Skin Care Routine for Oily, Acne Prone and Problematic Skin

I get more questions on how to take care of oily/acne prone skin than anything else. I’m going to address all of these questions today. Or at least try. If you have more questions leave them in the comment section below. I will list my favorite products at the bottom.

In my opinion, oily skin is the hardest skin type to take care of. Most people I meet with this skin type don’t know how to take care of their skin. Let’s start with the basics. There are a few things that every skin type needs: Cleanser, Moisturizer, Eye Cream, Exfoliator, Mask.

Now, let’s just put to rest the idea of using harsh, stripping products on oily skin. Do not rub alcohol or peroxide or Cetaphil or St. Ives scrub all over your face. You want to control your oil production, not strip it all away. Oil is not your enemy, it is a necessary thing for your skin. Without it you would have alligator skin. The use of a harsh product will only make your skin produce more oil.

Here is the truth- our bodies respond to whatever we put on it or in it. When your body gets all of it’s oil stripped away it totally freaks out and thinks it’s going thru an oil drought. So what does your body do? It kicks the sebum glands into high gear and over produces oil. Then you feel way to oily, so you strip it all off. And the cycle continues… Even though you are oily you still need a moisturizer! If you don’t moisturize you will get flaky skin on top of your oily skin. Who wants that look?

The answer? You need to use products that will regulate your sebum glands so your body will produce a regular amount of oil. I’m not saying that you will go from oily skin to normal skin just by using different products. I’m saying you can get more control on your oil production and begin to even out your skin tone.

A side note- if you have acne skin be careful with exfoliators. Exfoliating too much will irritate your skin, and can spread the oil around and create more break outs. Use a cleanser with enzymes that naturally and gently exfoliates. A good one is BioElements flash foam cleanser.

What to look for when purchasing skin care products. Look for things that are labeled “oily” or “acne”. Cleansers that are clay based are great. They may not get off all your make up though. In that case use a cleanser “for all skin types”. If you are extremely oily get a moisturizer that is “oil free”. Exfoliating is very important. With oily skin, the excess oil will mix with the dead skin and settle in your pores (sorry if that is a gross image, but it’s true). Exfoliating is a key part to an even complexion, it will remove the dead skin and clean out the pores. Using a mask will be your best friend! Get a clay based mask and use it once a week. This will soak up all extra oil without drying you out or stripping your skin. An eye cream is very necessary. Even though you are oily and you may think you don’t need that heavy cream by your eyes- you do! The skin around the eye area is different from the rest of your face and it doesn’t produce oil the same. So, eye cream, eye cream, eye cream. Protect that area from wrinkles!

What products to stay away from. Anything that has alcohol in it! Many companies put alcohol in their oily/acne skin care products. It is a cheap way to mask the skin care issues. Think of products with alcohol as putting a band-aid on a broken leg. They don’t actually work!

Many people don’t want to spend the money for high end skin care products. I get it, they can get expensive. Here is how I think of it. I can spend $10 on a cleanser or moisturizer from a drug store. It is filled with ingredients that will be bad for my skin. My complexion will look blotchy and uneven every day. And the product will last me 3-4 months. Or I can spend $20-$40 on a high end cleanser or moisturizer that lasts me 6 months (you use a less amount of a high end product). The ingredients are good for my skin, and my complexion will be even and glowing. Obviously, your make-up will look better on an even, glowing complexion. The bottom line is, quality ingredients that are good for your skin can only be so cheap.

With that being said, here is a list of my favorite skin care lines and products at all price points for oily and acne skin. Some start as low as $20. Spend a few dollars more than drug store products, your skin will thank you.

Lush $7-$39

  • Angels on Bare Skin Cleanser – clay based cleanser, deep cleans & gently exfoliates
  • Enzymion Moisturizer – natural astringent that soaks up excess oil & dead skin all day
  • Imperialis Moisturizer (combination skin) – balances oily t-zone
  • Brazened Honey Mask – pulls dirt & impurities from pores, deep cleaning mask
  • Ocean Salt Scub (for all skin types) – cleans blocked pores, blackheads & blemishes, leaving skin brighter
  • Enchanted Eye Cream – great eye cream for everyone

BioElements $23-$33 (purchase it on Amazon, it’s cheaper than anywhere else)

