The Ultimate Routine for Oily Skin

The Ultimate Routine for Oily Skin

Unique skin deserves unique care

Do you use eye cream before or after you moisturize? Will these ingredients make my oily skin better or worse? How do I even know what skin type I have?

Trying to figure out everything your skin needs can be complicated and, at times, overwhelming. Oily skin in particular can also be tough to tackle, and sometimes the solutions we think will improve it end up making it worse.

When scouring the internet, sometimes we come across conflicting information, and it’s difficult to know who to trust. Luckily for you, we here at eCosmetics are skin experts, so we’re going to break down everything you need to know to handle your skin.

As a disclaimer, it’s also important to check with a professional dermatologist for your specific skin and skin concerns. Not everyone’s skin is the same, and you might not have the same reaction to certain types of products or ingredients as other people.

Also, if you don’t have oily skin, you can check out our routines for dry, combination, and (bless these people) normal skin types.


What is oily skin?

Oily skin isn’t always as easily identified as it may seem. In the summer and humid parts of the world, even dry or combination skin can appear on the oilier side. As well as doing a “wash and wait” test, another common feature you can spot with oily skin is enlarged pores.

As the skin overproduces oil to balance lack of hydration, this leads to enlarged pores over time. The sebaceous glands at the base of hair follicles release an excess of oily sebum where it collects in the pores, combines with dirt and makeup, and stretches the pores, making them appear larger.

If your skin gets greasy throughout the day, if your makeup slides off your skin, if you have visibly enlarged pores (especially around your t-zone), or if you get frequent blackheads or acne, you likely have oily skin.


What does oily skin need? 

Since the face overproduces oil when it’s lacking moisture, it’s important to keep oily skin clean but, ironically, moisturized. The worst thing you can do to “fix” oily skin is washing away all its natural hydration and then not replenishing it.

If you don’t want to have to deal with a full multi-step skincare routine, here are the simplified must-haves: Cleanse in the morning and at night with something gentle but strong. Don’t over strip your skin, but something with a chemical exfoliator and acne-fighter (like salicylic acid) can help clear your pores from a buildup of oil, dirt, and dead skin. Hydrate your skin in the morning and at night with a lightweight, oil-free, and/or water-based moisturizer. This will tell your skin to stop producing as much oil (especially over time with continued use) without feeling thick or heavy. And finally, protect your face with sunscreen during the day! Sunscreen is the most important step of any skincare routine.

For more in-depth information and product recommendations, we’ve also created a full skincare routine specifically for targeting oily skin.


The Routine


It’s important to not over-cleanse oily skin. When the face is stripped from all its moisture, it produces more oil to compensate. Focus on finding non-stripping formulas; foaming and sulfate-free cleansers are a great place to start. Also, oil can remove oil, so don’t shy away from using oil-based cleansers.

TikTok has brought CeraVe back into popularity, and we love their products too. When you’re suffering from oily skin, you can try CeraVe’s Foaming Facial Cleanser, or their Renewing Salicylic Acid Cleanser if you’re suffering from breakouts. We also love Aveeno’s Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser, Dermalogica’s Special Cleansing Gel, and La Roche-Posay’s Effaclar and Toleraine purifying cleansers.

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Similar to cleansers, it’s easy to want to use a toner to remove all the excess oil and get that “fresh, clean” feeling. Unfortunately, this leads the skin to produce more oil than it should. Aim for toners that use ingredients like BHAs and avoid stripping ingredients like alcohol.

We love to use Pixi by Petra’s Glow Tonic as well as Mario Badescu’s Glycolic Acid Toner and Thayers’ Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel Facial Toner. To help minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, which are so common with oily skin, we like Origins’ Zero Oil Pore Purifying Toner With Saw Palmetto & Mint and ClĂ© de Peau’s Essential Refining Essence.

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After toning the skin, then move onto treatments. This is where you would want to use any spot treatments, eye creams, vitamin C serums, or products that tackle specific skin problems other than just minimizing oil. The most important thing to remember when using serums is to be consistent because some might take a few weeks before results start to show.

Also, make sure to move from the lightest products to the heaviest with your skincare, and don’t overload your skin with too many products at once, as this can lead to breakouts and irritation.

It’s also important for oily skin to avoid pore-clogging ingredients, especially if your skin is also prone to acne. Ingredients like lactic acid and niacinamide are great for combatting acne and inflammation, while hydrating ingredients prevent the skin from producing more excess oil.

