If you’re like me, you use oil-free products to keep your face oil-free. But sometimes, you get oily anyway. Your face could even feel tight or dry after using certain things. The summer weather makes us try to dry out the skin, but dehydration could be the source of your over-oil production.
Have you ever heard that washing your hair more often results in a more oily scalp? This is the same idea: if you deprive your skin of its natural oils, you could produce even more oil to compensate. This is why hydration is key, regardless of your skin type. In this post I give my advice for oily skin and make recommendations to solve this issue!
First Step: Ingredients
A thicker moisturizer could leave your face feeling greasy, which is why we use oil-free moisturizers a lot of the time. Since we’re taking away an important ingredient, try to compensate by including some other beneficial ingredients in your skincare routine:
- Hyaluronic Acid (aka Sodium Hyaluronate): helps your skin retain moisture throughout the day. This is one of the best and most accessible ingredients for hydration!
- Niacinimide: helps oil and pore control (The Ordinary sells this in a 10% solution form for only $7!)
- Tea Tree Oil: well-known for calming acne and breakouts, also helps with oil control (The Body Shop has a great line of tea tree oil products, particularly the oil itself and also a clay mask)
- Witch Hazel: a beauty favourite that is known to control oil by calming the skin without drying it out
- Vitamins A, C, E, etc.: vitamins are great for the body, inside and out. For bonus points, look for ones extracted from nature like fruits and other plants.
Are there bad ingredients?
Yes, of course. I’ll focus on that in a later post but for now, try to avoid Alcohol and Silicones (any long scientific looking word that ends in “alcohol” and “-icone”). At least make sure they’re very far down the list of ingredients. I also avoid Sulfates but that’s just because I know my own skin – there are no studies that say Sulfates are necessarily bad.
Wash your face twice a day: once in the morning and at night. If your skin feels too dry and tight after cleansing, consider switching to a more gentle cleanser. You don’t need to completely scrub your skin raw to get an effective clean, nor do you have to cleanse more often than 2x/day. Beauty companies have done an amazing job of brainwashing people to believe that being rough with the skin is the solution to oily/acne-prone skin. In the long-term, this will actually make your skin worse. Look for a gentle, yet effective cleanser (could be foaming, gel, milk, etc.).
The Daily Cleanser: The Consonant Beauty Foaming Face Wash has changed my life. It’s 100% organic, Canadian-made and cleanses well but is super gentle on the skin. My skin doesn’t feel tight/dry afterwards, and there’s no excess dirt leftover for my toner to pick up. With consistent use, all aspects of my skin have improved and when I use something else, I can feel the difference immediately. My face feels as soft as a baby’s bottom which hasn’t happened in years. I can’t say enough good things about this cleanser and I highly recommend it! You can find it for $22 at Sephora or at a Consonant beauty store.
Alternative: The Fresh Soy Face Cleanser is a non-foaming cleanser that is gentle enough to use on the eyes. It’s a cult favourite for a reason and often included in Sephora free samples and promo sets so keep an eye out for that. I like to use this in my 2-step cleansing routine because of how gentle it is.
Affordable Alternative: Neutrogena makes a line of very simple yet effective skincare that is safe for sensitive skin and sometimes free of harsh chemicals. They’re targeted towards specific skin types and include cleansers and also face lotions. They’re highly raved and old favourites in the beauty community.
I advise using a chemical exfoliator like a peel instead of a granular scrub. Granular exfoliators aren’t only bad for the environment but they can be damaging to the skin. Small rough particles are being rubbed into your skin, which can scratch and irritate it.
Peels effectively get rid of dead skin so your cells can renew without abuse to your precious epidermis. You massage it into your skin and all the dirt and dead skin come off like eraser shavings, revealing soft and brighter skin to better absorb products. Gross but satisfying!
The Exfoliator: Many companies make peeling and chemical exfoliants, most of which are expensive, but The Body Shop Mild Papaya Peeling is a good, affordable option. This peeling gel will remove all the impurities and dead skin from your face. $18 will get you the 170ml bottle and I highly recommend you stick with the Papaya one. They have other peels but for some reason they’re not nearly as effective… I tried the apple one and it stopped peeling after a couple of months.
For oily skin types, you want to find the kind of toner that you dispense onto a cotton pad and wipe on your face, or that comes in a spray form. They’re also sometimes known as astringents.
Why is toner important?
There are usually two types of toners, meant for either hydration or pore care. The thicker ones are more hydrating and suitable for dry skin types. The more liquid ones, that you put on a cotton pad, help target your pores post-cleansing and can prepare your skin for your moisturizer. If you have large pores that are clogged very frequently, using a good toner will completely change the game for you. The first time I discovered toner was in high school and it fixed my issue of clogged pores and whiteheads.
Use an alcohol-free toner. Alcohol is very stripping to the skin and can totally dry it out, which counters the whole point of this article. I don’t have any affordable options in the toner category but that’s because it’s really hard to find a good, cheap one. But to save money, try not to buy a toner that includes too many promising ingredients. The majority of toner is wasted on the cotton pad and it dries quickly on the skin. It’s an important step but not the most vital one.
