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The Best Face Washes & Cleansers for Oily Skin and Large Pores – Ultimate Guide & Review

The Best Face Washes & Cleansers for Oily Skin – Ultimate Guide & Review

The Best Face Washes & Cleansers for Oily Skin and Large Pores – When you have oily skin, the quest to find the perfect facial cleanser is more complicated than most.

People with oily skin tend to attract more dirt and produce excess sebum than the average person. This makes finding a face wash that goes hard on the dirt but gentle on the skin a bit tricky.

When I was young, I always felt like my face produced so much oil it attracted all the dirt in the air wherever I passed. So naturally, at the end of the day, I always felt like washing my face with a cleanser that made me feel dry and squeaky clean after. It always made me feel like the product has done its job well by stripping everything off my face.

Little did I know, not only was it aggravating my oily skin but also putting my skin’s lipid balance out of whack. It invited a host of other skin issues like sensitivity, dryness, and irritation.

It also worsened my bout with acne on top of everything else. And if you ask anyone who has had to battle acne and oily skin, any compounding skin issue can be an excruciating experience. 🙁

Finding the right cleanser is crucial to how you’re setting up your skin for the rest of your day.

It’s also one of the main pillars of a balanced skincare routine, so choosing the right one for your skin type is essential. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know when looking for the perfect cleanser, as well as a shortlist of the best products with our highest ratings for your skincare needs.

 

Contents

What to look for in a cleanser if you have oily skin


The best cleansers for oily skin need to be a powerhouse in flushing out all that oil and grime at the end of each day but gentle enough that it won’t dry or irritate your skin.

If you break the balance of your skin by stripping it too much of moisture and natural oils, it’s going to compensate by generating more oil. That’s why it’s very important for people with oily skin to be well-hydrated. Choose a product that does not leave you dry, and quickly follow up with a light, easily absorbed moisturizer.

If you have oily and sensitive skin, use a gentle cleanser aimed for oily skin that is both hypoallergenic and fragrance-free. If you don’t have cystic acne, you can combine it with a cleansing brush aimed for sensitive skin for a thorough clean.

If you have oily skin with acne-prone skin, blackheads, whiteheads, and large pores; you can look for cleansers that incorporate chemical exfoliants in their ingredients. Chemical exfoliants like AHAs dissolves dirt and dead skin cells from the upper layer of your skin. BHAs loosen up hard plugs and flush out excess oil from pores.

You can combine these with a physical exfoliant like a cleansing brush or a microdermabasion device twice a week to remove any remaining build up.

This routine can be amazing and life-changing, but it’s not for everybody. Some people, especially those with acne, can find chemical exfoliants to be irritating on the skin. If chemical exfoliants won’t work for you, it’s best to choose the routine for sensitive skin and combine it with your topical medication.

Buying Cheat Sheet:


The right face wash is just the first step towards a balanced skin (i.e. having a clear, young-looking, and normal skin type). If you’re looking for a permanent solution to oily skin, it’s best to undergo a program that can address the underlying cause. You can try acclaimed skincare programs like Patricia Everson’s Oily Skin Solution.

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Editor’s Choice: The Best Face Wash & Cleansers for Oily Skin and Large Pores


Oily skin tends to be thicker and resistant (i.e. not sensitive), so it can usually tolerate a stronger cleanser formulated for oily skin. If you don’t have sensitive skin or isn’t acne-prone in particular, we highly recommend these to help maintain a healthy and well-balanced skin.

These are our choices for the best cleansers for oily skin based on product formulation, claims, value for money, and consumer reviews.

For best results, make sure to choose a product that is best suited for your skin type and skin issues.

Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser with Aloe, Face Wash for Oily Skin & Large Pores – 16 Ounce

1. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser with Aloe, Face Wash for Oily Skin & Large Pores – 16 Ounce

One of Paula’s products that can provide incredible mattifying effect and leaves skin shine-free for a long time. It can be a bit dehydrating for some though, so make sure to use a light moisturizer after.

