Tips for Treating Acne and Oily Skin

5 Tips to Banish Breakouts and Oily Skin

With oily skin and acne, you're probably not always in love with your skin. But oily skin isn't all bad. One bonus: your skin will be less prone to wrinkling.

Still, oily skin and acne can be frustrating. With the right care, you can beat oily skin, clear your acne, and learn to embrace your skin type.

1

Man washing his face
Photo: Darren Robb / Getty Images. Photo: Darren Robb / Getty Images

The best way to keep oil from building up is to cleanse your face regularly. Always wash your face twice a day, both morning and night, no exceptions.

Another hint: choose a foaming cleanser over a cream-based one. Foaming cleansers generally do a much better job cleansing away oil and leave your skin feeling fresh and clean.

You should also cleanse your face (and body, if body breakouts are a problem) after you sweat, like after gym class or work out. Sweat can irritate breakouts and lead to a specific type of acne called acne mechanica.

If soap and water aren't immediately available, keep a stash of premoistened cleansing cloths in your bag to give your skin a wipe-down. There are plenty of facial cleansing cloths on the market, but even fragrance-free baby wipes will do.

Beware of over-cleansing, though. Cleansing your face too often can irritate your skin. And since acne isn't caused by an oily or dirty face, just washing more frequently isn't going to clear breakouts.

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2
Use an Astringent

Teenager using an astringent pad
Photo: BSIP / UIG / Getty Images

An astringent is another good way to control oil. Astringents are toners that are made especially for oily skin types. Astringents help remove excess oil from the skin and tighten the pores (temporarily, at least).

Astringent products are fluid, so you'll apply them to a cotton ball or cotton pad to use. Some astringent products come in premoistened  pads, like Stridex or Oxy.

To use them, wipe over the entire face and neck area. Do this after cleansing, but before applying your moisturizer or topical acne medications. Astringents are also great to use between washings to clean away excess oil and get rid of oily shine that appears during the day.

Some astringents contain ingredients, like glycolic acid or salicylic acid that can help clear breakouts, too. But you don't need a fancy brand. Even simple witch hazel works to remove excess oil, and it's super cheap (about a dollar for 16 ounces).

3
Think Oil-Free and Water-Based Skin Care Products

Moisturizing cream
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Obviously, you don't want to put more any more oil onto your skin than is already there. Look for "oil-free" on the label, especially for those leave-on products like moisturizers, sunscreen, and makeup.

You may also want to use products labeled noncomedogenic. This means they are less likely to cause pore blockages (AKA comedones), and less likely to trigger acne breakouts.

Water-based products are another great option for oily skin types such as yourself. Instead of a cream base, these products utilize a gel base. Water-based product feel lighter and don't leave any heavy residue on the skin. They feel virtually weightless on the skin.

You can find water-based moisturizing gels, sunscreens, and makeup foundation. Check the label; many of these are marketed to people with oily and breakout-prone skin.

Your topical acne medications have water-based options too. Differin, Retin-A, Onexon, and more all come in a gel form. If your current acne medication feels too heavy or greasy for your liking, ask your dermatologist if there is a gel option.

4
Don't Scrub at Your Skin

Woman using an abrasive facial scrub
Photo: Altrendo Images / Getty Images

Those of us with oily skin seem especially conditioned to scrubbing away, and it can be a hard habit to break. After all, won't scrubbing at the skin help deep-clean the pores, clear acne and reduce oiliness?

Surprisingly, no. Rubbing the skin with abrasive scrubs, pads, or washcloths won't make your skin less oily and won't improve acne. It will irritate the skin, though. Oily or not, be kind to your skin and treat it gently.

5
Reduce Large Pores with Exfoliating Products and/or Acne Treatments

Young lady with pore strip on her nose.
Photo: SW Productsions / Getty Images

Large pores and oily skin seem to go hand in hand. Often, enlarged pores are just as frustrating and upsetting as acne itself. While you can't permanently shrink your pore size, you can make them look smaller.

Many acne medications pull double-duty, and reduce enlarged pores while clearing breakouts. Topical retinoids in particular are good at minimizing large pores. Over-the-counter salicylic acid is another option.

If acne isn't a problem for you but you'd still like to reduce the look of your large pores, exfoliating products are the way to go. Alpha hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid, keep pores clear of debris making them look smaller.

A Word from Verywell

Just like all good things, improvement takes time, whether you're looking to clear breakouts or just reduce the amount of oily shine on your skin. A good skin care routine tailored to your oily skin type will help you do just that. Don't hesitate to call your dermatologist if you need help.

Sources:

Gerson, Joel, Janet DAngelo, Shelley Lotz, and Sallie S. Deitz. Miladys Standard Esthetics: Fundamentals. Clifton Park, NY: Delmar, 2009.

Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, Alikhan A, Baldwin HE, et. al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016; 74(5):945-73.

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