The Best Korean Serums For Oily Skin
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If you’re a K-beauty fanatic and you’ve got oily skin, you’re in luck: There are plenty of amazing Korean serums out there that target clogged pores, excess shine, breakouts, and other concerns that are commonly associated with oily skin. More specifically, the best Korean serums for oily skin contain lightweight moisturizers like hyaluronic acid and squalane (because yes, oily skin still needs hydration), as well as ingredients like niacinamide and green tea leaf extract, which are thought to help regulate excess oil production. You also don't have to worry about any $100-plus price tags, as Korean skin care products are generally quite affordable (none of the products featured here cost more than $25).
What To Consider When Shopping For A Serum For Oily Skin
As previously touched upon, you’ll want a serum that offers grease-free hydration via ingredients like hyaluronic acid (or sodium hyaluronate), squalane, panthenol, and vitamin E. Centella asiatica extract, which is beloved for its soothing and moisturizing properties, is commonly found in Korean serums, and it’s a beneficial ingredient for most skin types. Beyond that, you’ll want to choose a serum based on your more specific skin concerns: for example, if you have congested or breakout-prone skin, you probably want a serum that contains a pore-clearing ingredient like willow bark extract or rice sake. If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to double up on the soothing ingredients. And if your main goal is a more even-looking complexion, consider a serum that contains a brightening antioxidant like vitamin C.
How To Apply Your Serum
You can use a serum in the morning and/or at night (though if you're using a vitamin C serum, your skin will reap the most benefits by using it in the morning layered under your sunscreen). When you apply your serum will depend on the other steps in your skin care routine, but generally, it should go on after cleansing and toning, but before heavier products like moisturizer and sunscreen. Typically, serums will come with a dropper dispenser, so all you need is a few drops, which you can then gently pat onto your face and neck.
Other Tips For Oily Skin
The causes of oily skin can range from hormonal imbalances to genetics to something as simple as the weather. In addition to incorporating a targeted serum into your skin care routine, there are several other steps you can take to help keep your oily skin balanced:
- Cleanse regularly, and thoroughly remove makeup at the end of the day.
- Use lightweight, oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizers (like gel creams).
- Opt for mattifying makeup products, or use a mineral-based setting powder over your makeup.
- Keep oil blotting sheets on hand to dab away excess oil throughout the day.
- Try a topical retinoid at night, which can help unclog your pores by speeding up skin cell turnover.
Shop The Best Korean Serums For Oily Skin
In a hurry? Here are the best Korean serums for oily skin:
- Best Serum For Oily, Dehydrated Skin: COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence
- Best Serum For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin: I Dew Care Juicy Kitten Purifying Power-Green Serum
- Best Pore-Minimizing Serum For Oily Skin: Skinfood Peach Sake Pore Serum
- Best Calming Serum For Oily Skin: BePlain Cicaful Ampoule
- Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin: Skin & Lab Vitamin C Brightening Serum
1. Best Serum For Oily, Dehydrated Skin
Just because you have oily skin, doesn't mean you can skip out on moisturizing (in fact, if your skin is dehydrated, it can actually start producing more oil). If you think your oily skin is also dehydrated (or if it’s dry in some parts), consider COSRX’s best-selling Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, a lightweight serum that’s rich in snail mucin, which is a popular ingredient used in Korean skin care. Naturally full of hyaluronic acid, copper peptides, glycolic acid, collagen, and elastin, snail mucin is believed to have hydrating, repairing, and collagen-boosting benefits. (And if you're concerned about the snails, COSRX says they’re cruelty-free, as they collect the mucin from the snails rather than forcing it from them.) In here, panthenol (aka vitamin B5) and arginine further help with replenishing moisture, while allantoin works to soothe dryness and irritation. Technically, this is an essence — kind of like a serum/toner hybrid — so it has an extremely light texture and layers beautifully under other products. It’s also one of the most popular Korean beauty products on Amazon, with over 9,000 five-star ratings and counting.
Relevant review: "I have oily skin, and this stuff is incredible. Cuts down on oil production, very light but super moisturizing, and it soaks in well. The texture is exactly what you imagine snail mucin feels like, but it's not unpleasant or overly sticky."