It’s lightweight in consistency and comes to a soft lather that is good enough to remove make-up (This is reportedly Elizabeth Taylor’s go to make up remover).

As all Paula’s Choice products, it’s fragrance-free but not hypoallergenic so it can cause irritations to those with sensitive skin. Make sure to a patch test before trying this out if you do.

Best for: Normal, Combination, and Oily Skin

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Skinceuticals Clean Pore-refining Gel Cleanser

2. Skinceuticals Clean Pore-refining Gel Cleanser

This pre-refining gel has five hydroxy acids to help exfoliate dead skin cells at the top layer of the skin. This helps stimulate cell renewal for smoother skin and reduced pores. It also has anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe and chamomile extracts to soothe out the skin.

If you regularly use makeup, you’ll need a separate makeup remover because this washes off just the oil and not cosmetics. Any form of acid can potentially irritate, so those with sensitive skin should do a patch test first.

Best for: Combination Or Oily Skin

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Clinique Liquid Facial Soap Oily Skin Formula

3. Clinique Liquid Facial Soap – Oily Skin Formula

Clinique’s products have always been great, this one included. This is the first step in Clinique’s famous 3-Step Skincare System.

The product develops into a foamy lather to gently break down dirt. It is also fragrance-free with a bit of cooling sensation from the menthol. This can feel refreshing for those with regular skin but can be irritating for sensitive skin.

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Bioderma Sebium Foaming Gel Facial Cleanser for Combination to Oily Skin

4. Bioderma Sebium Foaming Gel Facial Cleanser for Combination to Oily Skin

This purifying cleanser contains powerhouses zinc sulphate and copper sulphate. It limits sebum secretion, reduces blemishes, prevents clogged pores, and cleans the epidermis.

This is an ultra gentle face wash that promotes skin balance for healthy, vibrant skin. It has a patented natural complex to raise the skin’s tolerance threshold. Guaranteed eye tolerance as well, for any sensitivities.

Non-comedogenic. Non-drying. Soap-free.

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NEO CLEANSE Exfoliating Skin Cleanser

5. NEO CLEANSE Exfoliating Skin Cleanser

With 9.9% glycolic acid, this gel cleanser helps re-texturize dry and dull skin. It gently exfoliates to prevent any build-up that can cause clogged pores. Glycolic acid also helps with excess oil, skin discolorations, and fine lines.

Moisture-attracting glycerin is a key ingredient, which helps with skin hydration. Perfect for prepping the skin to receive actives in your daily regimen.

Formulated without harsh ingredients like color additives, sulfates, and fragrances. Not tested on animals.

NEOCUTIS is a physician-dispensed skincare brand.

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Oars + Alps Natural Solid Face Wash | No Spills, Exfoliating with Activated Charcoal, Non-Toxic

6. Oars + Alps Natural Solid Face Wash | No Spills, Exfoliating with Activated Charcoal, Non-Toxic

No more spillage with this portable and solid face wash. This face cleansing stick made from Activated Charcoal dissolves deep-seated dirt that clogs pores and causes blackheads.

Alpine Caribou Moss is an antioxidant-rich ingredient that guards against environmental stressors while boosting skin elasticity.

Made from natural ingredients. Free from: sulfates, parabens, glycol, phthalates, and animal cruelty.

Travel-friendly and TSA-approved.

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Daily Power Scrub Facial Cleanser For Men

7. RUGGED & DAPPER Daily Power Scrub Facial Cleanser For Men

For all the men in the house who wants an all-in-one power cleanser, Rugged & Dapper has got you covered with their cleaner, scrub, and toner in one. It has aloe vera, vitamin c, tea tree oil, willow bark, and burdock root.

They even offer a money-back guarantee within 60 days if you’re not 100% satisfied. It’s an all in one solution for men on the go.