If lactic acid is what you’re after, we recommend Sunday Riley’s Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment. We also really love Caudalie’s Vinopure Natural Salicylic Acid Pore Minimizing Serum and Elizabeth Arden’s Retinol Ceramide Capsules, and at night we also use Estee Lauder’s Advanced Night Repair Eye Supercharged Complex Synchronized Recovery.

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If you need a deep pore-clearing and minimizing treatment, use a clay or mud mask once a week, or three times a week at the most. Follow each product’s directions as some vary, but generally, you can use these masks for 10-15 minutes at a time, and don’t let them fully dry out while you use them. You can’t go wrong with Borghese’s Fango Brillante Brightening Mud Mask, AHAVA’s Mineral Mud Brightening & Hydrating Facial Mud Mask, or Peter Thomas Roth’s Irish Moor Mud Mask. You can also try PUR’s Dirty Girl Detoxifying Mudd Masque, Burt’s Bees Detoxifying Clay Mask, or AHAVA’s Time To Clear Purifying Mud Mask for formulas designed to prevent over-drying.

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Before you start your day and before you go to bed, it’s important to hydrate your skin. Once again, it may seem counter-intuitive to give oily skin more moisture, but this will help balance it from the beginning and prevent oil from being overproduced over time.

However, we still don’t love to feel like our skin is heavy or greasy throughout the day, especially in the summer, so look for a moisturizer that’s hydrating while also being lightweight. Try to find oil-free moisturizers with ingredients such as sodium PCA or glycerin. In the morning, we love to use Neutrogena’s Oil-Free Combination Moisturizer, Tatcha’s The Water Cream, or Dr. Brandt Skincare’s Hyaluronic Facial Cream, or if we want a bit of coverage we go for Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer.

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Using a moisturizer that’s a little bit heavier before bed than what you might wear during the day makes sure your skin stays hydrated throughout the night. For this, we like to use CeraVe’s Skin Renewing Night Cream, Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream, or Dermalogica’s Sound Sleep Cocoon Transformative Night Gel-Cream.

If you want to use the same moisturizer for the morning and at night, we also recommend Clinique’s Fresh Pressed Clinical Overnight Booster (which comes in a two and fourpack). It mixes into and improves any existing cream or retinol treatment (another ingredient that makes pores appear smaller).

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While cleansing and hydrating oily skin is important, sunscreen is the most important step for any skincare routine. If your skin isn’t protected, no amount of creams or serums can undo UV and free radical damage.

Even if you skip everything else, make sure you wear sunscreen every morning before going out. If you want a matte finish, try to find sunscreens that use mineral formulas featuring zinc oxide instead of just physical sunscreens.

We love getting the benefits of a moisturizer and sunscreen in one with Differin’s Oil Absorbing Moisturizer With Sunscreen SPF 30. Since oily skin can be extra shiny in the sun, SkinCeuticals’ Sheer Mineral UV Defense SPF 50 helps protect while keeping a matte finish. When we need more sun protection with a convenient application we like to reach for Colorescience’s Sunforgettable Total Protection Brush-On Shield SPF 50, or we use Dr. Dennis Gross’ Dark Spot SPF 50 to get additional protection for aging skin. But of course, the best sunscreen is going to be the one that you actually wear every day, so check out all of our face sunscreen options if these aren’t what you’re looking for.

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While we work to fix our oily skin concerns, sometimes we still need help with day-to-day insecurities. When we want to take away some shine without having to fully wash our face midday, we like to grab some blotting papers. Palladio’s Rice Paper and Winky Lux’s Matcha Blotting Sheets remove excess oil from the surface of the skin without disrupting any makeup underneath. Avoid trying to cover oil with more face powder, as this can lead to cakey-looking makeup.

Some gentle skincare tools can make products like cleansers work even better. FOREO’s LUNA 2 for Oily Skin, Tatcha’s Original Facial Cleansing Brush, and e.l.f.’s Cleansing Duo Face Brush are perfect for getting cleansers deep into the pores and removing buildup.

Also, make sure you’re not putting oil and bacteria back onto your clean skin with dirty makeup brushes. Products like Ecotools’ Makeup Brush Cleansing Shampoo keep your makeup brushes and sponges as clean and clear as you want your skin to be.

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For questions, concerns, or article ideas, feel free to reach out to our eCosmetics Beauty Editor directly at