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Ask Belle: Treatments for Oily Skin

Hi Belle,

My face was incredibly dry all winter and then all of a sudden. So. Much. Oil. Also, I’ve been breaking out like crazy. I’ve never had such skin problems and do not how to handle/correct them. Can you offer any advice and product suggestions?

Thanks in advance,  JTC

Isn’t that the worst?  Every few years, I experience the same issue, and it is so infuriating.

My first piece of advice would be to see a dermatologist.  Things like hormonal changes  or diet can effect your skin profoundly, and it might be good to see a professional.

As for my lay person’s opinion, it all starts with face wash.  You want one that removes oil, but doesn’t over-dry the skin.  I recently discovered Erno Laszlo’s Oil Control Cleansing Bar.  It’s a bit pricey at $45, but seems to last must longer than liquid face wash.  And it does a great job of removing oil without turning your face into a desert.

My second tip would be to wash both at night and in the morning.  Some women skip the morning cleanse, but it is so important for oily skin.

Thirdly, I recommend Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion.  It’s not a lotion at all, but a toner that gently exfoliates and removes impurities.  For a drugstore version, try Yes to Tomatoes clarifying toner.

Fourth, you need to choose the right moisturizer.  I would recommend two products: belif Oil Control Lotion and Skin Rescue Oil-Free Mattifying Gel Moisturizer.  Both will give your skin a drink without leaving it bathed in oil.

Lastly, you need a primer.  Bare Minerals Prime Time primer is a lightweight spray-on formula.  It controls oil production and keeps skin matter throughout the day.  And if primer isn’t enough to keep your makeup in place, augment it with Urban Decay’s Oil Slick setting spray.

If all of this fails, you can try an oil control serum.  A friend with very oily skin recommends this Paula’s Choice ‘Skin Balancing’ serum.  She says if you can only afford the serum or food, buy the serum.

Have a product to recommend?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.



  1. Anne says:

    I love Murad’s time-release acne cleanser. It doesn’t leave your skin feeling dry and tight, which those of us in our 30’s can appreciate. It does, however, leave a light and refreshing tingling sensation. The cleanser is especially great if you are prone to hormonal acne (on the cheeks/jawline/chin)!

    August 9, 2016/Reply
    • Tiffany says:

      I love Murad’s Acne line. I use the toner and sulphur mask!

      August 11, 2016/Reply
  2. Melissa says:

    I had a lot of success with Fresh’s Umbrian Clay lotion when my face got excessively oily when pregnant. I generally have oily but sensitive skin and have to use products with no fragrance. I’m pretty faithful to the Cerave foaming face wash and Cerave lotion (at night only). Laura Mercier’s oil free tinted moisturizer over monistat anti-chafing gel-powder (for primer) in the mornings.

    August 9, 2016/Reply
  3. L says:

    I had this issue years ago and the problem was that I was using too much stuff to try and “fix” my skin. I was told by an allergist (because dermatologists are like the weathermen of Doctors – usually wrong) to just cut out all the fancy (skinceuticals, dermalogica, etc.) stuff and stick with gentle cetaphil and this lotion called Vanicream. Now me skin behaves well unless I get too fancy with other products.

    August 9, 2016/Reply
    • Bethany says:

      I concur. I have very oily skin, I tried experimenting with less products and have had much better results. I do love clinique’s clarifying lotion and I use cetaphil as well. I actually started using a face oil before I put foundation on and dropped using primer completely (I know sounds crazy) but the oil production has gotten under control and if anything I feel like my makeup looks so much better and more natural.

      August 10, 2016/Reply
      • E says:

        My dermatologist gave me the same feedback. I use only Cetaphil facewash, vanicream and unscented witch hazel with aloe vera as a toner. My skin has never looked better.

        August 10, 2016/Reply
  4. Sam says:

    Belle, Have you ever used a charcoal soap bar? If you have, what was you opinion?

    August 9, 2016/Reply
    • Belle says:

      I have. I used to use Wonderbar, and liked it fine. The price was just too high. I also tried a sample of the Erno Laszlo bar. It was a bit drying. I think there are lots of great charcoal soaps out there though, so I would get a couple of samples. I like a charcoal mask from Origins for my skin over the soap.

      August 9, 2016/Reply