Apparently, I Should Be Using Face Oils On My Oily Skin—A Dermatologist Explains

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Even as a beauty editor, I’ve followed my fair share of bad skincare advice. Some of it simply didn’t work for me, while other tips were downright harmful. I thought I didn’t have to wear sunscreen because I have darker skin. (Myth! load up on SPF—always.) I also bought into the lies about DIY skincare. (It might sound obvious, but never ever put straight-up lemon juice on your skin.) And I thought that I shouldn’t use a face oil for oily skin.

Oh, how times have changed. The product that really got me into skincare was the Herbivore Botanicals Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil. The texture. The color. The smell. And… the undeniable results. I knew it was a game changer from the very first application. Since then, I have been devoted to busting this particular myth and finding the best face oils for oily skin.

Plenty of myths dominate the narrative surrounding oily skin, (especially complexions of the break-out-prone variety). And many of the products might do more harm than good. A surprising amount of so-called solutions are filled with alcohol and other harsh, stripping ingredients that irritate and dry out your skin. This might compromise your skin barrier or make your skin overcompensate by producing more oil.

Woman applying face oil to hand.

The Best Face Oil for Oily Skin, According to a Dermatologist

I would typically describe my skin as somewhere on the oiler side of combination. However, my recent call with Dr. Michelle Henry, MD, a dermatologist based in New York City, revealed that my skin might just be… oily. This is nothing to be ashamed of, she said. But it’s also not something you can change.

“Most people with oily skin will know: their oil glands are more overactive,” Dr. Henry told me. But since face oils are my favorite part of my routine, it’s a relief to know that, yes, you can use them with oily skin.

This might sound counterintuitive. For many people with oily skin, face oils can help balance the amount of sebum your pores secrete naturally. But it has to be the right kind of oil. Some heavier oils have the potential to do more harm than good—don’t let that scare you off. By adding some of the best face oils for oily skin, you can simplify your routine and supercharge your results. Listen to your skin by feeding it ingredients it loves in a form it can absorb.

Stella Simona Face Oils

Michelle Henry, MD

Michelle Henry, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Harvard-trained Mohs surgeon. She provides exceptional care for her patients at Skin & Aesthetic Surgery of Manhattan in the Midtown East neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. Her areas of expertise include high-risk skin cancer treatments, aesthetic surgery, and treating skin of color, and she specializes in Mohs micrographic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgery. 

How do you know if you have oily skin?

There are three main skin types: oily, dry, and combination. “Oily and dry are genetic conditions,” Dr. Henry confirmed. “Dehydrated skin is different and situational.” Any skin type can be dehydrated. This happens when your skin barrier is compromised and is categorized by irritation. But don’t confuse it for dry skin. When your moisture barrier is healthy, you can tell what skin type you have based on how it feels throughout the day.

According to Dr. Henry, “people with oily skin will notice that they have to blot midday. Their skin is often shiny, especially in the T-Zone.”

How your skin feels after a wash or how it reacts to products will also tell you a lot about your skin type. “People with oily skin never get that tight, uncomfortable feeling unless they’re using something really harsh.” This means your skin has a lot of available moisture—and face oils can help balance it out.

Oily Skin Myths, Debunked

Of course, one of the lies about oily skin is that you shouldn’t use face oils. But other false assumptions might make you shy away from using them, too.

“The biggest myth about oily skin is that it’s not sensitive,” says Dr. Henry. “In fact, you can have sensitive and dry skin, but you can also have oily skin that is quite sensitive.” To prevent irritating sensitive skin, make sure to lock in moisture. Face oils are a good way to ensure you’re giving your sensitive skin the moisture it needs.

Skincare products

How Face Oils Treat Oily Skin

“Face oils can help or hurt,” says Dr. Henry. “We don’t want face oils that are known for being comedogenic. Oils like coconut oil are really comedogenic. But oils that are not comedogenic can help lock in moisture. Those oils are light and easy to use.”

Good, lightweight oils to look out for include:

  • Argan Oil
  • Rosehip Oil
  • Squalane Oil
  • Marula Oil
  • Jojoba Oil
  • Sunflower Seed Oil
Woman using face oil.

Can moisturizers be used with face oils?

Depending on the elements of your routine, “an oil might suffice,” says Dr. Henry. Oils alone don’t make up a routine. Be sure you’re giving your skin hydrating products as well, then use oils as your last step to lock those properties in.

“I love using oils on top of a moisturizer for a boost of hydration. Oils don’t give moisture, they lock it in,” notes Dr. Henry.

