Oily Skin Care FAQ

attractive-slim-woman-using-cosmetic-sponge-mattifying-powder-oily-skin-care - oil control starter set

What is oily skin?

Oily skin is associated with excess sebum production, larger facial pores and a “greasy” appearance and is often associated with acne.1

Sebum is a beneficial, protective oily layer on our skin that contains triglycerides, wax esters, squalene, and free fatty acids. Sebum helps protect against the harmful effects of UV radiation, helps prevent water loss, and helps to regulate temperature.

Too much sebum can be a problem. A sebum plug can result when sebum flow gets blocked by dead skin cells at the surface of the skin. When a plug forms, bacteria that normally live on the surface of the skin can start to multiply rapidly within the hair follicle. The resulting plug is a blackhead, whitehead, or pimple. The more sebum that is produced, the more likely this will happen. 

Under certain conditions, oily skin can cause an overgrowth of Malassezia yeast that normally lives on the skin. This is associated with various skin conditions such as:

  • Malassezia folliculitis (fungal acne, red itchy pimples)
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis, itchy, scaly blotchy, cracking skin)
  • Pityriasis Versicolor (discolored skin)
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis (inflamed, scaly skin, often itchy with acne, or scaly scalp, often itchy with dandruff)
  • Rosacea (visible blood vessels, stinging flushed skin, red nose, pimples that look like acne)
  • Razor Bumps (painful itchy bumps from shaving)
  • Hot Tub Rash (red rash of round, itchy bumps after being in a hot tub or pool)
  • Barber’s Itch (circular rash with red, sometimes itchy, scaly lesions)

Oily skin affected by Malassezia yeast overgrowth will require a different skincare routine.

LEARN MORE ABOUT How to Get Rid of Malassezia Naturally HERE

1 Endly, Dawnielle C, and Richard A Miller. “Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 10,8 (2017): 49-55.

What causes oily skin?

Research indicates that some people have oily skin because their sebaceous glands on the face, upper chest, back, and behind the ear “overproduce” sebum in hair follicles. The amount of sebum a person produces depends on age, genetics, ethnicity, climate, diet, stress, and skincare.

Sebum production can also vary over time, increasing in certain situations:

  • puberty to menopause for women
  • puberty to 60s or 70s for men
  • ovulation
  • polycystic ovary syndrome
  • spring and summer
  • humid climates2
2 Endly, Dawnielle C, and Richard A Miller. “Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 10,8 (2017): 49-55.

Can I prevent oily skin?

While some types of skin are naturally more oily than others, there are things that we can do to reduce the amount of sebum production.3 We can adjust what goes into our bodies and what we put on our skin topically. Read on.

3 Spencer, E.H., Ferdowsian, H.R. and Barnard, N.D. (2009), Diet and acne: a review of the evidence. International Journal of Dermatology, 48: 339-347. 

What skincare ingredients help to control oily skin and shrink pore size?

There is also good evidence that topical application of the following natural ingredients can have a positive effect when trying to keep the skin from being too oily or when trying to shrink the size of pores.

These ingredients can help regulate sebum production as well as offer benefits for all skin types including antioxidants that fight free radical damage and components that calm inflammation. All of these ingredients are Malassezia-safe except for the Sea Buckthorn Oil.

  • niacinamide (a version of Vitamin B3)
  • green tea extract
  • alcohol-free witch hazel
  • meadowsweet extract
  • clays (such as kaolin or illite)
  • zinc oxide
  • guava extract
  • sea buckthorn fruit oil
  • rose essential oil (properly diluted)
  • argan oil

We’ve included green tea extract and sea buckthorn fruit oil in many of our products including Barrier Repair Body Balm Stick, Barrier Repair Face and Body Oil, Barrier Repair Natural Face Oil Serum, Skin Barrier Repair Cream, and Barrier Repair Oil Cleanser.

Alcohol-free witch hazel is in Corum Superfruit Hydrating Cleanser and Corum Barrier Repair Super Serum.

You can find meadowsweet in our Prime and Finish Mattifying Setting Powder.

Corum Manuka Mud also has 3 types of clay and zinc oxide.

Niacinamide is in our Mattifying Setting Powder, Manuka Mud, and Corum Barrier Repair Super Serum.

Guava extract is in our Barrier Repair Natural Face Oil Serum set.

Rose essential oil is in Corum Barrier Repair Natural Face Oil Serum set, Soothing Malassezia Moisturizer (Jasmine & Rose), Skin Barrier Repair Cream, Barrier Repair Super Serum.

Click here to learn more about ingredients that are safe for fungus-related skin conditions.

