If you have oily skin, chances are you never leave home without throwing blotting papers or mattifying powder into your bag. And you’ve likely wondered (maybe more than a few times) if there’s any point in using moisturizer. Spoiler alert: there is.
“Skipping hydration is the opposite of what you should be doing,” says Tara Foley, skin-care guru and founder of the clean beauty site Follain. Oily skin, just like any other complexion issue, is caused by a moisture imbalance (in this case, you’re producing too much sebum). “If you strip your skin of everything [with a cleanser], it’ll make problems worse,” Foley warns. “You need to give your skin some moisture after cleansing to rebalance it.”
Her go-to fix? “I always recommend fighting oil with oils,” she says. “If you put a light one on your skin, it tricks it into thinking it’s already produced enough oil so that it doesn’t go on to make more.” In other words, it stops your shine at the source—so you won’t wind up layering on products that could lead to breakouts.
“You need to give your skin some moisture after cleansing to rebalance it.”
Beauty expert Jasmine Garnsworthy, founder of customized facial oil company The Buff, agrees with Foley. “Look for lighter, natural oils that more closely mimic the sebum your skin already produces, like squalane or jojoba,” she says. “Mineral oils are often used as a cheap emollient, but they’re not easily absorbed by the skin, so they become occlusive.” (Read: pore-clogging.) Other rich ingredients to avoid in your facial oils include shea, vitamin E, argan oil, and triglycerides, Foley says.
If oil just isn’t your jam, Garnsworthy and Foley recommend trying balms and gels instead of cream moisturizers for your hydrating fix. “Balms are really similar in texture to a cream or lotion, but typically don’t have the thicker ingredients that can be problematic,” Foley says. And Garnsworthy adds that gels absorb into the skin quickly and don’t leave any gunky residue.
Foley and Garnsworthy are in agreement: You can nourish your skin without causing it to freak out and over-compensate. So Well+Good staffers (with oily skin) tested out the experts’ recommendations to figure out which products are the best of the best. The results? Glowy (but not overly so) skin ahead.
Keep reading for eight editor- and expert-approved oily skin hydration essentials.
1. Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil, $32
This is completely pure squalane oil (derived from olives), and feels really fresh and clean on the skin. The powerhouse ingredient also absorbs amazingly—think hyaluronic acid, but with even-complexion-promoting powers. Plus, it’s fragrance-free, totally clear, and a little goes a long way (so your bottle lasts and lasts).
Though this serum absorbs in seconds, its nourishing ingredients make you feel hydrated all day. It contains a luxe combination of blue seakale and sea algae (both of which can revitalize and improve your skin’s texture), plus soothing green tea and watermelon oils to keep your dermis plump. True to its name, it definitely cues heart eyes.
3. Soapwalla Restorative Face Serum, $56
This serum’s primary ingredient is the glow-inducing jojoba oil (a superstar beauty staple that could give coconut oil a run for its money). And, with the addition of anti-inflammatory evening primrose and a concoction of fatty acids, it’ll leave your skin dewy and smooth—even after a hefty dose of summer sun and salt water.
4. S.W. Basics Oil Serum, $29
This facial oil only has four ingredients, but they each pack a punch: Avocado clears the pores, geranium has antibacterial properties, turmeric fights inflammation (and is great for clearing acne), and coffee oil simulates circulation. While safe for an oily complexion, it’s on the thicker side and has a strong herbal scent—so you might want to save this serum for colder months, when your skin craves a heavier moisturizer.
This hydrating gel is full of probiotics to help support your skin’s barrier function (which is key for a healthy glow). Ginger extract, Swiss garden cress sprouts, and red seaweed provide three-pronged protection from environmental stressors, so your face looks fresh when you use it—not shiny.
6. Ursa Major Fortifying Face Balm, $36
The aloe juice in this soothing balm helps stave off redness and irritation, while willow bark extract (which is full of salicylic acid) fights acne. This serum-style moisturizer uses kendi seed oil (imagine a lighter argan oil) to soften your skin, and soaks right in for a full day of non-greasy hydration.
7. Mahalo Rare Indigo Beauty Balm, $110
The rich purple balm—which is hand-blended in Hawaii—isn’t just pretty: It’s chock full of inflammation-fighting active botanicals that deliver essential nutrients to your skin for a radiant complexion. And vitamin C, fatty acids, and antioxidants help you protect a stressed-out dermis. Bonus: It smells like vanilla and has a creamy consistency that just feels heavenly.
8. Osea Blemish Balm, $44
Breakout-prone oily skin types, rejoice! Osea’s mixture of organic algae, tea tree extract, and rosemary does wonders for your acne-prone complexion. Combine these soothing natural antibacterial ingredients with hydrating jojoba and grapeseed oil, and you’ve got the recipe for all-day softness. Oh, and it’ll stop pimples in their tracks (win).
Stocking your top shelf? These are the 9 best sunscreens for your face (no chalky streaks in sight). Or take a page from your pantry and try one of these apple cider vinegar-based beauty products.