The 8 Best Face Washes for Oily Skin of 2021

Wash away your skin problems with these recommendations

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First Look

Best Budget: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Cleanser at Amazon

"A well-loved drugstore brand that cleans without drying and works against acne."

Best for Men: L’Oreal Men Expert Extreme Cleanser with Charcoal at Amazon

"Deep cleans and lifts away dirt, grime, and oil with an infusion of charcoal."

Best for Women: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser at Amazon

"A gentle but effective cleanser that can combat oil production on delicate skin."

Best for Acne: Dr. Song Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Wash at Amazon

"Banish blemishes with this oil-fighting wash containing an extra-strength dose of benzoyl peroxide."

Best Natural: InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Cleanser at Amazon at Amazon

"If you want all-natural ingredients, look no further than this botanical cleanser made with complexion-improving vitamin C."

Best for Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil PRO Oil Removing Foam Wash at Amazon

"Need to remove oil without irritating your sensitive skin? This foaming wash offers damage-free cleansing."

Best for Blackheads: Thayer’s Cucumber Witch Hazel Facial Toner at Amazon

"An alcohol-free witch hazel toner that cleans down deep into your pores, clearing blackheads with ease."

Best for Large Pores: Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner at Amazon

"This toner eliminates excess oil while reducing the appearance of large pores, giving you a healthy overall complexion."

Despite how often the term is used to describe skin care products, very few people are lucky enough to have a “normal” complexion. Nearly everyone battles some kind of facial foe, whether it’s dryness, excess oil, acne, sensitivity, redness, or some combination of the above.

Oily skin, in particular, can be hard to treat: skip a cleansing and suddenly you’re blinding people with your shine, but wash too often and you risk drying out your skin (which, weirdly, actually causes it to produce more oil). It’s a total balancing act, but it’s one you can work to get right.

“Your oil production is genetically determined,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. “And while the currently available cleansers cannot decrease oil production, they can help remove it from the skin.”

To help you wage war on those shiny chins and foreheads, here are nine of 2020’s best face washes for oily skin.

Best Budget: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Fighting Cleanser

When it comes to reliable drugstore brands, it’s hard to beat Neutrogena: the products work well, dermatologists love them, and they’re so affordable compared to luxury brands it feels almost wrong (but not really, because we love saving money when we can).

It’s honestly hard to choose between Neutrogena’s many worthy options, but the acne fighting cleanser contains salicylic acid, which gives it a leg up in the competition. Dr. Zeichner recommends cleansers with this ingredient because it can keep your pores clear, minimizing breakouts, as well as reduce the appearance of pores, giving you an overall healthier-looking complexion.

The oil-free cleanser is also non-comedogenic and promises to clean your skin without drying it out (there’s that “balance” thing we mentioned earlier). You can definitely use this daily for oily skin, but remember that since it contains salicylic acid, you may want to only use it once—not twice—to avoid irritation.

Best for Men: L’Oreal Men Expert Extreme Cleanser with Charcoal

Guys, if you're looking for a strong cleanser that helps you feel fresh and clean at the end of the day, we introduce you to the Extreme Cleanser with Charcoal from the L’Oreal Men line. 

Designed especially for the characteristics of men’s skin, this is basically a two-in-one cleanser that deep-cleans your pores and uses a buzzy skincare ingredient—charcoal—as a magnet to attract dirt, grime, sweat, and excess oil. Your skin will feel fresh and exfoliated without feeling overly dry, and you’ll have less skin-clogging impurities left behind than with many other cleansers. 

Best for Women: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser

To really clean oily skin, you have a couple of choices: toner, gel, or foaming wash. Many other types of cleansers won’t work well for you, says Dr. Zeichner: “Hydrating cleansers, cleansing creams or lotions, or formulas like micellar water may not be strong enough to remove high levels of oil from the skin.”

But again, you don’t want a cleanser that’s too strong, especially if you have delicate or sensitive skin. Using a gel cleanser can give you the best of both worlds—soothing gel hydration and effective cleansing.

We like the one made by La Roche-Posay and, although it’s labeled unisex, we recommend it specifically for women because of its gentle formula. It starts as a gel and lathers into a foam, removing excess oil as well as makeup and grime. Instead of harsh ingredients that will dry out your skin, the gel cleanser is free of oil, soap, parabens, and alcohol, using zinc to deep clean your pores and purify your skin.

Best for Acne: Dr. Song Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Wash

If you suffer from acne on your face (or anywhere else), it could be because your skin produces way too much sebum, a type of oil produced by the sebaceous glands of your skin. These glands are located all over your body and they overproduce for lots of reasons, including hormone fluctuations and aging. 

When battling acne caused by oily skin becomes a full-time job, you need to address the problem at its source. Removing excess oil will help keep your pores unclogged and will reduce the amount of acne you have. Using a benzoyl peroxide-based cleanser like Dr. Song’s acne wash lets you thoroughly clean your skin while helping to treat and prevent breakouts. 

This isn't your mother’s benzoyl peroxide cream—Dr. Song’s formulation contains 10 percent of the acne-fighting stuff, compared to the two or three percent that’s typically found in OTC spot treatments. It comes in a large pump bottle that the company says can last up to two months, and it can be used on your face as well as other parts of your body (so yes, it will work for your “bacne”).

