What Your Oily Skin Routine Should Look Like

Those who suffer from oily skin (myself included) stop at nothing to keep their complexions shine-free, but it’s important to know what our picky skin actually needs in order to stop the oil from forming. To find out, we reached out to celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas and Washington, D.C., dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi, MD, for the specifics on what we should and shouldn't be doing. 

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Do: Always Wash Your Face

The first step to success is never skip cleansing your face before bed. “People don’t think about it, but nighttime is your body’s time to repair itself,” explains Vargas, adding that if we refrain from washing our faces, we are robbing skin’s ability to repair overnight. Dr. Tanzi agrees, suggesting those with oily skin cleanse with a salicylic acid–based cleanser

Cleansers like bareMinerals Blemish Remedy Acne Treatment Gelee Cleanser ($20) and DermaDoctor Ain't Misbehavin' Medicated AHA/BHA Acne Cleanser ($30) contain salicylic acid and work overtime to treat blemishes while thoroughly cleansing skin and allowing it to heal. 

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Do: Read the Fine Print

When shopping for skin care products, it’s crucial to browse the packaging for key ingredients like zinc, jojoba oil and clay, as well as the words “non-comedogenic” and “oil free” for best oil-slicking results. According to Vargas, zinc and jojoba oil are vital ingredients to look for because they signal your skin to stop producing excess oil and masks made of clay draw out impurities from the skin. 

We’re loving The Estée Edit by Estée Lauder White Mud Exfoliating Scrub + Mask ($40), featuring both porcelain clay and jojoba to remove excess oil and shine while also fighting blackheads in just five minutes. For a gentle cleanse, reach for Kat Burki Vitamin C Nourishing Cleansing Balm ($85) to fortify skin with vitamin C and cold-pressed oils (including jojoba), all while experiencing an ultra-luxe cleanse. 


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Do: Blot Throughout the Day

Dr. Tanzi says it's important to use oil-blotting papers throughout the day to absorb excess oil that's crept up throughout the day, adding that we should then dust our skin with a mineral-based powder sunscreen to help. 

boscia Black Charcoal Blotting Linens ($10) are infused with black bamboo charcoal to absorb excess oil and purify pores whenever you need it. After blotting, apply a swipe of a powder, mineral-based sunscreen like Peter Thomas Roth Instant Mineral SPF 45 ($30) to create the appearance of smooth, radiant skin while protecting it from future damage.

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Don't: Use Ultra-Thick Products or Ingredients

Ingredients like lanolin, mineral oil and cocoa and shea butters (often found in heavy moisturizers) should be avoided if you have oily skin, as these ingredients can easily clog pores and make your skin even worse. Instead, look for light serums or oil-free moisturizers that also hydrate skin without clogging pores. 

Featuring ingredients like glycolic acid and Mexican blue agave leaf extract, Murad Hydro-Dynamic Quenching Essence ($78) fast-tracks hydration while also exfoliating skin to promote mild cell turnover, resulting in softer, smoother skin. For a healthy, glowing complexion, try Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Serum ($55), which counts rosewater, cucumber extract and hyaluronic acid as key ingredients to soothe aggravated skin and quench skin's thirst for 24 hours. 

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Do: Avoid Alcohol-Based Products

While toners are crucial for oily skin (they cut-through bacteria your cleanser didn't get to), they are often alcohol-based. Products with high concentrations of alcohol can over-dry skin, which can result in the sebaceous glands overcompensating and producing even more sebum or oil. 

Instead, look for an alcohol-free toner that includes witch hazel, a natural astringent without any of the harsh, drying effects of alcohol. Find it in belif Witch Hazel Herbal Extract Toner ($28), a formula designed to clarify skin while also hydrating and brightening. For a matte finish, try Erborian Bamboo Matte Lotion ($34), a bamboo- and powder-infused toner that works to deliver a matte finish to oily skin while minimizing the appearance of pores. 

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Do: Use a Serum Before Bed

Vargas says that oily skin is usually sensitive and suffers from inflammation, so she recommends applying a soothing, anti-bacterial serum to help heal and prevent breakouts. Cosmedix Elite REDuce Soothing Relief Serum ($64) uses jojoba and rose hip seed oil to calm and reduce aggravated skin (available April 2016). If you suffer from acne breakouts, look for serums that feature salicylic acid and tea tree oil, like Arcona PM Acne Lotion ($54), to keep skin blemish-free. 


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Do: Use Retinol

Good news! Oily skin has been found to react best to retinol. Large pores, often synonymous with oily skin, are effectively treated with a retinol-based product, like Kate Somerville DermalQuench Liquid Lift + Retinol Advanced Resurfacing Treatment ($98), which tackles enlarged pores, wrinkles and pigmentation in just one pump. Plus, it sports hyaluronic acid to infuse skin with hydration without any heavy ingredients. For best results, look for an oil-free retinol formulation, like Algenist Concentrated Reconstructing Serum ($95), a serum designed to smooth wrinkles, boost luminosity and firm skin. 

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