If you have oily and/or acne-prone skin, it can be difficult to find skincare products that keep oil and breakouts at bay without experiencing side effects like irritation and dryness. Luckily The Ordinary, an affordable and budget-friendly skincare brand known for its effective skincare treatments, has some wonderful options for oily and acne-prone skin types.
Why Use The Ordinary for Oily & Acne Prone Skin?
I’ve tried so many expensive skincare products over the years that show up on best-seller lists that don’t work for my skin. Unfortunately, our skin is very unique and what may work for me might not work for you. That’s why spending a lot of money on a single product is not realistic for me unless I’ve sampled it or know it will work with my skin.
That’s what’s so nice about effective drugstore skincare products from brands like The Ordinary. You can try a few different products and see what works and what doesn’t without breaking the bank. The Ordinary offers products for all different skin types including oily and acne-prone which you can test for compatibility in multiples for less than the price of one $50+ skincare product.
I wrote a post about building a skincare routine with The Ordinary for all skin types, so please see that post if you want a complete routine from The Ordinary for oily/acne-prone skin. Today let’s take a more detailed look at the best individual products from The Ordinary for oily and acne-prone skin:
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The Ordinary Exfoliating Acids
Skincare acids have gained in popularity in recent years, as they are an effective way to clear away dead skin cells and brighten the skin, even skin tone, and increase skin clarity. Oily and acne-prone skin types can benefit from acids since they clear away dead skin cells that can clog pores causing breakouts.
NOTE: Please note that the use of alpha and beta-hydroxy acids below makes your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, so be sure to wear sunscreen (preferably SPF 30 or higher) while using these products and for 7 days after.
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The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution contains 7% glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA). This toning solution is a chemical exfoliator and will remove dead skin cells to clarify and brighten the skin. With continued use, it will also improve skin texture. This product will reduce oil and dead skin buildup which leads to clogged pores. Fewer clogged pores mean fewer breakouts.
Formulated at a pH between 3.5-3.7, this glycolic acid toning solution contains Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce irritation associated with acid use. It also contains ginseng root and aloe vera to soothe the skin and to improve skin radiance.
In this 2018 study published in the journal Molecules, glycolic acid has been shown to provide anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin. It also minimizes the appearance of pores. Let’s not forget about its anti-aging benefits. Glycolic acid helps to reduce the appearance of the signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
The key to glycolic acid’s effectiveness can be found in how much glycolic acid is in the product that you use. For at-home products, try to limit your glycolic acid use to no more than 10% concentration, otherwise, you risk irritating, burning, and harming your skin in the process.
Glycolic Acid and Sensitive Skin
There are some drawbacks to glycolic acid if you have sensitive skin. Glycolic acid contains some of the smallest of all AHA molecules, which is great news for oily and acne-prone skin since it can reach down deep in your pores to clear them out, but this means it can be irritating for sensitive skin. Be sure to do a patch test prior to using if you have sensitive skin.
When to Use: The Ordinary suggests using their Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution no more than once per day. Apply ideally in the PM after cleansing (do not rinse off), since acids can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. Direct acids, peptides, pure vitamin C, retinol, or EUK 134 0.1% should not be used in the same routine as this product.
Lactic acid is another alpha hydroxy acid that exfoliates the skin, but it is gentler than glycolic acid due to its larger molecule size. Lactic acid is a good choice for those with sensitive skin or for those that cannot tolerate glycolic acid.
The Ordinary has two lactic acid serums: Lactic Acid 5% + HA and Lactic Acid 10% + HA. While you are getting a stronger product with 10% compared to 5% in terms of lactic acid concentration, both contain Tasmanian pepperberry to reduce irritation associated with acid use.
Lactic acid works to exfoliate, smooth and even skin texture, resulting in a reduction in acne and breakouts, as well as a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
When To Use: The Ordinary recommends using their lactic acid products no more than once per day. Apply after cleansing and toning ideally in the PM, since acids can make your skin sensitive to sunlight. Since these formulas are in a liquid form, this follows the theory of applying your skincare from thinnest to thickest in texture. Direct acids, peptides, pure vitamin C, retinol, or EUK 134 0.1% should not be used in the same routine as these products.
Related Post: How To Apply Your Skincare Products in the Correct Order
The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% contains a high 10% concentration of high-purity Azelaic Acid. Azelaic acid is a dicarboxylic acid and is derived from grains. It is also produced by the yeast that normally lives on your skin. This multi-tasking acid gently exfoliates the skin to remove dead skin cells that can buildup in your pores. It has antioxidant and antibacterial properties that help to fend off P. acnes, a bacterium that leads to acne.
Azelaic acid does a particularly good job at evening skin tone. It not only helps prevent pigmentation by inhibiting activity from the enzyme tyrosinase, but it also helps reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, acne scars, and discoloration.
