6 Foolproof Tips for Conquering Oily Skin

6-foolproof-tips-for-conquering-oily-skin

Having oily skin isn’t all bad. On the one hand, your face is naturally nourished by the robust production of sebum—that’s the oily substance that protects your skin and keeps it from drying out. On the other, it means you’re prone to having a glossy face at the end of a long day, and you’re also more prone to clogged pores and acne.

The task at hand is to minimize this oil production, but without dehydrating the face. You’ll want to avoid harsh cleansers, and anything with alcohol that parches the skin. If you do that, you might wind up with red, flaky, dry skin. But you might even wind up with even oiler skin, because stripping away your natural barrier can put your body’s oil production into overdrive to compensate. Instead of simply nuking your mug with the strongest products available, follow this five step plan to manage shine while keeping everything matte and in balance.

1. Use a targeted cleanser

Most skin care experts advise washing your skin twice daily: once when you wake up, and again at the end of the day. While this holds true for most oily skinned folks, you might need to up the ante to thrice daily at certain points in the year—like during a heat wave or after exercising. In any case, make sure to use a gentle cleanser with ingredients specifically chosen to target oily skin. We love a deep-clearing clay, for instance, which absorbs grease from deep within the pores. It’s also worth seeking out salicylic acid, which seeps into your pores to dissolve dead skin cells and trapped oil, while also tempering oil production overall.

The Best Clay Cleanser

The Best Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Geologie salicylic acid cleanser

2. Incorporate a clarifying or toning product

Speaking broadly, clarifying and toning products do the same thing: They bring your skin back to “neutral.” What that means and how they get work varies a lot between different brands and products. Toners, in general, will help bring your skin back to its natural and slightly acidic pH level, which is a sort of “resting state” between oily and dry. You use them after a cleanser, and the best ones contain nourishing ingredients that help prevent irritation in the process. Clarifying products, like cleansers, often work to dissolve dead skin cells and remove oil and gunk from the skin, with the help of exfoliating agents like salicylicglycolic, and lactic acids.The best ones won’t dry out the skin—they’ll also bring it back to a toned, neutral state.

The Best Toner

Thayers witch hazel toner

The Best Clarifying Cream

3. Ensure your moisturizer is oil-free

Snag an oil-free moisturizer for your post-cleanser, post-toner nourishment, which will wear lightly and won’t clog your pores. (We can’t stress “oil free” enough—it’s logical enough, but people with oily skin should avoid oily moisturizing formulas.)

Also consider a mattifying moisturizer to actively counter shine. These will sit atop the skin and leave a matte finish, often with the aid of a gel or powder-based formula, while also not clogging your pores. It’s important to have clean skin when you apply it, however, because it can otherwise trap existing grime. Tinted versions are available, but that’ll take careful work to match your natural skin tone. We say start with a non-tinted option to start.

The Best Oil-Free Moisturizer

Baxter of California oil-free moisturizer SPF15

The Best Mattifying Moisturizer

Cetaphil mattifying moisturizer with salicylic acid

4. Be ready for an on-the-go refresh 

Pocket wipes and blotting papers are an underrated, extremely useful way to manage sweat when you’re out in the world—far better than a dusty handkerchief, or, God forbid, your sleeve or shirt hem. The best wipes use an alcohol-free formula to tone or clarify the skin while flushing away grime and oil. Some even help dissolve dead skin cells to further guarantee clear skin. Blotting papers soak up grease and grime without cleansing the skin. It’s sorta like how some people soak up the excess grease on their pizza with napkins. (Except they actually work.) Both are easy to chuck into your work bag, and they’re especially useful for a touch-up at the office before heading out for drinks.

The Best Face Wipes for Oily Skin

Ursa Major face wipes (20 count)

The Best Blotting Papers

Boscia blotting papers (100 count)

5. Fight shine with a powder or lotion

Powder-based products that absorb grease and leave the skin matte are what they use on actors and TV anchors to prevent any on-camera shine (those bright, hot lights on set are unforgiving). You can apply an anti-shine lotion to the face after moisturizing, or pat on some translucent, shine-reducing powder as a final step in your morning regimen in order to reduce the reflectiveness of your forehead. You’ll notice the difference in any photos from that day—suddenly, you don’t have a bright spot across your face because of the camera flash. So use these products especially before any big events or meetings—or maybe a job interview over Zoom. Just be sure to take it easy when powdering up, to avoid any unseemly residue on your skin. 

The Best Anti-Shine Lotion

Mënaji anti-shine liquid powder

The Best Anti-Shine Powder

Clinique anti-shine blotting powder

6. Opt for chemical exfoliants

You’ve got to exfoliate your skin in order to put your brightest, smoothest face forward, but people with oily skin should swap out physical scrubs in favor of chemical options. We’ve already mentioned these ingredients, but they bear repeating: Chemical exfoliants prevent clogged pores due to trapped skin cells and oil buildup. These are namely salicylic acic (a beta hydroxy acid, or BHA), as well as glycolic and lactic acids (which are alpha hydroxy acids, or AHAs). While dry skinned people will benefit most from the more surface-level solutions like AHAs, you’ll do especially well when you get your twice-weekly exfoliation from BHA/salicylic acid, which seeps into your pores to clear things out while also mitigating sebum production. Better yet, use an option that incorporates both AHAs and BHAs so that your surface texture stays bright and smooth, while also having the pores and oil production under control.

The Best Salicylic Acid Serum

The INKEY List salicylic acid serum

The Best AHA + BHA Serum

Herbivore AHA 12% + BHA 3% resurfacing serum


  • 6 Foolproof Tips for Conquering Oily Skin

  • 6 Foolproof Tips for Conquering Oily Skin

  • 6 Foolproof Tips for Conquering Oily Skin

La Roche-Posay daily moisturizer

By combining the pore-shrinking powers of lipohydroxy acid and the shine-neutralizing abilities of zinc, this lightweight, oil-free formula from La Roche-Posay keeps you fresh faced for the whole work day.

$32

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