What Are The Best Ingredients For Oily Skin?

best ingredients for oily skin

Excess oil, clogged pores, acne… oily skin can be a nightmare to deal with! But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ingredients that can help alleviate its symptoms and keep excessive oil production, with all its nasty consequences, under control.

But what are they? How do they help exactly? And where can you find them? Read on to find out:

philosophy clear days ahead toner moisturizer

Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid, part of the beta hydroxy acid (BHA) family, is by far my favourite ingredient for oily skin. Derived from the bark of the willow tree, this ingredient is able to penetrate deep inside the pores, removing all the sebum, dead cell, and other gunk that’s clogging them.

It can also exfoliate the surface of the skin by dissolving the “glue” that holds skin cells together. This dual exfoliating action prevents and remove blemishes, blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples, while, at the same time, reducing signs of premature ageing, such as roughness, wrinkles, and dark spots. Like that weren’t enough, it also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help treat acne.

Now, for the bad part. Salicylic acid, like all exfoliants, increases skin sensitivity to the sun. So it should always be used with sunscreen. Even then, salicylic acid is not for everyone. If you have a zinc deficiency or are allergic to salicylates (including aspirin), you should stay away from salicylic acid. Pregnant or nursing women should instead consult their doctor before using any product with this ingredient.

Best picks: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Lotion and Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Oil-free Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment & Moisturizer

md formulations moisture defense antioxidant hydrating gel

Hyaluronic Acid & Glycerin

In an effort to remove excess oil, we can often go too far and dry out our skin. When this happens, skin reacts by producing even more oil! That’s the last thing you need.

To help skin stay hydrated, you need to trap water into the skin. This is usually done by adding oils to moisturizers. Once on the skin, they create a protective barrier that prevents water from evaporating.

But oil-based moisturizers are often way too greasy for oily skin. Enter humectants. These ingredients are capable of attracting water from the environment into the skin, hydrating it without the need to use oils.

The most famous humectants are Glycerin and Hylauronic Acid and its close derivative Sodium Hyaluronate. Hyaluronic Acid and Sodium Hyaluronate are particularly effective because they can bind 1000 times their weight in water and work well both in high and low humidity conditions.

Best picks: MD Formulations Moisture Defense Antioxidant Hydrating Gel, Olay Regenerist Regenerating Lotion with Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50, and Paula’s Choice Skincare Hydralight Moisture-Infusing Lotion

paula's choice skin balancing oil absorbing mask


Although I don’t believe that primers and maks are a must, when they contain oil-absorbing ingredients they can certainly be very useful for oily skinned girls. They help to keep sebum production and shine under control during the day, so you won’t have to blot excess oil away with absorbing sheets and retouch your makeup so often.

My favourite oil-absorbers are kaolin and bentonite, two types of clay commonly found in masks. Silica, magnesium aluminum silicate, and sulfur also help keep excess oil at bay. At first, you will probably need to use them daily but, as you start getting your oily skin under control, an oil-absorbing mask once or twice a week should be enough.

Best picks: Marcelle Hydra-C Ultra-Light Mattifying Fluid and Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Absorbing Mask

proactiv pore targeting treatment

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl Peroxide is one of the most powerful weapons in an oily skinned girl’s arsenal. As such, it must be used carefully, sparingly, and strategically.

Benzoyl Peroxide has a peeling action that can keep pores clean, and thus heal and prevent breakouts. It can also kill P. Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. And, best of all, bacteria don’t seem to develop a resistance to it.

Unfortunately, Benzoyl Peroxide is quite harsh and can cause dryness and irritations. It can also generate free radicals, which are one of the main causes of premature ageing. But at least this can be easily countered by applying a serum or moisturizer chockfull of antioxidants afterwards.

Even so, whenever possible, it is best to use Benzoyl Peroxide only as a spot treatment. Only when your acne isn’t responding to other treatments, you should consider using it all over the face.

Best picks: Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide and Proactive & Proactiv+ Pore Targeting Treatment

Do you have oily skin? Which ingredients are you using to deal with it? What’s working well for you?

Know Your Ingredients: C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate

c 12 15 alkyl benzoate

What it is
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is a glyceryl ester.

What it does
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is an emollient (it makes skin soft and smooth).
In addition, it is a thickener used to adjust the consistency of cosmetics.

Side effects
C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate is generally considered to be safe.

(Source: paulaschoice.com)

Do Stem Cells In Cosmetics Really Work?

stem cells in cosmetics

Stem cells are the hottest buzz in skincare right now. Touted as a miracle breakthrough, they promise to rejuvenate skin, regenerate cells, repair elastin, boost collagen, and reduce wrinkles. No wonder so many women are tempted to try them! But should they? Let’s see what science says:

What are stem cells?

Stem cells, both in plants and animals, are mother cells that have the potential to become any type of cell in that organism. They can then reproduce more of those cells.  This means they could be used to grow organs for transplants and treat all sorts of diseases.

Skincare-wise, they could be used to get rid of wrinkles and scars. By taking some of your stem skin cells and grow them in a lab, scientists could create new patches of your own skin and use them to rid your face and body of any imperfections. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

All of this is, however, a long way in the future. Stem cells research is still in its infancy. But that hasn’t stopped cosmetic brands from putting them into their creams and marketing them as miracle products that can reverse ageing. The truth is quite different. Stem cells in skincare just can’t work as claimed. Here’s why:

Stem cells must be alive to work

Stem cells only work as stem cells if they are alive. When they are added to creams and lotions, they are already dead. And, if not, they would soon be. Any living organism needs both food and the right environment to thrive. As The Beauty Brains explain, stem cells “would have to have a special growth medium and be kept at a specific temperature. They would need to be refreshed with food too. Stem cell containing creams are not created as such.”

Plant stem cells can’t improve skin function

But even if stem cells were alive and working, why would we want to use those derived from plants, like apples and melons? Stem cells, as mentioned above, have the potential to become any part of the organism they belong to.

So, plants stem cells can become branches, fruits, or leaves, but not skin cells! So how can they rejuvenate skin? They can’t. They are, however, a lot less expensive than human skin cells. That’s why apple or rice stem cells are more likely to be used in skincare.

why stem cells in cosmetics don't work

Extracts from stem cells don’t work as stem cells

Some companies use extracts and components, such as peptides, derived from stem cells. Once made stable, they claim, these ingredients can work as stem cells or positively influence the adult stem cells naturally present in your skin.

That’s not true either. A stem cell, to function as such, must be intact. No single part of it can work in the same way. However, researchers are studying peptides and other ingredients, hoping to find a safe way in which they could be used to affect skin stem cells.

This research is still at the beginning too. Should it be successful, the resulting ingredient would work as a drug, not as a cosmetic. That means that it will require a longer period of testing before it can be approved, and even then it would probably be available only upon prescription.

Can stem cells penetrate skin?

Even if one day alive human skin cells could successfully be added to a cream, would they work when topically applied? Can they, on their own, penetrate the skin deep enough to provide any benefits? Would they need a particularly delivery system to aid penetration? So far, science hasn’t answered any of these questions.

So, are stem cells useless?

Stem cells aren’t yet the miraculous anti-ageing treatment they are touted to be, but they may have some benefits for the skin after all. Because stem cells used in skincare are mostly derived from plants, they may have antioxidant properties. So do many other ingredients, though, so this is not a good enough reason to invest in an expensive cream with stem cells.

The Bottom Line

One day scientists may find a way to use human stem cells to rejuvenate skin and fight premature ageing. But that day is a long way away. Till then, don’t waste money on creams with stem cells. They just don’t work as claimed.

Have you ever tried a cream with stem cells?