Serums for oily skin-1Share on Pinterest

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If you have oily skin, you probably know that reducing the shine can sometimes require more than just a few blotting papers.

When your skin’s oil glands go into overdrive, they leave behind a slick, waxy substance called sebum. It’s natural to produce some sebum, but too much can leave you prone to breakouts.

A serum may be able to help give your skin care routine a boost, controlling oil and offering a few added benefits along the way.

We’ve put together this list of the best skin serums for oily skin to give you a glow you can feel good about.

Serum is a skin care product used after cleansing and toning and before moisturizing.

The gel-like or liquid product is usually found in a tincture bottle. It delivers high levels of certain beneficial ingredients like:

“Serums that contain hyaluronic acid are hydrating but great for oily skin as they leave minimal emollient residue. Avoid serums that are heavy, oil-based, or contain many botanical seed oils. Serums that contain AHA can be helpful for oily or acne-prone skin,” Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, dermatologist and author of “Beyond Soap,” says.

Sometimes skin is oily because it’s actually lacking its own natural oil (maybe from frequent cleansing or over-exfoliating) and the body is overcompensating. Sometimes oily skin is genetic or a result of living in a warm or humid climate.

We chose these serums based on criteria we think are good indicators of quality and safety, and for varying price points.

We looked for ingredients shown to reduce oil and balance skin that’s prone to acne. These include:

  • salicylic acid
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • AHAs and BHAs

We considered products that have earned awards and certificates and are preferred by dermatologists and our medical review team.

Learn more about how we select products.

Pricing guide

Like many beauty products, serums come in at a range of price points varying from under $10 to over $200. We kept our picks on the lower to middle range of the spectrum to make this list as accessible as possible, though you will find the occasional splurge.

  • $ = under $30
  • $$ = $30–$60
  • $$$ = over $60

PriceSizeBest for
Primally Pure Clarifying Serum$$–$$$0.5 or 1 oz.oily skin with acne scars
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum$$$5, 30, 50 mLluxury skin care seekers
BeTheSkin Botanical Pore Serum$$50 mLbalancing pH
Cocokind Vitamin C Serum with Sea Grape Caviar$30 mLan eco-friendly skin care routine
The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum$30 mLoil control on a budget
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%$30 mLoil control on a budget
Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum$30 mLacne-prone skin
Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier$$30 mLpore clearing
Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum$$2 oz.a cruelty-free skin care routine
Arcona Youth Serum$$$1.17 oz.signs of aging on oily skin
SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator$$$30 mLexfoliation
Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum$$$30 mLacne-prone skin

Best serum for oily skin with acne scars

Primally Pure Clarifying Serum

organic fragrance-free

This serum from Primally Pure has mostly positive reviews, with users saying it helped alleviate hormonal acne and cystic acne. They also note that it has helped clear and smooth their skin, and that it helps fade old acne scars.

Reviewers are fairly mixed on the scent, though. Some describe it as “clean” and “light,” while others describe it as “earthy” and “unpleasant.”

Almost all of the ingredients are organic, with the exception of the non-GMO vitamin E. The serum comes in a recyclable glass bottle.

Pros

  • reduces appearance of acne scars
  • ingredients have antioxidant and antibacterial properties
  • hydrating but not greasy

Cons

  • even though it’s fragrance-free, it does have an earthy scent from the botanical oils
  • pricey

Most splurge-worthy serum for oily skin

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This splurge product has been touted by magazines as the best face oil and skin product out there. It contains 22 active botanical ingredients, including evening primrose oil, which can help reduce sebum, and tamanu, which may reduce the look of acne scars.

Keep in mind that this product has an extensive ingredients list. If you’re sensitive to any botanical ingredients or essential oils, you’ll want to skip it.

Customers remark that the serum effectively brightens and clears up skin.

Pros

  • moisturizing and brightening
  • contains antioxidant ingredients
  • free of harsh ingredients like parabens and synthetic fragrances
  • cruelty-free and vegan

Cons

  • long list of ingredients, which may be irritating to sensitive skin
  • expensive

Best pH-balancing serum for oily skin

BeTheSkin Botanical Pore Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 50 mL
  • Key ingredients: ginger root, Chinese skullcap root extract, thyme flower extract, Alaskan glacial water

× not fragrance-free

This serum has a silky texture that absorbs quickly and easily. It contains glacial water, which can help even out skin’s pH, thyme extract, which is rich in antioxidants, and ginger root, which can slow the loss of collagen.

