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What are the best products for oily skin?

The right ingredients can help you control the shine. Experts share which ones to keep on your radar.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
Beautiful Woman with Oily Skin
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Nov 10, 2023 • 9 min read
Medically reviewed by Maria Borowiec, NB-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

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There’s no one-size-fits-all in skincare. What works for one person may not necessarily have the same results for someone else. But it’s only natural to want the best! Luckily our team of licensed dermatology providers are regularly reviewing and assessing products on the market and are happy to offer a few recommendations! So here, you’ll find the products that hold up to our rigorous standards.

What are the best products for oily skin?

Dealing with oily skin can be challenging, but finding the right products to manage it shouldn’t be. It may seem like there are endless skincare options to sift through, but discovering the gems suited for oily skin is worth the search and can transform your skincare routine. 

We asked Curology’s team of licensed dermatology providers to unpack the top ingredients that cater to the unique demands of oily skin and share some products that can simplify your path to success with managing this skin type.

What is oily skin, and what causes it? 

Oily skin, also known as seborrhea, is marked by the appearance of a shiny and greasy complexion. This occurs due to the enlargement of sebaceous glands, which produce excessive amounts of sebum, a vital substance for maintaining your skin’s hydration and protective water barrier. Many factors contribute to skin oiliness, including your age, diet, gender, ethnicity, and even environmental factors, such as hot and humid climates.¹

Understanding these influences can help you better manage oily skin.

Skincare ingredients that reduce oil 

Certain treatments may help improve your oily skin. These can include topical medications, oral medications, and injections as possible options.

Let’s take a closer look at each: 

Retinoids

Retinoids, hailing from vitamin A, are potent agents encouraging collagen production. Renowned for their effectiveness against acne and photoaging, they’re a staple in skincare for good reason. Retinoids not only combat acne but also exhibit the potential to minimize the appearance of your pores.² Larger pore size has been found to have a direct correlation with increased sebum production, so retinoids may be helpful in this regard. However, more study is needed to review this relationship further.³

Cosmeceuticals

Cosmeceuticals such as niacinamide, green tea, and L-carnitine may help with oiliness.

Niacinamide: Studies indicate its potential to reduce excess oil, though further research is required to fully grasp how it works and how to use it optimally for oiliness.⁴

Green tea: Research highlights topical green tea emulsions significantly lower oil production. So, green tea topicals may benefit those with oily skin.⁵

L-carnitine: This ingredient shows promise in diminishing oily skin’s appearance by decreasing oil production. While more research is needed, individuals with oily skin might find it worth trying for its potential benefits.⁶

Systemic treatments for oily skin

For more severe cases, systemic treatments also present possible avenues for managing oily skin. These medications include isotretinoin, spironolactone, and oral contraceptives.⁷

Isotretinoin: This oral medication is a potent option to help curtail oil production since it decreases the size of the sebaceous glands. However, it has potential additional side effects, such as dry skin, chapped lips, and eye dryness. Taking isotretinoin during pregnancy can also lead to birth defects, so it’s necessary to consult a dermatology provider before considering this treatment.⁸

Spironolactone: Initially used for hypertension, spironolactone is now also used to help control oil production through blocking certain hormones from attaching to sebum-producing cells. Menstrual irregularity is the most common potential side effect, so consulting a licensed medical provider is essential before taking this medication.⁹

Oral contraceptives: Certain oral contraceptives can modulate hormone levels and reduce oil production. Nausea, breast tenderness, and breakthrough menstrual bleeding are common side effects.¹⁰

Other treatments

Beyond the usual options, some other treatments may help manage oily skin.

Botulinum toxin injections: When injected under the skin, botulinum toxin may reduce oil production and decrease the appearance of pore size. In many cases, those who try this treatment notice a decrease in oiliness.¹¹

Photodynamic therapy (PDT): PDT uses a special cream and light to eliminate the cells that produce too much oil. You might need a few sessions to see lasting effects, but it’s an option if you’re looking for effective ways to handle oily skin.¹²

All these ingredients and treatments have demonstrated their potential to assist in diminishing excess oiliness. However, always exercise caution and consider your skin’s needs and sensitivities before use. It’s wise to approach these options with a trial-and-error mindset and, if uncertain, seek guidance from a dermatology provider.

