Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist) on 04th Feb 2021

Which face wash is best for oily skin? Ingredients to look for

Which face wash is best for oily skin

Having a dewy glow is attractive. But what isn't attractive is a consistently smooth complexion. Oily skin fam, where are you at? I know it is tiring to keep up with the amount of oil your skin produces.

The naturally produced oil is necessary. Yes! It keeps our skin soft and supple. But some of us have to deal with sebaceous glands that keep overproducing sebum, which makes our skin prone to breakouts. If yours do, too, then you know the frustrating, greasy look I am talking about.

But it's not all a curse, you see. If your skin is oily, it won't get dull. Instead, you are gifted with a natural dewy glow. Moreover, it won't look scaly when the dry winter winds attack your skin, and this oil will also protect your skin from aging. Regardless, you can take care of all that extra oil with a little care and attention since it can get annoying, especially if you live in humid weather.

A perpetually oily complexion requires multiple products for it to look an acceptable amount of normal. It doesn't stop there. You also have to pay extra attention to the ingredients in your skincare products and your makeup. Well, oily skin does take a toll on us at times. And to get rid of the oil that your skin is throwing at you, you rigorously cleanse your face. You know that this step will bring you peace, for a while at least.

Blemish-free, smooth and radiant skin is what we all are after. I am not saying a cleanser will do it all. But this is where it all starts since a cleanser is a foundation for healthy and clean skin - skin that is open to all the ingredients you have to offer. Moreover, a good cleanser will not only clean your skin but also fight acne, lessen the oil in your skin, and brighten your complexion. And that explains the sheer amount of cleansers in the market that boast of doing it all.  

How do you know which will work for your oily? Which ingredients to look for? We will answer all this! But first, the basics?  

Are you sure your skin is oily? 

The question might seem bland, but it holds importance in your journey towards the right cleanser since if you are wrong about this, you might end up drying your face.

Oily skin is characterized by very oily skin, not just on the T-zone. This happens when the sebaceous glands produce excess oil, leading to oily skin. 

We are getting closer to the right cleanser, but why are we discussing washing face with so much seriousness?

The very first and foremost step of your skincare routine, obviously it is important. This step is the stage setter; it will clear out your face from all that dirt, makeup residue, bacteria, excess oil, and debris. The cleansing agents in cleansers are called surfactants; they form structures with the water and oil present on our face and draw the impurities out. 

What should a face wash essentially look like?

A perfect cleanser is the one that gently clears out your skin from all the unnecessary debris. Cleansing is not merely using foam-forming soaps. Your usual everyday soap is not what your facial skin can handle. It would wring out the moisture in your skin and prove harsh, even damaging the skin if it continued for longer.

A right cleanser is lightweight, gentle, and non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores.

Your cleanser is good even when it doesn't smell fruity or flowery. It is better if it has no added fragrances as they may irritate your skin.

Look out for a cleanser with sulfate-free surfactants. Some are Cocamidopropyl betaine, caprylic triglyceride; these won't irritate your skin while clearing it.

No one cleanser is meant for everyone; every skin type is different. Some cleansers may be rich- may cause clogging. And some may be drying- not for dry skin. So be mindful of your skin type while choosing a cleanser.  

A little extra attention for oily skin 

While we have liked the idea of getting rid of all the slickness on the skin by simply cleansing your face. Well, I would like to propose a better bet on healthy skin.

So, consider this_ a face wash with mild ingredients that will balance oil production and support the skin while cleansing. Sounds better than a face wash with aggressive ingredients aiming to declare an attack on your skin's natural moisturizing oils, right? The idea is not to leave your skin out to dry; it should not turn tight after cleansing.

Avoid thick cleansers and cleaners with oil; they might clog your pores. Also, avoid cleansers that have alcohol if you have oily skin since it will aggravate the situation.

You don't need to fight your skin with the face wash; you need to fight the oil. So, rubbing physical cleansers or using aggressive products is going to make things worse. You need the right kind of cleanser that will remove the excess bacteria, dirt, sebum, and oil from your pores.

Let's dive in deeper. 

The ingredients to look for in a cleanser for oily skin


A vitamin A derivative, retinol is a milder form of retinoid and is among the big leagues in the skincare world. Retinoids essentially increase skin turnover, unclog pores, help with blackheads and whiteheads, prevent acne breakouts.

It is best for oily or acne-prone skin because it builds collagen, making your skin firm, tightening the pores. Now, these tight pores are unlikely to create and release an excessive amount of oil as they did before. Tighter pores will not only curb the shine but also reduce aging signs and age spots.  

