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The 9 best face washes for oily skin in 2021

These recommended products will purify pores and cut back on shine.
Woman washing her face at the bathroom sink in the morning
LumiNola / Getty Images

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Got an oily complexion? If so, you probably already know that this skin type requires extra attention. Whether you’re using oil blotting sheets 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 the 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 the farther past puberty you are. 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 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 Dr. 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],” says Dr. 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 when shopping for face washes?

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 acne treatment 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.

Best face washes for oily skin

1. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser

“This combines antibacterial benzoyl peroxide with ceramides to balance bacteria and healthy oils in the skin,” says Dr. Ciraldo. As a bonus, this CeraVe cleanser also contains niacinamide to calm your complexion after use.

2. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser

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,” says Dr. Ciraldo. As a bonus, the delicious grapefruit scent will make you look forward to washing your face each day.

3. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

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.

4. Mario Badescu Gentle Foaming Cleanser

Since this is one of the more gentle 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.

5. Boscia Detoxifying Black Charcoal Cleanser

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.

6. Ole Henriksen Find Your Balance Oil Control Cleanser

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.

7. First Aid Beauty Pure Skin Deep Cleanser With Red Clay

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.

8. Avène Cleanance Cleansing Gel

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.

9. Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Pore-Perfecting Cleansing Gel

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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