If you have oily acne prone skin then you’d understand the frustration when it comes to creating your Korean skincare routine. It can be really difficult and take a long time to find skincare products that don’t cause your skin to break out. So, what are the best Korean skincare products for oily acne prone skin?
TL;DR: Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here are some of the products I recommend in this post:
If you have oily and acne-prone skin, it’s best to use products with short ingredient lists. It’s also beneficial to look for products that include ingredients good for fighting acne and clearing acne scars, such as:
- Cica (Centella asiatica extract)
- Snail mucin
- Propolis and honey
- Salycylic acid (BHA)
- Tea tree oil
Why are these ingredients so good for oily acne prone skin? And what are the best Korean skincare products for oily acne prone skin? I’ve done the research for you and found the best Korean skincare products containing these beneficial ingredients. Read on if you’d like to know what products you should incorporate into your skincare routine.
Common Ingredients That Acne-Friendly Brands Use
Using skincare products with comparatively short ingredient lists greatly decreases the chance that you’re using an ingredient that your skin is sensitive to, which can lead to breakouts.
Some of the best Korean skincare brands for oily and acne-prone skin (with short ingredient lists) include:
- Etude House (Soon Jung line)
- Pyunkang Yul
- I’m From
The skincare products belonging to these brands often contain ingredients that are known to be beneficial for treating and preventing acne, as well as clearing acne scaring and inflammation. The most popular (and widely used) ones you should look for when buying skincare products are:
Cica (Centella asiatica extract)
Cica is a popular plant-based ingredient that a lot of Korean skincare brands are including in their products – especially when it comes to products for oily acne prone skin. It is the extract from the plant Centella asiatica (a perennial herb) that has an extremely high antioxidant content (in particular, madecassic acid).
This high antioxidant content gives cica some amazing anti-inflammatory properties – making it great ingredient for acne prone skin.
I’ve written a separate article on the benefits of Centella asiatica, that you can check out here.
I’ll avoid going into the biochemistry of it, but basically the madecassic acid present in cica suppresses inflammation by inhibiting the release of pro-inflammatory proteins. Look for products containing cica if you’re looking for a natural ingredient to fight inflammation and scarring caused by acne.
It’s important to note that cica won’t prevent new acne from forming, but it will make a difference to how inflamed your skin becomes when you’re breaking out. It will also reduce how much scarring you’re left with once the acne has cleared.
I’ve actually written a post on snail mucin because it’s such an amazing ingredient with a diverse range of benefits for the skin.
One of those benefits is that it happens to be great at preventing and healing acne.
This is due to snail mucin’s antimicrobial properties – which help to keep acne-causing bacteria at bay. Snail mucin also contains hyaluronic acid, which is an ingredient that helps to repair the skin’s moisture barrier by attracting water molecules to the outer skin layer.
I mention it so much on this website – a damaged skin barrier can result in acne breakouts – so don’t skip the snail mucin if you think your skin barrier might be damaged.
I personally find that when I use snail mucin, my skin is not as red and my acne is less inflamed (and heals much faster). My skin is also much smoother and more plump. There have been a few lazy nights where I have skipped the snail mucin in my routine and let me tell you – there is a HUGE difference in how my skin looks without it the next day!
The Best Snail Mucin Products For Oily Acne Prone Skin
COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence & Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream
I have lost count of how many times I have repurchased this product. It is an essential in my current skincare routine and I don’t ever see myself going without it again!
If you have oily acne prone skin, and are looking for a snail mucin product, then there is nothing that compares to the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence and the COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream.
I haven’t had anywhere near the same results with any other snail mucin product. I put this down to both the incredibly high concentration of snail mucin in both these products, as well as very few extra ingredients that have been added.
The essence has a runnier consistency compared to the cream (which is so deliciously slimy). I like to use the essence in my morning routine (after cleansing and toning, but before my sunscreen). In the evening, I tend to use the snail mucin cream as a moisturizer, with only my rosehip seed oil on top as an occlusive.
