What are the Best Products for Oily Skin? The Friendly Friday Q&A Post

Skin Care


Once per week, we select one reader’s question as a post on Futurederm.com in our Friendly Friday segment.  This week, we hear from Oil Slick:

Hi Nicki,

How can I control my very oily skin? Specifically I am interested in procedures/products that my dermatologist can recommend because the beauty products on the shelves now don’t help much.

Thanks a bunch,
Oil Slick”

Dear Oil Slick,

There are a number of products out there for oily skin.  There are three primary categories you should look for in ingredients:  Skin-clarifying; oil-absorbing; and anti-inflammatory.

My favorite skin-clarifying ingredient is salicyclic acid, which was found in a Dermatologic Surgery study to improve acne and oily skin after two weeks when used in high concentration.  Salicyclic acid has also been found to improve the efficacy of other skin care ingredients, so I love to use it in a cleanser!

Winning oil-absorbing ingredients include clay (kaolin), which has been established as an effective adsorbent for hundreds of years, according to The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. Finally, even though anti-inflammatory ingredients are a dime a dozen and there aren’t a lot of studies comparing their efficacy, there are still some great ones to experiment with!  Some top names to look for include green or white tea, turmeric, oak bark, witch hazel, and chamomile, according to Skin Therapy Letters, amongst other sources.  Fairly recent research shows that a new ingredient called elubiol has excellent results in controlling skin’s oil production, but it has not been introduced into the American market as of yet (it seems, for the moment, to be available only in Spain).

And so you don’t have to spend your time reading labels, we’re researched and tested to find the best products out there right now, and our winners are:

Clean and Clear OIl-Absorbing Sheets

Best for Daily Use: Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets

I’ll admit, Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets are one of those products you don’t know are great from ingredient analysis alone.  For one, traditional absorbing sheets are made of rice or hemp, and these have neither.  However, after using Clean and Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, it hits you:  these things work!  They soak up excess oil without absorbing your makeup – even eye makeup – and the package fits into even the smallest of purses for all-day use.  Win!

AHAVA Mattifying Moisturizer for Oily Skin

Best Moisturizer: AHAVA Mattifying Moisturizer for Oily Skin

This was probably the hardest category in which to declare a champion.  So many different companies declare that their exclusive mix of ingredients are the most effective in the war against oily skin, but through our research, we’ve found that AHAVA Mattifying Moisturizer for Oily Skin seems to hold the secret, with a high concentration of aluminum starch octenylsuccinate.  This ingredient absorbs oil, prevents cakiness, and increases viscosity of moisturizers, according to the Cosmetics Database.  In addition, aluminum starch octenylsuccinate has been declared safe for regular use in a study in the International Journal of Toxicology.

Other ingredients, like witch hazel, make this product have anti-inflammatory properties, though some have questioned the efficacy of witch hazel due to the fact that processing removes many of its active components, including tannins.  And for you skin care sleuths out there, the high concentration of stearyl alcohol isn’t alarming, as stearyl is one of the seven types of alcohol that are hydrating, not irritating, to the skin.

Still, after testing, AHAVA Mattifying Moisturizer for Oily Skin is our clear winner.  A small pea-sized amount is all you need for its high concentration of aluminum starch octenylsuccinate to hydrate and keeps oil at bay.  The texture is a bit different from other moisturizers for oily skin, but we still loved it!

Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Stearyl Alcohol, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Steareth-21, Cyclomethicone, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Dstillate, Isohadecae, Phenoxyethanol & Methylparaben & Butylparaben & Ethylparaben & Propylparaben, Sea Salt & Water (Dead Sea Water), Xanthan Gum, Fragrance (Perfume), Chlorophenesin, Methylparaben, Allantoin, BHA

Laura Mercier Foundation Primer

Best Primer:  Laura Mercier Oil-Free Primer for Oily Skin

Having oily skin and using a primer seems counterintuitive; after all, isn’t the point of using a primer to create a smooth, hydrated surface for cosmetics?  Turns out that women with oily skin actually need primer more than the rest of us to make foundation last all-day.  (All together now:  Ohhhh!)

With that said, of those products tested, Laura Mercier Oil-Free Primer for Oily Skin was definitely our favorite.  It glides on like a gel, dries quickly, and provides a smooth, non-greasy surface for cosmetic application.  Best of all, our foundation lasted about six hours, which is about five hours and fifty-eight minutes longer than usual.  Awesome.