The best products for oily skin 

Are you looking for some of the best products for oily skin? Elevate your skincare routine with our dermatologist-curated and approved products tailored to manage oily skin:

Curology’s Acne Cleanser

Curology’s Acne Cleanser is a gentle solution for oily skin. With 2.5% benzoyl peroxide, it fights acne and prevents excess oil production. It’s a great option paired with your custom formula, which may also contain tretinoin, a type of retinoid that can further help control excess oil production.

Curology Micellar Makeup Remover

Curology’s Micellar Makeup Remover is a gentle option for oily skin. Its silky gel-water concentrate effectively dissolves waterproof makeup, dirt, and oil without clogging pores. With dermatologist-formulated micelles, it efficiently lifts impurities while being kind to your skin, ensuring thorough cleansing without irritation.

Blotting paper for oily skin 

Blotting paper is another practical option in your quest to manage excess oil.

The Boscia Green Tea Blotting Linens are an excellent option for absorbing excess oil throughout the day without disturbing your makeup. They also contain green tea extract, known for its potential oil control properties.

Remember, what works best will depend on your specific skin needs, and it might take some trial and error to find the right products. Always consider patch-testing new products to see how your skin reacts first, and speak with a dermatology provider whenever you have any concerns.

Taking care of your oily skin

Caring for your oily skin involves a well-informed approach based on dermatological insights.

Begin with gentle cleansing. Incorporate a cleansing routine twice daily and after workouts, remembering to be gentle—aggressive scrubbing can worsen your skin condition. Also, mind your product choices. Prioritize skincare products labeled “oil-free” and “noncomedogenic” to help prevent clogged pores and acne.¹³

You should also opt for mild cleansers, like foaming cleansers, which are known for their gentleness and potential to prevent excessive oil stimulation.¹⁴ Be selective in your choices. Steer clear of oil-based and alcohol-based cleansers to avoid potential skin irritation.

With the proper skincare routine, you can still wear makeup if you have oily skin. Choose oil-free, water-based makeup to minimize the risk of pore congestion.¹⁵ Always take off your makeup before sleeping to allow your skin to rejuvenate. Lastly, keep your hands off! Avoid touching your face throughout the day, and ensure your hands are clean before beginning your skincare routine.¹⁶

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FAQs

Which skincare product is best for oily skin?

When caring for oily skin, prioritize oil-control products containing ingredients (such as niacinamide and green tea) to help manage excess oil. Contact a dermatology provider to receive personalized advice tailored to your specific skin needs and concerns. Their expertise can guide you toward the most suitable products for your situation.

How do you know you have oily skin?

You might have oily skin if you notice too much oil on your face. Oily skin produces excess sebum, making your face appear shiny and greasy.¹⁷ 

A dermatology provider’s assessment can help to determine if you have oily skin. They’re experts in analyzing your skin to determine its type and can help you choose the right skincare routine.

Are retinoids safe for oily skin?

Retinoids are generally safe for oily skin and can actually be quite beneficial. They not only tackle issues like acne but may also help minimize pore size. However, they can cause dryness as a side effect, so it's crucial to balance their use with proper moisturization. As always, consulting a dermatology provider for personalized advice is recommended.

Can diet impact my oily skin?

Yes, diet can play a role in the oiliness of your skin. Foods high in carbohydrates and fats may contribute to excess sebum production.¹⁸ However, the relationship between diet and skin oiliness is complex, and individual responses can vary. Consulting with a dermatology provider can offer more personalized dietary advice for managing oily skin.

Are injections effective in treating oily skin?

Certain injections, like Botulinum toxin, have shown promise in reducing oil production and pore size. This is a more advanced treatment option that you could consider if other remedies don't work for you. However, consulting a dermatology provider is essential before taking this step, as injections come with their own set of considerations and potential side effects.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Sakuma, T.H. and Maibach, H.I. Oily skin: an overview. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. (2012, June 20).

  2. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. (2017, August 1).

  3. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  4. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  5. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  6. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  7. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  8. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  9. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  10. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  11. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  12. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

  13. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. (n.d.).

  14. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  15. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  16. American Academy of Dermatology Association. How to Control Oily Skin. Ibid.

  17. Sakuma, T.H. and Maibach, H.I. Oily skin: an overview. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. Ibid.

  18. Endly, D.C. and Miller, R.A. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. Ibid.

Maria Borowiec is a certified Nurse Practitioner at Curology. She received her Master in Nursing from University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
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Maria Borowiec, NB-BC

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