My skin is oily / combo and I complain about it quite a lot, so I often get asked for my best tips for controlling the inevitable flood of oil. I also sweat easily which apparently means I’m fit, but this adds to the oil and I end up a bigger mess. I’ve spent a long time trying to get the right balance of products and routines to combat the oil – here are my best skincare and make-up tips!
Is Your Skin Actually Oily?
Oily skin is genetic, but you can accidentally give yourself oily or oilier skin with the wrong routine. You can also have dehydrated but oily skin. Before you start doing everything to deal with oil, make sure you’re not in either situation.
(If you want details on doing a full skin assessment, you might be interested in The Lab Muffin Guide to Basic Skincare.)
Wash Your Skin Gently
Overcleansing can make oily skin worse via dehydration and irritation. There are a lot of things that go into gentle cleansing, but the two most important factors are avoiding sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and true soaps, and minimising your skin’s exposure to cleanser in general.
Read more about cleansing: All About Cleansing & How to Choose a Gentle Cleanser
Cleanser recommendations (not an exhaustive list):
- Peter Thomas Roth Cucumber Detox Foaming Cleanser: I hate the word “detox” but this self-foaming cleanser is my go-to
- Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: Expensive but really good
- Cosrx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser: Gentle cleanser that leaves skin hydrated
- KraveBeauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser: Gentle gel cleanser
Don’t Be Scared of Moisturiser
Oily skin can need moisturiser if it’s dehydration prone (like mine). Natural sebum doesn’t moisturise your skin that well unfortunately! For dehydrated skin, humectants and occlusives are the way to go, but if your skin is oily keep the occlusives to nighttime use.
More reading about dehydrated skin: Is Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated? And How to Treat It
- Aquaphor Healing Ointment: A petroleum jelly-based mix that spreads a bit more easily
- Klairs Supple Preparation Toner: Humectant-rich, great for layering
It’s a classic for a reason – salicylic acid (also known as beta hydroxy acid or BHA) is fantastic for clearing out the blackheads that are super common with oily skin. As a bonus, it also makes my pores less noticeable if I use it consistently (large pores and oily skin also go hand in hand).
More about exfoliants and exfoliation: Free Lab Muffin Essential Guide to Exfoliation
Salicylic acid recommendations:
- Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid: My first ever salicylic acid product, I still swear by it and honestly I haven’t come across a comparable product in the last 7 or so years. Hats off to you, Paula.
- Cosrx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid: Gentler salicylic acid, mixed reviews
- Stridex Maximum Strength Pads: A really inexpensive option but a bit more drying, which could trigger the oil issue
There aren’t many ingredients that have actually been found to reduce oil on your skin, and the evidence tends to be scant, but they may be worth a go. Most of them seem to work by changing the shape of the pore so it flows out differently, rather than actually reducing the amount of oil your skin produces.
- Saw palmetto
- Clay masks like Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask and Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay (temporary effect)
More about niacinamide: What Is Niacinamide and What Does It Do in Skincare?
How to mix bentonite clay masks: Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay and apple cider vinegar – a tale of pH
My favourites are starch-based powders (including using just a sack of grocery store corn starch). I’ve also heard good things about clay-based powders containing kaolin. You can also try putting a thin layer of powder underneath your foundation to soak up oil before it hits the surface (commonly known as the “Wayne Goss method”).
- Innisfree No Sebum Powder
- Jurlique Rose Silk Finishing Powder
- Kryolan Translucent Powder
- Youngblood Loose Mineral Rice Powder
I’ve talked about multi-sunscreening before – adding an extra layer of higher protection, oilier sunscreen on the areas that need it after you cover the rest of your face with sunscreen. For me that’s my super hyperpigmentation prone cheekbones. Check that the sunscreens are likely to be compatible, and pat it on gently!
These are great for blotting oil while keeping make-up intact. I prefer paper because plastic seems wasteful – toilet paper works well too if you forgot to pack the fancy stuff! I usually buy mine from the cosmetics aisle at the Asian supermarket.
Recommendations: I usually just go for generic ones – they tend to work as well as or better than brand name stuff.
I used to use matte make-up only, but then I discovered that dewy make-up meant that the sweat and oil didn’t break through as obviously. I mix illuminator into my foundation, and add highlighter to my cheeks and nose, and put the starch all over as well (over or under highlighter depending on whether it’s cream or powder). If the choice is between looking slightly sweaty, and looking weird and patchy, then I choose slightly sweaty. There are more details in my morning routine video.
- Becca x Jaclyn Hill Champagne Collection palette: glowy highlighters that work on most skin tones
- NIOD Photography Fluid: I’ve been trying to move away from Deciem products due to the controversies, but this product is so good! If anyone has other recommendations please let me know! Nourish London Illuminating Face Shimmer seems to be similar but harder to track down.
Medical and Clinical Treatments
This area is a bit murky. Firstly there are the prescription medications that will reduce oil – they’re generally not prescribed just for reducing sebum, but it’s a side effect since they’re often used for acne, and oil overproduction is one of the factors that leads to acne. If you have acne and lots of oil, it might be worth talking to your doctor about whether they’d be appropriate for you:
Those are my tips! Which ones do you use? Which ones did I miss?
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