Your guide to clean beauty products for oily, acne-prone skin that’s aging. Your skin will thank you later!
I’ve been battling acne for over twenty years now. and I’ve used many different products and different approaches when it comes to treating oily, acne-prone skin. I’ve seen estheticians and dermatologists alike. Now that I’m in my mid-30s the game has changed yet again. I’ve been on the quest for the best anti-aging clean beauty products for oily, acne-prone skin. I think I finally hit the jackpot.
As I’ve gotten older, my hormones have shifted. Where I used to get whiteheads, black heads and cystic acne on my cheeks, I now get the majority along my jawline and under my chin. Recently, it’s been making its way down my neck.
I few months ago I wrote about cutting dairy from my diet, and it helped tremendously. I’ve cheated a few times here and there (oatmeal raisin cookies and bread pudding cake are the devil) and my skin goes nuts. I started using Silk’s Almond Milk creamer and, while it is dairy-free, the introduction of sugar back in my morning coffee may be playing a role. Figuring out my acne can feel like a full-time job sometimes.
In case you’ve found yourself in my shoes, I thought I would put together a list of clean beauty products that I’ve found helpful during times my skin has freaked out. Some items may be found at Sephora or Ulta, while others are available online on Beautycounter.com. (Full disclosure: I’m a consultant but I stand behind the products. Read more on why I joined Beautycounter).
It’s important to note that not every person with oily, acne-prone skin will react the same to all products. For example, salicylic acid doesn’t do much for me. My skin responds better to the harsher ingredients of benzoyl peroxide and sulfur (two ingredients generally excluded from clean beauty due to the irritation and dryness they can bring). While I use those ingredients sparingly, here are some of the best clean beauty products for oily skin that I’ve been loving lately.
The Best Clean Beauty Products for Oily Acne-Prone Skin
Beautycounter Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil – I like to double cleanse, especially if I’m wearing makeup. When I double cleanse, I start with this cleanser and make sure to remove any residual oil cleanser with a clean washcloth. Read my review of the entire Countertime skincare line here.
Beautycounter Charcoal Cleansing Bar – this is the second cleanser in my double-cleansing ritual. The charcoal in this absorbs any residual oils from the oil cleanser, and the coconut oil adds a light hydrating touch. It also has willow bark extract to help fight acne breakouts. Love.
Indie Lee Brightening Cleanser – Acne prone skin has to deal with post-acne scarring. This cleanser is a multi-tasker as it can be used to remove makeup and also doubles as an exfoliator when left on the skin. It was a refreshing experience at my facials at LASH Jax.
Beautycounter Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser – I love the citrus scent so much of this cleanser that I could bathe in it (and I do, since there’s a body wash haha). This aloe-based cleanser is gentle yet effective in helping to clean oily, acne-prone skin.
Toners & Treatments
Pixi by Petra Vitamin-C Tonic – is an alcohol-free toner with Vitamin C + ferulic acid that’s great for all skin types. Vitamin C is one of the best ingredients to fight post-acne scars. The citrus oils in here make it smell divine!
Indie Lee CoQ10 Toner – during my facials at LASH Jax, the estheticians have used this toner and it feels so light and refreshing on your skin! I love that it has the antioxidant coenzyme CoQ10 to help protect your skin.
Beautycounter Countertime Mineral Boost Hydrating Essence – I never thought I’d need an essence, but after giving this a try, I’ll never go back. This feels like a hydrating splash of water with staying power that helps other products penetrate more deeply. I’ll never stop using it.
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum – Vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) is an antioxidant that helps protect your skin and also helps fight hyperpigmentation. When paired with ferulic acid, it performs even better. This is considered a holy grail for a reason.
Beautycounter Countercontrol SOS Acne Spot Treatment – I always grab this miracle in a tube whenever I feel a big bump rise to the surface. It helps heal a breakout in about 2 days or so. Life saver!
Sole Toscana Neroli Radiance Serum – to help brighten dark spots. Sole Toscana is a clean beauty brand based in Italy. Free from artificial fragrances, this aloe vera and citrus brightener smells light and crisp. I just started using it and will report back in a few weeks on how it works, but it feels so light and refreshing on my skin!
Masks & Peels
Have I told you I LOVE masks? If I’m having a bad day, I’ll treat myself to a mask. If my skin is misbehaving and nothing works, I mask. And, my favorite Sunday self-care ritual? Masking. All of the products in this section have one main function: to unclog pores and draw out impurities which help your skin’s health. You can’t go wrong with any of these if you have acne.
Note: my skin has a harder time exfoliating and can tolerate stronger acids than most people. If you have sensitive skin, or if your skin exfoliates easily, you may prefer the Beautycounter peel, towards the bottom of this list, instead.
Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Sukari Babyfacial 25% AHA + 2% BHA Mask – this is really more of a peel than a mask despite its name. I love how smooth it makes my skin and it REALLY helps with lightening my post-acne scarring. Highly recommend. Apply to dry, cleansed skin. Leave on for 20 minutes, rinse off with water. Follow with your favorite facial oil. Use 2x a week maximum (1x a week if sensitive).