The Daily Toner: A good basic alcohol-free toner is the Shiseido Pureness Balancing Softener. It has a pump that dispenses the perfect amount of product, and it smells pleasant. This is one of the first toners I ever used and it cleared my pores drastically. The bumps I got daily went away and my skin was smoother. $32 will get you this full bottle from Sephora, Shoppers Drug Mart or Hudson’s Bay.
Alternative: The Clarins Toning Lotion with Iris is another great, alcohol-free toner to use for everyday. It targets oily skin and smells amazing. Not that much different from the Shiseido one tbh but this is my current toner and I like it. Unfortunately I bought it before I was super strict on ingredients and I won’t be buying it again. It doesn’t do enough for me to justify the $33 price tag.
Affordable Alternative: Mario Bedescu is sold at Urban Outfitters here in Canada, where you can grab their Face Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rose Water. $12 for the spray bottle will get you not only a low-maintenance toner but also a pick-me-up for hydration and refreshing throughout the day that you can spray on top of makeup. I absolutely love this and it’s one of the most affordable face sprays you can buy. The image on the right is right after 4 sprays, and as you can see the nozzle dispenses the product evenly on the skin.
DO NOT SKIP MOISTURIZER. Picking a good moisturizer is a very important part of controlling oily skin: it has the most impact on hydration and controlling sebum production because it stays on your skin the longest. Any beneficial ingredients you want to include in your skincare should be focused in this category. You may want to get a hold of free samples before devoting to a product because finding the right face cream will take lots of experimenting.
You don’t have to limit your options to moisturizers only marketed towards oily/acne-prone skin. An oil-based moisturizer with great benefits can be just as good as an oil-free one, if not more. Most oil-free creams/lotions (particularly drugstore) can be drying and can make your skin feel tight, which is what you want to avoid at all costs. I want to reiterate that if you pick an oil-free moisturizer, definitely go for one with beneficial ingredients like the ones I listed at the beginning of this post.
The Daily Moisturizer: The Ole Henriksen Counter Balance Oil Control Hydrator is an oil-free moisturizer that claims to control oil and pores. The line is formulated with Green Fusion Complex™, neem seed oil, and AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) which are all great ingredients! It’s also super lightweight on the skin. $42 at Sephora will get you 50 ml, but I used 100 points to redeem the 7 ml sample on the left. I really like this moisturizer because I find that it hydrates my skin without leaving it tight/dry.
Affordable Alternative: A good drugstore find is the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream. It’s a water-based moisturizer made with hyaluronic acid that will hydrate your skin well throughout the day. The Hydro Boost line also includes a hydrating eye cream based on the same idea. This 47 ml jar will cost you about $15 (depending on the store you shop at).
Another Alternative: L’Oreal has a similar line that just came out, the Hydra Genius which is also a water-based hyaluronic acid moisturizer. It comes in a bottle with a pump and is between $14-18.
If you want to include oils in your routine but don’t want to use an oil-based moisturizer, you could invest in a good face oil and mix it into your products as needed. I know it sounds crazy… an oil to combat oil?? It’s a new concept that’s picking up quickly and can work out great… if you find the right one.
Oils can actually get quite complicated. Liah Yoo on YouTube made a great video about different kinds of oils and which ones should be used for oily skin. Basically, you want to look for an oil that is high in linoleic acid which is great if you have clogged pores and oily skin. Examples are: rosehip oil, grapeseed oil, evening primrose oil, safflower oil, and others. To contrast, ones you should avoid include coconut oil and seabuckthorn oil. Do some research and you’ll find a ton of resources.
Clay and charcoal face masks are great for controlling oil and clearing out pores, but leaving one on for too long creates more problems. The directions will probably tell you to leave it on for anywhere between 5-15 minutes. Any longer than that and you’ll run into the problem that this post is highlighting. Let the mask do its job as indicated, and you won’t need to leave it on for longer. I used to leave them on for almost 30 minutes because I thought it would draw out more gunk from my pores, but I was actually making my skin extremely dry! It’s very important that you remember to never leave dehydrating masks on for longer than indicated.
The Clay Mask: The Caudalie Instant Detox Mask is a great quick 5-10 minute clay mask that will clear out your pores and purify your skin. The middle image is the mask applied immediately, and the right image is the mask after 5 minutes. It’s made with pink clay and fruit ingredients to really detox your face. As it dries, dots will form that indicate the oil being drawn out from your skin. This 75 ml tube can be found at Sephora for $47. It’s pricey but a good investment!
Affordable Alternative: L’Oreal has 3 new Pure Clay Masks that retail for about $10-$18. Each of the three masks is based with a different ingredient for targeting different issues (Charcoal, Red Algae and Eucalyptus). It will make your skin super soft after use and prep your face for the rest of your skincare routine.
What goes in your body will show on your body, so drink plenty of water and fluids! You’ll have more energy and a lot of other health benefits, which should motivate you anyway. Your body has a water/oil balance that you disrupt when you dehydrate yourself, so drinking more water will help regulate that and therefore regulate your sebum production. Fancy, huh?
The message I’m trying to get out there is that hydration is good, and companies want you to dry out your skin to buy their products. Do your own research, educate yourself about what you buy, and be good to your body.
Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment or ask questions below. Is there an awesome product you want to recommend? I’m always looking for new things to try.