The Best Skincare Routine for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin

Large pores? Check. A shiny T-zone? Check. Red, angry zits that are the size of volcanic craters? Triple-check.

Excess shine and acne breakouts often seem to go hand in hand. Overactive sebaceous glands that produce sky-high levels of sebum cause your pores to clog easier than other skin types. Dead skin cells, makeup debris, dust, and other environmental pollutants are trapped within the pore, birthing unwanted blackheads, whiteheads, and acne.

An effective skincare routine for oily, acne-prone skin addresses three problem areas: Rebalance overzealous oil production, minimize active breakouts, and fade away leftover hyperpigmentation.

7 Reasons for Your Oily, Acne-Prone Skin

Before we delve into the actual skincare routine, let’s first understand the common causes of a shiny, zit-filled complexion:

1. You’re Not Removing Your Makeup Completely

We’ve all been guilty of going to bed without removing our makeup. Maybe you’ve zonked out from an exhausting workday or too tipsy after a night’s worth of club-hopping. Yet, this simple action — or inaction — is the no. 1 culprit for clogged pores and future breakouts.

2. Your Skin Is Actually Dehydrated

Dehydrated skin
Image by Aleksei Алексей Simonenko Симоненко on Unsplash

More often than not, skin dehydration is the reason behind extraordinarily high levels of oil production. To compensate for the parchedness, your sebaceous glands crank out more sebum than usual, resulting in the extra sheen on your T-zone. Excess sebum also congests your pores, creating the perfect recipe for acne breakouts.

3. You Live in a Hot and Humid Area

The environment you live in may contribute to oiliness and breakouts, too. High temperatures and humidity promote sweat and oil production, i.e., unwanted gunk that quickly fills your pores to spawn blackheads and whiteheads.

4. You Live in a Polluted Area

Heat aside, poor air quality also does a number on your complexion. Based on a 2017 study in the Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, higher air pollution levels are linked to “increased sebum secretion and a higher number of acne lesions.”

5. Your Diet Is Rich in Sugar

Indulging in processed, sugary foods such as chips, sweets, and white bread may delight your taste buds but spells woe for your skin type. After all, a high-glycemic diet increases insulin levels, which spurs sebum production and skin inflammation.

6. You Are Using the Wrong Beauty Products

Buying beauty products for your oily, acne-prone skin is indeed tricky. Over-emphasis on astringent, mattifying products likely wreaks havoc on your skin’s natural sebum production and off-balances it. On the other hand, ultra-moisturizing products brimming with comedogenic ingredients turn on the congestion works.

7. Your Skin Type Is Inherited

Sometimes, you have to blame plain ol’ genetics for your skin type. If Mom and Dad have griped about skin troubles similar to yours, chances are, you may have inherited your complexion from them.

As shown above, there’s a variety of internal and external causes for your skin type. It could be one or a combination of these factors that’s responsible for the excess sebum and visibly large pores. Identifying the exact causes will help you build an effective skincare routine to control shine and ward off acne.

The Best Skincare Routine for Oily, Acne-Prone Skin Is as Follows

Are you ready to dive into the best skincare routine for oily, acne-prone skin? If so, grab your tablet and drink of choice because you’ll be taking lots of notes. Happy reading!

1. Start With an Oil-Based Cleanser

Image by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash

Yep, you’ve read that right. Even greasy skin types benefit from oil cleansers and cleansing balms.

The reason being, while foundation and concealer are great at masking the red bumps and marks, they are difficult to remove, too. Add in waterproof sunscreen and glittery eyeshadows, and you have an uphill battle during clean-up. Any product left behind contributes to a continual cycle of more breakouts and scarring.

To put an end to the vicious cycle, plug an oil cleanser into your skincare routine. An oil-based cleansing formula is designed to lift up sebum, makeup residue, and other oil-based impurities.

2. Follow Up With a Water-Based Cleanser

Your oil cleanser is quite the champ for removing SPF and excess sebum, but not so much for water-based impurities like sweat. As such, you should follow up with a water-based cleanser afterward.

Go wild with your cleanser texture here. If you have a kink for gel types, don’t be shy. Those who prefer a foamy feel, knock yourself out.

Any cleanser you choose should be low-pH sans the comedogenic ingredients — think coconut oil, myristic acid, and isopropyl palmitate. For more inspiration, check out this detailed list of pore-clogging ingredients by AcneClinicNYC.

3. Stay on Top of Your Exfoliation Game

Whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples are among the usual complaints from the oily, acne-prone crowd. Given that pore congestion is the common theme running through these skin concerns, your best bet is to exfoliate regularly.

Image by Amplitude Magazin on Unsplash

The golden rule of thumb of exfoliation is once a week for most skin types. Yet, it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to oily, acne-prone skin.

You may have to up your exfoliating frequency to meet the needs of a skin type that clogs easily.

For example, instead of exfoliating once a week, you may want to do it twice or thrice a week.

Play around with different exfoliant types to stay ahead of the congestion. Clay masking is a great way to detoxify pollutants and regulate excess shine. Salicylic acid is another crowd favorite for unearthing congestion deep within the skin while keeping the Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) bacteria at bay.

But if post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) is troubling you, opt for chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid to reduce melanin buildup for clearer skin.

4. Tone Up

Toners, with their watery consistency, may seem to do nothing much for your skin. But in truth, they are the “primers” in skincare:

  • They remove leftover cleanser residue, which may not have rinsed away completely.
  • They also prep your skin’s pH level so that essences, serums, and moisturizers can sink in better.

“Think of your skin like a sponge — it’s more difficult to rehydrate it when it’s dried up and hardened than when it’s already a bit damp.”

