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If You Have Oily Skin, You Should Check Out These Cleansers

Lose the shine and the blotting paper.

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Woman washing her face over the sink. Photo: Peopleimages/Getty Images

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For most of my adult life, I thought cleansers were pointless and ineffective, only used because people like routines and full, photogenic medicine cabinets. I’m a big Glossier fan, so I really tried to love — or even just like — the Milky Jelly Cleanser, but it didn’t hold up to any of its claims (especially the one about completely taking off makeup). Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser had a scent that was way too much for me, and it never left my face feeling thoroughly clean. Clinique’s Liquid Facial Soap left me greasy, but also somewhat red and irritated.

Finally, after diving into online research (including more than a few YouTube beauty videos), I realized I just wasn’t using the right cleansers for my skin type. For my very oily complexion, I need something seriously heavy duty. So in an effort to minimize the work that goes into making my face look like it isn’t melting off by noon, I rounded up a bunch of cleansers that claim to target oily skin and put them all to the test. Below, you’ll find my top four.

If you deal with similar issues and have already found your holy grail cleanser, I’d love for you to let me in on your secrets! Comment below or shoot me an email ( with what products you’re using. And if you end up trying any of the options I suggest, let me know what you think about those, too.

Origins Zero-Oil Deep Pore Cleanser, $22

My new everyday cleanser is this one right here. I’ve been a really big fan of the brand’s Clear Improvement Charcoal Mask and everything it does for my face whenever it’s feeling especially abused, so I’m not surprised by how much I love the cleanser. It’s formulated with pore-minimizing salicylic acid, mint leaf extract, and saw palmetto — a fruit extract that blocks the hormones known for increasing the production of oil in the skin, leading to clogged pores — so it leaves my face feeling completely clean and calm. This cleanser also helped even out the random dark spots I’ve mysteriously developed over the last year, and for that I am extremely grateful. That being said, it doesn’t take off my makeup entirely. (I always use makeup wipes before cleansing, just out of habit, but thought I should note in case that’s not a step you’re looking to include.)

Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Daily Cleanser, $22.50

This cleanser is my T-zone’s worst nightmare, and my savior when my face is feeling particularly beat up. It’s made with Amazonian white clay (fancy) and diatomaceous Earth particles (a.k.a. teeny granules for micro-abrasion, even fancier) which makes for pretty solid exfoliation — just the right amount to leave my skin feeling really clean without feeling stripped. I love that even with the clay, it still foams up. I started to see a noticeable difference in my pores and an overall smoothness in my skin after just a few days of using the cleanser twice daily; plus it actually takes off my makeup and leaves me feeling matte. (It’s abrasive, so if you have sensitive skin, definitely try a sample first and see if it’s something your face can handle.)

Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash, $37

Okay, so this one is expensive, but it makes your skin feel just as good as you would expect an almost-$40 cleanser to make your skin feel. Because of the price, I’ve been reserving it for special times (like when I’m hungover and need something to really wake me up). This too is formulated with salicylic acid to really run off the dead skin cells and clogged pores, plus balm mint, eucalyptus, and tea tree extracts to help stave off breakout-causing bacteria and calm inflammation. It gives off a minty, supremely clean feeling, leaving a really smooth texture — you really feel and see it working. Plus, in defense of the price, a little bit goes a long way, so it’ll at least last you awhile.

La Roche-Posay Purifying Foaming Gel, $15

Let’s get one thing out of the way: I love the concept of buying things from the French drugstore. And while that, along with the packaging, is what first drew me to La Roche-Posay, the product is actually deserving of all the aesthetic hype. It’s really gentle, scent-free, and gets all of my makeup off — even from my eyes with no irritation or redness. The niacinamide (better known as vitamin B3) is the MVP of its formula, known for doing a lot of great things for the skin, including regulating oil flow and improving redness and hyper-pigmentation, among other things. The effects felt similar to the Dermalogica cleanser, but I will say that it can be a little more drying, so I’ll probably use it more regularly in summer when I need all of the help I can get with the wild city humidity.