As someone with oily and acne-prone skin, the first thing I do when checking out a new skincare brand is head over to their “oily skin” section.
However, upon checking out the range, I always start to wonder why do cleansers have to be specifically intended for oily skin when this is a product that’s going to stay on the skin for no longer than a minute, tops.
So, why do we need cleansers for oily skin? Well, I came to the conclusion that we don’t.
Every time I go through cleansers intended for oily skin, I either see no difference in ingredients than other cleansers or I see some weird, drying ingredients that are more harmful to the skin than they are beneficial.
There isn’t a single reason why you shouldn’t use any other gentle cleanser that’s not specifically intended for “oily skin”.
However, there are a few reasons why you should never buy cleansers for “oily skin” and these are points I personally came up with after gathering information on dozens of cleansers throughout the years.
Here are my top 5 reasons why you should never buy cleansers for oily skin:
Cleansers For Oily Skin Contain A Dubious Blend Of Ingredients
There are so many new skincare products on the market which makes competition between brands brutal.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense that many new brands are desperately trying to stand out with their products and bring attention to something new and unique.
That’s fine, I guess. However, a problem arises when these brands are using a dubious blend of ingredients, to say the least, and are trying to sell these weird products to the average, unaware consumer.
Slap on an attractive marketing claim of how this product solves multiple skin concerns at once, and the crowd will come running with their money.
One of the weirdest products I saw most recently is the Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser that contains kaolin clay, charcoal powder, and a bunch of clogging oils that can potentially cause more breakouts.
So what is the purpose of this product? Because it surely isn’t to help the skin in any way, shape, or form. It’s just a fancy, expensive product with an entire marketing department behind it, working hard to sell it.
Kaolin clay and charcoal powder are super dehydrating and there isn’t solid research that backs up the claims these compounds will somehow help acne.
Trust me, I’ve been there. I used to swear by clays when I used to have acne, not realizing all they were doing was dehydrating my skin and causing more issues.
Besides that, even if these compounds are somehow able to help anyone, they surely do not belong in a cleanser form because they will need to stay on the skin a bit longer than the usual cleansing time to do some difference if any.
Cleansers For Oily Skin Often Contain Astringents
Astringents are common ingredients found in cleansers intended for oily skin.
Astringents are ingredients that help tone the skin, tighten the pores, and dry out the natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands.
Astringents are liquid-based formulas, usually containing rubbing alcohol, however, the more popular ones found in skincare products are natural astringents from botanicals such as witch hazel, lemon, and apple cider vinegar.
The only thing I have to say about it is that you should run far away from these because even the claims they do what they do are scary.
You don’t want to dry out your natural skin oil because your skin will then start to feel dry, tight, and uncomfortable because it’s not adequately lubricated.
Toning the skin isn’t even a word. I don’t even know what it means? What do you mean when you say you want to “tone” the skin?
Do you mean to tone the muscles under the skin and have a lifting effect? Or by toning, you mean normalizing the pH of the skin?
It’s such a vague thing that will make many people have different perceptions of what it means and many people will end up expecting results they may never get.
And lastly, if you want to clear out the pores and make them appear smaller, you may very well use chemical exfoliation to do so.
Products that contain salicylic acid or mandelic acid are by far more useful in clearing the pores than harmful astringents are.
Cleansers For Oily Skin Often Contain Drying Alcohol
And while ingredients such as alcohol denat have their own purpose in other skincare products, they are completely unnecessary in a cleanser.
Alcohol denat, for example, serves as a delivery agent to help other beneficial ingredients penetrate into the skin better. It is also used to make the consistency of the product more cosmetically elegant.
The reality is it doesn’t serve any real benefits to the skin and it can, in the worst-case scenario, be excessively drying and dehydrating.
And since a cleanser is a product that has a clear purpose to remove stuff from your skin, it shouldn’t contain any beneficial ingredients that need to be absorbed into the skin, therefore, having an ingredient such as alcohol denat will most definitely dry out the skin.