Soko Glam

By applying a hydrating, low-pH toner right after cleansing, you create the perfect damp canvas for whichever products come right after.

Tip: Opt for toners with antibacterial and oil-regulating ingredients, like salicylic acid, to keep sebum and breakouts in check.

5. Choose Your Essence

Image by Chris Ralston on Unsplash

Lightweight in texture but packs a punch in formulation, an essence usually consists of one active ingredient to hydrate, brighten, and/or slow down aging. An iconic example would be SK-II’s Facial Treatment Essence, which uses more than 90% PITERA™ to firm, brighten, and smoothen the skin.

For oily and acne-prone skin types, the ideal essence should contain ingredients that target your skin concerns, in this case, hydrating, redness-reducing, or texture-smoothening. Snail mucin, with its oil-free moisture and skin-soothing formula, is one such ingredient.

6. Indulge in Serums and Ampoules

Here’s where the fun part of skincare comes in — experimenting with serums and ampoules. Note: In terms of ingredient formulation, serums and ampoules are much more concentrated and powerful than essences.

This is also why you only apply a serum or ampoule to the affected area on your face, like a pimple, rather than slather it all over your face.

So, which ingredients will help with your skin type?

To reduce redness while evening out skin tone, opt for niacinamide. Otherwise known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is anti-inflammatory to soothe breakouts. Plus, niacinamide regulates oil production, controlling sheen and reducing pore appearance.

Bakuchiol is another ingredient to love as it works in similar ways to retinol but incurs lesser irritation. As such, this gentle alternative is more suitable for acne-prone skin, which is much too often sensitized from active breakouts and harsh acne treatments.

7. Lay on the Moisturizer

Moisturizer on hand
Image by ian dooley on Unsplash

Thinking that oily skin types should shun moisturizers is THE skincare faux pax.

First of all, moisturizers hydrate your skin which is essential for a strong, healthy skin barrier. Secondly, just because your skin is oily doesn’t mean it’s adequately hydrated since oil does not equate to water.

A lack of moisture propels your sebaceous glands into overdrive. The extra sebum is then entrapped in your pores, along with dirt, dust, and other skin debris, setting off congestion and breakouts.

To break this vicious cycle, introduce the right moisturizer to your skin.

The right moisturizer focuses on hydrating yet non-clogging humectants. This category of moisturizing elements are not too heavy, not too little, and just right for your skin type.

But how do humectants work, exactly? According to a 2016 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, humectants help the stratum corneum (topmost skin layer) to attract water and retain moisture. Due to humectants’ low molecular weight, they are much less likely to clog pores.

Water droplets on hand
Image by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

ICYDK, hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the most popular — and highly effective — humectants. While HA is naturally produced in your body, aging and UV rays deplete it over time. Applying hyaluronic acid on your skin not only replenishes your skin’s moisture levels but also makes for a smooth and supple complexion.

Of course, hyaluronic acid doesn’t have to be limited only to your moisturizers. Being a versatile skincare ingredient, HA is widely populated in toners, essences, serums, and ampoules, too.

8. Apply a Facial Mask

Sometimes, you just want to pamper your skin and give it the TLC it’s been looking for all day (or night). That’s where facial masking comes in.

Keep in mind that not all facial masks play well with oily, acne-prone skin.

First up, which facial masks should you avoid? Contrary to popular masking trends, sheet masks and sleeping masks may not complement your skin type. The reason being, these masks are too moisturizing for your skin to handle on top of the excess sebum. Moreover, they are chock full of occlusives and emollients, which are notorious for their pore-clogging abilities.

Image by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

Instead, opt for detoxifying masks made of clay or activated charcoal — these are great for toxin removal and sebum regulation.

You may also want to check out exfoliating masks with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs). These ingredients slough off dead skin cells, which nips the issue of pore congestion right in the bud.

Do note that exfoliating masks can be pretty harsh, so avoid overdoing them. Try an exfoliating mask once a week for a month and see how your skin reacts to it. If all hell doesn’t break loose, slowly increase that frequency to twice a week. Doing so ensures your skin has sufficient time to get used to the exfoliating intensity rather than rebel big time.

9. Prioritize Sunscreen

Girl in the sun
Image by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Let’s face it, no self-respecting skincare routine is without sunscreen. But, many sunscreens are water-resistant, which makes them almost unbudgeable during makeup removal. (And we all know the perils of sunscreen residue.)

Besides, most sunscreen formulae are peppered with silicones to enhance their cosmetic feel. The upside: The sunscreen glides on smoothly, so you’re less likely to struggle with pilling (always a killjoy) when applying makeup later.

But the downside is, silicones are practically occlusives. They trap sebum, dirt, and other skin debris, which basically makes life difficult for your pores.

At the same time, certain sunscreen formulations may not play well with your skin type. For instance, chemical sunscreens contain filters that have a knack for irritating skin. Some sunscreens are also heavy on oils, thereby increasing the risk of congestion and breakouts.

To choose the sunscreen that’s made for your complexion, opt for one that’s lightweight, oil-free, and non-comedogenic. If skin sensitivity is an issue, try a physical sunscreen with zinc oxide — zinc oxide sits atop your skin to form a physical barrier against UVA and UVB rays. Bonus: Zinc oxide is also anti-inflammatory and antibacterial to help soothe active breakouts.

It’s Possible to Win at Skincare With Your Skin Type

If you’ve been struggling with the right skincare routine for your skin type, don’t give up yet. While it may be tedious to research extensively on suitable ingredients and products, the end results will be well worth the trouble. Hopefully, this in-depth guide has given you a roadmap on how to build an effective beauty ritual.


Disclaimer: As much as I love sharing with you my pearls of wisdom on skincare, please note that I am not a professional and all opinions are my own.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s