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Editor’s Choice: The Best Face Wash & Cleansers for Oily + Acne-Prone Skin


Combining BHAs and AHAs in your routine will not only help clear out impurities from the skin, but also increase cell turnover which results in younger, smoother, and more refined skin. Deep pore cleansing from facial cleansers also helps in inhibiting the growth of acne.

Shifting to these line of products has been a life-changing event for me, in making sure that breakouts are kept at a minimum while also gently smoothing out rough and dull skin.

GLYTONE Acne Self- Foaming Cleanser, 6.1 fl. oz.

8. Glytone Acne Self Foaming Cleanser with Salicylic Acid. Oil-Free, Non-Comedogenic, Non-Irritating

This is a unique, non-irritating cleanser that works to unclog pores, remove surface debris, and gently exfoliate the skin.

It has salicylic acid, a type of BHA or beta-hydroxy acid that’s proven to clear up acne pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads.

Its self-foaming technology prolongs the contact of salicylic acid for better penetration and efficacy. You can also do a deep masque-like cleanse by leaving it on for 30 seconds before rinsing.

Non-comedogenic, Non-irritating formula.
Paraben-free. Oil-free. Fragrance-free.

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La Roche Posay Effaclar Deep Cleansing Foaming Cream

9. La Roche Posay Effaclar Deep Cleansing Foaming Cream Cleanser

One of the trouble with an anti-acne regime is that it can leave a lot of open pores in its wake. This product not only cleans out congested pores but is also known to close them up. It’s the first step of EFFACLAR ‘3-Step’ Anti-Blemish System.

The only downside of this is the medicinal scent. If scents like this doesn’t bother you, this one comes highly recommended.

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Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Purifying Cleanser,

10. Dr. Brandt Skincare Pores No More Pore Purifying Cleanser

A powerhouse pore-refining gel-cream that removes makeup, oil, and dirt without drying you out. It decongests pores and washes out sebum, leaving your skin fresh and mattified.

Key ingredients include:

  • Salicylic Acid – a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates dead skin cells and unclogs pores
  • Tea Tree Oil – has antiseptic properties that purify the skin, leaving a smooth and clear complexion
  • White Willow Bark Extract – another BHA that soothes as it clears the skin

Free from: Formaldehyde, Parabens, Phthalates, Synthetic Fragrances, and Mineral Oil.

Hypoallergenic. Dermatologically-tested. Ophthalmologist-tested. Safe for contact lens wearers.

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boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser - Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Natural and Clean Skincare | A daily Gentle Exfoliating Cleansing Gel Face Wash

11. boscia Clear Complexion Cleanser – Vegan, Cruelty-Free, Natural and Clean Skincare

This refreshing cleansing gel effectively exfoliates the skin to clear pores and minimize acne without irritation. Boscia’s Clear Complexion Cleanser is formulated specifically for blemish-prone skin with its use of Willow Bark Extract, a natural salicylic acid.

Natural ingredients are front and center:

  • Willow Bark Extract – A natural BHA that gently exfoliates and refines pores
  • Rosemary Leaf Extract – An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant combo that helps visibly reduce the appearance of pores and firms the skin
  • Geranium – Boosts circulation, helps improve elasticity, and balances the production of sebum

Cruelty-free. Preservative-free. Artificial fragrance and color-free. Gluten-free. Vegan.

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Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

12. Vichy Normaderm Daily Deep Cleansing Gel Cleanser with Salicylic Acid

This deep cleansing gel is formulated for acne-prone and oily skin. Their combination of salicylic acid and LHA (lipo-hydroxy acid) gently exfoliates and unclog pores without any irritation or dryness. This face wash helps control shine as well, leaving the skin soft and fresh.

Vichy’s famous mineralizing water is also incorporated a featured ingredient. It contains 15 minerals, preserved from the region of Auvergne in France. The water helps strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier to keep it healthy and protected.

