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Breakouts and Oily Skin? Your Acne May Not Be the Problem5 min read

After our teenage years, we all thought we would say sayonara to oily, acne-prone skin and hello to a smooth, glowing complexion in adulthood. Yet after trying many TV-advertised acne treatments, it still persisted. We even went on the pill with, uh, mixed results. At a certain point, it’s as if every acne clearing treatment has been personally tested and failed. Could our acne survive a nuclear apocalypse? Possibly. But don’t worry, there is hope. The problem could be how you treat your oily skin, not your acne. Yes, you heard that right.
First of all, oil is not the enemy. Say it with me: oil is not the enemy! Though people with oily skin are more likely to have acne on a regular basis, they also are less likely to develop wrinkles than those with dry skin. The same oil that torments us, also helps keep our skin more moist and smooth. This oil (also known as sebum) is developed by the sebaceous glands, and when too much a produced, the excess sebum can form a sheen on the face and cause acne flare-ups. So remember this: the goal is not to get rid of oil, but the lessen its overproduction.
To treat this, you do not need harsh acne fighting treatments or products that dry out the skin (trust me, even more oil will be coming your way). It’s time to be kind to your skin, and give it the love it deserves.

Keep scrolling for tips on how to treat oily, acne-prone skin.

Use a gentle cleanser

Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

A gentle cleanser’s focus is on removing the day’s dirt and makeup from the surface of your skin, not to treat acne. That’s what serums and oils are for! I personally use Glossier’s Milky Jelly Cleanser. Apply to dry skin or wet skin and massage onto the skin before rinsing. I also use Youth to the People’s Superfood Antioxidant Cleanser for when I need a deeper clean. With both of these cleansers you can enjoy the clean and fresh feeling without the dryness or tightness.

Gently dry your skin

Organic Cotton Round

If you have sensitive skin, reconsider using your damp post-shower bath towel or designated face towel to dry your face. It can carry germs that float around your bathroom (especially after flushing your toilet). Instead, use an organic cotton round to gently remove excess water from your skin.

Double cleanse

Philosophy Purity Made Simple Micellar Water

Double cleansing means using more than one product to remove makeup and dirt from your face. After using a gentle cleanser, I follow up with Philosophy’s Purity Made Simple Micellar Water. It’s a popular French beauty staple that is fairly new to the US. Made of water-soluble lipid molecules, micellar water is perfect for breaking down any makeup, dirt, impurities, and excess sebum from the surface of your skin. Pour a bit out on an organic cotton round and swipe over your entire face, you’ll be surprised as to how much work it does on your face even after your first cleanser.


Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner

I know it may sound like vintage advice, but toner can be great for those with oily and acne-prone skin. A good toner can restore your skin’s pH balance after cleansing and is also a great way to prep your skin for your serum and moisturizer. Try using Herbivore Organics Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner. Shake the bottle and spritz on your face 3 times, then lightly massage in.


The Ordinary’s Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

Now that you have a fresh, clean face — it’s time for serums! Don’t go overboard and use too many products. Pick two serums to treat a problem you want to target. For me, I do not use any serums in the morning, but at night I use The Ordinary’s Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% to treat my hyper-pigmentation.

Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Moisturizing everyday helps the skin maintain its balance. Using the right moisturizer can boost hydration, lock in moisture, improve your skin to act as a barrier against the environment. Particularly for oily skin, it can combat acne by loosening up the sebum inside pores. Finding the right moisturizer for oily skin can be difficult: my recommendation is The Ordinary’s Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA.

Bring on the oils!

Biossance Squalane Oil

Oils that have a high ratio of essential fatty acids can help balance your skin’s oil production, but not all oils are created equal. Some oils, like unfractionated coconut oil, can cause clogged pores and acne breakouts for those with sensitive skin. If you are trying a new oil, sample a portion on a small area to test how your skin reacts to it. Everyone’s skin sensitivity is different.
Also for oily skin, it is recommended to use your oil only once a day, preferably before bed as less sebum is produced at night. My personal favorite is Biossance’s Squalane Oil. Apply a few drops directly to your face or mix with your moisturizer.
Hopefully these tips can help you shine from within — and not on your face.

Tried any of these tips? Share your experience in the comments! Read your cosmetic labels? Learn what those label buzzwords really mean. Struggling with acne (but not on your face)? Read how to get rid of bacne.


  1. Hey, Thank you for sharing this guide. I am currently facing oily skin issue. But after using some tips and remedies that you mentioned it’s beginning to decrease. so thanks again for sharing this great info.

  2. Hey Mia, Thank you for sharing this guide about oily scalp. I am currently facing oily scalp problems. But the tips and remedies that you mentioned it are quite helpful to me. Thanks for sharing keep updating.

  3. Pingback: How to Get Rid of Bacne | healthleisure

  4. Pingback: How to Take Care of Your Skin After a Workout | healthleisure

  5. There is best skincare routine for oily and acne prone skin in this blog. Nature of my skin is oily but after go through your article I have seen a noticeable change in it. Thanks a lot of sharing.

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