Gabrielle Union said it best when she proclaimed that oily skin can be both a blessing and a curse. While excess sebum production can delay the onset of wrinkles compared to dry skin, there's also the caveat of uncontrollably greasy-looking skin. Until a few years ago my face was an oil generating machine. Carrying a mini-library of blotting papers in my purse was a daily occurrence, and without fail, by midday, any foundation applied on my face would end up a textured, blotchy mess. But the biggest consequence of my super oily skin? The regularity of severe breakouts, caused by clogged pores. An abundance of sebum becomes a breeding ground for advantageous bacteria who thrive on enclosed pores with little access to air. As it turns out, my skin's natural affinity for oil is genetic–my mom has also dealt with the same issue for years.
It's been truly a godsend to have someone close in my life to commiserate with when it comes to the trials and tribulations of oily skin. We also both happen to be skincare fanatics (she a little more obsessed than I), so we often text about the products we're currently using, going deep into our product junkie discussions. Through this, I've discovered some of the best skincare products to address my oily skin, so of course, I have to pass along the good karma and share them with you. My mom and I dug through our arsenal of products to bring you the best of the best oil-banishing products, so read ahead to see the full list and to hear our thoughts.
The fastest route to puddles of oil on your face is to use an overly drying cleanser. Before I became more skincare savvy, harsh thick cleansers used to make up the bulk of my washes, now I lean more towards products that are more gentle with a low lather. Holifrog's AHA wash includes the added bonus of delicate chemical exfoliation.
"Caudalie products can be addictive: they’re natural and they do what they say they’re going to do. When paired with a facial brush every other day, this gel cleanser purifies like a dream while controlling the oily areas of combo skin."–Yolanda
Okay yes, this packaging is pretty bland and not very exciting. It's not the type of aesthetically joyful product I'd rush to display in a shelfie, but I gladly overlook that but it works–and very well at that. To get a little more acne-fighting benefits, leave it on your face for 30 seconds as a mini mask.
"This toner mattifies shiny areas while absorbing excess oils. Not only does it give a healthy glow but it does double duty as a gentler exfoliator. Who knew?"–Yolanda
My toner lineup is pretty packed right now (I use Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting Liquid and an essence daily), so I was super hesitant to add anything additional that may mess up my delicate product ecosystem. Well, I definitely don't regret adding this to my regimen, in fact, it's one of the best products I've used to control my oily skin. I like to apply it with my hands and pat it into my skin to let it absord pre-serum application.
"Gentle chemical exfoliation is key to cutting down sebum production, but only Beta Hydroxy Acids or BHAs are oil-soluble to penetrate deeper into the skin. Not only will this make you glowy, but it will also help fade dark spots or post-inflammation hyperpigmentation."–Yolanda
"Like magic it disappears into the skin. Not only does it reduce visible shine but it also leaves the skin looking balanced and not flat or dull. It’s been a game-changer in my routine– come through, Sulwhasoo!"–Yolanda
Renee Rouleau is one of those brands that of you know you know–I really only became privy to its magic after stumbling across a Renee Rouleau moisturizer working in the beauty closet as an intern years ago. The biggest takeaway of this serum is that it's oil-free, which means nothing here will clog your pores. I love it as a general use serum that helps to address a number of issues: from acne to redness and more.
My dermatologist once told me that retinol is necessary for any solid skincare routine, and this one is mine. I've heard so many praises for Shani Darden's product line, and believe me they are warranted. I love how lightweight and non-greasy it is. Some retinols can be too aggressive for my face, but this one leaves my skin feeling perfectly balanced.
I've already waxed rhapsodic about this serum–it's made of natural salicylic acid and really amazing at dealing with some pimples–but I love how delicate it feels once applied.
There's been so much buzz about Zinc and Niacinamide lately (partly thanks to The Ordinary), so it's something I've been itching to add to my routine for some time. While The Ordinary's version didn't wow me, this one did. It's a thicker serum but doesn't leave a sticky residue. My face feels so nourished when I layer it on after applying my toners.
"Can we talk Fresh? No seriously. Those with oily skin tend to fear moisturizers, because… oil. The nuance is in finding the right moisturizer that’s oil-free yet doesn’t have a lot of unnecessary stuff that tends to inflame sensitive skin. Fresh bosses up like a big deal because frankly, it is."–Yolanda
Thank the beauty gods that Supergoop has basically formulated sun protection in almost every form imaginable. I have their sunscreen setting spray, stick, and regular sunscreen all in my medicine cabinet right now, but as my go-to, I use their mattifying version. As far as sun protection, it's a permanent fixture in my routine.
"It’s true that we can’t change the size of our pores but we can change the appearance of them. This is a miracle in the jar because once you put-on, what pores? I’m in love!"–Yolanda
One of the biggest tricks I've learned about dealing with my skin type is to go for water or gel-based moisturizers. They provide long-lasting hydration with a lightweight texture, giving my skin the balance it needs.
This is one of those products that I sometimes forget how amazing it is until I slather it on my face, and wake up to the smoothest, glassiest skin I've ever had in my life. Consider it an esthetician visit in a bottle–I used it last week and couldn't believe how glowy my skin looked days later.
"Adding oil to a routine to control oily skin? Hear me out. This oil sinks into the skin but doesn’t leave it feeling like an oil slick. As a final step, it seals in all the greatness that you just applied to your skin to control oil. As far as skin oils, this one gets all the flowers!"–Yolanda
If I splurge on a product, 8/10 it's these peels. After a few uses, the results are basically instantaneous. If you're nervous about attempting a heavy-duty peel, this is like a baby step to the big leagues. A word of advice: don't go too overboard on these as it can trigger oil production if overused.
When I'm not willing to drop $80 bucks on Dr. Dennis Gross's peels, Corsx's version is a solid affordable alternative.
Clay masks are a secret weapon against oil as absorbs excessive amounts of it on the skin and digs deep to draw out impurities. While there are a ton of clay masks on the market, what I love about this one is that it can pull triple duty as a cleanser, spot treatment, or a general mask.
A casual spa day may not be in the cards, but with this clarifying mask from Dr. Barbara Sturm, I'm not too worried. There's a lot of fancy-sounding ingredients in here like balloon vine and viper’s bugloss, but don't feel intimidated by its complex formulation. After washing this off my skin has a mattifying effect that lasts for days.
Many blotting papers have seen the inside of my purse, but only a few have continually stayed there. I'm extremely picky about my blotting paper, but these delicate little papers gently absorb any oil without disrupting my foundation. The pretty packaging is also a big plus.
No, you're not dreaming, these blotting papers are made with gold for the ultimate bougie experience. The gold imparts subtle shimmer while the abaca leaf sops up excess oil.
Sufficiently washing my face has completely changed the game in terms of the amount of oil on my face in the morning. If you have skin like mine you know that going to sleep with any bit of residual makeup is basically a guarantee that you'll be welcomed with an oil slick by dawn. Even after double cleansing, just using my fingertips to wash isn't enough. For that, I'm a huge fan of silicone devices. It's way more low maintenance than a brush, as you don't have to swap out the heads, and the silicone material is super gentle yet effective. Foreo and PMD make some of my favorite ones on the market.