These Oily Skin-Approved Face Washes Keep Excess Shine Under Control

ishonest / Chloe Jeong

As anyone with oily skin will tell you, dealing with a consistently slick complexion can be a full-time job, requiring multiple different products and seemingly constant attention. Just like you can’t control your eye color or hair color, some people are simply born with more sebaceous glands, resulting in an overproduction of oil. While we naturally produce oil to keep our skin soft and supple, too much of it results in that perpetually shiny and greasy look.

Other external factors play a role, too. While high temperatures and high humidity levels won’t necessarily make you produce more oil, they can make you sweat more; once that sweat mixes with oil, your complexion can look and start to feel greasy. The good news is there are plenty of oil-fighting products out there, but here’s the thing: If you don’t lay the proper foundation by using the right cleanser, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle from the very beginning. (FYI, your cleansing technique matters, too. Celebrity aesthetician Joshua Ross of SkinLab in Los Angeles recommends using a washcloth to remove your cleanser. “The natural grit of the fabric grabs onto the dirt, dry skin, and makeup particles easily and makes for a gentle, daily exfoliation,” he explains. And that’s always a good thing when it comes to oily skin.

Choose from any one of our picks of the best face washes for oily skin to stop oil in its tracks.

  • Our Picks
  • Final Verdict
  • What to Look For
  • Why Trust ishonest?

Best Overall: First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser With Red Clay

Foams nicely

Great for sensitive skin


If you have oily and sensitive skin, it can be tough to find a face wash that removes makeup and grime sans irritation—but this foaming gel cleanser from First Aid Beauty is a solid option. Absorbent red clay and rosemary leaf oil work to clear the skin and balance sebum production, while a powerful antioxidant blend helps protect against environmental stressors. Plus, it's allergy-tested and totally free of parabens, sulfates, and artificial fragrances —all things that make it extra safe for sensitive skin.

Active Ingredients: Red clay, rosemary leaf oil | Skin type: Oily, sensitive | Size: 4.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: No

Best Drugstore: CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser


Very gentle and hydrating on skin

Doesn’t contain specific oil-fighting ingredients

This budget-friendly face wash features a gentle foaming action that whisks away impurities and excess sebum, so all you're left with is skin that's refreshed, balanced, and clean. Like all CeraVe products, the formula boasts three essential ceramides to cleanse the skin without stripping it in the process. Hyaluronic acid adds an extra moisture boost (because oily skin needs hydration, too!), while niacinamide helps calm skin.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, ceramides | Skin type: All | Size: 12 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | ishonest Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

“I'm more on the combo-leaning-oily side of things, and this face wash has been my favorite for several years now. It's simple, effective, and affordable, and I love how well it lathers (which is directly tied to cleanliness in my brain for some reason).” — Eden Stuart, ishonest Associate Editor

Best for Acne-Prone Skin: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash


Contains an oil-fighting ingredient

Can be a bit drying if overused

Having oily skin doesn’t necessarily make you more likely to have acne, but the two do often go hand-in-hand. No matter your issue, this blemish-busting face wash is the solution. The star of the show is 2% salicylic acid (the maximum strength you can get in an over-the-counter product). The beta-hydroxy acid is one of the best ingredients for both those with oily and acne-prone skin, given its ability to help dissolve excess oil, explains New York City board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King. Bonus: Salicylic acid also helps keep pores clear and reduces blackheads, whiteheads, and even milia.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Skin type: Oily, acne-prone | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | ishonest Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser

Great for sensitive skin

Learn more


Doesn’t lather or foam

This drugstore cream cleanser is so gentle it can be used on super-sensitive skin. Whether you have eczema, rosacea, or acne, this face wash is formulated to clean without stripping or irritating the skin. Still, while it may seem better suited for the dry skin crowd, it is oil-free, so even those with oily skin can use it.

Active Ingredients: Glycerin | Skin type: Al | Size: 12 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | ishonest Clean: No

What Our Testers Say

"I tried Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser out for a week, and each morning I woke up to soothed, hydrated skin. The results weren’t dramatic, but I was pleased with how easily this new product fit into my existing skincare routine." — Nicole Kliest, Product Tester

Best Natural: NutraNuva Face Food All-in-One Cleanser, Exfoliator, and Toner

Clean and cruelty-free formula

Acts as several different products in one


What you will find in this multi-tasker: A laundry list of natural ingredients that work to sop up excess oil, tamp down shine, and so much more. Think oil- absorbing kaolin clay, coupled with hydrating glycerin to keep skin balanced, and naturally antibacterial and antiseptic ingredients like cinnamon bark and lavender oil.

What you won’t find: Parabens, dyes, petrochemicals, or GMO ingredients, just to name a few. Gentle enough to use daily, it not only cleanses your skin but acts as an exfoliator and toner, too, helping to tighten pores and balance the pH of your skin. To reap the maximum benefits, gently massage it onto wet skin and let it sit for 20 to 30 seconds before rinsing.

Active Ingredients: Aloe, kaolin clay | Skin type: All | Size: 6 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: Yes

Best Scrub: AcneFree Blackhead Removing Scrub

Contains oil-fighting ingredients


Only for those who like physical exfoliation

One of King’s top picks, she lauds it for containing both salicylic acid and charcoal: “Charcoal absorbs excess sebum, so it's a great choice if you have oily skin. And the salicylic acid penetrates into pores and dissolves sebum, so the combination is great to prevent and treat clogged pores,” she explains. Because it’s a scrub, it helps to physically exfoliate (always important for those with oily skin), though it still contains jojoba oil to soothe and moisturize, she says.