It’s designed to minimize the look of pores, control oil production, and leave behind a smooth texture.

Word of warning, it doesn’t contain 100 percent botanical ingredients and has added fragrance, so it might not be a good fit for sensitive skin.

Pros

  • good for average to oily skin types
  • easy-to-use pump dispenser
  • has a clean scent

Cons

  • fragrance might be too strong for some
  • not a good option for sensitive skin

Most eco-friendly serum for oily skin

Cocokind Vitamin C Serum with Sea Grape Caviar

  • Price: $
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: vitamin C, sea grape caviar, hyaluronic acid

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This serum promotes glowy skin. It includes a gentle form of vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that can improve the look of all skin types and fight acne. It can also help lighten dark spots. Sea grape caviar extract is an algae that’s hydrating.

It also contains citric acid, which some people like to avoid, though it is helpful for minimizing the appearance of pores.

Reviewers love this affordable serum, saying it has a lovely scent and helps brighten skin and reduce imperfections. However, a handful of people complain that it irritated their skin, causing redness and bumps.

Pros

  • inexpensive
  • hydrates and plumps skin
  • sustainably sourced ingredients
  • a little goes a long way

Cons

  • oxidizes quickly

Most affordable serums for oily skin

The INKEY List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum

  • Price: $
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: niacinamide, hyaluronic acid

fragrance-free cruelty-free

This affordable serum costs less than $7 and helps reduce oil, hyperpigmentation, and redness using niacinamide.Because it also contains hyaluronic acid, it will be hydrating while balancing out the skin.

The lightweight serum gets rave reviews from customers who say it truly helps control oil production and feels great on the face.

However, some reviewers note that the packaging makes it tough to get out every last drop.

Pros

  • helps treat and prevent breakouts
  • minimizes the appearance of pores
  • inexpensive
  • lightweight consistency

Cons

  • packaging isn’t the best

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

  • Price: $
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: niacinamide, zinc

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This balancing serum uses both niacinamide (which is a form of vitamin B) and zinc to control oil and minimize the look of pores. It also has a neutral pH. Additionally, the water-based formula has a refreshing consistency that helps even out skin’s texture.

People love the results they get with this affordable skin care product, saying it produces soft, smooth skin. However, some reviewers warn other users to expect a purge period while their skin gets used to the serum.

Pros

  • affordable
  • formulated without synthetic fragrances or harsh ingredients like sulfates
  • cruelty-free
  • helps with texture and oil production

Cons

  • might cause your skin to purge
  • some say it has a greasy feel

Best gel serum for oily skin

Mario Badescu Anti-Acne Serum

  • Price: $
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan × not paraben-free

This salicylic acid-based gel serum is lightweight and fast-absorbing, plus it contains antibacterial thyme extract. The formula also helps exfoliate skin and leave behind a smoother texture.

We also want to point out that this product contains yellow 5 and yellow 6 dyes, which may be harmful to cells over time.

Reviewers agree that the serum effectively treats acne without drying out the skin. However, some people didn’t experience the same impressive results.

Pros

  • lightweight, refreshing formula
  • non-greasy
  • non-drying
  • light scent

Cons

  • doesn’t work for everyone
  • not suitable for severe or cystic acne, better for mild acne
  • contains dyes

Best pore-clearing serum for oily skin

Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: azelaic acid, niacinamide, salicylic acid

fragrance-free cruelty-free

This liquidy serum is lightweight and fast to absorb, plus it contains antioxidants and salicylic acid to fight acne and blackheads. It has azelaic acid and vitamin C, which help skin protect itself and bounce back from pollution and other daily stressors.

Some reviewers say that the serum helps control minor breakouts, but a few complain that it doesn’t do much to visibly shrink pores. That said, even reviewers who were mixed on the product’s performance liked the serum’s silky texture.

It’s also important to note that this product has a long ingredients list. You may want to give it a read if you have sensitive skin.

Pros

  • brightens skin
  • lightweight and fast-absorbing
  • refreshing feel
  • good for dealing with minor blemishes

Cons

  • not suitable for major breakouts
  • some say it doesn’t do enough to improve skin’s texture

Best cruelty-free serum for oily skin

Juice Beauty Blemish Clearing Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 2 oz.
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid, willow bark, vitamin C, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This serum is Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free. Instead of added water, it uses botanical juices, and it contains salicylic acid naturally derived from willow bark to help reduce acne. It also includes soothing aloe and green and white tea, which have antioxidant properties.