Granactive Retinoid 2% Face Cream
Granactive Retinoid 2% Face Cream
Granactive Retinoid 2% Face Cream
Granactive Retinoid 2% Face Cream

Granactive Retinoid 2% Face Cream

₹ 689

When to use: PM

Frequency: Twice a week

View details

Salicylic acid 

A beta-hydroxy acid, salicylic acid is oil soluble and a known acne zapper. The powerful acid penetrates deep into the pores and unleashes its wrath on pimples. The exfoliant prevents pimples and peels the top layer of the skin. The peeling helps to eliminate oil and dead skin cells.

Mostly found in acne-creams and serums, salicylic face washes are effective as well. The acid is often found in acne-fighting cleansers. The chemical exfoliation provides everything a perfect cleanser should; clear out debris, bacteria, and excess oil. Salicylic acid also reduces excess oil and unclogs pores, making them appear smaller. Salicylic is an ideal ingredient for oily or acne-prone skin types.  

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

₹ 545

When to use: PM

Frequency: Alternate days

View details

Glycolic acid 

Now coming to another hydroxy acid, not beta tho. This alpha hydroxy acid has been a part of many cleansers, toners, lotions, creams, and other skincare products due to its ability to reduce excessive oil and prevent pores from clogging; this prevents future breakouts. Derived from sugarcane, glycolic acid is a powerhouse chemical exfoliant that helps maintain smooth, balanced skin for you.

The excellent exfoliant might prove to be your ideal cleanser, especially if you have perpetually oily skin or are prone to acne. The penetrating effect of glycolic acid will keep your top skin layer freshly exfoliated. And don't worry about the acidic effect; it rinses off after cleansing.

It is generally safe to use, but practice caution if you have sensitive skin 


The vitamin B3 controls sebum production and also the already existing acne on oily skin. Your Niacinamide infused cleanser helps your acne-prone, blotchy, red skin in ways you cannot imagine. I mean, you can imagine, now. Niacinamide reduces the red spots that acne-prone skin is accompanied with.

More importantly, Niacinamide absorbs sebum; what more can you ask for? And even if you don't, Niacinamide has a lot to offer. It reduces facial shine and acne breakouts. The multitasking vitamin bolsters the skin barrier, strengthens the outer skin layer, increases cellular turnover, and reverses the damage. The ingredient also reduces skin wrinkles, and yellowing has protective abilities, and it improves elasticity.

Niacinamide also stimulates natural collagen in the skin, and this helps with large pores, helping our cause and making it a useful ingredient in face washes.

It is generally safe for all skin types, but look out for allergic reactions.  

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Hyaluronic acid.  

This seems odd! Why apply moisturizer on already oily skin. But you keep forgetting, oil is not moisture. Oil is, well, oil. Oily skin does not give you leeway to stop moisturizing your skin. Oily skin is as likely to peel and get dehydrated as other skin types since you often end up using harsh oil-controlling ingredients.

HA will help you control and reduce moisture loss and also stimulate healthy cellular turnover. What makes it attractive in a face wash is that it is non-comedogenic, and it heals skin without causing breakouts. It is used in a plethora of skincare products due to its anti-aging and wound-healing abilities.

This lightweight moisturizing agent is unlike the traditional moisturizing ingredients that clog pores and leave a shiny, greasy complexion. They are too heavy for your already oily skin to handle, and hence you should avoid mineral oil, petroleum, and petroleum in your moisturizers. You don't want to suffocate your skin and clog pores.

Some other ingredients that can prove useful for oily skin are milder ingredients like aloe vera and tea tree oil.  

Did you know?

Although an oil, Tea tree oil, is used to unclog pores and is a very effective acne-treatment for oily skin types.  

Advice by Minimalist 

Don't go overboard with the cleaning. Washing too often may lead to breakouts. You don't want to push your skin to overproduce sebum. Instead, cleanse just twice a day and post-workout with a targeted formula.

Do not scrub your skin aggressively to combat oil; it will make things worse.

Do not use salicylic acid during pregnancy.

Do not let your skin get dehydrated. Moisturize it with a lightweight moisturizer. 

It's a wrap 

To err is human. It may take some time to find your perfect cleanser since there are so many out there. Consider your skin type and the ingredients before you buy a product.

Look out for product labels. Often, products have boastful labels that are not regulated.

Conduct tests before using the product on your entire face; no surprises there!

If, despite trials and errors, you cannot curb sebum production, talk to a derm.