Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 7/29/2021
For those of us with oily skin, we know the drill.
We wash our faces, put on makeup and set with powder — only to look like a sweaty slice of salami 15 minutes later.
Not to mention the acne, clogged pores and lifetime supply of blotting papers. Oh, and don’t even get us started on “dewy” makeup.
Seriously, what gives?
In this article, we’ll explore the best skin care products, treatments and routine for those of us with acne-prone, oily skin.
From cleanser to lotion and everything in between, here are the skincare products that are good for oily skin.
A good cleanser for acne is the foundation of a solid skincare routine. For oily skin, dermatologists recommend a gentle, foaming cleanser.
Fight the temptation to use a harsh or astringent cleanser, as it may actually make your skin oilier, as your body will kick your sebaceous glands into high gear to help pick up the slack.
The next product you should incorporate in your skincare routine for acne is a toner. A toner is one of the most underrated (yet important) steps in any oily skin care routine.
Once your skin is cleansed and free from any oil or debris, we suggest following up with an exfoliating toner.
Exfoliating ingredients include lactic acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid.
Keep in mind that using an exfoliating toner in conjunction with another active treatment might be overkill.
That's why it's important to discuss the active ingredients in your skin care routine with your dermatologist.
Another important thing to note — don't use toners or astringents that contain alcohol.
While it may feel good to remove any trace of oil on your skin (we all know that familiar burning feeling), the alcohol can have a reverse effect.
With prolonged use, your skin begins to produce more sebum and, in turn, becomes oilier over time.
Oily skin and acne often go hand-in-hand.
If you're currently struggling with any form of acne, you should incorporate an acne treatment to specifically target whatever form of acne you're currently experiencing.
Examples of acne treatments include adapalene gel, retinol and benzoyl peroxide, and many of these treatments can be found over-the-counter at your regular drug store.
However, if you need something stronger to tackle your oily and acne-prone skin, it's best to speak to a dermatologist who can prescribe the correct treatment for your specific needs.
There's a common myth that if you have skin that’s naturally oily, then you don't need to moisturize. We're here to tell you that everyone — regardless of the state of their skin — needs to moisturize daily.
People with oily skin should look for moisturizers for acne that are non-comedogenic or oil-free. Water-based moisturizers are also a good option for people with oily skin.
Avoid ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter or Vaseline, as these products can be too occlusive for people with oily skin.
There are a number of different ingredients that benefit oily skin and they can come in a variety of forms, from cleansers and gels, to creams, masks and more.
When reading the active ingredients on the back of a product, here is what you should be looking out for:
Benzoyl peroxide has been a mainstay in acne and oily skin treatment for years. Benzoyl peroxide acts as keratolytic, moderate comedolytic and has antibacterial properties.
Salicylic acid is the only beta-hydroxy acid used in dermatological settings. Salicylic acid is lipophilic, which means that it is attracted to oils and fatty acids.
The acid will help remove dead skin cells and excess oil from the skin and pores, leaving your face primed and ready for the next step in your skincare routine.
Topical retinoids, including tretinoin, adapalene and tazarotene, keep pores clear, fight inflammation and reduce oil production.
Read more about retinol in our blog post, Retinol for Acne: Is Retinol Good For Acne?.
A combination of these and other active ingredients combined into one product, like Hers customized prescription acne cream, is one of the most effective ways to keep your skin balanced.
Now that you know the basics, here's a solid skincare routine that won't let you down.
Washing your face is a critical component of a good skincare routine. Here’s what you should know:
Not too often. Washing your face too frequently can actually lead to excess oil production, so try to limit your face washing to the morning, night and after working out.
Use a mild cleanser. Avoid harsh soaps or soaps that contain intense detergents, which can cause irritation and dryness. Choose a gentle cleanser that will wash your face without stripping your skin.
Use lukewarm water. Hot water can be extremely drying, so the AADA recommends using lukewarm water to wash your face.
Don’t scrub. Aggressively scrubbing your face is not the way to go. Scrubbing can cause irritation, so gently wash your skin with your fingertips and then pat your face dry.
A few swipes of a good toner can make all the difference. A toner can help rebalance your skin’s pH levels after cleansing, as well as protect the acid mantle.
Not only does the use of cleansers and cosmetics have a big influence on the skin’s pH, studies have shown that the use of plain tap water with a pH around 8 can also increase the skin’s pH level up to six whole hours after application.
As a general rule, the pH of healthy skin hovers around 4.5 to 5.5 in women.
As skin pH rises, bacteria undergo a change: the population and activity of acne-causing bacteria increases as the action of antimicrobial peptides diminishes.
Incorporating a pH rebalancing toner into your skincare routine helps bring the skin back to its natural pH level and protects it from acne-causing bacteria.
Acne and oily skin often go together.
If you’re dealing with breakouts and excess oil, you need a solid treatment option that will tackle both problems simultaneously.
Our Acne Cream is prescription-strength and formulated for your specific skin concerns, and also contains a custom blend of powerhouse ingredients like tretinoin, clindamycin, azelaic acid, zinc pyrithione and niacinamide.
You might think that moisturizing your face could make it more oily, but it’s often helpful in maintaining a clear and balanced complexion.
If your skin is left too dry, your body may try to overcompensate by producing extra oil.
Some of the products we’ve mentioned can also cause dryness. These include:
Retinoids (adapalene, tazarotene and tretinoin)
When selecting a facial moisturizer, be sure to choose one that’s well-suited for oily skin.
Products that are made for oily skin will say “oil-free,” “non-comedogenic” or “won’t clog pores” on the label.
Looking more “sweaty” than “sweetie” is a huge pain. Thankfully, there are ways to combat oily, acne-prone skin.
Make sure to follow a simple skincare routine consisting of cleanser, toner, treatment and moisturizer each day.
As always, if you have specific skincare concerns, it’s best to speak with your healthcare provider or dermatologist.