Are you looking for a face wash for oily skin? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Today we’re getting into all of the nuances of what makes the best face wash for oily skin.
If your skin produces a lot of sebum all over or your pores are on the larger side, that’s a sure sign you have an oily skin type. You might find yourself tempted to scrub it harshly to get rid of the offending oils, but the truth is that choosing the right cleanser and using it sparingly is the way to go.
We’ve selected the best cleansers for oily skin, keeping in mind the additional concerns and needs that can come hand in hand with that skin type. We also added a guide to help you choose the right face wash for yourself, along with some tips about how often you should use a face wash for oily skin and how to best use it.
In this article:
- Our Picks of the Best Face Washes for Oily Skin
- How to Choose the Best Cleanser for Oily Skin?
- How Often Should You Wash Oily Skin?
Our Picks of the Best Face Washes for Oily Skin
Gentle and hydrating, powerful and purifying, or somewhere in between – no matter what your skin needs, we’ve got you covered with the best cleansers for oily skin.
1. Drunk Elephant Beste No. 9 Jelly Cleanser
With a unique jelly texture and a ton of hydrating agents, this is one of the gentlest cleansers for oily skin. It has a low-pH that keeps the skin resistant to damage and contains gentle surfactants that break down oils and makeup and leave the skin feeling refreshed. A touch of marula oil gives antioxidant protection. You can use it before any kind of skincare product, knowing that it’ll prepare the skin flawlessly. It’s available at Sephora.
2. Fresh Soy Face Cleanser
Wanna hear a secret? The truth is that the same product can be great for all skin types, which is why this cleanser tops most of our skincare lists. It’s also one of the best face washes for oily skin, thanks to its mild yet effective cleansing ability. The creamy texture breaks down sebum, while soy amino acids help to nourish the skin. It rinses away completely, leaving the skin fresh but not tight. Get it from Nordstrom!
3. e.l.f. Cosmetics SuperClarify Cleanser
We love all of those gentle cleansers, but if your skin is intensely oily, you might want something more clarifying. This is a strong cleanser for oily skin, and it removes every last speck of oil. It might even make your skin feel a little tight, so make sure to moisturize right away. It includes niacinamide, which is known for its ability to control oil and minimize the pores. Find it at Ulta or Amazon!
4. Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser
This face wash for oily skin is polarizing, and it won’t work for everyone, but it does have some unique features that make it stand out to us. First, this cleanser is made with 2% salicylic acid and is formulated with a low-pH, so it’s an effective chemical exfoliant that unclogs pores and keeps the skin clear. It’s also free of stripping sulfates, so it won’t dehydrate the skin. However, for some, it can be too acidic or irritating for daily use. You can buy it from Ulta or Amazon.
5. Philosophy Purity Made Simple Cleanser
This is another one of our favorite all-around cleansers! It’s gentle and creamy with a balancing formula that keeps the skin hydrated while eliminating excess oil along with makeup and other debris. It keeps the skin at a balanced pH and can even be used to remove makeup around the eyes! It can work for all skin types, though it does feature an essential oil blend that might not suit those with fragrance sensitivities. If it sounds like a good fit for you, pick it up at Sephora.
6. Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser
This unique cleanser is like a gentle, daily face mask. It’s made with kaolin clay, which soaks up excess oils from deep within the skin, along with non-comedogenic safflower oil to break down impurities. Despite being designed for oily skin, it’s gentle and non-drying. It does contain cooling menthol, which might not work for those with sensitivities, and the pH is higher than we’d normally recommend. However, those with more sensitive skin can still use it just a few times a week as an added purifying treat. Order it from Dermstore!
7. Tula Skincare The Cult Classic Purifying Face Cleanser
Gentle surfactants and a gel formula make this one of the best cleansers for oily skin. It has a refreshing effect and leaves the skin feeling clean, but it also includes probiotic ingredients that support the skin’s natural microflora in order to keep it strong, balanced, and hydrated. It’s a great cleanser to choose before using stronger active serums or toners. It’s sold at Nordstrom.
8. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser
This is a cult-favorite face wash for oily skin, and for a good reason. LRP is a French pharmacy brand that makes gentle, effective, and simple products that keep the skin healthy. While it’s not sulfate-free, this cleanser is still fairly mild and includes ingredients that mitigate the drying effects of SLES. If you are both very oily and also sensitive, it’s a fantastic choice that really purifies and mattifies the skin. Shop for it on Amazon!
9. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser
If your oily skin is also acne-prone, this is a phenomenal cleanser to try. It’s a relatively new addition to the CeraVe line, and it has a luxuriously creamy yet oil-free formula that keeps the skin fortified and healthy while also helping to fade acne. Benzoyl peroxide is the main ingredient here, and at 4%, it kills bacteria and helps remove dead skin cell build-up. The formula also includes pore-minimizing niacinamide and exfoliating glycolic acid for total renewal. Purchase it from Ulta or Amazon!
10. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser
This wonderful cleanser deserved a place on most of our cleanser lists, and it’s certainly one of the best face washes for oily skin, as well. It has a low pH that keeps the skin fortified and balanced and also includes acne-fighting tea tree oil and betaine salicylate. It can be used alone, although, if you wear makeup, you may want to use a dedicated makeup remover first. You can buy it at Ulta or Amazon.
11. Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Cleanser Daily Foaming Wash
This daily cleanser is another option that doubles as a chemical exfoliant. It’s made with glycolic acid and fruit enzymes, which gently help dead skin cells shed on their own. While it initially comes out of the tube creamy, it foams up easily with water to help purify the skin. Because it contains some citrus fruit essential oils, it also smells very refreshing and uplifting. It’s a great choice for those with hearty oily skin that could benefit from the added exfoliation. You can get it at Sephora.
12. Murad Environmental Shield Essential-C Cleanser
Just because you have oily skin doesn’t mean you don’t have other skin concerns! This balanced and refreshing cleanser from Murad clears oils from the skin while also loading it up with protective antioxidants. Because it contains a lot of hydrating agents, it’s great if you have oily but dehydrated skin, although the citrus peel extracts in here won’t work if you have fragrance sensitivities. Order it from Ulta or Amazon!
13. Glytone Mild Gel Cleanser
This cleanser is deceptively simple. It’s gel-based and deeply cleaning with AHA to aid with exfoliation. Because this cleanser is otherwise mild and fragrance-free, it can be used to target acne, scarring, large pores, pigmentation, or premature aging. Even those with sensitive skin can use it, although maybe not every day. It’s available online at Dermstore.
14. Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Cleansing Gel
Despite the squalane, this cleanser for oily skin means business. It’s a wonderfully mattifying cleanser with some strong surfactants. It also contains tea tree oils, which is especially effective for preventing breakouts. It’s not totally stripping, however, since it does include aloe, glycerin, and squalane. Buy it at Sephora!
15. EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser
This cleanser creates the softest bubble foam to help remove every last speck of oil and dirt without damaging the skin. Made by EltaMD, it’s gentle yet powerful. It contains bromelain, an enzyme that helps slough off dead skin cells but is milder than acids. The pH is nearly neutral, so it’s great if you find that very acidic cleansers don’t work for your skin. Pick it up from Dermstore!
16. Summer Fridays Super Amino Gel Cleanser
This lovely cleanser is another wonderful option for dehydration-prone oily skin. It includes 11 amino acids along with various humectants that help keep the skin healthy, supple, and moisturized. Because it’s a gel formula, it doesn’t feel heavy, nor does it leave a residue, but it works to clean thoroughly, including around the eyes. You can find it at Sephora.
17. Tata Harper Clarifying Blemish & Oil Control Cleanser
If you love natural products, Tata Harper products are a big treat. This cleanser for oily skin, in particular, is lovely, with a low pH to keep irritation and acne at bay, and a collection of plant extracts that support the skin beautifully. It includes willow bark extract to help keep the pores tight, and honey for its balancing effect. Since it’s a gel cleanser, it foams up slightly, but it contains lots of hydrators to prevent dryness. It’s available at Sephora.
18. CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser
You’d think we’d recommend CeraVe’s Foaming Cleanser (which we do like), but the truth is that we just like this one better. It still offers an amazing cleansing effect, but it also leaves the skin nourished and strong thanks to a collection of ceramides and hyaluronic acid. It’s awesome for sensitive skin, and it helps clean very gently. If you’re worried it won’t be mattifying enough for you, you can definitely try the Foaming option instead. Shop for it at Ulta or Amazon!
19. Milk Makeup Vegan Milk Cleanser
If you have oily skin that is also a little irritated or dehydrated, this milky cleanser is a great choice! It’s light and lotiony, helping to cleanse the skin while also loading it up with fortifying and hydrating extracts and non-comedogenic oils. Oat milk has a wonderfully soothing effect that’s phenomenal for redness. Get it at Sephora!