  • Flash Foam Cleanser (for all Skin types) – removes dirt, dead skin and make-up, gently exfoliates
  • Decongestant Cleanser – deep cleanses skin while removing excess oil & impurities
  • Oil Control Mattifier – oil blotting cream absorbs excess oil, leaving a matte finish
  • Acne Spot Treat – clears & prevents acne/break outs

BioElements Flash Foam CleanserBioElements Decongestant CleanserBioElements Oil Control MattifierBioElements Acne Spot Treat

Mario Badescu $12-$22

  • Botanical Facial Gel – oil controlling cleanser, deep cleaning, removes dirt & oil without over drying
  • Acne Facial Cleanser – prevent and heal existing acne
  • Control Moisturizer for Oily Skin – for acne inflamed and oily skin, reduces redness while balancing moisture
  • Oil-Free Moisturizer – lightweight, non-clogging for oily & problem skin

Botanical Facial GelAcne Facial CleanserControl Moisturizer for Oily Skin Oil-Free Moisturizer

Cleansers $24-$38

  • First Aid Beauty ‘Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red Clay’ – for problem-prone and oily skin, removes excess oil, detoxes and unclogs pores
  • Fresh ‘Soy Face Cleanser’ (for all skin types, great at make-up removal) – cleans away every impurities & make-up without stripping the skin

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser with Red ClayFresh Soy Face Cleanser

Moisturizer $30-$65

  • Kate Somerville ‘Oil Free’ – provides perfectly balanced hydration without any oil
  • Fresh ‘Umbrian Clay Oil-Free’ – helps regulate sebum production, absorbs impurities and calms flare-ups

Kate Somerville Oil Free moisturizerFresh Umbrian Clay Oil-Free Moisturizer

Exfoliator $19-$32

  • Fresh ‘Umbrian Clay’ – polishes away and dissolves dead skin cells and impurities, revealing a healthy and clear complexion
  • First Aid Beauty ‘Facial Radiance Polish’ – gently buffs  & polishes skin, leaving it soft and renewed

Fresh Umbrian ClayFirst Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Polish

Mask $25-$34

  • First Aid Beauty ‘Skin Rescue Purifying Mask’ – peel off mask to detoxify, reduce pores & control excess oil
  • Boscia ‘Green Tea Oil Control’ – peel off mask, eliminates excess shine and reduces oil production

First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying MaskBoscia Green Tea Oil Control

Thank you for reading!  Let me know if you have any questions.  And tell me your success stories too :)  I love to hear it!!

66 thoughts on “Skin Care Routine for Oily, Acne Prone and Problematic Skin

  1. Can you something like this article for combination faces? I have am dry in my t zone and break out a bit and have creases under and around my eyes. Please help!!!!xoxo I just love your blog

  2. This post is very informative, thank you so much. I myself have oily skin, but I also have pitted acne scars, now I know they don’t completely go away, maybe with laser, but can you recommend anything for it, that may diminish them a bit?

    1. Exfoliation is very important! A lesser expensive option is microdermabrasion. You can get this done thru an esthetician or med spa.

    1. I would also be interested on skin care routine for severely dry skin with acne! I don’t use hardly any “acne” products because my skin is so dry. Oil free moisturizers aren’t hydrating enough and hydrating ones break me out!!

  3. This was very informative. Thank you! Just curious, why you don’t recommend any Philosophy products. Don’t like them? Too expensive? I’m dry and would live the same kind of overview for dry skin if you get the chance.

  4. This is perfect timing for me! I gave oily, somewhat breakout prone skin, and the only thing I ever did to clean it was wipe it down with a clean and clear astringent. Not healthy. I finally made the big switch and got a clarisonic and some higher end products.. The fresh cleanser, a korres moisturizer, and some argan oil (bad idea?), will definitely take your rec for a mask… Do I still need a exfoliant or with the clarisonic?

    1. Those are all great products to use. You still need to exfoliant. A clarisonic helps you get a deep clean, but it’s not an exfoliator.

  5. Your skin care post are always great!! I read your other one directed towards dry winter skin and I bought the Fresh Soy cleanser, and I love it! I have very dry skin, face body, hands everything but I’m totally acne prone. I struggle trying to balance both out because if I use anything to address my acne and darker scars from it, i then become dry, flaky and irritated. Which in turn prolongs the healing of my acne. If you get the chance I’d love some help on a whole routine and also some products for anti aging, sunscreen. I’m in my mid twenties so its about time I start! Thanks gorgeous!!!