When To Use: Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% is a lightweight cream-gel, which makes it ideal as one of the last steps in your skincare routine under a moisturizer, preferably in the evening. Direct acids, peptides, pure vitamin C, retinol, or EUK 134 0.1% should not be used in the same routine as this product.
The Ordinary Exfoliating Acid Treatments – Biweekly/Weekly
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution is a 10-minute exfoliating acid treatment that is formulated for experienced users of acid exfoliation. It contains 30% alpha hydroxy acids (Glycolic/Lactic/Tartaric/Citric), and 2% beta hydroxy acid (Salicylic Acid).
This is a STRONG exfoliating acid treatment that can be used to help clear pore congestion. Alpha hydroxy acids will brighten your skin and even skin tone, while the beta hydroxy acid will provide a deeper exfoliation to help with visible blemishes.
The unique red shade of the product makes your face look a little strange, but it is a potent treatment for oily and acne-prone skin that is not sensitive.
When To Use: Apply this treatment as a masque for no more than 10 minutes on clean dry skin avoiding the eye area. Make sure to rinse after 10 minutes as it is intended to be used as a masque only. Use once or twice a week at most. This masque is not intended for sensitive, peeling, or otherwise compromised skin. Direct acids, peptides, pure vitamin C, retinol, or EUK 134 0.1% should not be used in the same routine as this product.
Related Post: The Ordinary Anti-Aging Skincare Review
The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque is formulated with 2% salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that helps sweep away dead skin cells, ideal for oily and acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid works so well for blemish-prone skin because it works at a deeper level than most other skincare acids and gets deep into the pores to relieve congestion.
Vegetable charcoals and Amazonian clays are also included in this masque for their deep cleansing properties thanks to their porosity and large surface area available for absorption. Squalane moisturizes and replenishes the skin. This rinse off masque will also help improve skin tone and dullness.
When To Use: Apply this masque treatment evenly across your face with your fingertips on clean dry skin avoiding the eye area. Make sure to rinse after 10 minutes as it’s intended to be used as a masque only. Use once or twice a week at most. This masque is not intended for sensitive, peeling, or otherwise compromised skin. Direct acids, peptides, pure vitamin C, retinol, or EUK 134 0.1% should not be used in the same routine as this product.
Serums and Treatments
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 serum is an acid, serum, and hydrator in one. Don’t be fooled into thinking this acid will irritate your skin. Hyaluronic acid is not an exfoliating acid but is a hydrating acid. I included it under serums and treatments because that is the step of your skin routine where it is applied.
Even if you’re skin is oily and acne-prone, you still need to hydrate your skin. Allowing your skin to become dehydrated will only compromise your skin barrier. This opens the door to irritation and the possibility of more breakouts and acne.
This serum plumps the skin with low-, medium- and high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid to hydrate multiple layers of your skin. It also contains Vitamin B5 for enhanced surface hydration.
When To Use: Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 works well with other The Ordinary acids. It adds a layer of hydration and soothes the skin to offset the irritation brought on by exfoliating acids. Apply after cleansing and toning. If using The Ordinary exfoliating acids, apply after Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution or after one of their lactic acid products.
Related Post: The Best The Ordinary Products for Dry Skin
The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% is one of The Ordinary’s best-sellers and it’s an essential The Ordinary product for oily and acne-prone skin, as it’s formulated to help reduce the appearance of congestion and skin blemishes. It contains 10% niacinamide and also zinc salt of pyrrolidone carboxylic acid to help balance sebum activity.
Niacinamide is one of my absolute favorite skincare ingredients due to it’s multiple benefits for the skin. Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B-3, is well-known for its brightening abilities as well as for even skin tone and reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. It supports the skin barrier and provides antioxidant protection.
Niacinamide even helps regulate oil production which is key for oily skin. Additionally, it has soothing properties to calm redness and irritation. For $5.90 this product from The Ordinary is worth a try.
When To Use: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% should be used during the treatment step of your skin routine after cleansing and toning. Since it has somewhat of a running texture, follow with thicker serums and moisturizers. The Ordinary notes that this serum may compromise the integrity of topical vitamin C products, so this serum should not be used at the same time as products containing vitamin C.
The Ordinary 100% Niacinamide Powder is a newer offering from The Ordinary. It contains 100% niacinamide in a powder form. It can’t be used alone, but must be mixed with an appropriate non-conflicting water-based treatment that has a pH between 5.1 and 7.0.
