Got an oily complexion? If so, you probably already know that this skin type requires extra attention. Whether you’re using blotting papers multiple times a day or carrying around mattifying powder for midday touch-ups, it can feel like minimizing shine is a never-ending battle.
However, it turns out that one of the biggest secrets to reducing greasiness is actually based on how you start your day. By using a face wash specifically designed to get excess oil under control each morning, your skin will need less maintenance throughout the day.
Here, we’ve discovered the best face washes for oily skin. But before we get into our recommendations, we tapped Miami dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo to learn how to lessen perpetual greasiness once and for all.
What causes oily skin?
There are a variety of factors that can lead to oily skin. Genetics is a common one since many people are simply born with more active sebaceous glands (aka the glands that produce oil). These glands are also more active in your younger years, as your skin will tend to become less oily as you age out of puberty. Where you live and its climate can also play a role in how oily your skin is. For example, a hotter, more humid area will naturally lead to shinier skin.
It’s also possible to develop oilier skin when using the wrong skin care products. Heavier products often result in excess shine, so it’s best to use lightweight, oil-free products to minimize potential greasiness.
Is face wash important when treating oily skin?
According to Ciraldo, the answer is a resounding yes.
“The cleansing step is one of the most important parts of our daily routine since a cleanser for oily and acne-prone skin can help to rebalance our [skin],” said Ciraldo. “In my own 40-year practice of dermatology, I have found that newly onset or mild acne can often be managed successfully by simply using a good acne cleanser twice a day.”
What ingredients should you look for in face washes for oily skin?
When you have oily and acne-prone skin, you really need to address two issues. First, you want to use an acne cleanser that has ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. You also want to be sure to replenish some healthy, water-trapping ingredients — like ceramides, lipids, coconut oil and aloe — to make up for the dehydration commonly seen in oily, acne-prone skin.
Do's and don'ts for oily skin
One of the things that can be counterproductive to oily skin is applying oils. According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Noëlle S. Sherber, people with oily skin should avoid products that contain shea butter and coconut oil; stay away from overly astringent products "such as those with a high alcohol content or high concentration of tea tree oil"; and scrubbing the skin aggressively, "particularly with harsh products that have jagged particles such as apricot pits".
However, you can do many things to protect the barrier of an oily complexion. Dr. Sherber recommended cleansing with a gentle cleanser, opting for a gentle topical retinoid to help normalize oil production and trying products with salicylic acid as it's lipophilic (dissolved in oil).
"A key distinction in taking care of oily skin is to understand the difference between hydration and moisture in skin care," said Sherber. "Hydration refers to water whereas moisture refers to oil. So, oily skin may not require much moisture but can benefit from hydration. Topical hydrators like glycerin and hyaluronic acid bind water to the skin, and there are many water-based formulas that are well-suited to oily skin."
Best face washes for oily skin
“This combines antibacterial benzoyl peroxide with ceramides to balance bacteria and healthy oils in the skin,” said Ciraldo. As a bonus, this CeraVe cleanser also contains niacinamide to calm your complexion after use.
For a gentle wash, try this lightweight cleanser formulated with hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Aside from boosting hydration, this formula is great to remove leftover residue and other stubborn greases. Amazon shoppers also love how this oil-free cleanser wipes off even the clumpiest mascara.
"This works well. Removes all makeup (including mascara) and leaves my face soft and not tight. Also doesn't irritate my sensitive skin or burn my eyes," said one buyer.
With a salicylic acid and Brazilian sea water concentration, this cleanser keeps pores clear and skin balanced without over-drying. The formula is meant to detoxify the skin with a soothing texture and is ideal for those prone to get irritation.
"This is especially good for people who are easing into using BHAs for exfoliation as it will likely not induce dryness or irritation," said one Amazon shopper.
Target your clogged pores with this formula infused with salicylic acid plus AHAs stemming from Australian finger lime. According to the brand, this cleanser reduces skin redness and inflammation by 29 percent and reduces sebum production by 28 percent after 10 days.
This classic drugstore option uses maximum-strength salicylic acid to reach deep into the pores to remove oil and dissolve dead skin cells.
“Salicylic acid breaks apart dead cells to release bacteria and unhealthy oils trapped at the skin’s surface and in pores,” said Ciraldo.
As a bonus, the delicious grapefruit scent will make you look forward to washing your face each day.
Formulated with zinc pidolate, this cleanser diminishes excess shine — stat. Since it’s alcohol- and soap-free, it also won’t dry out your skin after use.
Since this is one of the gentler options on this list, those with oily skin that errs on the sensitive side will enjoy this pick. Antioxidant-rich and full of soothing ingredients like glycerin and aloe vera, this cleanser will remove impurities while also keeping the skin hydrated.
Charcoal is a top ingredient for those with excess shine since it absorbs oil and helps prevent breakouts from forming. This option contains both activated charcoal and vitamin C to refine pores and brighten the skin.
Glycolic and lactic acid are the star ingredients in this face wash, which works to unclog pores and cleanse the skin of impurities. Green tea, eucalyptus, alga and Irish moss extracts are also included since their natural antiseptic properties help absorb excess oil.
Few ingredients work as well as clay to diminish greasiness. This pick uses red clay to draw out and absorb oil, while rosemary leaf oil has antibacterial properties to help prevent breakouts.
Another soap-free option, this cleansing gel is perfect for deep cleaning the skin without leading to irritation. It also has a pH of 7.2 in order to respect the skin’s natural pH balance.
Not every cleanser is super effective at removing makeup, but this gel formula certainly is. Willow bark extract and salicylic acid work to wash away grime, oil and debris while still leaving the skin soft and supple.
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