If your skin looks as shiny as a disco ball come lunchtime, then congratulations: You have oily skin. Now, don’t get us wrong, some oil is good.
“When the oil on the skin is the right amount, it protects our skin from external toxic elements,” says Yoram Harth, MD, a dermatologist and medical director of MDacne. “That said, having too much of it makes our skin shiny, can clog our skin pores and causes acne breakouts.”
So what causes oily skin in the first place? Common culprits include genetics, a humid environment, hormonal changes, medications that affect your hormones and sugary and fatty foods, says Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a Kansas City dermatologist and editor of DermBoard.org.
The good news is, it is possible to get oily skin under control, and it starts with finding the right skincare products. “In order to balance the oiliness of their skin, people with oily skin need to look for products that will remove excess oil from their skin without over-drying,” Harth says.
A skincare routine that will control oil production
Products should be non-comedogenic, meaning they don’t clog pores, and oil-free, says Melanie Palm, MD, a dermatologist in San Diego. Look for labels that have active ingredients that help your oil glands function more normally, like sulfur, retinol and salicylic acid, suggests Palm. “Lighter formulations are likely to be tolerated better,” she adds. “These include serums, gels or lotions rather than creams or ointments.”
When it comes to cleansing, being gentle is key. So is keeping exfoliating to a minimum (once or twice a week tops), says Lisa Pruett, MD, a dermatologist in Carrollton, Texas. That’s because over-cleansing and scrubbing too harshly can lead to increased oil production, Pruett explains. Using a clay mask twice a week will help control excess oil, adds Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Moisturizing daily is important (no matter how counter-intuitive that sounds if you have oily skin), and so is wearing sunscreen, says Pruett.
Ready to upgrade your skin care routine? Below, dermatologists share their favorite skincare products to help those with oily skin keep their complexion clear and shine-free.
The best skincare products for oily skin
Kenneth Mark, MD, a dermatologist and Moh’s skin cancer surgeon in New York City, likes this facial cleanser, which contains 2 percent salicylic acid to unclog pores and prevent future blackheads. The oil-free formula deeply cleanses without over-stripping skin, so your face will never feel tight or dry.
This cleanser is a favorite of Joshua Zeichner, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, because it’s non-comedogenic and utilizes salicylic acid to treat existing breakouts and fight new ones. This cleanser also contains soy to help even out the look of your skin tone.
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“This cleanser has a great combination of glycolic and salicylic acids that can help to remove excess oil,” says Palm. Jojoba oil ensures skin will feel soft and smooth post-cleansing.
This drugstore cleanser is a go-to of Shari Sperling, DO, a dermatologist in Florham Park, New Jersey. The non-comedogenic formula lightly foams to remove excess oil without over-stripping skin.
Plam suggests using this sonic cleansing brush once a day to make cleansing more effective. The brush is gentle enough that even sensitive skin types can use it, yet powerful enough that it removes makeup. It’s also waterproof, so you can use it in the shower.
Toning can help get rid of any excess oil that wasn’t removed from cleansing. “This toner includes witch hazel to remove excess sebum as well as glycolic acid to chemically exfoliate the surface of the skin and aloe vera to soothe and hydrate with its anti-inflammatory and humectant properties,” says King.
Palm likes this face mask because it draws out impurities and controls oil, thanks to the 6.4 percent sulfur in the formula. This oil-free mask also minimizes the appearance of pores.
Sperling likes this clay-based mask for oily skin. Formulated with salicylic acid in addition to clay, this mask works in five minutes to deeply clean and unclog pores without irritation.
“This can be used as either a face mask or a cleanser,” says King, “and either way, the kaolin clay absorbs oils and reduces shine.” It also features a mild amount of salicylic acid to gently exfoliate and remove excess oil and vitamin E for antioxidant protection.
This non-comedogenic and oil-free moisturizer is a great pick for oily skin, says Sperling. It has a matte finish, so you don’t have to worry about looking shiny, and it contains SPF 30 for that much-needed sun protection.
One of the most beloved sunscreens of dermatologists, Pruett notes that it can double as a moisturizer. Palm likes this one because it’s non-comedogenic and free of heavy ingredients. “The zinc oxide and niacinamide in the formula are anti-inflammatory and do not promote oil production,” says Palm.
If you have oily skin, chances are you’ve skipped sunscreen at some point because it can make your skin even shinier. Susan Bard, MD, a dermatologist in New York City, says this one is great for people with oily skin or those who get shiny when they use sunscreen. It’s formulated with tapioca starch to absorb excess oil.
“This is a product that photographers and makeup artists have used for years to combat oily skin on set,” Pruett notes. “The product absorbs facial oils, acting like a leave-on blotting paper throughout the day.”
MORE TIPS FROM DERMATOLOGISTS
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CORRECTION (July 9, 2019, 12:30 p.m): A previous version of this article misspelled the name of a dermatologist. She is Shari Sperling, not Spalding.