Dermatologist-test. Allergy-tested. Sensitive-skin tested.
Paraben-free.

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13. Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel

This deep pore-clearing gel has an advanced formulation with maximum strength 2% Salicylic Acid (BHA) and 10% Glycolic Acid Complex (AHA).

Salicylic acid penetrates and clears out pores, as well as treat and prevent blackheads and acne. The potent 10% Glycolic Acid, along with Retinyl Palmitate, Arnica, Licorice, and Aloe Vera helps exfoliate and hydrate the skin.

Clears breakouts while reducing wrinkles, acne marks, fine lines, and discoloration. Dramatically improves the look of aging skin.

Oil-free. Fragrance-free.

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PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser

14. PCA SKIN BPO 5% Cleanser, Clarifying Daily Facial Wash

PCA is brand known for their corrective and potent formulations using alpha hydroxy acids. Exfoliants improve the health and appearance of skin by promoting cell renewal and prevent the buildup of dead skin cells.

This daily cleanser has a unique combination of 5% benzoyl peroxide and phytic acid (exfoliant) to eliminate existing and preventing future breakouts.

Gluconolactone is a calming, moisturizing ingredient that promotes a clear complexion. Botanical extracts soothe irritated and inflamed blemishes, allowing skin to heal.

Free of potential irritants like synthetic dyes and fragrances. PCA SKIN® does not perform or condone animal testing.

Best for: All skin types; looking for face treatments, those who don’t have exfoliating products in their regimen

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Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Face Wash

15. Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories B Prox Anti-Blemish Face Wash

DCL’s anti-acne formulation is a multi-tasker that aims to eliminate the cause, reduce the side effects, and prevent acne from coming back.

The 10% benzoyl peroxide (the highest % BP you can get OTC) washes away acne-causing bacteria, while its detoxifying mineral-rich clay and plant extracts work to absorb excess oil and refine pore size. This helps prevent any future breakouts–a critical feature, if you have <strong,>oily skin.

It also has an Advanced Algae Complex that helps diminish the sensitivity that often accompanies the use of aggressive acne treatments; and Canadian Willow Herb to help visibly and dramatically reduce redness and soothe irritation.

All in all, a power packed product for those with oily skin who would like their treatment done to the next level.

Dermatologist tested. Paraben-free. Non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic. 

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Editor’ Choice: The Best Face Wash & Cleansers for Oily + Sensitive skin


If your skin reacts badly from normal facial washes, you’re likely to have sensitive skin. Personally, Ponds, Olay, and L’Oreal are some of the drugstore brands I steer clear from because they irritate my skin even after just one wash. I’m also wary about using scrubs, but there are brands with facial scrubs that are gentle and effective like VMV Hypoallergenics, Celeteque, and Neutrogena.

Look for cleansers that are hypoallergenic—meaning it contains fewer ingredients than regular products and few or none that can cause allergic reactions.

If you have oily AND sensitive skin, it’s best to stick with very gentle cleansers like the ones below:

Christina Moss Organic Facial Wash

16. Christina Moss Organic Facial Wash

Hypoallergenic with no harmful or toxic ingredients of any kind like chemical preservatives, SLS, parabens, sulfates, dyes, etc. Environmentally friendly.

Made with organic and natural ingredients. Greatly improves pores and skin condition. All their products are prepared on a weekly basis and they guarantee purity and freshness for 6 months after purchase.

Gently and thoroughly cleans without stripping, drying, or leaving a residue. This also delivers nourishing ingredients, including botanical extracts and essential oils. Excellent for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

A dime-sized drop is enough for the whole face, so very economical as well.

Non-Drying, Non-Oily, No Harmful Chemicals.

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Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Control Foam Wash

17. Cetaphil Dermacontrol Oil Control Foam Wash

I know you’ve probably been hit with the head with this brand one but it’s really one of the most affordable and gentlest cleaners out there.

