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).
To find out the ideal regimen for oily skin, we tapped top dermatologists Patricia Wexler, MD, and Francesca Fusco, MD, of Wexler Dermatology, and board-certified plastic surgeon Joseph Cruise, MD, of Cruise Plastic Surgery.
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.
"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.
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. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070