Best Natural: InstaNatural Vitamin C Facial Cleanser at Amazon

You know what’s worse than oily skin that causes breakouts? Not knowing if the harsh synthetic ingredients in your usual cleanser are doing more harm than good. If you cringe looking at the labels on the backs of bottles because you don’t know what 95 percent of the contents are, you might want to try an all-natural cleanser like InstaNatural.

Made to clear pores and reduce breakouts, this vitamin C gel cleanser can make your skin look fresher, brighter, and younger—all while maintaining a cruelty-free label and boasting clean, botanical ingredients like aloe, coconut water, and sugar cane extract (for exfoliation). There are no synthetic dyes, parabens, or preservatives. 

Despite lacking many common ingredients found in oily skin cleansers, reviewers seem to love how well it works and how awesome their complexions look after using it regularly.

Best for Sensitive Skin: Cetaphil PRO Oil Removing Foam Wash

If your skin is oily, acne-prone, and sensitive, it’s an uphill battle trying to find a cleanser that will relieve your common skin symptoms without doing more harm. Since most face washes for oily skin contain ingredients meant to deep clean and treat breakouts, they can leave your face stripped of its natural pH balance and plagued with redness, itchiness, and irritation.

The Cetaphil PRO Oil Removing Foam Wash, however, manages to be gentle and mild without sacrificing its cleansing power. It’s hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic, and formulated to combat acne specifically in people with oily skin. The cleanser contains zinc to give you a good lathering foam and soothe your skin at the same time.

Cetaphil also says that this face wash can be used alongside other acne treatments, including prescription ones, and is gentle enough to not cause additional breakouts when you double-up on your acne skincare products. Reviewers rave about its effectiveness in cutting down on oil and shine without causing damaging overdrying.

Best for Blackheads: Thayer’s Cucumber Witch Hazel Facial Toner

Witch hazel is a natural, botanical cleanser known for its astringent and disinfectant properties, which makes it a strong contender for a daily oily skin treatment. Thayer’s facial toner with witch hazel capitalizes on the plant power of its main ingredient, offering a toner packed with antioxidants that not only cleanses your skin of blemish-causing impurities but moisturizes and balances it, too.

Skincare experts often warn against toners because they can dry out your skin, but this Thayer’s toner is alcohol-free and made with hydrating aloe vera, so excessive drying shouldn’t be a problem. Meanwhile, the witch hazel will reduce oil, prevent and clear breakouts (including pesky blackheads), and reduce inflammation. 

The alcohol-free toner comes in three varieties—cucumber, lavender, and rose petal—but we chose the cucumber version for this list because it’s the best option for people with oily skin. Combined with vitamin C, the cucumber extract soothes red and irritated skin, helps unclog pores, and may reduce the appearance of acne scars.

Best for Large Pores: Paula's Choice Skin Balancing Pore-Reducing Toner

If you don’t have large pores, you may not understand why anyone would care about the size of their pores—but if you’ve got ‘em, you get it. Large pores can make skin look older, damaged, and uneven, so we don’t blame you for wanting a product that can shrink them down to a healthier-looking size.

We love the Paula’s Choice pore-reducing toner for this purpose, because it not only minimizes the appearance of pores with niacinamide, it works hard to maintain the delicate balance of your skin, removing excess oil while keeping your face moisturized and glowing.

The toner can be used in the morning and at night, and you won’t hate its ingredients, either: free of parabens and fragrances, it contains antioxidant botanical extracts for soothing and hyaluronic acid for maximum hydration. 

Final Verdict

If you want a gentle but effective (and affordable) cleanser, look no further than the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. If your skin is acne-prone, the Dr. Song Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Acne Wash combats breakouts while balancing your skin. For people with sensitive skin that reacts to harsh ingredients, the Cetaphil PRO Oil Removing Foam Wash is a good hypoallergenic choice.

What to Look For in a Face Wash for Oily Skin

Foaming formula: Foaming cleansers have a reputation for drying out your skin, which is not what you want if you have dry or acne-prone skin—but it could definitely be the right choice for you if your skin is super oily and needs some drying out. Dr. Zeichner recommends foaming cleansers to his patients with oily skin because they clear excess oil from the surface of the skin, reduce shine, and improve skin radiance through exfoliation.

Toner vs. Cleanser: Facial toners balance the pH level of your skin, getting you closer to that elusive “normal” complexion that’s so hard to achieve. They also clean your skin more thoroughly than a standard cleanser, eliminating all traces of dirt, grime, and pore-clogging oil.

Acne-fighting properties: Since acne erupts when oil clogs your pores, it makes sense that oily skin is way more prone to breakouts. Unless you’re sensitive to common acne-fighters like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, it won’t hurt to choose a daily face wash that treats and prevents breakouts while it cleans your skin. 

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Sarah Bradley has been writing health content since 2017—everything from product roundups and illness FAQs to nutrition explainers and the dish on diet trends. She knows how important it is to receive trustworthy and expert-approved advice about over-the-counter products that manage everyday health conditions, from GI issues and allergies to chronic headaches and joint pain.

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