Skincare for Oily/Acne Prone Skin

Whether you have enough oil to rival the BP spill, enlarged pores, blackheads, or straight up acne, you need to follow a routine that has products catered to your skincare concerns. Luckily, all of these issues can be addressed with some similar ingredients. Read on to learn more about how you can clear up your skin on a daily basis.


You want a cleanser that’s strong enough to rid your face of sebum and dirt, but you don’t want it to be too strong that it over dries your skin. If you strip you skin of all its natural oils, your skin will overcompensate by producing MORE OIL. Uh oh! So we need to find a balance.

You don’t want a cleanser that foams up too much. Foam usually implies that the cleanser is full of detergents. Detergents are chemicals that break up and remove oil. Too much detergent means it’s too drying. Philosophy‘s Purity Made Simple face wash is one of the best selling makeup removing face washes out there, but it does contain sulfates. So be forewarned; just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s got the best and least harmful ingredients. Word to the wise.

An option you might not have thought of, is a cleansing oil. You might be thinking, why would I want to add oil to my already oily face? In chemistry you may have learned that “like dissolves like.” If you apply oil to your face, it can mix with the oils on your face. When you wash away the cleansing oil, the oils on your face go with it. Cleansing oils are a gentle way to remove oil, without overdoing it. Cleansing oils are great because they double as makeup removers! Just remembers, apply cleansing oils to a DRY face. Yup, a dry face. Massage them in, and then rinse them away. If you apply water to your face first, the water will repel the cleansing oil before it can mix with the sebum on your skin. It won’t be effective that way.

Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil

Boscia Tsubaki Cleansing Oil Gel

Boscia Makeup Breakup Cool Cleansing Oil


If cleansing oils aren’t your thing, you can also try a cleanser with salicylic acid. After removing your makeup with a makeup removing facewash (anything will do), use a facewash with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliants that eats away dead skin cells and prevents your pores from getting clogged. Concentrations will range from 0.5%-2%. The stronger the concentration, the more drying the product can be. So be careful. Don’t think that more is always better.

Benzoyl peroxide is another acne fighter. It’s a chemical that kills surface bacteria that can get trapped in pores and cause acne. For the most part, benzoyl peroxide can be very harsh and sap all the moisture out of your skin. I recommend starting out with salicylic acid first, and only progressing to benzoyl peroxide if your stubborn acne still won’t budge.

Sulfur washes are the final option for acne prone skin. Difficult to find over the counter and usually only available as a prescription, sulfur acts by drying out your pimples. It’s not as drying as benzoyl peroxide, though.


Toners are a great way to rid your skin of its last traces of oil, as well as deposit some great skin clearing ingredients. Find a toner with witch hazel, tea tree oil, and/or salicylic acid. Witch hazel and tea tree oil are natural antiseptics that can kill bacteria that can cause breakouts. Again, salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliant. If your skin is very oily and/or breakout prone, consider having salicylic acid in every step of your routine: cleanser, toner, serum, and moisturizer. I repeat, this can be harsh and drying, so try introducing salicylic acid into your routine slowly.



Serums are skin treatments that deliver potent ingredients that can delve deep into the skin. They are the most powerful at producing results. Serums aren’t really formulated for preventing acne per se. They are great at diminishing the signs of dark post-acne marks (as well as delivering some great antiaging benefits. You can never start too early!).

Ingredients that treat hyperpigmentation from acne and/or sunspots are:

  • Hydroquinone (Beware of hydroquinone, however, as it has cannot be used on women who are pregnant. It  has also been to potentially carcinogenic behavior!)
  • Licorice Root
  • Vitamin C
  • Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)

I’ve personally tried several products out there, and can tell you that the one I found that worked the best for me is Ole Henriksen’s Truth Serum. Packed with vitamin C, this serum is meant to prevent and repair signs of again, but the vitamin C does wonders for treating old post-acne marks and preventing new ones from getting too severe.



Even though you’re oily, you absolutely need a moisturizer. Washing and toning can be very drying, and you need to restore moisture to your skin. Since your skin is oilier, however, you want to look for formulas that aren’t overly hydrating. Creams are going to be too heavy, which could clog your pores and make your face feel slick and greasy. Stick with lotions or gel-like formulas.

You can look for a formulas with salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur if your skin if very breakout prone. Start out with a low percentage of these active ingredients, and work your way up if your skin still seems to be resistant.

Nude Purify Daily Moisturizer is a gentle moisturizer that does not have salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur. It is light, has antiaging ingredients, and leaves a matte finish.



I put this as a separate category, as it can be difficult to find the perfect moisturizer with an added SPF. Chances are, you’re going to need to just buy a separate sunscreen. The good side, you can use your moisturizer for both day and night, and just add sunscreen for daytime use.

[See my article Chemical versus Physical Sunscreens: What Everyone Should Know]

An awesome face sunscreen product that I’m currently raving about is MD Solar Sciences Mineral Créme. It says crème, but it’s not really a cream. This amazing formula contains 100% mineral sunscreens and leaves a gorgeous matte finish. It doubles as a makeup primer too!


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