Both these products have really worked so well at keeping my acne under control. I have found that I’m not getting anywhere near as many pimples as I was before I started using these products, and my skin looks and feels so smooth and soft. I’ve also noticed that snail mucin has a brightening effect too and helps to fade my acne scars after a bad breakout.
Just like snail mucin, propolis is a highly trending ingredient in the Korean skincare industry (as well as some other bee and honey ingredients).
But what is propolis?
Propolis is a powerful natural antiseptic substance produced by honeybees from tree buds and other botanical sources. It looks like a brownish resin and is sometimes called ‘bee glue’. Bees actually use propolis to repair and seal small crevices within the beehive, where it acts as an immune defence mechanism for the whole hive.
The protective properties of propolis come from the active plant compounds it contains (caffeates and flavonoids). These compounds give propolis antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties – making it a great substance for treating and preventing acne.
The way that propolis treats acne is by inhibiting the growth of inflammation-causing bacteria associated with breakouts (the bacteria responsible for clogging pores and causing inflamed pimples). So if you have oily acne prone skin, then propolis may be something to consider incorporating into your routine (to keep pore-clogging and acne-causing bacteria at bay).
The Best Propolis Products For Oily Acne Prone Skin
There are quite a lot of propolis products to choose from and most come in the form of ampoules or serums (including those from COSRX, Scinic, Tosowoong, and iUNIK).
However, if you have oily and acne prone skin, you cannot go past the Grow Vita Propolis Ampoule from LJH (Leegeehaam) and the Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol from COSRX.
Dr. Ceuracle – Royal Vita Propolis 33 Ampoule
Although this propolis ampoule is a little more pricey than other propolis ampoules and serums on the market, the visible improvements it has had for my skin is worth the extra money. It also comes in a slightly smaller bottle than other propolis products (only 15ml), however I only use 2 drops of this it per day (I mix it with my COSRX snail mucin essence), and this way one bottle lasts me about 3 months.
This propolis ampoule is packed with 50% propolis extract, as well as other acne-friendly ingredients including Centella asiatica, sea buckthorn, and witch hazel extract
I have found that not only does this ampoule help prevent breakouts, but it also stops my face from being so blotchy and oily at the end of the day. I love, love, love this ampoule so much that I’m already on my third bottle!
COSRX Natural BHA Skin Returning A-Sol
Okay, who comes up with some of the names of these COSRX products? If you didn’t know what BHA is (I talk about BHA’s next) or what A-Sol means (it stands for acne solution), you might never buy it!
Many people who are looking to incorporate a propolis product into their routines overlook this toner because the word propolis simply isn’t in the name. But let me tell you, this toner is perfect for oily and acne prone skin as it contains 69.8% propolis extract AND natural BHAs and AHAs.
The concentration of BHAs and AHAs (chemical exfoliants) is low enough that this product can be used daily (both morning and evening routines) without over-exfoliating the skin. I use this toner as a treatment toner and apply it only to my problem areas (after applying my favourite toner (from Soon Jung) all over my face first).
Salicylic Acid (BHA)
If you have oily acne prone skin – you really need a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) in your routine. It sounds complicated, but a BHA is really just a type of chemical exfoliant, which works deep in pores to break down excess oily sebum – thereby preventing blemishes and breakouts.
Salicylic acid is the most common BHA used in skincare products. This ingredient is also popular in western skincare too, so chances are you have used a product containing it at some stage already.
Salicylic acid is perfect for oily skin types as it works wonders in regulating sebum production – making your skin less oily.
I have to note though that although salicylic acid is great at preventing surface acne, blackheads and whiteheads – it doesn’t prevent or treat cystic acne, which is commonly caused by the bacteria P. acnes. It’s also important to mention that if you decide to use a product containing salicylic acid (or any other acid for that matter), you need to be especially mindful about applying sunscreen.
