According to Rouleau, the most effective cleansers for oily skin types will be formulated with gentle, non-drying surfactants that can efficiently cut through oil within the pore but won’t leave your skin tight, dry, or irritated. Take a look at the ingredient list, and steer clear of sneaky additions like sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, ammonium laureth sulfate, and ammonium lauryl sulfate, as Rouleau explains they’re known to produce a high lather and are drying and irritating and can disrupt the skin’s protective barrier. (If you dry out and strip your skin too much, it compromises the integrity of your skin barrier, and in turn stimulates even more oil production. Thus, a vicious and frustrating cycle can begin.)
“When it comes to oily skin, I find that many clients are constantly trying to remove the oil, which in turn ends up stripping the skin,” warns Marino. “So many oily clients are programmed to think they need to eliminate oil, but it often results in an adverse reaction, especially since many oil-absorbing products are alcohol-based. When the skin is stripped of its oil barrier, it triggers a cascade of oil production since one of our skin’s primary jobs is to create sebum as a form of protection.”
The writing on the wall? If you’re set on using a cleansing oil, make sure you choose one with ingredients that are high quality and low on the comedogenic scale. (And make sure to double- or triple-cleanse afterward!) Or follow Rouleau’s lead, skip the cleansing oil altogether, and go straight for a cleanser that is hydrating enough to keep your skin balanced and happy but can effectively deep-clean your pores.
Below, we’re sharing the top six cleansing oils approved by Marino and me (an acne-prone beauty editor), and then we’ll share additional non–cleansing oil options approved by our experts as well. (Because it’s always good to have options.)
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