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The Skincare Routine That Cleared + Balanced My Oily Skin

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

Everyone’s skin type is different, so there is no guarantee that what worked for me will work for you. My skin has always been on the combination side, but my T-zone would get so insanely oily! I wore a lot of makeup to hide my acne, so I used powder instead of oil-absorbing sheets throughout the day to reduce oiliness. This, in turn, clogged my pores and made my skin worse—I felt completely hopeless. My ultimate goal was to clear my skin, so I wasted time and money trying spot treatments and other supposed ‘miracle’ treatments when my first priority should have been managing my oil production. After trying products upon products, here is the routine that has been working for me:


1. CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser

Admittedly, although I have struggled with my skin for years, I would’ve struggled a lot less if I washed my face regularly. Washing my face in the morning always seemed like such a hassle to me, but now I can’t imagine not doing it! I used to put makeup on top of my overnight face oils and bask in it all day, which only made my breakouts and oily skin worse. There’s something so refreshing about washing with cold water to wake yourself up in the morning, and this cleaner is so gentle that it’s the perfect choice. This is advertised as best for normal to oily skin, but a good substitute for dry skin is CeraVe’s Hydrating Cream-to-Foam Cleanser. 

2. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel 

I also used to hate moisturizing because I thought it made my oily skin worse, but really I just hadn’t found the right moisturizer. I hate thick creams that feel heavy on the skin and leave a sticky residue, so this gel formula is just what I needed. It is absorbed into the skin quickly because it’s water-based and has a cooling effect. Moisturizers are important for managing your skin type because your skin produces oil to compensate for being dehydrated. If you use oil-fighting products and no moisturizer, you are stripping even more of your skin barrier, which is counterproductive (“Does Oily Skin”). 

3. Nivea Sun Water Gel SPF 35

If there is one product you buy from this list, it’s this one (which you can order from Amazon). I have heard so many people justify not wearing sunscreen by blaming greasy formulas, but Japanese sunscreens, like this one, are formulated differently—they’re lightweight, fast-absorbing, and don’t leave behind any residue (Ponthieux). Because this is a chemical sunscreen, it leaves no white cast, meaning it is suitable for all skin tones. It also soaks into the skin instead of sitting on top, so it is great for acne-prone skin and for wearing under makeup (Bedosky). 


1. CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser 

This has been a staple in my routine ever since my dermatologist told me to try it a year ago. It is advertised as best for acne-prone and oily skin, but my friend with dry skin started using it after I recommended it, and she loves it! 

2. Nizoral Anti-Dandruff Shampoo 

Okay, hear me out on this one. A while back, I was prescribed Ketoconazole shampoo by the dermatologist to help treat fungal acne (you know, those tiny bumps on your forehead that refuse to go away?). My skin cleared and I stopped using it, but then my fungal acne came back so I found this as an over-the-counter substitute. I use this every other night, rotating it with my CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser. You’re supposed to let it sit on your face for 5 minutes before rinsing, so I use it while showering or getting ready for bed.  

3. Cosrx Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence 

Snail mucin is a type of mucus produced by snails (without them being harmed in the process), which might sound weird, but there are so many benefits: “anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, hydrating, and wound healing” (Dorwart). This is fairly new to my routine, but I am always excited to try Korean skincare and I like it so far!  

4. Beyou. Retinol Night Serum

Before discovering this product, I had been prescribed countless tubes of Tretinoin cream and would use them for a few days before giving up. I hate the consistency of heavy creams because they break me out, so I thought that every retinol would only make my skin worse. But, yet again, gel products saved me, and at the perfect time—it is recommended to introduce retinol into your routine in your 20s to slow the aging process (Weasler). However, using benzoyl peroxide at the same time will make the retinol ineffective, so I use this product and my CeraVe Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser on alternating nights. Additionally, it’s important to wear sunscreen because retinol makes your skin more sensitive to the sun, counteracting the anti-aging benefits (H., Laura). 

5. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant 

This is the most expensive product on this list, at $33, but the travel size is $11, so you can try it out first before buying the full size, which is what I did. I hate spending a lot of money on products, but this one is so worth it and has lasted me a long time. It’s gentle enough that you can use it daily, but I alternate it with my retinol/snail mucin/Nizoral combo. It does leave a bit of a sticky residue, which is why I use it at night, but that’s just my preference. Some benefits of BHAs include smoothing skin texture, reducing oil production, and reducing the appearance of pores (“AHA and BHA Acids”). 

My Overall Thoughts

Obviously, what works for me might not work for you due to all the varying factors that go into skin type. A big part of finding a skincare routine that works for you is trial and error, and knowing your skin. For me, I know that I break out after eating too much sugar, so I limit my sugar intake whenever possible. Additionally, I have found that for my oily, acne-prone skin, less is more. This means that I’ve given up using toners, serums, and spot treatments because they haven’t been effective for me, so I’m only making my skin (and my bank account) worse by continuing to use them. In fact, I wanted this list to be my top 10 skincare products because it sounded better than 8, but I thought that undermined the takeaway that these are my holy grails. 

I don’t wanna sugarcoat things and claim that this routine cured me of all skin concerns because that’s simply not the case. I still have at least three breakouts at all times and bumpy, textured skin, but the biggest improvement in my skin has been the decrease in oil production. ‘Clear skin’ is so relative! Unless you have amazing genetics, it’s unreasonable to expect that you’re going to find a miracle routine that gives you perfectly smooth, glass skin. Plus, with additional factors such as hormones, stress and medications, clearing your skin isn’t a linear process—you will have good skin days and bad skin days, so try not to be so hard on yourself if you don’t feel your most confident. 


“AHA and BHA Acids for the Skin: What’s the Difference?” AHA and BHA Acids for the Skin: What’s the Difference?: Cosmetic Laser Center of Irvine: Laser Aesthetics, www.irvinelasercenter.com/blog/aha-and-bha-acids-for-the-skin-whats-the-difference#:~:text=BHA’s%20can%20reduce%20excess%20oil,prevent%20new%20clogs%20from%20forming.

Bedosky, Lauren, et al. “Chemical vs. Mineral Sunscreen: What’s the Difference?” EverydayHealth.Com, www.everydayhealth.com/skin-beauty/chemical-vs-mineral-sunscreen-whats-difference/.

“Does Oily Skin Need Moisturizer? Yes, and Here’s Why.” Kiehl’s PH, 18 May 2023, www.kiehls.com.ph/blog/does-oily-skin-need-moisturizer-yes-and-heres-why/.

Dorwart, Laura. “The Benefits of Adding Snail Mucin to Your Skincare Routine.” Health, Health, 20 Aug. 2023, www.health.com/snail-mucin-benefits-uses-and-risks-7644018#:~:text=Snail%20mucin%20may%20seem%20like,certain%20types%20of%20skin%20cancer.

H., Laura. “Benzoyl Peroxide and Retinol: 2 Important Things That Affect Compatibility.” Science Becomes Her, 6 May 2022, www.sciencebecomesher.com/benzoyl-peroxide-and-retinol/#google_vignette.

Ponthieux, Theo. “Japanese Sunscreens: The Ultimate Guide to Sun Protection.” Japanese Sunscreens: The Ultimate Guide to Sun Protection MAY 22, 2023, Sugoi Mart by Japan Crate, 22 May 2023, sugoimart.com/blogs/sugoi-mart-blog/japanese-sunscreens-the-ultimate-guide-to-sun-protection#:~:text=One%20of%20the%20key%20differences,sticky%20residue%20on%20the%20skin.

Weasler, Patty. “When to Use Retinol: Best Age, Time, Skin Care Order.” Verywell Health, 25 July 2023, www.verywellhealth.com/when-to-use-retinol-7559023#:~:text=There%20is%20no%20specific%20age,especially%20for%20those%20with%20acne.

Renee Arlotti is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh. She is a writer for the Pitt chapter of Her Campus and likes writing about book and music recommendations, fashion, and mental health. Renee is majoring in Psychology and Media & Professional Communications on the Writing for the Professions track. She also plans to pursue a minor in Spanish. Outside of classes, Renee loves spending time with her three cats, watching Gilmore Girls, and listening to Fleetwood Mac. Her biggest goal in life is to travel the world.