Skin-Care Tips

3 Things You Should Never Put on Oily Skin, According to Dermatologists

Rachel Lapidos

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61

When your skin is oily, you know it: You tend to get an afternoon sheen without even trying and you might be more likely to get a rouge breakout here or there. Those who have this skin type are often advised to reach for ingredients like hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid. As for the rest of your regimen? A dermatologist spills on what a good skin routine for oily skin should not include.

If you’re not sure whether or not you fall into this category, here’s a refresher: Shiny skin means that the oil glands of your skin are overactive. “You will know if you have oily skin if you get shiny soon after washing your face and tend to break out easily,” says Purvisha Patel, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “This happens when the sebaceous glands overproduce.”

It’s important to know your skin type when crafting your beauty routine because certain ingredients work well with some skin types, while others can lead to not-so-ideal reactions (think breakouts, irritation, or redness). “If you have oily skin and use mild products, then the skin will still be oily and prone to breakouts,” says Dr. Patel. Your best bet is to opt for a skin-care regimen that consists of a gentle cleanser, a chemical exfoliant, retinol, and a light moisturizer. “Retinol and vitamin A derivatives help to shrink pores, exfoliate the skin, and decrease oil production,” she says. “Oily skin generally will need a lighter moisturizer such as a gel or lotion to prevent the clogging of pores as well as acne.” Then, however you stock your cabinet, be sure to avoid the following skin-care categories.

1. Foaming cleansers

Foaming cleansers can be satisfying when swiping grime off of your skin, but derms recommend avoiding these if your skin is on the oily side. “Beware of foaming face wash, because although they will make your skin feel squeaky clean, they can be over-stripping your skin,” says Shereene Idriss, MD, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist. “This can cause it to overcompensate and produce more oils.” Reach for a cream or gel-based cleanser for the job instead. Try something like the BYBI Beauty Crystal Clear Facial Cleansing Gel ($30).

2. Harsh exfoliants

Exfoliation is an important step in anyone’s skin-care routine, but with oily skin types, doing this with the wrong ingredients can lead to the opposite effect. “Harsh exfoliants and toners should be avoided because they can cause compensatory overproduction of oil,” says Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. To get rid of dead skin cell build-up, look for gentle, fruit-based acids. “Exfoliating cleansers that contain fruit acids, such as glycolic, and salicylic acid encourage the skin to exfoliate, and are very effective to those with acne-prone or oily skin,” says Dr. Patel, who notes that these help to open up pores and dry oil production. We love to use the Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner ($34) after cleansing to slough off any pore-clogging debris.

3. Occlusives

Occlusive ingredients can be tricky with any skin type but are particularly a bad idea for those with oily skin. This is an umbrella term for any ingredient that forms a layer on your skin. Dr. Idriss points to greasy ointments (like petroleum jelly) and coconut oil as two key ones to avoid. “Greasy ointments are a recipe for disaster as they may clog your pores and induce a massive breakout,” she says, adding that coconut oil has been proven to be comedogenic (aka it clogs pores). Dr. Gohara points to certain face oils and silicones (like dimethicone, which is in a lot of skin-care products) as other examples. And, any time you see the word “butter” on an ingredients list, stay away. “If you use too thick of an emollient or an occlusive such as cocoa butter or shea butter, you may notice that you’re breaking out more or are too greasy,” says Dr. Patel. Stick with lightweight moisturizers (gels are great) that provide hydration without causing breakouts, like the EltaMD Skin Recovery Light Moisturizer ($39).

Got combination skin? Watch the video below to learn more about how to treat it, straight from a derm:


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