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If you’ve got oily, shine-prone skin and you’re struggling to keep it balanced, it might be time to reevaluate your beauty routine. According to dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, who spoke to Elite Daily for this article, the best oil-control products work in tandem to reduce oil without causing irritation. One step should involve salicylic acid, a pore-clearing ingredient that’s “the gold standard” for treating oily skin and acne, the expert says. Then, use other noncomedogenic (and whenever possible, alcohol-free) products that contain ingredients like niacinamide, clay, AHAs (like glycolic acid), retinol, lemongrass, hyaluronic acid, and dimethicone as part of your overall approach to controlling excess oil.
Don’t be overly aggressive, the dermatologist says. Scrubbing, excessively exfoliating, and triple cleansing can all solicit the further production of sebum and actually make things worse. Cleanse twice a day with a salicylic acid face wash, then use other doctor-approved products — like the ones featured below — to further keep excess oil at bay.
The expert believes your sunscreen should be oil-free, but you don’t have to avoid oils completely unless you want to. “There are types of oil that are compatible and absorb well, even for acne-prone or oily skin types,” she says. “Products with argan, lavender, and squalane can be adapted into a skin routine to not clog the pores or irritate the skin.” Finally, a mattifying primer can help quell shine instantly and prevent it from creeping up throughout the day, while also extending the wear time of your makeup.
To see Dr. Shamban’s suggested routine for controlling excess oil, just keep scrolling.
1. Doctor’s Pick: Best Face Wash For Oil Control Under $25
The lightly scented La Roche-Posay Effaclar Deep Cleansing Foaming Cream is part of the French pharmacy brand’s Effaclar line, which is designed for acne-prone skin. The cream-to-foam wash contains the BHA salicylic acid, a “lipophilic [oil-loving] ingredient that is able to move through the pores to break the bonds of the dead skin cells and sebum, eliminating blockage,” explains Dr. Shamban, while adding that “It also decreases oil production and future blemishes.” To prevent your skin from feeling dry or tight, La Roche-Posay added glycerin and thermal spring water to the formula.
Editor tip: after cleansing, follow up with a spritz of the brand’s best-selling Serozinc toning spray, which instantly eliminates any leftover oil and keeps skin matte for hours.
2. Doctor’s Pick: Best Prestige Face Wash For Oil Control
Harsh scrubs are a no-no, but Dr. Shamban does like SkinMedica’s BHA/AHA Exfoliating Cleanser, which uses jojoba beads to gently exfoliate skin, as well as salicylic acid and a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids, including glycolic acid, which Dr. Shamban explains is a “small molecule that easily passes through the skin barrier to help slough-off dead skin cells.” This is a great choice for keeping excess oil at bay and promoting smooth, clear, even-looking skin, though the dermatologist warns that some people find glycolic acid to be drying or irritating, so you may want to use this cleanser once a day and swap it for the La Roche-Posay cleanser the other time you wash your face.
3. Doctor’s Pick: Best Toner For Oil Control
Add in a light essence or witch hazel toner to your routine as needed, suggests the expert, who likes the affordable, alcohol-free Thayers Witch Hazel Facial Toner for this. Witch hazel helps remove excess oil and can make your pores appear smaller, while the glycerin, rose water, and aloe leaf juice in the formula offer up calming and hydrating benefits. Swipe across your skin with a cotton round after cleansing, and before applying any serum, moisturizer, or sunscreen.
4. Doctor’s Pick: Best Serum For Oil Control
You’re probably already familiar with the cult-favorite Sunday Riley Good Genes serum, which calls on lactic acid to enhance your skin’s overall appearance and keep your pores clear of excess oil. Lactic acid, also an AHA, does not penetrate as deeply as glycolic acid, so it tends to be better tolerated by most people, even those with sensitive skin. This serum also contains lemongrass, which the doctor says, is a “wonderful antiseptic with antifungal and antimicrobial properties to help firm skin and keep pores free of the acne vulgaris bacteria [that causes] acne.” For people with oily skin, this serum can even work as a serum and moisturizing product in one (just don’t forget your sunscreen).
5. Doctor’s Pick: Best Sunscreen For Oil Control
Sunscreen is an essential step, even on cloudy, wintery days, so make sure to pick a sunscreen that you’ll actually enjoy using. Dr. Shamban — and plenty of other dermatologists — like EltaMD’s UV Daily Broad-Spectrum SPF 40. It checks all the boxes Dr. Shamban says to look for in a sunscreen, including a minimum SPF of 30, and a lightweight, noncomedogenic formulation. This physical/chemical hybrid sunscreen also offers lightweight moisturizing benefits, thanks to the addition of vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. “Hyaluronic acid, a humectant, is a good ingredient for those with oily skin as it is light, won't clog pores, attracts moisture and will help keep skin hydrated and balanced,” Dr. Shamban explains. It should be plenty moisturizing enough on its own if you have oily skin, so you won’t need to layer a moisturizer underneath it.
6. Doctor’s Pick: Best Face Mask For Oil Control
Glytone’s sulfur-based Acne Treatment Mask works to reduce excess oil, keep your pores clear, and soothe inflammation. It also contains bentonite clay, which the expert says “has the unique ability to attract and absorb surface oils on the epidermis, eliminating the shine of oily skin.” She adds that “bentonite clays in particular also have essential minerals like magnesium, iron, silicates, and potassium which help with acne.” Use this mask once or twice a week to keep breakouts and congested pores at bay.
7. Best Blotting Papers For Oil Control
The expert says that “blotting papers that gently absorb and sop up surface oils should never be out of reach for a skin 'refresh'. Look for added ingredients like bamboo particles, willow bark extract, abaca tree fibers powder, clay, or powder,” Dr. Shamban advises. These Pleasing Care blotting tissues contain 100 ultra-thin linen fiber papers made with bamboo charcoal, and yes, you can use both sides of each one.
8. Best Priming Putty For Oil Control
This unique, putty-like primer makes your makeup go on so smoothly — and unlike a lot of other, similar primers, which give your skin a “luminous” finish, this one dries down completely matte. Made with kaolin clay and white charcoal (two ingredients that are great for acne/oily skin in general), this primer helps soak up shine instantly and also keeps it from popping back up throughout the day. It makes your skin look and feel super velvety, so you can wear it without makeup, too.
9. Best Setting Spray For Oil Control
Full disclosure: this product does contain alcohol, which is something Dr. Shamban said to try to avoid. But as far as quick-fix setting sprays go for soaking up oil and mattifying your makeup, it doesn’t get much better than this pro-favorite makeup finishing spray from Skindinavia. Just two to four spritzes, misted over your face as the last step in your makeup routine, will eliminate all traces of shine and keep it that way all day long — up to 16 hours, according to the brand. What’s the secret? A type of patented cooling technology that keeps your skin protected from heat and moisture — while still allowing both to escape from your skin — to prevent the emergence of oil and shine long after this face mist is applied.
10. You May Also Like: An Oil-Controlling Face Roller
This genius product went viral on TikTok for its instantaneous oil-vanishing abilities. Similar to blotting papers, only this is reusable and uses a volcanic stone, the roller instantly soaks up and eliminates excess oil, all without disrupting your makeup. The stone can be washed with just water and soap and dried overnight, and it’s super travel-friendly, as well.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Ava Shamban, M.D.