  6. I love this post, so informative! Do you recommend using a Clarisonic if you have oily/acne prone skin?

    1. Yes, it will help prevent break outs and give you a smoother texture to your complexion.

  7. Thanks for this post! Can you do for all skin types ? My skin is really dry right now because it is FREEZING in paris. But in the summer it will be oily. And do you have any tips on blackheads on the nose no matter what I do they come creeping back. HELP ! yikes.

    1. There are a couple posts that I have done that I think would help – ‘skin care regimen 101’, ‘winterize your skin care routine’ and ‘extreme dry skin remedy’. Using a clarisonic daily and exfoliating a couple times a week will help keep the pores clear.

  8. What about for makeup removal? I usually use the regular Neutrogena wipes and they seem to work okay, I recently bought the Clinique take the day off balm and I believe it is breaking me out? I hear so much about cleansing oils but am unsure if that would suit my oily, breakout prone skin? Also could you suggest an eye makeup remover?

    1. If you’re thinking about using the lush products that she recommended try 9-5 by lush. I work for the company and use almost everything she recommended for oily skin. 9-5 is an excellent makeup remover including an eye makeup remover. You can literally rub it into your eyes grab a warm wash clothes and take all of it off with one swipe. It’s not a super heavy cream and won’t break you out sense it’s also recommended for sensitive skin.

      :) Lauren

      1. I want to second Laura’s reply. I switch between 9-5 and Ultrabland by Lush (not an employee, just a loyal Lush user). Ultrabland looks and feels scary and can be too moisturizing on hotter summer days here in Florida on my combo skin. 9-5 is light, milky and gets off all traces of makeup. I use it the same way Laura suggests. I LOVE Lush products and highly recommend them to anyone.

        1. Thank you both for your replies. I just looked at the website for the Lush makeup remover, I would prefer to find a product that does not contain parabens. It would be amazing to find a product that does not add fragrance as well. I try to use as many products as I can that are free of parabens, fragrance and mineral oil.

  9. Never knew Cetaphil was a no-no! Thanks for the info! I am definitely going to get some skincare samples next time I am at Sephora. I have used Mario Badescu and enjoy those products. I know a lot of people like to physically exfoliate with cleansers or a clarisonic. I have tried both and find that actually makes me break out worse.

  10. Do you have any advice for people who suffer from both acne and rosacea? I feel like I have tried every product under the sun! Including prescriptions…. Thanks!

    1. Honestly, you don’t really need a toner. I only use one a couple times a month. When I do use one, it’s LUSH Breath of Fresh Air.

      1. Ahh I feel like I just got skin care advice from a celebrity!! I love you and your sister Jaclyn!! Just curious could you tell me why yiu say it is not necessary? I have really been trying to get a handle on my combination/acne prone skin and take care of my skin a lot better. I am willing to invest in my skin care it just gets really confusing. I have always heard that you should be using a toner except for lately I have heard a few people lately tell me it is not necessary. Help -sincerely skin care confused!! :-)

        1. Most skin care companies/brands recommend a toner to balance out the skin. If all your products (cleanser, moisturizer, ect) are ph balanced to your skin you are already balanced. I only use a toner for additional moisturizer. I apply my moisturizer or oil, then spray on the toner.

  11. This has been so helpful! I adore you and your sister and love following up on you girls. I have learned so much. I recently bought the face product from Mario you mentioned and feel like I found the answer for my skin. I’m 26 years old with oily/cystic acne prone skin. (I thought this would have faded after purperty). I get my acne on my jaw line, and I’m very oily, especially in my t-zone. I started to moisturizer my size about 6 months ago after watching one of your sisters videos on skin car products. I noticed it made a different in my oil production. I used to think ‘if my skin is oily, I don’t want to add oil’. When it’s the time of the month or I have high stress load (planning a wedding and working nights full time as a labor and delivery nurse) my skin breaks out bad. I’m getting married at the end of April and have been panicking over how my skin will look. These new products are helping, I also use the oily skin mask by Mario a few time a week and it has helped. Do you have any advise for my skin care routine or additional products to use that will help prepare me for my wedding day?

    Thank you so much !!