The serum also contains mineral oil. Some people find that mineral oil causes breakouts, though a 2014 review suggests cosmetic-grade mineral oil may be noncomedogenic. That means it shouldn’t clog pores.

Most reviewers like the serum and say that it helps clear skin and get rid of stubborn pimples. But some complain that it doesn’t work — especially if you have moderate to severe acne.

Pros

  • easy to use
  • hydrating
  • pleasant scent
  • budget-friendly

Cons

  • might not work for moderate to severe acne
  • irritates some skin types
  • drying for some people

Best serum for oily skin with signs of aging

Arcona Youth Serum

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 1.17 oz.
  • Key ingredients: vitamin C, red wine pigments, resveratrol, hyaluronic acid

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This Leaping Bunny certified serum contains a high dose of vitamin C, plus resveratrol, grape seed extract, and magnesium ascorbyl phosphate to help protect against free radicals and slow wrinkles and signs of aging.

Use it in the morning to help protect against outdoor elements like sun and pollution.

Reviewers like that the serum really feels like it’s working when you apply it to the skin and that it doesn’t irritate.

Pros

  • excellent dispenser
  • absorbs quickly
  • leaves skin glowy without a greasy sheen

Cons

  • expensive

Best exfoliating serum for oily skin

SkinCeuticals Retexturing Activator

  • Price: $$$
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: hydroxyethyl urea and aminosulfonic acid compound, kombucha, hyaluronic acid

fragrance-free

This brand comes recommended by our medical reviewer team. It’s oil-free, which is a plus for extremely oily or acne-prone skin. It also contains acids and kombucha to gently exfoliate, revealing brighter, younger-looking skin.

Keep in mind that using too many oil-free products can actually make skin more prone to oil because it overcompensates and starts producing more.

Reviewers like that it’s non-irritating and fragrance-free, but some note that it dries out the skin a bit.

Pros

  • fragrance-free
  • helps improve skin texture
  • hydrating
  • helps fade imperfections

Cons

  • somewhat drying
  • has a tacky feel

Best serum for oily, acne-prone skin

Caudalie Vinopure Skin Perfecting Serum

  • Price: $$
  • Size: 30 mL
  • Key ingredients: salicylic acid, niacinamide, grapeseed polyphenols

fragrance-free cruelty-free vegan

This serum is designed for combination or oily skin and contains salicylic acid derived from wintergreen. It also contains a blend of essential oils known for antiseptic and balancing properties, including spearmint, geranium, lemongrass, lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm.

If you’re sensitive to essential oils, this isn’t the right serum for you.

Some reviewers rave about its ability to banish breakouts, but a few people say it made them break out even more.

Pros

  • vegan and cruelty-free
  • fragrance-free
  • helps control oil
  • clears pores

Cons

  • irritating for some skin types
  • overpowering scent

Here’s how to add serum into a daily skin care routine.

  1. After cleansing or washing your face, use a toner if that’s part of your routine.
  2. Apply serum to slightly damp skin and gently pat it in.
  3. Follow with moisturizer or face oil, which can help the serum penetrate the skin.

You can use it in the morning or night, though if using during the day, be sure to follow with a mineral sunscreen. If you use chemical sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first, before your serum or moisturizer.

You can also use your serum as a spot treatment, applying it only to areas prone to oiliness or acne.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends contacting a dermatologist if you’re worried about excess oil production or dealing with frequent acne breakouts or blackheads.

Most skin concerns, including excessively oily skin, aren’t medically serious. But if your oily skin is bothering you in any way, don’t hesitate to make an appointment with a board certified dermatologist.

They can help you find a treatment that limits excess shine and can make you feel more confident in your skin.

Should you use a serum if you have oily skin?

Yes! Serums can help you with oil production — even if the serum itself contains oil. That’s because excess oil production can sometimes happen when your skin is overcompensating for dryness. Hydrating ingredients in serums can help nourish and moisturize skin.

Do serums irritate acne-prone skin?

It’s possible. Some people react to certain ingredients. If you know you’re sensitive to essential oils, for instance, skip serums that contain a lot of plant oil extracts. And stop using a serum if you notice your breakouts getting worse after using it.

Which vitamin C serum is best for oily skin?

We like the Cocokind Vitamin C Serum with Sea Grape Caviar, which contains vitamin C and helps control oil production.

Oily skin is often acne-prone and may involve larger pores. A serum designed specifically for oily skin can help balance the skin and make acne more manageable.

Look for a serum without comedogenic ingredients, which may worsen acne. Consult with a dermatologist if you’re not sure a product is right for you.