Active Ingredients: Snail Mucin, Hyaluronic Acid, Allantoin, Panthenol, Arginine Size: 3.38 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
2. Best Serum For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
To help treat the breakouts that often go hand in hand with oily skin, you'll typically see a beta-hydroxy acid, like salicylic acid, included in a serum. I Dew Care's serum uses willow bark extract instead, which is touted as a less-irritating BHA that has anti-inflammatory properties. You'll also find niacinamide at the top of the ingredients list, which has been shown to reduce sebum excretion rates, in addition to promoting an overall clearer complexion. To soothe and nourish inflamed skin, the serum includes a blend of antioxidant-rich ingredients like chlorella vulgaris extract (a type of algae), kale leaf extract, spirulina extract, and centella asiatica extract.
Relevant Review: "I feel like this product actually balanced my skin and made it more clear from small blemishes. Within a week, I noticed more even skin tone, and it seems to be fine with sensitive skin."
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, Willow Bark Extract, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Kale Leaf Extract, Spirulina Extract Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
3. Best Pore-Minimizing Serum For Oily Skin
This serum makes a great substitute for a pore-minimizing makeup primer that also packs in plenty of good-for-skin benefits. Skinfood’s Peach Sake Pore Serum helps to reduce the look of enlarged pores and slow down the production of oil thanks to a combination of peach fruit extract, silica, and rice sake. Licorice root extract offers antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits for anyone who might be prone to acne, and centella asiatica extract works to soothe skin and improve its overall texture.
Relevant Review: "Hands down, this is the best pore-minimizing primer I have ever used. It instantly eliminates the shine and shrinks your pores."
Active Ingredients: Silica, Peach Fruit Extract, Rice Ferment Filtrate (Sake), Centella Asiatica Extract, Licorice Root Extract, Vitamin E Size: 1.5 oz. Cruelty-Free: No
4. Best Calming Serum For Oily Skin
Whether your oily skin also happens to be sensitive, or the excess oil has led to acne-induced irritation, this BePlain Cicaful Ampoule, which is made of 84% centella asiatica extract, may be a valuable addition to your routine. The plant-derived ingredient is rich in nutrients and believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The active compounds in the plant are proven to effectively treat wounds, which is why centella asiatica has become so popular for helping to soothe irritated skin. In this serum, chamomile flower extract provides further calming benefits, while hyaluronic acid attracts and locks in moisture.
Relevant Review: "I have been using this ampoule for a while and [I'm] currently on my fifth bottle. It's very lightweight and does not leave a sticky residue. I have super oily skin, so it definitely helps that the texture is very light."
Active Ingredients: Centella Asiatica Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Chamomile Flower Extract Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
5. Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin
For a serum that helps with fading unwanted hyperpigmentation and preventing sun damage (something that can ultimately lead to more hyperpigmentation), you'll want a vitamin C serum. Skin & Lab’s Vitamin C Brightening Serum uses a synthetic form of vitamin C that’s not only less irritating, but also makes the formula more stable (vitamin C is notoriously very reactive and can lose its antioxidant benefits when exposed to heat, light, and air). Also included in the formula are niacinamide to help regulate oil production, hyaluronic acid to provide lightweight hydration, and collagen and peptides to promote firmer, more moisturized skin.
Relevant Review: "It is not irritating to my sensitive, oily/combo skin, and works great when paired with other products like glycolic acid cleansers and toners, as it helps with brightening your face and giving it a very healthy, even skin-toned kind of glow."
Active Ingredients: Niacinamide, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Panthenol, Chlorella Vulgaris Extract, Hyaluronic Acid, Hydrolyzed Collagen, Peptides Size: 1 oz. Cruelty-Free: Yes
About The Author:
Marissa DeSantis has worked as a beauty writer for nearly 10 years. Her pieces can be found across print and digital publications like Bustle, Evening Standard, Teen Vogue, and InStyle.
Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options, by Dawnielle C. Endly, DO and Richard A. Miller, DO; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5605215/
Moisturizing and Antiinflammatory Properties of Cosmetic Formulations Containing Centella asiatica Extract, by A. Ratz-Łyko, J. Arct, and K. Pytkowska; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4852572/#:~:text=Centella%20asiatica%20extract%20is%20a,hydration%20and%20epidermal%20barrier%20function.
Centella asiatica in cosmetology, by Wieslawa Bylka, Paulina Znajdek-Awizen, Elzbieta Studzinska-Sroka, and Malgorzata Brzezinska; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3834700/