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid, charcoal | Skin type: Oily, acne-prone | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: No

Best Gel: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

Soap-free but still lathers nicely


Not clean or cruelty-free

This soap-free gel cleanser from French pharmacy staple La Roche-Posay is designed with oily skin in mind. Formulated with zinc pidolate, it cleanses impurities and reduces the production of excess oil—all without drying out the skin.

Active Ingredients: Zinc pidolate | Skin type: Oily | Size: 6.76 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | ishonest Clean: No

Best Foam: iNNBEAUTY PROJECT Foam Around Clarifying Daily Cleanser

Contains two different acids

Clean and cruelty-free formula


Sure, it may be somewhat of a placebo effect, but there’s something about using a luscious, foamy cleanser that just makes us feel like we’re getting our skin extra clean. This formula delivers exactly that, thanks to its cloud- like texture, yet it is still never stripping or over-drying (because your skin should never feel ‘squeaky’ clean, FYI). It combines both oil-dissolving salicylic acid with gently exfoliating glycolic acid, a combo that both helps absorb excess oil and generally leave your complexion smoother and more radiant.

Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid, salicylic acid | Skin type: Oily | Size: 8.4 ounces or 16.9 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: Yes

Best for Occasional Oiliness: CeraVe Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser


Very gentle and hydrating on skin

Doesn’t contain specific oil-fighting ingredients

For those who don’t necessarily have slick skin all the time, this pick is an excellent choice. It’s slightly more hydrating than the other CeraVe mention on this list, making it a good pick for overall daily use. It hits just the right balance between being very mild and gentle, yet with a nice foaming action that makes it feel effective when your skin does start to feel a little oilier (think on a hot summer day).

Active Ingredients: Glycerin, ceramides | Skin type: Oily | Size: 11 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | ishonest Clean: No

Best Subscription: Atticus Mineral Cleanser

Great for sensitive skin

Has multiple benefits


This formula combines two different clays—bentonite and kaolin—to really up the oil-absorbing ante. The formula is meant to not only cleanse the skin but also help boost the production of collagen and elastin, which is always a good thing in our book. It’s also a good option for those seeking a formula that doesn’t contain any acids. While you can order it just once, you can also get it via a convenient subscription model, so you never have to worry about running out.

Active Ingredients: Bentonite clay, kaolin clay, arctic root | Skin type: Oily | Size: 3 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"My skin is both oily and sensitive, which means I can't add any more acids into my routine than I already do. It's rare to find a cleanser made for oily skin without AHAs or BHAs, that's calming and cooling while washing away grease. This is my new hero product—the bentonite and kaolin clay work together to sop up oil for a fresh feeling with no irritation." — Kathryn Vandervalk, ishonest Editorial & Strategy Director

Best Exfoliating: Ghost Democracy Transparent Gentle Exfoliating Daily Cleanser

Improves tone and texture


Not for sensitive skin


Exfoliation is important for all skin types, but those with oily skin are generally able to tolerate more of it, making an exfoliating cleanser that can be used daily, like this one, a great choice. “The sulfate-free formulation cleanses and gently exfoliates without stripping the skin of moisture,” says King of another one of her favorites. “It contains glycolic acid, mandelic acid, and willow bark extract to gently remove dead skin cells and pore- clogging debris, as well as niacinamide, which is helpful for improving tone and texture,” she says. Fun fact: Willow bark extract is actually the natural precursor to salicylic acid.

Active Ingredients: Glycolic acid, mandelic acid, willow bark extract | Skin type: Oily | Size: 5 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | ishonest Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

If you’re dealing with oily skin, choosing the right cleanser can make all the difference. The First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Deep Cleanser With Red Clay (view at Ulta) is our all-around fave, relying on, among other things, red clay and rosemary leaf oil to combat oiliness and keep skin clear. Plus, the non- irritating formula makes it a great pick for those with sensitive complexions. If you’re on a budget, nab the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser (view at Amazon), which balances your skin without ever stripping it. And the Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash (view at Ulta) is another great affordable choice that, you guessed it, earns our vote as best for acne-prone skin, thanks to the addition of oil- busting salicylic acid.

What to Look for in a Face Wash for Oily Skin

Ingredients Targeted for Oily Skin

According to Ross, you want to make sure the cleanser you pick has some type of ingredient that’s going to help actually combat the excess oil and not simply wash it away. Two of his faves? Oil-dissolving salicylic acid and naturally antibacterial tea tree oil.


Many cleansers targeted for oily skin are foamy; they typically contain a higher amount of sulfates to help better remove oil. That being said, a little bit of foam goes a long way. Formulas that are too foaming can actually end up stripping and over-drying the skin, cautions Ross (in turn triggering the production of more oil), who says a low level of foam is best.

Gel Formulas

Gel textures are Ross’s top choice for oily skin. They’re strong enough to remove dirt and oil but tend to be a bit more hydrating than those super-foaming variants.

Use it as you would any other face wash. One caveat: If you are trying to get the most bang for your buck from an active ingredient, such as salicylic acid, leave it on for 30 to 60 seconds before rinsing off. This allows the ingredient to be in contact with your skin long enough to work.

Ideally, any kind of oil, as well as thicker, heavier, moisturizing ingredients, think shea butter or coconut oil.

Why Trust ishonest?

ishonest contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her skin veers more towards combination than oily, though she does regularly use many of the picks on this list (the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser is her current go-to).

Meet the Expert

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