    1. Hi Jennifer! The only thing I would add to your current routine is an exfoliator. And, get a facial once a month until your wedding. Getting a facial really helps! Don’t change/add/do anything different to your skin care routine 1 month before your wedding. You don’t want to take the chance of your skin having a bad reaction.
      Good luck with the wedding plans!

      1. Thank you for getting back to me! I was thinking about going for facials to help with my skin before the wedding. What is the best type of facial you recommend for my skin type? And what is a good exfoliator to use and how often should I exfoliate?


  12. This was great but i’d love to know what products are good for normal/dry skin. I’m in my 20’s and i’m unsure of what i should be using! x

  13. I’m a Lush fanatic and for my combo/oily skin I actually use their Ultrbland cleanser! It’s sort of that whole “like dissolves like” thing, since the cleanser (as you probably know) is thick and extremely creamy. But it keeps my skin from trying to make extra oils; keeping my skin balanced. I was using Angels On Bare Skin when I first switched over to Lush products, but the clay in it became a little too drying in my less oily areas. Anyway, thought I’d post this in case any other people out there reading your blog are interested in Lush cleansers, or have tried AoBS and aren’t getting the results they want.

  14. Hello! I just discovered your blog thanks to your sisters you tube videos and u are awesome so much helpful information. Ok so i have sensitive, oily, acne prone skin. I have all kinds of problems i know. I am currently using proactive I have been using it for a little less than a month it kinda burns my face though. What do u think of proactive? Any thoughts or advice? Should i try something different?

    1. Hi! I don’t have much experience with proactive. The only thing I would say is that your face should never burn with you apply products.

  15. Hi!
    I was wondering what products you would recommend for acne prone skin (face cleansers, moisturizers, etc) as both Mario Badescu and Bioelements products do not deliver to Canada. Therefore, I am a little limited! Thank you!

  16. After Jaclyn mentioning your blog many times in her videos I decided to check you out! I only have to scroll about half way down the page to find exactly what I wanted to see. After reading this post BOY have I been doing it all wrong. I appreciated this information so very much. Needless to say I ordered something from every category! I can’t wait til they arrive and I could not have discovered this post at a better time because my skin is going cray cray. I browsed the rest of your blog and I’m very interested in seeing more! I just wanted to say a big thank you and to keep doing what you’re doing :)

      1. You’re welcome! I did have one question though. I was looking into getting the Glam Glow mask and before I go spending that much I wanted to know which one you recommended I get for oily/acne prone/problematic skin? I saw they had a “Clearing Treatment” one but wasn’t sure.

  17. I just adore your blog! I have a question, forgive me if you’ve answered something like it! I’ve had bad skin for as long as I can remember. Now almost 25 and 1 year after having my first child, it’s still bad. What’s strange is that I’m pretty dry around the nose and chin but normal everywhere else. I’ve never been oily! I get breakouts on my cheeks and chin and continuously have little bumps all over. Help! Any suggestions?

  18. I have combo skin and my chin constantly breaks out and has acne that that comes back in the same spot constantly, while my nose gets very flaky and dry with black heads that wont come out with pore strips. Its so frustrating I cant find a routine or products that work for me. What skin care line would you recommend for me? Helllllppp!

  19. I have combination skin my chin breaks out with acne that doesn’t go away while my nose gets dry and flaky with blackheads that I can’t get out with pore strips. I can’t seem to find a good skin care routine that helps. What skincare line would you recommend for me. Please helpI’m so lost and frustrated.

  20. I have always had very clear skin until just a few months ago and then I got to college and all of a sudden my skin started breaking out a lot. However, I also have very dry skin so I have been having a hard time trying to find good skincare for myself because it seems like the stuff for acne-prone skin always dries me out, however the stuff for dry skin doesn’t help my breakouts.. Do you have any suggestions on what kind of moisturizer I should use? I prefer to have something all natural and I need something that won’t clog my pores but adds lots of moisture! Your advice would be AMAZING! Thanks so much!!

  21. I have really bad oily skin, but I also have major problems with acne and rosacea. The rosacea is super red and almost covers my whole entire face. I get acne on my cheeks, chin, and my neck. I’ve been using Proactive for almost a 5 months now (twice a day) and my face is a little better, but not really. What products do you recommend and is there a routine that would help better? Thanks!

  22. This is perfect timing for me! I gave oily, somewhat breakout prone skin, and the only thing I ever did to clean it was wipe it down with a clean and clear astringent. Not healthy

    Thancs for sharing this best post

  23. Great article ! My skin gets very oily in summers and then, I have to face acne problems. I would love to give a try to the above mentioned products. Thanks for sharing the great information.

