Alternative Skincare Guide: Sensitive/Oily Skin Edition

A couple of weeks ago, this skincare guide contained some good recommendations, but I found some of the advice to be less than optimal for sensitive or oily skin types so I thought I’d provide some alternatives after experimenting a bit and doing some further research.


The first thing to avoid if your skin is already oily or sensitive is anything that will dry it out. Your skin tries to establish a natural balance and will overproduce oil if you use harsh, drying products.

Clean and Clear, Neutrogena Deep Clean and similar products all contain salicylic acid, which will dry your skin and increase oil production. For a basic, daily cleanser you want something gentle that is acid and oil free. I’ve been using the same one on and off for a while at the recommendation of multiple dermatologists over the years:

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

This is good for everyday use and I use it in the morning and after the gym. It may be useful to mix things up and add a foaming cleanser at night though. Olay makes a good non-drying option for sensitive skin and Cetaphil has their own as well:

Olay Sensitive Skin Gentle Foaming Face Wash

Cetaphil Dermacontrol Foam Wash


Here is where you really have to be careful as most toners contain alcohol and it can be even more drying than acids. After using this one from veroz’s recommendations for a week, my skin was shiny and actually breaking out which it rarely did before.

You still want something to clean out the pores though. A product with witch hazel is usually a better bet than one with salicylic acid like the above. It will also contain significantly less alcohol and be non-drying. This is what I use twice daily after cleansing:

Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Pore Perfecting Toner


Protects your skin from harmful junk and the sun while keeping it from getting too dry. I don’t use a tinted one like veroz recommends, but that one is probably fine. I’d say most options here are generally ok, and you can even go without if you aren’t outdoors much (this is reddit, after all). I’ve seen jojoba oil recommended as an alternative, though it won’t protect you from the sun. Cetaphil actually provides another pretty decent option that has SPF15, though it gets mixed reviews on Amazon. I use it and have no complaints, but YMMV:

Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer


Once every week or so as needed, a mask is a good idea to pull out the garbage from your skin. It will be somewhat drying, but considerably less so than alcohol or acids, and that’s the point anyway. I’ve used this one for a while and it does a good job of reducing the appearance of pores while leaving skin smooth but not shiny, it’s also affordable and readily available at most local supermarkets:

Queen Helene Masque Mint Julep

If you’re still not happy with your pores, pore strips are another option, but I tend to think they’re overpriced and don’t do much, plus you won’t need them often or at all if you keep up with everything else.


Ok, now we’re starting to get into Patrick Bateman territory, so I will defer to others who know more in this area and want to add their thoughts. Personally, I don’t do much beyond the above routine and am generally happy with the results, but if you want to get into anti-aging super-revitalizing eye-rollers and elite scientifically formulated wonder serums, I say go for it. You’re going to invest a considerable amount more time and effort though and get probably marginally better results.


In addition to a basic regimen of products like these, there are other steps which can be taken to improve your skin that were beyond the scope of my original post. These include: increased water consumption, healthy eating and sleeping habits, avoiding touching the facial area, regularly changing pillowcases and taking vitamins and supplements (fish oil, zinc, b5, MSM and others).

Also, it has been pointed out here that the cause of negative effects on the skin brought about by harsh cleansers is more complicated than the initial theory I put forward about the skin’s oil production self-regulating. While that is not the cause, the effect of harsh products containing acids is still the same for different reasons, as suggested by the findings of other research.

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