If you have oily skin though, we don’t recommend using the popular generic Cetaphil daily facial cleaner–use the oil control one. It doesn’t particularly help with acne, if you’re already on acne medication or treatments, you’ll want to minimize putting any additional irritating products on your face.

On that front, Cetaphil is perfect for you. It doesn’t have a scent and it’s non-drying so it doesn’t drive your skin to produce more oil.

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Clarins Cleansing Milk

18. Clarins Cleansing Milk – Oily or Combination Skin

For those not familiar with milk cleaners, it works a little differently than gel and liquid ones. You simply put the product on your face and pat it until the product absorbs all the oil and makeup on your skin. Once the consistency is thick, rinse or tissue off to remove. This will lift all the impurities without irritating the skin.

The downside is it has a bit of fragrance, but it doesn’t linger long after washing. Some people are a bit uncomfortable with using just a milk cleanser and uses this in a double cleansing routine.

Best for: Oily or Combination Skin

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Editor’s Choice: Non Comedogenic Face Wash for Oily Skin + Acne-Prone + Sensitive


Otherwise known as the trifecta of common skin problems. Having acne-prone, sensitive, and oily skin means the products you use have to be hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, water-based products (whew!). This doesn’t have to severely limit your choices though. With the right choice, you can still have the best face wash for oily skin and all the above features as well.

Almost all the products listed here are for acne-prone and sensitive skin, unless otherwise stated but the below are the ones that crossed finished line.

Avene Eau Thermale Cleanance Soapless Gel Cleanser

19. Avene Eau Thermale Cleanance Cleansing Gel – Soap Free Cleanser for Acne Prone & Oily Skin, Face & Body

This product has a track record of not breaking out acne-prone AND sensitive skin. It feels soft and foamy when applied, which can result to a cleaner and brighter skin. You only need a small amount so a bottle should last you about 2-3 months. Also known to work very well with serums.

The downside is if you’re already suffering from breakouts, it’s not formulated to fight but prevent acne. You would have to use this in combination with topical lotions or other acne medications.

Best for: Oily and Blemish-Prone Sensitive Skin

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Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cream Cleanser with Glycerin

20. Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cream Cleanser with Glycerin

One of the bastions of French pharmacies, La Roche Posay produces a cleanser for the oily and ultra sensitive skin. The cleanser is very thick and foamy so a pea-sized amount would go a long way.

Best for: Oily & Sensitive Skin

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VMV Hypoallergenics Superskin Spring Cleaning Purifying Facial Wash for Oily Skin

21. VMV Hypoallergenics Superskin Spring Cleaning Purifying Facial Wash for Oily Skin

VMV is the first, and the only, brand in the world to rate its hypoallerginicity. Personally speaking, my mother has compounded skin allergies (rosacea, acne, sensitive skin) and this brand has been one of the few her skin can tolerate.

I personally prefer their Superskin Oil-Control Antibacterial Scrub over this, which I use on the regular, but if you don’t like scrubs then the wash is the way to go.

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Tips to Prevent Oily Skin


Sometimes oily skin are hormones at play, sometimes it’s the byproduct of unsuitable skincare, but most of the time it’s just simply the skin that you were born with.

Whatever the cause is, the universal goal if you have oily skin is to slow down your skin’s oil production for as long as possible so you can get the benefits of having this skin type (less wrinkles as you grow older as it helps trap moisture under the skin) but not the disadvantages (shiny face, breakouts).

The way to do it is to maintain a skincare regime using the right products–starting with the best face wash for oily skin.

1. Use a gentle cleanser that doesn’t irritate your skin

When you have very oily skin, there’s always the temptation to scrub your face raw and dry at the end of the day just to feel clean. That’s a mistake that most people make and will most certainly aggravate your oil (and acne). Not to mention compromise your skin barrier, opening the door to other issues like redness and eczema.