But again, make sure to choose non-comedogenic moisturizers. Dr. Henry recommends oil-free moisturizers, so you aren’t surprised by heavier oils clogging your pores and undoing the work of lighter, more beneficial oils.

What ingredients are good for oily skin?

“If you’re acne-prone, get products with ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and retinol—those things that will help decrease the oiliness a bit. There are some studies that zinc may reduce the activity of the oil glands a little as well,” adds Dr. Henry.

Woman using face oil in mirror.

The Best Face Oils for Oily Skin

Kiehls Midnight Recovery Complex

Dr. Henry recommends this cult-favorite night oil to help treat acne-prone oily skin. This squalene-based complex locks in moisture and keeps you from waking up greasy. Use it as the last step in your routine to supercharge your beauty sleep.

Herbivore Botanicals Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil

This is one of my holy grails and Dr. Henry signs off on this to treat blemish-prone, oily skin. Squalane and jojoba oils are rich but weightless to balance and soothe.

Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Universal Face Oil

According to Dr. Henry, Rosehip is a great oil for oily skin. This highly regenerative oil speeds up healing and helps balance oil production. Nourish and soften your skin with this light but mighty formula.

Klur Immersion Serum Concentrate

Have you been using harsh products or skipping moisturizers to counteract oily skin? Well, your efforts might be dehydrating your skin. This oil-based treatment uses precise ratios of Squalene, Jojoba oil, CO-q10, Vitamins C and E, and more to repair and protect stressed skin. A whole lot of goodness specifically formulated for all skin types.

Sunday Riley UFO Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil

I trust anything Sunday Riley makes. This clarifying face oil is the answer to any surprise breakouts. It contains salicylic acid to clear pores and help control sebum.

Clarity Facial Serum Oil (Oily)

This Ayurvedic-developed serum oil contains a gentle, but effective blend of almond oil, rosehip seed oil, argan oil, and more to moisturize, exfoliate, and brighten skin—all while infusing it with an essential lipid blend that locks in critical moisture.

Paula’s Choice Moisture Renewal Oil Booster

Make your natural moisture work for you with this blend of plant oils and ceramides. Bring out your natural glow without the grease.

Katini Skin Collagen Face Oil

The collagen in this luxe face oil helps boost anti-aging while deeply moisturizing your skin. The lightweight squalane base glides onto your face and leaves you looking radiant.

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum

One of the staple products in any aspirational skincare shelfie is this rich botanical oil. The synergistic blend of oils works with your skin to gently transform your face like nothing else. This oil and the accompanying essence alone are all you need for the perfect routine—one that balances moisture and hydration to a tee.

Summer Fridays Heavenly Sixteen All-In-One Face Oil

Already a pro at using face oils for oily skin? Step up your game with this all-in-one face oil. This Summer Fridays oil is a cocktail of nourishing, antioxidant-rich oils like olive, grapeseed, rosehip, and cucumber.

Wonder Valley Wonder Serum

Olive oil is one of the trendiest oils on the market. But does it work? And can you use it on oily skin? Dr. Henry says yes. “If not processed correctly, it can be comedogenic. Regular olive oil is yeast food. But the well-processed oils we’re seeing in skincare can be anti-inflammatory.” Wonder Valley’s lightweight, carefully processed formula checks all the right boxes.

Pholk Beauty H2Oil Night Treatment Hemp x Hibiscus Night Oil

Slather this skin food on before bed to hydrate and heal your skin. This oil targets hyperpigmentation by gently exfoliating even the most sensitive skin.

Dr. Elsa Jungman Oat Power Moisturizing Serum

Boost your skin barrier for glowy and healthier skin. Get your best, most balanced complexion with just four ingredients, including 5% oat oil for maximum skin balance.

Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil

Every Tata Harper is a dream for your skin (and IMO, well worth the splurge). The natural products take you to a world where time moves slower and feels softer. This retinoic face oil harnesses the nourishing properties of rosehip oil while simultaneously supporting your skin with vitamins and nutrients.

Josh Rosebrook Herbal Infusion Oil

Another way to use face oils for oily skin is as oil cleansers. This 3-in-1 product acts as an oil cleanser, makeup remover, and facial treatment to deeply moisturize skin. The light formula clears away dirt, and firms, brightens, and moisturizes skin.

OSEA Dayglow Face Oil

This seaweed-infused oil is the secret to a beachy California glow. Get the perfect balance of glazed and dewy without descending into full-on greasy territory. Use especially if you have sensitive skin for a soothing effect.