Physical Health, Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

7 Skincare solutions for oily Skin

You can shine on without the breakouts.

words by: Adam Hurly
Sep 10, 2021

Anyone prone to oily skin will experience the same ups and downs: At the height of summer, you might have the best complexion of the year, but not without pouring sweat. And in winter, you’re the last one to have parched skin, but the first to break out everywhere.


Having oily skin means having constant battles between reducing your own shine and mitigating breakouts, while also enjoying the natural hydration that comes with it. There are products you can incorporate into your regimen that won’t further aggravate the oil production (or the shine), and some that can even help tame one or both—as well as breakouts, too. They’ll prevent you from overly drying your skin, and will make life a lot more tolerable, be it summer or winter, day or night.


Here are seven ways you can adjust your skincare regimen for oily skin.


1. Oil-Free Products

One surefire way to prevent clogged pores and sebum buildup is to stick with lightweight skincare products—in particular, those without any oil in their formulas. Since your skin has few issues keeping itself naturally hydrated, you can spare those particular ingredients in a topical moisturizer. (To be clear, a moisturizer does more than simply hydrate skin; it also defends against toxins, and an SPF-packed one protects you from skin-aging UV rays, so it’s important to apply one even if you’re oily by nature.)


Certain skin types (like yours) break out easily, and it’s aggravated by certain oily ingredients, like coconut oil, marula oil, and sweet almond oil. While this isn’t the case for all oils (jojoba, argan, and moringa are ‘non-comedogenic’, meaning they don’t clog pores), they can still add bulk to products and can feel suffocating on your skin.


Since all skin types will react differently to these ingredients—even some oily-skinned people will be fine with oil-based formulations, the most universal solution is to shop for oil-free products, in particular cleansers and moisturizers.


Bevel Oil-Free Moisturizing Face Gel, $14.


2. Toner

Toners have two key benefits: On the one hand, they balance what’s called ‘pH levels’ in your skin. This means they keep skin at its natural (slightly acidic) levels—it’s a chemistry thing. By using different products (especially cleansers), our skin can dry out and get too far away from its natural pH, so a toner helps reset things. That’s why it’s best applied after a cleanser, too, and before a moisturizer.


However, toners are especially helpful for oily skinned people, since they also mitigate sebum production and help prevent buildup. A simple wipe (using a toner-splashed cotton pad) after a morning cleanse can help control oil levels throughout the day. And as a bonus, it’ll normalize pH levels at the same time. Make sure your toner is alcohol-free, and relies on herbal ingredients like witch hazel to work calmly.


Ceylon Facial Toner, $30.


3. Cleansing Wipes

If you’re prone to oil, then a mid-day cleanse is almost necessary. That’s why it’s advisable to tote some gentle cleansing wipes with you (in your bag, or in your office desk), for whenever you need a pick-me-up (or rather, a wipe-me-down). They’re doubly useful for keeping sweat out of your pores. Just don’t forget to follow with a moisturizer in order to protect your skin from toxins, and to instantly boost nourishment after that on-the-go cleanse. (Oh, and make sure the wipes are oil-free… but you already knew that.)


Paula’s Choice Oil-Free Gentle Cleansing Cloths, $11 (pack of 30).


4. Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is an ingredient that can benefit everyone, but especially oily and acne-prone people. It seeps into your pores to flush out oil and grime, and to extract trapped skin cells. In addition to helping lift dead cells from the surface of skin too, salicylic acid also tones sebum levels in the skin (much like toner). However, because it can be a more abrasive ingredient, it’s best to use salicylic acid treatments less frequently (2-3x weekly is usually fine), and to do so in the evening—so that skin can rebound while you sleep. So, daily toner applications in the morning, and 2-3x weekly salicylic acid applications in the evening. Check check.


Typology Salicylic Acid Serum, $28.


5. Blotting Papers

You know how some people blot their cheesy pizzas with napkins before they chow down? That’s more or less what blotting papers do for your skin. However, the pizza-dabbers’ efforts are futile, since the cheese is still loaded with grease. In your case, it’s all superficial benefits, since the papers will soak up your shine in an instant, without you having to rub your hands or sleeve across your brow. They won’t offer any toning benefits; blotting papers exist solely for touchups. But that might be all you need before a big meeting or date, and since these papers are so inexpensive, it makes sense to stock up.


NYX Blotting Paper, $4 (pack of 50).


6. Matte Moisturizer

In a similar but separate vein as our first tip, it’s also worth looking for mattifying moisturizers. These are almost always oil free, but they’ll also contain some kind of oil-absorbing and anti-shine ingredient (like kaolin clay) that keeps your complexion matte all day. They also might contain low-grade amounts of salicylic acid, which will help control pore buildup without turning your face red.


Mattifying moisturizers are usually considered a separate entity from everyday moisturizers. Yes, you can use them every day, but they’re usually more expensive and come in smaller volumes. As such, they’re best reserved for the days you know you’ll need them (again, like big meetings, events, or dates).


Lab Series Oil Control Daily Moisturizer, $37.


7. Retinol

Whether it’s a prescription from the pharmacy or an OTC product, retinol is a terrific ingredient to rotate into your nightly regimen a few times a week (on those evenings you don’t use salicylic acid). Retinol not only reverses signs of photo aging (like fine lines, spots, and wrinkles), but it also smooths surface texture, shrinks the appearance of pores, and prevents breakouts, all while helping control oil production in the skin.


It’s a hero regulator, and most dermatologists will advise you incorporate it into your routine—the intensity of retinol is the question that remains. You can start with a low-grade OTC product and see how your skin reacts, before asking your dermatologist about a prescription-strength cream. Apply it a few nights per week with your night cream, and wait 90 days for full results. You’ll need to continue use, however, in order to maintain all of the skin-balancing and -perfecting benefits.


RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, $16.


Like with any new skincare products, we highly recommend that you patch test them to check for allergic reactions. You should also revise and update your skincare routine to match the seasons.


Photo via Oar+Alps