How to Treat & Prevent Oily Skin

Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Skin Care
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A shiny face, makeup that doesn't stay put, blackheads and pimples — this is what happens when oily skin is not addressed the right way. While sebum is the skin's natural moisturizing factor, it becomes problematic when the sebaceous glands go into overdrive and produce too much oil. That's how sebum gets stuck in pores which can lead to a breakout very quickly. But you've got no reason to stress out. By the end of this post, you'll know how to build the ideal skincare routine for oily skin and how to get rid of blemishes fast.

Why is My Skin So Oily and Breaking Out?

Many factors can cause oily skin. It could be genetic. You might live in a warm climate, or, even a stressful period of life that increases your hormone levels could make your sebaceous glands produce too much oil.

However, one of the most common causes of excess oil is dehydration. It might sound backwards, and you've probably heard oily skin shouldn't e moisturized, but let me stop you right there — that is a myth. Actually, oily skin needs moisturizer like any other skin type. When oily skin lacks hydration, the glands start to produce even more oil in an attempt to replenish the moisture loss. And that's the perfect recipe for excess sebum and breakouts. A lightweight water-based moisturizer, with a gel-like mattifying formula is best for oily skin. According to our research, Dr. Brandt's Pores No More Mattifying Hydrator does wonders for oily skin as it hydrates while blurring pores and balances sebum.

Not having a skincare routine tailored to your skin type may also lead to excess sebum. Do you cleanse twice daily? Exfoliate twice weekly? Are you using non-comedogenic and oil-controlling skincare products? If not, no surprise your skin is excessively oily and frequently breaking out. 

Signs of Oily Skin

Even if the signs of oily skin might vary from person to person, it's not hard to identify a complexion that struggles with excess sebum.  If you check some of these boxes, you know you're dealing with a greasy situation:


  • A shiny complexion
  • Large pores
  • Clogged pores
  • Blackheads
  • Pimples

Treat & Prevent Breakouts with a Skin Care Routine for Oily Skin

It's about time you escape excess oil and get your balanced skin back. Before anything, keep in mind that consistency is key. Without a twice-daily routine and, of course, the weekly exfoliation, all your efforts might be in vain. Being diligent with skincare is primordial in managing an oily complexion. Here is the best skincare regimen for oily skin that'll keep the pesky shine and blemishes away.

When there's excess oil, cleansing AM and PM is deadly important. In the morning, it's about eliminating the shedding cells and oil produced while sleeping. At night, you should get rid of the sebum produced during the day — oil secretion is at its peak at midday — as well as the added sunscreen, makeup, pollution, and other impurities.[1] Your routine should pack sebum-balancing ingredients, such as salicylic acid, niacinamide, retinoids, zinc, and glycolic acid to hinder buildup in pores that lead to breakouts. Additionally, look out for hydrating agents like glycerin, squalane, and hyaluronic acid.

I didn't stress the use of an exfoliator for nothing. Excess sebum mixed with dead cells clog pores and that's how breakouts arise. To eliminate all of these culprits at once and have soft baby skin, use an exfoliator. But not more than twice weekly as that might disrupt your skin barrier, which you don't want either. We love the Exfolikate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment by Kate Somerville — yep, it meets our Full Of Standard and packs AHA + BHA and fruit enzyme to shed away all impurities.

Another great ingredient for exfoliation is salicylic acid. This BHA is oil-soluble, meaning it can sink deep into the pores, where it removes sebum, dead skin, and other impurities that may block your pores, minimizing the chances of breakouts appearing.

Lastly, a weekly mask with kaolin clay is a special treat for slick skin. Kaolin clay is great at soaking sebum, drawing out impurities, and stopping pores from getting clogged.[2] Antibacterial ingredients help your skin stay breakout-proof too. Look out for skincare products that pack benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, willow bark, and witch hazel extracts.

Make sure you are also paying attention to using products that are non-comedogenic. When using such products, there are fewer chances your pores get congested with dead skin and sebum, so it’s less likely for pimples to occur.

How to Treat Blackheads

Blackheads are super common for oily skin types. They are not technically pimples but a hair follicle or pore blocked with dead skin and sebum, which turns black (oxidizes) when in contact with the air.

Removing blackheads yourself is a no-no as that could lead to inflamed pimples, scarring, and other unwanted situations. A monthly facial will do and in the meantime, learn how to prevent blackhead apparition in the first place. In addition to keeping your skin moisturized to avoid excess sebum, focus on skincare ingredients meant to go deep into the pores and remove all junk. Salicylic acid is excellent at clearing blackheads. If used twice weekly in a chemical peel mixed with AHAs too, like glycolic acid, you’ll be well prepared in the fight against blackheads.

How to Treat Clogged Pores

Pores get clogged when a mix of excess sebum, dead cells, and other residue gets stuck in pores, blocking them and leading to blackheads and whiteheads. The best way to stop pores from clogging is to regularly exfoliate dead cell buildup, debris, and excess sebum using a chemical exfoliant with salicylic and glycolic acids. By regularly, I mean twice a week, no exception. Another way to help your pores unclog is a weekly kaolin clay mask — it gives pores a major detox.

Lastly, there's one more ingredient to add to the blocked pores fighting routine: retinol. Due to its ability to encourage cell turnover, retinol takes benefits up another notch, unclogging pores and keeping skin clear. 

Find the Best Skincare Products for Oily Skin at Exponent

By now, you know that excess oil leads to breakouts and blackheads, but one thing I didn't mention. Good news time: oily skin wrinkles less because sebum keeps the complexion moist and soft. So don't go to the extreme and overdo everything we just mentioned because that may give you the opposite effect: parched skin that secretes more sebum than ever. Balance is key. 

Because at Exponent results come first, we’ve created a dream product for oily skin. Our Clear Comeback Probiotic Enzyme Serum is a master at clearing pores and balancing sebum. We’ve also prepared a list of products for oily skin that we've tested and meet our Full Of Standard. This means they truly deliver.


  • Matsui MS, Pelle E, Dong K, Pernodet N. Biological Rhythms in the Skin. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(6):801. May 2016. Source
  • Del Rosso JQ. The role of skin care as an integral component in the management of acne vulgaris: part 1: the importance of cleanser and moisturizer ingredients, design, and product selection. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. December 2013. Source


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