Help for Oily Skin


In This Article:

If you struggle with the daily annoyance of a shiny face that resembles an oil slick, you know how difficult it is to get oily skin under control. Adding to your frustration, whether you know it or not, is the fact that that many of the products claiming to eliminate shine and reduce oil actually make matters worse because they contain ingredients that irritate your skin and trigger more oil production!
Read More Below

Recommended Products for Oily Skin

Recognizing and Understanding Oily Skin

Oily skin is hard to control because it's the result of genetically determined hormonal changes in your body, and you simply cannot control hormones topically. The hormones responsible for oily skin are called androgens—the male hormones—and they are present in both men and women.

Androgens stimulate healthy oil production, and while that truly has benefit for your skin, it is a problem when androgens stimulate too much oil to be produced! When too much oil is produced, the pores become larger to accommodate the excess oil production. Excess androgens can also cause the pore lining to thicken, which blocks oil from getting out of the pore, and that can result in blackheads and white bumps.

Not sure if you have oily skin? It's recognizable by a few classic characteristics:

  • Your face is shiny only an hour or two after cleansing, and usually appears greasy by midday.
  • Your makeup seems to "slide," or disappear right off your face.
  • The more oily areas of your face have blackheads, white bumps, or acne.
  • The pores are visibly enlarged, especially on your nose, chin, and forehead.

Caring for Oily Skin

The first step in caring for oily skin is to take a critical look at your current skin-care routine. Using products with drying or irritating ingredients may seem like a good idea because they make your skin feel less oily, at least initially, but in the long run using such ingredients is a bad idea.

Irritating or drying ingredients only make matters worse, because they actually trigger more oil to be produced directly in the oil gland! Our advice: Avoid irritating ingredients at all costs!

Products that make your skin tingle (such as menthol, mint, eucalyptus, and lemon) or that contain alcohol may feel like they are helping with your oily skin, but tingling is not helpful for anyone's skin. When your skin tingles, it means it is being irritated, and irritation is always bad for skin. Tingling is just one way your skin is telling you it is hurting, and the cumulative damage will end up causing more problems.

Find out which irritating ingredients everyone should avoid.

Also bad for oily skin are products that contain pore-clogging or emollient ingredients, which may make your oily skin worse. As a general rule, ingredients that keep bar products in solid form (such as bar cleansers and soaps or stick foundations), or that are present in emollient lotions and creams are likely to clog pores and look greasy on your skin.

Instead of using creams or thick lotions, consider using only liquid, serum, or gel formulations.

Step-by-Step Routine for Oily Skin

The following essential skin-care guidelines—cleanse, tone, exfoliate, A.M. sun protection, P.M. hydration, and absorbing excess oil—will help you take control of your skin so you'll see less oil, smaller pores, and fewer breakouts, using products from Paula's Choice or the other products we recommend on Beautypedia.

1. Cleanse

Use a gentle, water-soluble cleanser twice daily. Ideally, the cleanser should rinse without leaving a hint of residue, should not contain drying cleansing agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (drying up skin doesn't help anything), and should be fragrance-free (fragrance is always irritating)

2. Tone

An alcohol-free toner loaded with antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients is an important step for oily skin. Toners that contain these ingredients help skin heal, minimize large pores by reducing inflammation, and remove the last traces of dead skin cells or makeup that can lead to clogged pores.

3. Exfoliate

Exfoliation is one of the most important skin-care steps for oily skin. Oily skin tends to have an extra-thick layer of built-up dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, along with a thickened pore lining. Exfoliating is the best way to remove that build up, reduce clogged pores and white bumps, while making skin feel smoother.

The best exfoliating ingredient for oily skin is salicylic acid (BHA). Salicylic acid exfoliates not only the surface of your skin but also inside the pore lining, thus improving pore function and allowing oil to flow easily to the surface, so it doesn't get backed up and plug the pore. In addition, over time, regular use of a BHA exfoliant will help fade the red marks from past blemishes.

Another benefit of salicylic acid is that it has anti-inflammatory properties, so it reduces irritation, which helps to calm oil production. Paula's Choice offers several BHA products.

4. A.M. Sun Protection

Even if you have oily skin, a sunscreen is essential for preventing wrinkles and reducing red marks. If you've avoided sunscreens because the ones you've tried are too greasy or too occlusive, we have some options that will change your impression of sunscreens for good. Look for weightless protection that helps keep your skin matte. You also can consider applying a matte-finish liquid foundation rated SPF 25 or greater and a pressed powder with SPF 15 or greater.

5. P.M. Hydration

At night, choose a lightweight liquid, gel, or serum that contains no pore-clogging ingredients and that can provide hydration while treating your skin to the essential ingredients all skin types need to function in a normal, healthy manner, such as antioxidant, cell-communicating, and skin-repairing ingredients.

6. Absorb Excess Oil

As you begin to get your oily skin under control, it's likely that you still will need to use oil-absorbing products, maybe weekly, biweekly, or even daily. This is an optional step, but many with oily skin find it helpful. Our favorite trick for nixing excess oil is to first blot with oil-blotting papers, and follow it with a light dusting of pressed powder with SPF 15. (Bonus: You're adding to your sun protection!)

The Best Skin of Your Life Starts Here: The same type of in-depth scientific research used to create this article is also used to formulate Paula’s Choice Skincare products. You’ll find products for all skin types and a range of concerns, from acne and sensitive skin to wrinkles, pores, and sun damage. With Paula’s Choice Skincare, you can get (and keep) the best skin of your life! See Paula's Choice Products for Oily Skin.

Sources for the information above: Mediators of Inflammation, October 2010 Epublication; Experimental Dermatology, October 2009, pages 821–832, and June 2008, pages 542–551; American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, volume 10, supplement, 2009, pages 1–6; Expert Opinion in Pharmacotherapy, April 2008, pages 955–971; Journal of Investigative Dermatology, November 2006, pages 2430–2437; and International Journal of Cosmetic Science, February 2005, pages 17–34.

About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books on skin care and makeup. She is known worldwide as the Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula's Choice. Paula's expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international television including:

View Media Highlights

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and helping you solve your skincare frustrations with research-supported expert advice—so you'll have the facts you need to take the best possible care of your skin.

Skip to Top of Page
[{"Key":"SpecialOffers","Name":"SpecialOffers","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000ead0","Label":"Web Specials & Daily Deals","DisplayDescription":"","DisplayRestrictions":"","Value":null},{"Key":"SpecialOffersLessFrequent","Name":"SpecialOffersLessFrequent","BrontoID":"0bbf03e90000000000000000000000012122","Label":"Web Specials","DisplayDescription":"","DisplayRestrictions":"Less Frequent","Value":null},{"Key":"BeautypediaExclusives","Name":"BeautypediaExclusives","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000eace","Label":"Beauty Exclusives","DisplayDescription":"Expert Advice Newsletter ","DisplayRestrictions":"twice a month","Value":null},{"Key":"BeautypediaUpdates","Name":"BeautypediaUpdates","BrontoID":"0bbf03e9000000000000000000000000ead1","Label":"Beautypedia Updates","DisplayDescription":"New reviews on Beautypedia ","DisplayRestrictions":"twice a month","Value":null}]


Paula’s Choice Auto Delivery is a quick and convenient way to make sure you never run out of your favorite products again. Just select the products you can’t live without, choose how often you’d like them delivered and we’ll take care of the rest.

Get 10% off your first order when you sign up today.