How to Choose the Best Cleanser for Oily Skin?
Cleansers come with all kinds of formulas and effects, so when choosing the best face wash for oily skin, you should keep in mind your unique needs, concerns, and desires.
Oily skin is a skin type that produces a lot of sebum, which is the proper term for the oils the human skin produces. Having oily skin is neither good nor bad – those with oily skin are less likely to experience dryness or dehydration, but they’re slightly more likely to experience acne or to have textured skin with larger pores.
Consider whether you have any of the following skin concerns and choose a cleanser that will help accordingly.
Oily skin exists on a spectrum, so you want to take into account whether you are extremely oily or just a little shiny throughout the day. This will depend on your skin, but your other skincare products might also influence things.
You may want to choose a gel-based cleanser that contains stronger surfactants if you’re extremely oily and not dehydrated at all, while if your skin is fairly oily but also dehydrated or you simply don’t find your skin’s oil production disruptive, then a gentle cream or humectant-laden cleanser might be better.
An ingredient you might want to look out for is niacinamide, which is able to help reduce oil production for some. With that said, we don’t know if it’d be effective in a cleanser that can be rinsed off, so it might be better to find it in leave-on formulas.
If you have acne-prone skin, then it’s important you choose a gentle, low-pH cleanser. An overly drying cleanser can further irritate the inflammation caused by breakouts, but a gentle one that leaves your skin clean but not tight or stripped will keep your skin happy. You can also choose a cleanser with additional acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or glycolic acid.
If you have sensitive or redness-prone skin, it’s very important to choose a non-irritating cleanser. You want to avoid fragrances, essential oils, as well as overly drying or surfactant-based formulas. If you have a specific allergy trigger, you should also scan the ingredient list of any cleanser you’re considering buying to make sure it’s free of that.
Gel-based cleansers that are sulfate-free can be fantastic, especially if they also contain humectants like glycerin. You can also look for added skin-soothing ingredients like oats, ceramides, niacinamide, or green tea extract.
You need to carefully consider whether you want any active ingredients in your cleanser. Some people with oily, sensitive skin do best when they choose a simple and mild cleanser, while for others, a cleanser is the only step when their skin can tolerate active ingredients. If you’ve been curious about chemical exfoliants or benzoyl peroxide but were worried they’d irritate your skin, using them in a cleanser that you rinse off after a few minutes can actually help.
It’s not unusual for those with oily skin to also suffer from dehydration. If your skin feels tight or gets flakey, despite that sheen of sebum, then it’s a sign that your skin is lacking in water, despite producing a lot of oil. In that case, it’s very important that you choose a cleanser that doesn’t leave your skin feeling tight and that contains moisture-binding ingredients like glycerin, butylene glycol, or panthenol towards the beginning of the ingredient list.
Cleansers that contain light oils like sunflower or safflower oil are also not a bad idea since they are able to remove the excess oil from your skin without stripping away moisture.
When picking a face wash for oily skin, you also want to consider what you actually need to clean. Are you just washing your face to get rid of the oil it naturally produces throughout the day, or are you relying on your cleanser to remove a full face of makeup?
Surprisingly, having to remove more layers of product doesn’t correlate with choosing a stronger cleanser. Cleansers that contain a bit of oil often do a better job of breaking down makeup and sunscreen, while gel-based cleansers are better for just refreshing the skin and removing sebum and impurities. You may find yourself choosing one gel cleanser for general cleanser along with a creamier milk or oil cleanser for makeup or sunscreen removal.
How Often Should You Wash Oily Skin?
You should wash your face thoroughly every day, towards the evening. Some people like to wash their face right before bed, while others prefer to do it in the early evening, right after they’ve come home from work. The important thing is that you cleanse when your day is over, and you’re done being active or going outside.
The standard advice is that those with oily skin should wash their skin twice a day, but I actually disagree with that. Cleansers are made to remove more than just oil from the skin – they take off makeup, dirt, sunscreen, and other very persistent substances. When you wake up in the morning, your skin is mostly clean, so there is no need to do a total cleansing. If you do wake up with a sheen of sebum over your skin, it’d be much better to just wipe it off with a damp face cloth or a cotton pad saturated with toner.
Finally, always pay attention to your skin and its reactions. You might be surprised to discover that washing just once a day works well for you, but you might also find that your skin actually benefits from frequent washing.
The gentleness of your cleanser will also influence how often you can tolerate using it. While I generally recommend once a day, feel free to experiment to determine what really works best for you.
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