If you want to know exactly how to care for your oily skin the very best way science knows how, you’re in the right place. The cornerstone technique for your best face? Layering. “Layering skin-care products can make each one more potent, so you’re more likely to see a very noticeable difference in your skin,” says Ranella Hirsch, a Boston dermatologist. In general, you’re going to want to pile on products from thinnest to thickest. But after that? It’s up to you. Like dendrobiums prefer a different mist than catasetums, no one’s skin routine is identical. If you have oily skin, here are some benchmarks to follow.
1. Start with a toner.
Toners get a lot of flak, and that’s because old-school, alcohol-laden versions used to be like drenching your face in Absolut vodka—with the dehydrating skin hangover to prove it. But according to cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, one with salicylic acid can gently dissolve dead skin cells to unclog pores and prevent future breakouts. Try Burt’s Bees Natural Acne Solutions Clarifying Toner, which contains willow bark extract, a naturally-derived form of salicylic acid that also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Now’s the time to glop your favorite nuclear-grade zit cream heavily on every blemish. We’re kidding. Instead, look for a low-dose benzoyl peroxide product, like Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix, which places a 3.5 percent concentration of the treatment in a gel to minimize irritation. Anything higher, and you risk flaking and peeling skin, which looks just as unseemly as a pimple.
3. Try something soothing.
4. Lock it all in.
Moisturizers are great because they, um, hydrate your skin. But according to Wilson they also seal previous products on your skin, “which can make them more effective.” If you’re prone to shine, you likely already know an oil-free version, like Boots No. 7 Beautiful Skin Oil Free Skin Protector, is key.
5. Finish with sunscreen.
One rule of layering that applies to every single person is that sunscreen should be the last step, no matter what. “You want that sun shield to be the first thing the sun’s rays face,” says New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco. Those with slick complexions should look for nonchemical blockers, which tend to be less irritating. Try Neutrogena Naturals Brightening Daily Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 25, which can also help fade old acne scars with brightening lemon-peel extract.
Now watch as beauty guru Kandee Johnson explains everything you’ve ever wanted to know about sunscreen.