Some common ingredients are found in products to reduce oiliness but should be used with caution because they can dry out the skin or cause irritation, damaging the skin barrier:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • AHAs4 such as Azelaic Acid, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, Tartaric Acid, Hydroxycaprylic Acid, Hydroxycapric Acid, and Malic Acid
  • BHAs5 such as Salicylic Acid, Beta Hydroxybutanoic Acid, Tropic Acid, and Trethocanic Acid
  • Retinol
  • Adapalene (Differin-retinoid)
  • Isotretinoin (Accutane-retinoid)
  • Vitamin C serums
  • Hydroquinone to lighten dark spots
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Soap6
4 US FDA. Beta Hydroxy Acids. 2022 Feb 25,
5 Tang SC, Yang JH. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin. Molecules. 2018 Apr 10;23(4):863. doi: 10.3390/molecules23040863. PMID: 29642579; PMCID: PMC6017965.
6 Voegeli D. The effect of washing and drying practices on skin barrier function. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2008 Jan-Feb;35(1):84-90. doi: 10.1097/01.WON.0000308623.68582.d7. PMID: 18199943.

What's a good cleanser for oily skin?

a woman cleaning her face with a cotton pad

A good oily skin cleanser is one that can:

  • remove excess sebum, dirt, dead skin cells, and acne-causing bacteria without stripping the skin of the water and good oil needed for healthy skin
  • clean pores rather than clog them
  • reduces pore size
  • help balance oil production
  • easily remove makeup
  • help the skin stay hydrated
  • soothe irritated or inflamed skin
  • maintain the fine pH balance

I had always used oil-free products because that is what I had always heard was the right approach. After decades of trying (unsuccessfully) hundreds of recommended products to tackle my problem skin, I finally got brave enough to try a new approach. Now I double-cleanse, first with oil, then with an aloe-juice-based cleanser.

Oil Cleanser

Oil cleansers are a great option for people with oily skin because the oil in the cleanser mixes with the excess oil in the pores. This clean and dirty oil mixture then combines with water to easily rinse away the muck.  This means oil cleansers can effectively remove makeup, sunscreen, and excess sebum from the skin without leaving it feeling dry or tight. Because oil cleansers can cleanse deeply, they help keep pores clear.

Our fruit-based oil cleanser makes an excellent non-comedogenic face wash for oily skin. (For those with fungus-related skin conditions, try Malassezia-Safe Corum Barrier Repair Oil Cleanser.)

Hydrating Cleanser

I follow the oil cleanser with a second no-rinse aloe-based cleanser and toner. This step removes invisible pollutants and other debris that can disturb the skin’s microbiome. It gently removes the outermost layer of dead skin cells and leaves hydration-locking ingredients to support the skin barrier throughout the day or night. Corum Superfruit Hydrating Cleanser also fights acne-causing bacteria with Aspen bark extract. I use this cleanser for oily skin in the morning and evening. It’s safe for Malassezia-affected skin.

Over-cleansing can strip the skin of oil, leading to more oil production. However, our hydrating cleanser can be used more often throughout the day and is especially good for controlling maskne – those pesky breakouts that result from wearing a face mask. Use it after exercise to quickly remove breakout-friendly sweat. Because it can be used without rinsing, it’s especially easy to keep skin clean and rehydrated throughout the day.

What's a good toner for oily skin?

woman applying Corum Super Serum to her nose and smiling

Toners traditionally were used to cut excess oil on the skin with alcohol. The problem with alcohol and other astringent ingredients is that it can dry the skin too much. The answer to oily skin is not dry skin!

A good toner for oily skin is one that gently helps to control excess sebum with a combination of vitamins, enzymes, and amino acids but one that keeps the skin hydrated while reducing pore size.

Corum Barrier Repair Super Serum addresses many skin concerns with one quick and easy product. It not only helps to balance sebum production, making it a good toner for oily skin, but it also:

  • reduces the appearance of dark spots and acne scars
  • reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
  • increases skin firmness & elasticity
  • calms and improves the appearance of acne-prone skin
  • decreases the look of eye wrinkles and dark circles
  • reduces puffiness, dullness & under-eye bags
  • is Malassezia-safe

What's a good face mask for oily skin?


Twice a week (at most!) oily skin can benefit from applying oil-diminishing ingredients like kaolin clay or illite, which gently remove impurities without over-drying.

While certain face masks are beneficial, I don’t recommend a scrub for oily skin. In fact, scrubbing any kind of skin is a bad idea. Think of it this way – we want thick skin rather than thin skin – one that acts as armor to protect and defend against environmental stressors. So, whatever we put on our skin should be gentle.

There are many suggestions for DIY face masks on the internet, and some of the ingredients are just not safe for skin. Be careful. If you want to try out a recipe, first do a patch test to see how your skin reacts.

After you’ve finished your patch test, try leaving a mask on your face for just a minute at first, then add a bit more time the following week, and so on. Most masks should not be left on for more than 20 minutes, but follow the directions carefully.

Try my favorite face mask for managing oily skin. Twice a week (at most!) apply Corum Barrier Repair Manuka Mud and leave it on for a couple of minutes while preparing for a bath or shower. This is sufficient to reduce excess oil, purify, and gently exfoliate the top layer of dead cells. Honey, xylitol, prebiotics, and Dead Sea Salt moisturize and help balance the skin flora, which can help soothe irritated skin and make skin less likely to break out.

Below are the key ingredients in Corum Manuka Mud,  a good face mask for oily skin:

Do I need an oily skin moisturizer?


Yes! Skin needs both water and oil. If the skin is lacking in water or oil, it will work overtime to produce a layer of protective oil.