Pixie by Petra Glow Peel Pads – slightly less strong than the DE Babyfacial, this jar is perfect for traveling. Each pad has 20% glycolic acid that has helped me fade post acne scars. For the price point, you can’t beat it, and it’s definitely one for those on a budget. Use 3x a week maximum.
Beautycounter Overnight Resurfacing Peel has been a staple in my skincare for the past year or so. It has helped transform the texture of my skin, shrinking my pores, and helping to clear up acne in the early stages of healing. This is much, much gentler formula than Drunk Elephant’s Babyfacial. If DE’s was too strong for you, try this one. Apply to dry, cleansed skin before your nighttime moisturizer. Safe to use 3-4x a week.
Biossance Squalane + Glycolic Renewal Mask – very similar to the Beautycounter peel, except this one adds tartaric acid, another AHA and is made from fermented grapes. This one adds hydrating squalane into the mix (which also helps with hyperpigmentation). Biossance is a partner with Beautycounter in the Clean Coalition.
Indie Lee Clearing Mask – this is such a great brand, and I’m happy to see one clean beauty brand incorporate colloidal sulfur for those of us that suffer from hormonal cystic acne. This mask also has glycolic and salicylic acid for gentle exfoliation. You can’t go wrong with this mask.
HERBIVORE Blue Tansy AHA + BHA Resurfacing Clarity Mask – I love love love Blue Tansy oil! I have a Blue Tansy body oil that is super hydrating that my skin absolutely loves! Since I’m also acne-prone on my chest and back, I tested this on my body and I go zero breakouts. Definitely on my wishlist!
Beautycounter No. 3 Balancing Facial Mask – time and time again this mask saves my skin. It helps shrink all of the acne that’s rising to the surface. I like to use this on the nights I’m not using a peel for best results. Use up to 3 times a week.
Tata Harper Purifying Pore & Blackhead Detox – this is a much gentler formula (no acids) by a great clean beauty brand. The papaya enzymes are great for brightening post-acne scars. Another gentle all-star on my wishlist that I will alternate with my Beautycounter charcoal one (above).
Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Detox – while I tend to get an allergic reaction from tea tree oil, I just had to include this mask on the list, since so many acne-prone gals find success with tea tree.
Sole Toscana Rosehip & Calendula Moisturizer – did you know that calendula is just a fancy name for marigolds? Who knew?! Apparently calendula helps calm and soothe irritation, while rosehip helps clarify skin. This whipped moisturizer feels great on the skin. I’ll report back with how my skin reacts to it.
Beautycounter Countertime Antioxidant Soft Cream – I don’t use legit moisturizers often on my face (they tend to break me out) but I do use this one several times a week when I’m not using a facial oil. I love that it has a clean beauty version of retinol, bakuchiol, that helps fight all the things that come with aging. Love, love, love.
Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum – this comes highly recommended by lots of beauty bloggers. I can’t wait to try it.
Caudalie Resveratrol Eye Lifting Balm – this was one of my first clean beauty purchases. I never needed an eye cream before, and while it was nice and hydrating, I didn’t feel the need to repurchase. It wasn’t until I bought the next item on the list that I realized the magical wonders of eye cream!
Beautycounter Countertime Ultra Renewal Eye Cream – This is my holy grail eye cream. I never knew I needed an eye cream until I saw my eyes before and after. The little fine lines I had were GONE within one week of use. It uses bakuchiol, the clean beauty version of retinol, to help plump up the skin. Life. Changing.
Beautycounter Counterman Oil-Free Face Lotion – Let’s not forget about the gentlemen! My husband actually requested a refill of this by name (color me shocked). You KNOW something has to be good when a guy wants this over anything at the drugstore. And, have I mentioned it’s clean beauty? Win win.
Don’t be afraid to apply an oil to oily skin! Oils have transformed my oily skin (sounds cliché but it’s true). Ever since incorporating a facial oil before bed, my skin is not as oily the following day. It’s magic.
Drunk Elephant Virgin Luxury Marula Oil – lightweight yet hydrating, this oil is perfect after the Drunk Elephant Babyfacial.
Beautycounter No. 3 Balancing Oil – my introduction to facial oils, this will always hold a special place in my heart. Not all oils are made the same, and something about this one has made my skin produce less oil. I’ve tried other oils, but I always come back to this one.
HERBIVORE Lapis Balancing Facial Oil – With my love of Blue Tansy, I just had to add this one here! Blue Tansy helps with redness and is also antibacterial, but it smells divine! The kukui nut oil in this facial oil targets sebum production. Definitely on my list of favorites!
Caudalie Vine[active] Overnight Detox Oil – with over 20k loves on Sephora’s site, this facial oil had to make the list. While all of Caudalie products incorporate grape extract, this one also adds carrot, lavender, white sandalwood, sweet almond oil, rosemary, and neroli. I’d love to try this one! Gimme all the yummy smelling oils!
Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Balancing Oil – if you’re not sensitive to tea tree oil, this oil is definitely one to try for troublesome acne. Tea tree helps heal blemishes, while the squalane oil hydrates. It’s a one-two punch for acne!
Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil – last but not least, if your skin is a bit on the sensitive side, this 100% squalane oil may do the trick. Simple and no-fuss hydration for oily skin.
I hope you’ve found this list useful. Please let me know your recommendations in the comments! I’m always up for learning about new, clean beauty products!
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