What is Oily Skin Cleanser?

wiseGEEK Writer

Some people naturally produce more oil on the skin than others, from what is called sebaceous or oil glands. Sebum/oil production is often highest in adolescence, but the extra sebum doesn’t necessarily end when people leave their teenage years. Extra sebum is associated with breakouts and pimples of varying types, and for this reason, many people look for an oily skin cleanser. Quite simply, oily skin cleanser is anything that helps to remove or clean off extra oil from the skin.

Many oily skin cleansers include ingredients to fight acne.
Many oily skin cleansers include ingredients to fight acne.

There are many oily skin cleanser types available. Most contain a surfactant, or a chemical element that helps to break down oils so that water will remove the oil from the skin. Surfactants are used in things like detergents and dish soaps too, to remove oil from clothing or dishes. Clearly some types of surfactants are too harsh to use on the skin, but most present in skin soaps, especially those designed for the face, will clean without irritating.

There are cleansers specifically designed for people with oily skin.
There are cleansers specifically designed for people with oily skin.

It isn’t always necessary to spend huge amounts of money to buy an oily skin cleanser. Doctors may even recommend using soap like Ivory® since it works well to remove oil. Some people may find this skin cleanser too harsh, however. Using very simple soaps may dry the face and remove too much sebum from the skin. The alternatives are the many oily skin cleansers designed specifically for the face. A lot of them also contain acne fighting agents like salicylic acid or retinol.

Skin care specialists and dermatologists additionally suggest people with oily skin use a skin toner or astringent, which can be something as simple as witch hazel, to remove additional oil after a face wash. Skin care experts might recommend oil free moisturizers and noncomedogenic makeups to help keep oil to a minimum, too. Sometimes oily skin cleansers are sold in combination with toner and light moisturizing treatments, or a whole skin cleanser system is available from a single company. People may need to try to find the cleanser or cleanser system that is most appropriate.

Another way to draw some oil from the skin is to use facial masks. These can be homemade and contain things like ground almonds or oatmeal. Mud masks of most types are beneficial too. Since oily skin and acne are frequently paired, exfoliation (removal of dead skin cells) with a variety of exfoliating products may be useful to reduce breakouts.

What appears to matter most with oily skin cleanser is not what cleanser is chosen but how it is used. It’s typically recommended that people wash the face twice a day, and possibly a third time after any strenuous exercise. Cold water isn’t very effective, but extremely hot water may be too irritating. Instead, people should choose warm water for skin washing. It does seem to help if products like toners are used since they take off more oil, but too much oil removal could result in more breakouts. People must search for a happy medium, and if over the counter products or everyday soaps aren’t getting the job done, it’s suggested that people talk to a dermatologist about prescription products or treatments that may help the condition.

Citrus fruits are sometimes used in skin toners for oily skin.
Citrus fruits are sometimes used in skin toners for oily skin.

Discussion Comments


I have several herbal recipes that I use as cleanser for oily skin. One is a mask made with ground turmeric and water. Mix these two into a paste and apply on your face. It has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and helps get rid of oil and acne.

Another mask is the aspirin mask. Crush 2-3 uncoated aspirins with water until it melts. You can add a tablespoon of plain yogurt or milk and a little bit of honey to this mixture. Aspirin contains salicylic acid and will do the same thing for your skin that store bought cleansers with salicylic acid do.

Always wash your face off with warm water after applying these masks and follow with an oil-free moisturizer. Your skin will feel very supple and fresh.


@anon71611-- Witch hazel is a herbal astringent that you can use to clean your face or as a toner. It is made from the witch hazel plant. You can find this in pharmacies and some stores and is suitable for oily skin.

I'm a student and can't afford expensive skin products. Witch hazel costs very little and works really well. I recommend it.


I have oily skin and it has taken me a very long time to figure out which products work best for me. I have tried skin cleansers for oily skin with salicylic acid but they over-dried my skin causing it to produce more oil resulting in enlarged pores on my cheeks. This made me realize that I actually have very sensitive skin.

I have finally found the right combination for my skin now. I use a mild cleanser for sensitive skin in the morning and at night, followed by an alcohol free toner (because it also dries out my skin) and finally a moisturizer that controls sebum production and reduces pores. This works perfectly for me and has completely cleared my acne.


i am not able to understand exactly what is witch hazel? please comment on this.

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