Whether you’re shopping for a new body wash or face cleanser, when you have oily skin, you want to be particular about the types of soap you use. According to dermatologist Dr. Tracy Evans, who spoke to Bustle for this article, the best soaps for oily skin are typically gel-based, since gel-based cleansers “help to emulsify the oil on the skin and remove it,” she explains. Additionally, you may want to look for products that contain ingredients like clay, alpha-hydroxy acids, and salicylic acid. These ingredients gently exfoliate skin to remove the outer layers of the stratum corneum, which can help remove excess oils and provide a brightening effect, the expert says.
Though salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are fantastic for treating acne, Dr. Evans says that even for people with oily skin, overuse of those ingredients can cause dryness, so you may wish to use SA/BP cleansers in moderation, alternating with other, more basic soaps. Anyone with oily skin should avoid oil-based cleansers, the derm says, and some cream cleansers can potentially clog pores, too, so read the labels carefully to see what’s in them.
1. Doctor’s Pick: Best Gel Cleanser For Oily Skin
La Roche-Posay’s fan-favorite Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser is a soap-free gel cleanser that contains zinc pidolate, which Dr. Evans says is effective at reducing oil and unclogging pores. This top-rated French pharmacy buy is made without oil or alcohol, and it leaves skin feeling squeaky clean. Note that it does contain fragrance, in case that’s something you prefer to avoid.
2. Doctor’s Pick: Best Foam Cleanser For Oily Skin
Dr. Evans says that the gentle foaming action of this CeraVe cleanser helps “removes impurities and excess sebum.” This is an all-around great cleanser for oily-skinned folks looking for something effective and basic (in a good way). It's reasonably priced, fragrance-free, and made with nourishing ingredients like ceramides to support your skin’s protective barrier, hyaluronic acid for non-greasy hydration, and calming niacinamide. If you love a face wash that lathers, this is the soap for you.
3. Best Gentle Cleanser For Oily, Acne-Prone Skin
When you have acne or oily-prone skin, it’s easy to go overboard with medicated products that may wind up causing your skin to become dry or irritated. Evologie’s Stay Clear Cleanser is designed to treat blemish-prone skin, thanks to ingredients like azelaic acid and salicylic acid, but it’s also made with gentle nourishing ingredients like chamomile, honey, and arginine to soothe and hydrate your skin. Free of fragrance and sulfates, this is a particularly great cleanser for people with oily, acne-prone skin that’s on the sensitive side.
4. Best Luxury Exfoliating Cleanser For Oily Skin
A favorite with dermatologists, PCA SKIN’s face wash is made with lactic acid, an effective and gentle alpha-hydroxy acid that both exfoliates and moisturizes skin. Other ingredients in this gel cleanser include calming gluconolactone and hydrating aloe, so it will keep your skin feeling calm and soft after each wash. It’s ideal for oily or combination skin that’s prone to breakouts, though since it’s still pretty gentle, it should be safe for sensitive skin, too.
5. Best Gel Body Wash For Oily Skin
Created with oily skin in mind, Avène’s Cleanance Cleansing Gel can be used on both your face and body, and though it’s pricey, you do get a generously sized 13.5-ounce bottle (with a handy pump dispenser), so it should last you a while. This lightweight gel cleanser removes surface oil and dirt, and keeps skin feeling refreshed and clean long after rinsing it off. You can also buy this in a smaller (but still pretty big) 6.7-ounce bottle, or pick up the 3.3-ounce size for travel.
6. Best Salicylic Acid Body Wash For Oily Skin
If you’re looking to spend less than $10 on a neck-to-toe soap, Solimo’s Clarifying Pink Grapefruit Body Wash is a solid choice. Featuring a refreshing pink grapefruit scent, this exfoliating body wash uses 2% salicylic acid to keep your skin smooth and your body clear of breakouts. Unlike the Avène shower gel above, this should be used on your body only, as it will be too harsh for your face.
Hot tip: If you have a big family and multiple bathrooms in your house (or just like to keep back stock), you can get a four-pack for less than $15.
7. Best Bar Soap For Oily Skin
- Also available at Walmart $12
If you’re a bar soap loyalist, you can keep shine at bay with Bulldog Skincare’s Oil Control Bar Soap, which contains witch hazel, a natural astringent; willow bark, of which salicylic acid is a derivative; charcoal, which has long been used for its purifying and oil-absorbing benefits; and glycerin for non-greasy hydration. This can be used on both your face and body, and since it doesn’t use any plastic and its packaging is completely recyclable, it’s a more eco-friendly choice, too.
Tracy Evans M.D., M.P.H., board-certified dermatologist & Medical Director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology