection too. To use, apply after your serum. It goes on clear and the tint appears as you gently rub it into your skin.
One of the best things you can do for oily skin is to make sure it's properly hydrated and this lush toner does the trick. A blend of hyaluronic acid, acacia honey, and sweet almond oil make this toner helps nourish the skin and balance oil at the same time. You can use it both day and night after cleansing and before your moisturizer.
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Kong R, Cui Y, Fisher GJ, et al. A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016;15(1):49-57. doi:10.1111/jocd.12193