Video: Skincare and Makeup Tips for Oily Skin

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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!Check out the video here – keep scrolling for the text version.

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 cleansingAll About Cleansing & How to Choose a Gentle Cleanser

Cleanser recommendations (not an exhaustive list):

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 skinIs Your Skin Dry or Dehydrated? And How to Treat It

Moisturiser recommendations:

Salicylic Acid

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:

Oil-Reducing Skincare

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.

More about niacinamideWhat Is Niacinamide and What Does It Do in Skincare?

How to mix bentonite clay masksAztec Secret Indian Healing Clay and apple cider vinegar – a tale of pH

Translucent Powder

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”).

Powder recommendations:


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!

Blotting Papers

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.

Dewy Make-up

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.


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:

There are also some promising new ingredients being researched, but as it often goes, no one knows if and when they’ll hit the market.

Botox also seems to reduce sebum, and light treatments can as well, but these tend to be quite expensive and the evidence is pretty scant at the moment.

Those are my tips! Which ones do you use? Which ones did I miss?

Some products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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6 thoughts on “Video: Skincare and Makeup Tips for Oily Skin”

  1. Innisfree perfect uv protection cream long lasting for oily skin is pretty good (and affordable). It’s got SPF 50+ and PA++++. I use it for my T-zone, and use corn starch powder for oil control as you suggested. For touch ups in the afternoons, I use Country & Stream’s uv powder SPF50 PA++++.
    Thanks for the corn starch powder tip. I can reserve my oil blotting paper for the afternoon 🙂

  2. I am so glad I found your blog!!! I seriously learn so much from every single post. You’re beautiful, smart as hell, and super engaging! And I really trust what you say unlike most bloggers who I feel just want to sell product. Never change you’re brilliant! 🙂 xoxo

  3. Hi Michelle,
    Thank you for this video/article! I have oily skin prone to dehydration, and I really feel that gentle cleansing and moisturizing – especially with humectants like hyaluronic acid – is helping me to keep the oil down. I’m not sure though weither or not I should avoid oil in my skincare and makeup products? My skin is also acne-prone, especially to the hormonal kind. What do you recommend, oil or no oil? Thank you again!

    • It depends on your skin – I personally use a lot of oils at night, but some people find that they break out from oils.


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