Unfortunately, while oily skin can be classified as one of the most resilient skin types, long-term damage from using drying ingredients will most definitely show in the future.
So, avoid using cleansers for oily skin that contain drying alcohols such as isopropyl alcohol or alcohol denat.
Cleansers For Oily Skin Have Harsher Formulations
Cleansers intended for oily skin usually come in foam or gel formulations, and while gels are a little bit milder and less drying than foams, you should still be very picky when choosing the right cleanser for your skin.
As I already mentioned above, oily skin is often the skin deemed as the most resilient and also the most problematic skin type, often associated with acne breakouts.
While this is partially true, using a drying cleanser will not help dry out and get rid of acne.
On the contrary, it may cause even bigger issues because once you start stripping the skin off its natural lubricating oils, it will start to rebel and produce more and more oil in order to compensate for the lack thereof.
Cleansers For Oily Skin Contain Stripping Surfactants
Cleansers intended for oily skin usually contain harsh and stripping surfactants very high up on the ingredient list.
These cleansing agents are specifically designed to cut through the oily barrier and remove everything from the surface of the skin, including some beneficial components such as the protective acid mantle, and natural moisturizing factors.
What To Do Instead?
Here are 5 easy things to consider when purchasing a cleanser for any skin type:
Pay Attention To Your Skin’s Needs
Simply purchasing a cleanser labeled for oily or dry skin may sound like the easiest, least complicated thing to do, however, choosing a cleanser for your skin type isn’t the best way to go around.
Focus on what your skin needs, instead.
If your skin is sensitive and reactive, opt for something extremely gentle like the La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Cleanser.
On the other hand, if your skin is feeling stretched, dry, and tight right after cleansing, your current cleanser may be too dehydrating for the current state of your skin and you need to change it to something milder and more hydrating.
Additionally, if you have oily skin that’s prone to acne, make sure you are applying the right treatments right after cleansing. A cleanser isn’t a treatment and shouldn’t do all the job for your skin.
Check The Ingredient List
Just like I mentioned above, labels aren’t always the most accurate and it’s really the ingredients that matter inside any product you choose for your skin.
Your cleanser should contain nourishing ingredients such as ceramides and very mild surfactants instead of alcohols, astringents, and clays.
Look Into The Texture
You should always search for a happy medium that usually falls in the category of gel-to-cream cleansers. I am personally not a fan of foaming cleansers because I find them way too stripping and drying for the skin.
A gentle gel-to-cream cleanser will efficiently remove sunscreen, light makeup, and dirt you may have stuck onto the surface of your skin without overly dehydrating it.
Make Sure It Doesn’t Contain Harmful Ingredients
By harmful I mean drying and sensitizing. I already mentioned how alcohol and astringents can be problematic in cleansers, however, one agent I forgot to mention is fragrance.
Fragrance can make or break a product and consumers that care for a more luxurious experience while washing their skin are certainly going to opt for something that smells nice.
However, fragrance is definitely bad news in skincare products and it single-handedly makes up for 30-40% of skin irritations and contact dermatitis.
When choosing a cleanser, opt for a fragrance-free option but also make sure it doesn’t contain any fragrant components like essential oils or other fragrant oils (Limonene, Linalool, Geraniol, etc.,) as these can, in severe cases, cause burning, itching, and permanent damage.
Facial Cleansers Don’t Need To Have Active Ingredients
Facial cleansers don’t need to contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid, etc.
These actives are great for the skin, however, they need time to work, therefore, they need to remain on the skin for longer in order to do what they are supposed to do – exfoliate the dead skin cells.
They don’t work as well when they are in a cleanser because they are given very little time to work before they’re washed off.
Besides that, exfoliating acids are not something you want to use daily as this can easily lead to a compromised skin barrier from constantly removing the dead skin cells away.
And it’s very easy to overuse them when they are in a cleanser form because you are using that cleanser to wash your face every day.
Instead, choose a treatment with actives according to your skin concerns and use it a few times a week.
Thanks for stopping by! My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.