11 Beauty Secrets Women With Oily Skin Should Memorize

Updated: Apr. 20, 2021

A dermatologist and beauty experts offer their top tips for how to treat oily skin and keep shine at bay all day long.

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Tips for how to get rid of oily skin

If you have oily skin you know about the constant struggle of keeping your face oil- and shine-free. You always carry oil absorbing sheets with you to blot your T-zone. You endure jokes about how oily your face is that you could bake cookies or fry an egg on it. While you’ve probably lived with oily skin for most of your life, there are ways to combat the oil slicks and keep your shine at bay. We spoke with a dermatologist and beauty experts who offer their top tips to treat oily skin.

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The goal is to balance…not dry

Oily skin needs to be treated with care. You don’t want to strip the skin of its natural oils. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. “Using drying masks and cleansers will cause the skin to overproduce oil, making the situation worse in the long term,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City. The reason: Eliminating natural oils actually sends mixed signals to your sebaceous glands, causing them to pump out extra oil, which can even cause or worsen breakouts. (These myths about oily skin could be ruining your complexion.)

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Oily skin cleansers

“Cleansing twice a day is ideal, using a gentle cloth, a brush with soft bristles or clean fingers,” says Edelyn Collado, head facialist at The Ritualist. “Gel formulas (sans alcohol and drying ingredients) are excellent for oily skin, as they eliminate unnecessary oils, prevent bacteria, and cleanse deeply.” Bar soaps are another great option. Look for ingredients such as activated charcoal and clay, which will draw out impurities. Try: Soapwalla Activated Charcoal & Petitgrain Soap Bar or Herbivore Bamboo Charcoal Cleansing Bar Soap.

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Oily skin exfoliants

You know exfoliating helps clear pores, but don’t reach for the grainiest scrubs you can find. “Exfoliating with aggressive physical exfoliants can result in broken capillaries and spread bacteria to other open skin or enlarged pores,” says Collado. Both she and Dr. Engelman recommend sticking with non-abrasive, chemical exfoliants—ingredients such as salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acid—to gently but effectively remove the buildup of oil, grime, and dead skin cells. Try: Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser or BeautyRx by Dr. Schultz Balancing Glycolic Cleanser. (And don’t miss the exfoliating habits that could do serious damage to your skin.)


Oily skin toners

There is much debate among skin-care aficionados as to whether or not toners are necessary. Here’s the deal: Drying, alcohol-based toners aren’t true toners and will only strip your skin and stimulate oil production. The real point of a toner is to balance skin’s pH and oil levels, remove traces of makeup, dirt, and pollution and prep skin for the next steps in your routine. “If you have oily or acne-prone skin, then they can be particularly helpful. And if you follow a Korean beauty routine, then toner is a must-have,” says Dr. Engelman. Try: Sunday Riley Martian Mattifying Melting Water-Gel Toner, or OLE HENRIKSEN Balancing Force Oil Control Toner. (Read more on what face toners do and get top product recommendations from experts.)


Oily skin moisturizers

It’s a complete fallacy that oily skin doesn’t need moisturizer. But not any old bottle will do. Make sure to choose a lightweight, non-comedogenic formula. “Gel moisturizers that are oil absorbent and contain SPF, to prevent early signs of aging, are a great option,” says Collado. Try Kate Somerville Oil Free Moisturizer or Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel. (These are dermatologists’ rules for using moisturizer.)


Oils for oily skin

While it may sound counterintuitive to apply oil to oily skin, it’s actually a game changer. “One of the biggest myths is that people with oily skin shouldn’t use oils,” says Collado. “Many women, especially those with oily, acne-prone and sensitive skin, are wary of putting oils on their face. However, natural oils mimic the skin’s natural sebum production and can help stabilize oil production,” says Emily Cunningham, co-founder of True Moringa. You do want to stay away from heavy creams and comedogenic ingredients, like coconut oil and flaxseed oils. Look for nutrient-dense yet lightweight oils like jojoba, grapeseed, rosehip seed, argan, and sea buckthorn oils, and formulas with purifying properties, like tea tree, black cumin seed, and blue tansy, according to Rachel Winard, founder of Soapwalla. Try Herbivore Lapis Oil Balancing Facial Oil, Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, or Soapwalla Restorative Face Serum. (Check out the facial oils to help with all your skin-care woes.)


Oily skin face mask

When it comes to caring for oily skin, you’ll see a few ingredients come up again and again, among them charcoal, clay, salicylic and lactic acid, witch hazel, blue tansy, and tea tree oil. Adding a mask, with the aforementioned all-star ingredients, into your skin-care routine can make a world of difference. They’ll de-gunk your pores and slough off dead skin cells that can make skin look dull and encourage breakouts. Try: Beautycounter No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask or Herbivore Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask. (These face masks will treat all your skin concerns.)

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Oily skin mattifying primers

Use a mattifying primer prior to makeup application to create a smooth, shine-free canvas. Try Nars Pore & Shine Control Primer or Proactiv Ultra Poreless Instant Skin Smoother. Do double duty by adding a mattifying primer with SPF—we love Coola Daydream Mineral Primer SPF 30. (Try these makeup tricks to mask scars, spots, and dark circles.)


Oily skin foundations

Be sure to use oil-free, non-comedogenic makeup formulas, which will fight shine and won’t clog pores. “I like mixing Cover FX Custom Blog Drops into my foundation, or apply directly to the skin, to help absorb oil throughout the day,” says Dr. Engelman. “Avoid silica-based products, which tend to flash white and look shiny,” warns New York City-based celebrity makeup artist JoAnn Solomon. Try: Neutrogena Shine Control Liquid Makeup. (These are the expert-approved foundations actually improve your complexion.)

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Oily skin mattifying powders

Oil-absorbing powders are great for setting makeup as well as for touch-ups throughout the day. “Use a triangular makeup wedge dipped in shine-stopping pressed powder, like Urban Decay De-Slick Mattifying Powder, Cover FX Blotting Powder, and Becca Blotting Perfector Setting Powder, to kill shine and absorb oil as needed,” says Solomon.


Oil absorbing sheets

While absorbing sheets won’t reduce oil production in the long term, they are effective for sopping up oil and keeping you shine-free all day and night—without having to load on more and more powder, which could end up caking, not to mention blocking pores over time. Solomon recommends Boscia Green Tea Blotting Linens and Shiseido Pureness Oil-Control Blotting Paper.

Next, read up on the myths and truths about large pores that will change your face.