The Best Salicylic Acid (BHA) Products For Oily Acne Prone Skin
Is it any wonder that two of the best selling BHA products are from the brand COSRX? Like I mentioned earlier, COSRX is really the go-to brand if you have oily acne prone skin!
COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid
When I first got into Korean skincare, I heard and read so much about the legend of the COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid. It therefore didn’t take me long to purchase this product for myself!
It contains 4% BHA, with Betaine salicylate (a derivative of salicylic acid) being the main active ingredient. It also contains white willow bark and vitamin B5. The Betaine salicylate provides exfoliation over a longer period of time (even after the product has been removed and has evaporated).
This product has a clear and slightly thicker than water texture and I like that it also has no added fragrance. It doesn’t make my skin appear oily or feel greasy at all.
I apply this product about 2-3 times a week – in the evenings after double cleansing and toning. I apply one to two pumps of this product to my face and neck (excluding the eye area) using either my fingertips or a Japanese-style cotton pad. I let it absorb into my skin for about 15 minutes before proceeding with the rest of my routine.
I can definitely tell that my skin has improved since using this product. I have less surface acne and my skin is generally less bumpy and smoother. My skin doesn’t get as oily and I also think that my skin looks brighter (my hyperpigmentation has faded noticeably).
COSRX Salicylic Acid Daily Gentle Cleanser
This cleanser is made for those with oily acne prone skin! It is formulated with botanical ingredients including tea tree oil and willow bark water. It contains 0.5% salicylic acid (in the form of Betaine salicylate) – just enough to help prevent acne and make it gentle enough for every day use.
I believe COSRX got the scent of this cleanser just right too – as it has a pleasant citrus smell. I like that this cleanser doesn’t feel drying or stripping like many western salicylic cleansers do. My face feels super soft after using this cleanser.
If you’re using the double cleansing method, then this would make a great second (water-based) cleanser. If you prefer not to double cleanse, you can also use this as a cleanser on its own.
Tea Tree Oil
One more ingredient that is worth considering if you have oily and acne prone skin is tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil is a natural ingredient derived from the leaves of the Australian tea tree plant (Melaleuca alternifolia). Due to some of the compounds it contains (including a high concentration of terpenes), it functions as both an anti-microbial and an anti-inflammatory – making it great at preventing and treating acne.
Although there are studies that have concluded that tea tree oil is effective at preventing and treating acne – the concentration required for it’s anti-microbial properties is at least 5%. However, most skincare products contain less than 0.5% tea tree oil as anything higher can trigger a sensitized reaction.
A little word of warning: DO NOT put pure tea tree oil on your face! Not only can this cause chemical burns if not diluted with a carrier oil correctly, but you may actually end up with more acne due to the skin irritation it often causes.
Although you’re not getting the anti-microbial effects of tea tree oil at lower concentrations, you’re saving your skin from a lot of potential damage and you’re still benefiting from all the anti-inflammatory properties that tea tree oil has.
The Best Korean Tea Tree Oil Products For Oily Acne Prone Skin
When it comes to incorporating tea tree oil in my skincare routine, I prefer to stick with a gentle and moisturizing cleanser. There are a few tea tree oil treatment products available, such as ampoules and serums. However, the reviews I have read are a bit mixed and in some cases they actually made people’s acne worse due to some of the added ingredients or fragrances they contained.
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Cleanser
It contains tea tree oil as well as a few other beneficial botanical ingredients, Betaine salicylate and mild acids. As it’s name suggests it has a low pH very close to the natural pH of our skin,which means it’s not going to strip your skin of all its natural oils.
It has a gel consistency with a slight tea tree scent and lathers up very nicely. I actually like to keep mine in the fridge so that it also cools and calms my skin after a hot day here in the tropics!
Just one tip when using this cleanser – don’t use it to remove eye makeup as it does sting a little if you get it in your eyes. Otherwise, I can’t recommend this cleanser enough – which is why I haven’t switched to a different one – and also why it is probably one of the overall best selling Korean skincare products!
Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser
Another very gentle cleanser with a low pH (although not as low as the COSRX Good Morning Cleanser) and added tea tree oil is the Klairs Rich Moist Foaming Cleanser.
This cleanser is especially formulated for sensitive skin (using an amino acid formula), however it is also great for oily and acne prone skin types. Even though this is a foaming cleanser, it leaves your skin feeling very soft after cleansing and doesn’t leave your skin feeling stripped and dry at all.
It contains a pretty big range of other beneficial botanical ingredients including aloe leaf extract and licorice root extract. It also has a tea tree scent, which I personally really like.
A Few More Helpful Tips For Oily Acne Prone Skin
So I’ve talked about some powerful ingredients that you should look to incorporate in your routine if you have oily acne prone skin.
I thought I’d finish with just a few important points to consider if you have oily acne prone skin.
Include An Oil Cleanser In Your Routine
If you’re new to Korean skincare, you may not have heard of double cleansing yet. It’s such an important step for people with oily and acne prone skin that I actually wrote my first post about it.
An oil cleanser makes up the very first step of your skincare routine and is used before a second (water-based) cleanser. It might be scary to think about putting oil on already oily and acne prone skin, however oil cleansers actually remove oil-based gunk and excess sebum from your pores without stripping and drying the skin (which leads to further sebum production).
I absolutely love using the Banila Co Clean It Zero Purifying Cleansing Balm in the evening to remove suncreen, makeup and excess sebum from my face. The balm feels so soft and feels so nice to massage into my skin. It contains no artificial coloring, alcohol, parabens, mineral oil or artificial fragrances and is perfect for sensitive skin too. It also contains Centella asiatica to help fight those blemishes.
YMMV – Your Mileage May Vary
As you slowly build your skincare routine and find which product works best for your skin, you will come to learn that what works well for one person may not necessarily work well for you. Or sometimes even – what seems to work well for everyone, doesn’t work well for you – perhaps due to your skin reacting badly to one or more ingredients.
I have found this to be the case with some products I’ve started using. I can tell you, that it is so disappointing to find out that everyone else’s holy grail skincare product just turns your face into a pimply mess.
So remember the term YMMV when trying new products. Don’t keep using something on your skin (if your skin is reacting badly to it) even if everyone else raves about how magical it is for their skin.
Don’t Cleanse Too Much
I am someone who used to over-cleanse my face. I thought that if my face was cleaner and if I washed away all the oil every 3 hours that my acne would go away. But, this was probably damaging my skin’s moisture barrier – making my face produce more oil to compensate – which just led to more acne (which led me to cleanser my face even more).
So, this leads me to advise you not to cleanse your face too much. Once or twice a day is sufficient (I only double cleanse in the evening and wash my face with the COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser in the morning).
Instead of stripping your skin of oils (by over cleansing and using other harsh products such as Western toners), try incorporating some of the acne-friendly products I’ve mentioned in this post that gently work to reduce inflammation and prevent pores from becoming clogged with sebum and acne-causing bacteria.
Other Factors That May Be Causing Acne
My last tip is to remember that other factors may be causing you to break out (such as fluctuating hormones, dehydration, stress and a lack of sleep, not changing pillow cases and towels often enough or even eating bad foods and food intolerances).
It’s just as important to address these issues too. No amount of skincare products you use will prevent breakouts if you’re sleep deprived or eating a terrible diet.
So just remember to focus on these factors too (as best as you can), if you’re trying to get rid of your acne.
I hope this article has helped you to choose some Korean skincare products that are suitable for oily acne prone skin.
All the links to products that I have provided in this article are to Yesstyle.com (an online retailer based in Korea that I shop from regularly). I mostly recommend shopping from either Yesstyle, SokoGlam.com or Jolse.com so you can be assured that you are buying genuine products only. If you’d like to know more about where to buy Korean skincare products from, then I’ve written a post about it, here.
I’d love to hear in the comments if you have tried one of these products already. Did it work for you too? Are there other products you would recommend for people struggling with oily skin and acne?