Ingredients:  Water (Aqua), Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Stearic Acid, Isodecyl Isononanoate, Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C20-22 Alkyl Phosphate, C22-20 Alcohols, Squalane, Butylene Glycol, Cetyl Esters, Phenoxyethanol, Boron Nitride, Silica, Cetearyl Alcohol, Sodium Hydroxide, Allantoin Tocopherol Acetate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Hamaelis Viginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Cucumis sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Retinyl Palmitate, Dimethicone, Polyamino Sugar Condesate, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Chlorphensin, Benzoic Acid, Polysorbate 60, Polymethyl Methacrylate, Saccharomyces/Xylium Black Tea Ferment, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Ethylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Potassium Sorbate, Green 5 (CI 61570), Yellow 5 (CI 19140).

Clarins Truly Matte Foundation Light Reflecting SPF 15 Oil Free

Best Foundation:  Clarins Truly Matte Foundation SPF 15

Foundations, like primers, can be a bit difficult to find when you’ve got oily skin.  For one, modern foundations and primers are mostly silicone-based, both to temporarily fill-in fine lines and wrinkles and to reflect the light so you don’t look like dawn of the dead.  Luckily, Clarins Truly Matte Foundation SPF 15 manages to mix enough light-reflecting silicones (cyclopentasiloxane, cyclomethicone, dimethicone) with oil-controlling ingredients (sodium chloride, aluminum hydroxide, silica) to keep you modern as well as fresh-faced.

A couple of caveats:  One, Clarins Truly Matte Foundation SPF 15 is medium to full coverage, depending on whether you apply one or two coats.  We recommend starting with one light coat and building as you feel is necessary.  Two, the product can be drying, making it perfect for those with very oily skin, and a “best for oily days” kind-of product for those with borderline normal/oily skin.

Active Ingredient:
Titanium Dioxide 10%.  Other: Aqua (Water), Cyclopentasiloxane, Cyclomethicone, Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer, Butylene Glycol, Isododecane, Bis-PEG-14/14 Dimethicone, Sodium Chloride, Cetyl Dimethicone, Polyglyceryl-3 Polydimethylsioloxyethyl Dimethicone, Aluminum Hydroxide, Stearic Acid, Carpylyl Glycol, Silica Dimethyl Silylate, Parfum (Fragrance), Disteardimonium Hectorite, Disodium EDTA, Triethoxycaprylylsilane, Silica, Lamium Album Flower Extract, Sorbic Acid, Alcohol, Castanea Sativa (Chestnut) Bark Extract, Phenoxyethanol, Biosaccharide Gum-4, Carbomer, Lapsana Communis Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Potassium Sorbate. May contain: CI 77019/Mica, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499/Iron Oxides.

Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal MaskBest Mask:  Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask

Charcoal is one of those ingredients I have a feeling will make a huge impact on the skin care market in the next few years, but it just hasn’t become trendy yet.  For hundreds of years, charcoal has been used in holistic medicine to draw out impurities from the skin.  Limited research suggests that charcoal may be useful in the treatment of certain skin diseases, including porphyria, according to the journal Dermatology.  Despite the limited research, we have found that the Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask left our skin feeling fresh and even a bit tighter.  I personally use it once/week, and have my mother doing the same, and have never been happier with my skin!  [Bonus:  Sign up at eBates.com and get 4.0% cash back at Origins.com!]

Bottom Line

There are a lot of really great products out there for oily skin!  What are your favorites?  Let us know in Comments below, or share with us on our Facebook page!

Photo credits:  © drubig-photo – Fotolia.com

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  • Ana Carolina

    Hi, I’m from Brazil and I just wanted you to know that I just love your blog! I’m also a physician and it’s just so hard to find good scientific material. Congrats!

  • mi mi

    If someone wants to try I find Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Daily Mattifying lotion works for me. Just an idea for you guys if someone wants to try out. I wish it has a bit higher sunscreen but for now its works for me. When i started working again, I will try NIA24 one.

  • Elizabeth S

    I’ve been searching for a moisturizer for oily skin for months! So thanks for this suggestion, I’ll give it a try. It’s so tough to find products for oily skin – everything seems to be for dry or combo skin. I have completely given up on liquid primers, the Laura Mercier one made my skin oilier than it was before. The best primer I’ve found is the Mattify Ultra Powder from Mattify Cosmetics. That is some amazing stuff! I put it on under and over my makeup and it stops me from getting oily for almost 4 hours. That’s some kind of record for me, because before I bought the Mattify powder I was using those stupid blotter sheets every hour.

  • Alaina

    A magazine I read a while back recommended using cigarette rolling papers as oil blotters…might give people the wrong idea though, if they see it in your purse.
    I’ve also seen Monistat’s chafing gel as an inexpensive alternative to makeup primer, though I haven’t tried it yet ’cause I hardly ever wear foundation.

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