Wash your face twice a day with gentle cleansers. Face washes that can cause irritations and dryness will trigger an overproduction of oil and sebum leading to blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. If you have excessively oily skin and have problems managing it, I highly recommend the Oily Skin Solution Program by Patricia Everson. 

A cleanser that’s effective and right for you can do the job without irritating your skin or leaving it dry.

2. For oily and acne-prone skin, you can use a face wash with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acid) and/or BHAs (beta hydroxy acids).

Chemical exfoliants in cleansers gently sloughs off dead skin cells to avoid any build ups that can cause breakouts. It can also unclog pores and prevent blackheads and whiteheads from forming.

BHAs are best as they are oil-soluble and go deep into the pore lining to purge deep-seated dirt. If you have them, you will have an initial “purging” or breakouts to clear out all this oil and bacteria from your skin. Fear not, as after a few weeks or so, the BHA would have done its job and clear out all the grime that would eventually lead to an infection.

If BHAs go deep, Alpha-hydroxy acids or AHA are water soluble and work on the top layer of skin to buff it. They help stimulate cell renewal, face acne marks and minimize large pores. When starting out, use no more than 5% AHA and only at night then work your way up.

3. Use moderately warm water to help break down dirt and makeup.

It also helps soften the skin and prepares it for your skincare. Cold water locks up your pores, which doesn’t allow the natural release of sebum and bacteria.

4. After cleansing, make it habit to use moisturizers.

Applying moisturizers specifically formulated for oily skin helps keep your skin hydrated without breaking you out. It rebalances your skin barrier so your skin is healthy–not too dry and not too oily.

5. Invest in a good quality blotting paper.

Easily control shine throughout the day in one feel swoosh. Low quality ones are so thin, you have to use several just to cover your whole face. You only need to use one good quality botting paper will absorb like magic and can be re-used outside your T-zone.

6. Regularly use clay masks or mud masks.

Once a week or every other week to suck out any deep seated oils that your regular washing may have missed. It’s a form of deep cleanse that clears out and tightens your pores.

7. Look for oil-free and non-comedogenic products if you are acne-prone.

These types of products are usually void of irritants like fragrance and harsh chemicals, which can trigger breakouts. While some oils are non-comedogenic itself, it doesn’t help if you already have an overproduction of oil. This applies to skincare and makeup like primers, foundation, moisturizers, etc.

8. Make sure your skin is hydrated throughout the day.

This is extremely important because hydrated skin keeps oils at bay. Dehydrated skin can cause reactive seborrhea, wherein the body thinks your skin has been stripped of natural oils so it goes on overdrive. Balance is key. Drink water and keep a face spray on hand.

9. Avoid alcohol-based toners.

This is a very tempting thing to so because they’re very effective in degreasing the skin and leaving you with a matte finish. But the long-term consequence can be brutal: slow erosion of the skin, aggravates any acne or skin irritation, puts a strain on its process of replenishing and rejuvenating itself. Alcohol just about weakens the skin in general. (It’s used to prep your face for chemical peels in fact, to help the acid penetrate the upper layer.) So if you see any of these in your skincare–D alcohol, denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol– just say no.

10. Use Retinol or Vitamin A.

No, you don’t have to be in your 40’s to start using retinol. It’s one of the most widely used topical and oral treatments for oily skin. The oral medication has a host of side effects so its reserved as the big guns, but the topical ones are available off the counter.

And that’s it! Remember, the right combination of products will do wonders for your skin no matter what condition its in. With this list, I hope you find the perfect facial cleanser for you.

 

References


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  • Makrantonaki, E., Ganceviciene, R., & Zouboulis, C. C. (2011). An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermato-endocrinology, 3(1), 41-49. doi: 10.4161/derm.3.1.13900 https://dx.doi.org/10.4161%2Fderm.3.1.13900
  • RUGGED & DAPPER | Men’s Grooming & Skincare Products. (2018).
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