I think its easiest to mix this niacinamide powder with another product from The Ordinary since The Ordinary discloses the pH of their products. The Ordinary provides a list of their products that will work as a base for the niacinamide powder:
- The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
- The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA
- The Ordinary “Buffet” + Copper Peptides 1%
- The Ordinary Matrixyl 10% + HA
- The Ordinary Argireline Solution 10%
Mix 1/4 scoop (spoon provided) of niacinamide powder with the base product in the palm of your hand. How much of the base product? The Ordinary provides an example: 1/4 scoop of this niacinamide powder is approximately 0.05g niacinamide, and you mix it with 4 drops of the base, such as a serum. The result yields a 10-15% concentration of niacinamide. (I personally like mixing it with the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 or Matrixyl 10% + HA.)
You may wonder whether it’s worth all the effort. In my experience it is. The DIY serum cocktail makes a noticeable difference in the size of my pores and brightens my skin. It provides all of the oil regulation properties of niacinamide as well. Additionally, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% slightly irritates my skin so I am thrilled that The Ordinary has another niacinamide option.
When To Use: Use during the treatment step of your skincare routine. Mixing with a serum gives you the benefits of two products in one application. Use in the morning and/or evening. Be sure to wash your hands after handling and do not mix with formulations with a pH of 5.0 or lower. Do not use in the same routine as vitamin C products and direct acids.
Although The Ordinary “Buffet” is not targeted to oily and acne-prone skin, this serum will benefit all skin types thanks to its potent cocktail of peptides. This oil-free serum will target dullness, uneven skin tone and dryness thanks to 11 skin-friendly amino acids and multiple hyaluronic acid complexes.
When To Use: Use during the treatment step of your skincare routine following cleansing and toning. Avoid using in the same routine as direct acids, as direct acids can compromise the effectiveness of peptides in this serum. Also avoid using pure Vitamin C (LAA/ELAA) in the same routine.
Regardless of your age or skin concerns, this serum will help target dullness and multiple signs of aging and leave your skin plump and smooth. It’s lightweight and works well under makeup.
The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is all about protection and hydration. Regardless of your skin type, you need to ensure that your skin is hydrated and to protect your skin barrier. A weakened skin barrier, or top layer of your skin, opens the door to irritation and bacteria which can make acne and breakouts worse.
This moisturizer is formulated with 11 amino acids, fatty acids, triglycerides, urea, ceramides, phospholipids, glycerin, saccharides, sodium PCA, hyaluronic acid, and other ingredients that occur naturally in the skin. Even better, it’s a non-greasy formula, making it ideal for oily skin.
When To Use: Apply after cleansing, toning, and skincare treatment products (such as serums or retinoids) for a dewy and smooth complexion. Apply prior to sunscreen if used during the day.
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane contains one ingredient: squalane. Squalane is a highly emollient hydrator found naturally in the skin. It’s non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores, making it suitable for all skin types, especially oily and acne-prone skin. 100% Plant-Derived Squalane will quickly sink into the skin and is similar in structure to the sebum found in our skin so it won’t leave you with a greasy or oily feeling on your face. It will leave your skin supple and smooth.
Squalane is a stable oil and doesn’t oxidize giving it a longer shelf life than similar products. It can even improve the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation.
Squalane has antibacterial and antioxidant properties and acts as an anti-inflammatory calming acne-prone skin. This lightweight compound locks in moisture and protects the skin barrier. As a bonus, it has anti-aging properties by reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles and improving skin elasticity.
I have combination skin, and I can’t believe how lightweight this oil is. I’m not a huge fan of facial oils, because they inevitably make my skin feel like an oil slick. Not The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane. It’s the most lightweight oil I’ve ever tried!
When To Use: Apply as the last step of your skincare routine in the evening and right before sunscreen in the morning. This product can also be used in place of moisturizer for oily skin.
Sunscreen is an absolute must for everyone whether you have oily and acne-prone skin or not. The Ordinary has a few sunscreens options including Mineral UV Filters SPF 30 with Antioxidants. This formula uses non-comedogenic silicones which allows the sunscreen to remain extremely lightweight by optimizing the amount of the blocking agents in the formula. This is ideal for oily skin because the last thing you want is a heavy sunscreen that causes congestion and ultimately breakouts.
It also contains Tasmanian pepperberry to calm stressed skin, antioxidants to protect from free radicals and UV radiation. Skin identical lipids support the skin barrier and a bio-sugar complex to provides hydration.
When To Use: Apply daily as the last step of your morning skincare routine.
Final Thoughts on The Ordinary Products for Oily & Acne-Prone Skin
The Ordinary has a large skin range of skincare products and choosing products for your skin type can be confusing, so I hope this post has helped highlight some of the best The Ordinary products for oily and acne-prone skin. These products will benefit oily and acne-prone skin thanks to many non-comedogenic ingredients targeted at removing congestion, balancing oil production, protecting the skin barrier, and hydrating the skin.
Thanks for reading, and until next time…