Skin can be both oily (too much oil) and dehydrated (lacking enough water). For most people, it’s important to nourish and support normal healthy skin function so that the skin will balance itself. My skin didn’t begin to function normally until I added hydrating products and nutrient-rich plant oils to my oily skin care routine.7

A good lotion or face cream for oily skin locks in water, nutrients, and oil required to regenerate healthy skin cells without clogging pores.

For many people, an oily skin serum, with lightweight, easily absorbed oils, is more beneficial than going oil-free or using heavy oils that are better for those with dry skin. We love Corum Barrier Repair Super Serum which is a great serum for oily skin. It’s my daytime moisturizer and works great under makeup.

A good oil for oily skin is one that softens and smooths, but also one that provides nutrients the skin needs to do its best work. Choose face oil carefully, though. People with oily skin need to avoid oils that are prone to clog pores (palm oil, cocoa butter or coconut oil, for instance), while people with normal or dry skin can often use those oils without problems. The best oils for oily skin are high in linoleic acid, eicosenoic acid, or erucic acid. Try Corum Face and Body Oil.

At night, oily skin can benefit from Corum Natural Face Oil Serum weekly rotation of plant oils and essential oils. The right oils can actually reduce pore size and inflammation, help balance sebum production, and create an environment that is very unfriendly to acne bacteria. Corum Barrier Repair Natural Face Oil Serum Set has dramatically improved the look, feel, and function of my oily, acne-prone skin.

IMPORTANT: Excess sebum can create an environment that results in the overgrowth of Malassezia yeast. This can cause Malassezia Folliculitis (“fungal acne”), Eczema, and other usually itchy skin conditions. If you have a Malassezia-related skin condition, you need to make sure you choose only Malassezia-safe products until the skin barrier returns to normal. Learn more about how to get rid of Malassezia overgrowth naturally.

7 Poljšak N, Kreft S, Kočevar Glavač N. Vegetable butters and oils in skin wound healing: Scientific evidence for new opportunities in dermatology. Phytother Res. 2020 Feb;34(2):254-269. doi: 10.1002/ptr.6524. Epub 2019 Oct 27. PMID: 31657094.

Can blotting paper help control oily skin?

Blotting papers are an easy and inexpensive way to control excess shine that can break through during the day. Just lightly pat the paper on the skin and hold briefly while the paper absorbs excess oil. Gently pull away the paper without rubbing. They can be used to help makeup last longer as they absorb without smudging or smearing.

My go-to blotting papers come in a handy dispenser, which is easy to refill. (paid links) 

What are some makeup tips for oily skin?

Here’s the makeup routine that I use for my oily skin and it works very well.

CAUTION: USE ONLY MALASSEZIA-SAFE PRODUCTS IF YOU HAVE A FUNGUS-RELATED SKIN CONDITION. Most liquid or cream makeup products will feed Malassezia yeast. I recommend only mineral-based powders for oily skin.

STEP 1: I pump a little Corum Superfruit Hydrating Cleanser on a cotton pad and wipe it all over my face, neck, and chest with cleanse, exfoliate, and hydrate.

STEP 2: I treat, moisturize, and prime with Corum Barrier Repair Super Serum and wait a few minutes for these two products to absorb into my skin.

STEP 3: I take a dry sponge and lightly apply Corum Prime and Finish Mattifying Setting Powder all over my face to create a smooth and even surface, taking care not to breathe in the powder or get it in my eyes.  This is a good way to cut the shine, blur imperfections, and prepare the skin for foundation.

STEP 4: I use a dry sponge to apply mineral powder foundation with mineral sunscreen, which is the best kind of foundation I’ve found for oily, acne-prone skin. Matte powder foundations, pressed powder eyeshadows, and powder blush and contour usually do not have all the added ingredients that can clog pores, and keeping pores unclogged is especially important for oily skin. Makeup powders will mix better with the oil that is already in the skin and stay on longer. (I suggest skipping makeup with shimmer as it can make oily skin look shinier and damaged skin appear even more textured.)

I recommend a mineral powder sunscreen (paid link) be reapplied every 2 hours during sun exposure.

STEP: I reapply Corum Prime and Finish Mattifying Setting Powder to extra oily places: forehead, cheeks, chin, and nose.

STEP 6: I wash my makeup sponge and brushes every time I use them to keep them from becoming bacteria factories. I formulated Corum Makeup Brush Cleaner Concentrate to make the job quick and easy so I can add it to my regular routine without much fuss.

STEP 7: After washing, rinsing, and squeezing my sponge, I dry it with a towel and then lightly pat the slightly damp sponge all over my face to get rid of excess powder.

STEP 8: I blot as needed throughout the day using blotting papers and avoid touching my face.

What's a good oily skin care routine?

What are the benefits of oily skin?

Oily skin can be a challenge, but there is a positive side. Here are a few good things about having naturally oily skin:

  • Better protection against dryness, which comes with its own set of problems such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Better protection against UV radiation damage
  • Reduced risk of skin irritation
  • Oils in your skin keep it soft and slow the aging process
  • Makeup application is easier because foundation blends with the natural oils in your skin

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