  24. You Blog is amazing! I’m thinking of becoming a aesthetician =) I’ll read all your posts lol
    BTW, for combination/oily skin, how many times/week should I mask and exfoliate? I think I’m overwhelming my skin putting too many products on it. I break out daily!!! =( Thanks for your attention! :)

  25. I dont use any creme on my face because its oily and if i apply any creme then its full of acne.. What do i do??

  26. Hello, thanks for all of the helpful info. I use Dermalogica and love the results. I don’t like spending a fortune so I was curious if there is anything similar but a tad cheaper.

  27. Hello! You’ve listed so many different cleansers, all good for oily skin but how do I choose which one is suited for my oily and sensitive skin ?

  28. Sounds great!!! Every product has its unique speciality and seems very beneficial. Love to see your products. Well i am working as a consultant for some organic beauty cares and its my pleasure to see such a good beauty cares.


  29. Yes, I agree with you oily skin is the hardest skin type to take care of. It’s really an informative and useful post for me. I really like your acne problem tips. Acne problem is very serious problem. Nice blog. I am looking for your more updates.

  30. Rachel,

    I have all the products you said were important, however I have a few questions. I have a cleanser, exfoliator, moisturizer, eye cream and mask.

    I was just wonder how often I should use the exfoliator, I use the cleanser everyday, eye cream everyday, and moisturizer everyday, I use the mask once a week, but the one I am unsure about is the exfoliator. Can you give me some insight?

  31. Hi Rachel,
    I’ve had problems with my skin for the last couple of years. It has left me obsessive, desperate and depressed. I am tired of trying endless products and nothing seems to work. My skin is very oily around the t-zone, but gets dry cracks/tightness easily around the sides of my chin, mouth and eyes. My skin is also very red, and gets this way with the slightest touch. I am acne-prone, and almost always have a pimple or 2 that I am battling. I want to be able to stop wearing make-up, and go outside and not feel ugly. My skin is by fair one of the biggest insecurities I have.
    About a year ago, I was prescribed Retin-a Micro, and it has helped a lot with reducing the number of pimples on my face as well as fading post-acne marks. However I’m still breaking out, red, and oily. Though the Retin-a has helped it doesn’t seem like it’s enough.
    Here are the products that I am currently using in my skin-care routine.
    Mornings – Cetaphil for oily skin types, then I moisturize with Neutrogena Healthy Skin SPF Moisturizer
    I also use Cover Fx liquid make-up to conceal redness, acne.
    I should also mention that within minutes of washing my face, my face is a shiny mess. I have to blot every 15 minutes, and look oily and sweaty all the time.
    Nights – Cetaphil, then I use St. Ives Apricot Scrub, then use Cerave for normal to dry skin, and then I use Mario B drying lotion for whatever zits I have.

    I also just recently started using Neutrogena’s acne-stress control toner, which makes my face red, sting, and irritated.

    I’m at a lost on what products I should use – my redness, oiliness and acne is a constant battle. I see that you are not a fan of Cetaphil or St. Ives, why is this? I’m afraid I might be using products that are making my problem worse, but I am also afraid of continually buying new products that are not effective. Help please :(

  32. Hi Rachel,
    I was wondering if you could do an updated version of product recommendations for acne. Dermatologist products are way too strong for my sensitive skin. I’ve noticed that you’ve recommended the Cane+Austin pads a few times, but the ones for acne have 13%v/v alcohol, which I know you wouldn’t recommend. Also, I’m wondering if you have any newer suggestions for moisturizers. I have combination skin (I would say I have dry skin, but it’s probably just feeling dry and irritated from the derm prescriptions, which DO NOT work and just irritate my skin). Could the Cane+Austin pads help my skin (the ones you recommended), even though they only have glycolic acid and don’t mention helping acne? Please help!

  33. Thank you for the information! I was needing some clarification…if I do a mask weekly, as you recommended, is this the same as exfoliating? Or are these two separate things? If separate, how often would you recommend exfoliating? Sorry, I am so ignorant to all of this!

  34. I heard that mosterizer can clog your pores and has no benefits so instead use a toner and then a retina product. I heard that from dr.christopher Johnson, is that true with dealing with acne and oily face?

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