Many people with oily skin tend to avoid using moisturizers, not only because they can feel heavy, greasy and suffocating, but also because of the fear that they will clog up pores and lead to acne.
However, even if you have oily skin, moisturizing is a very important step in your skincare routine that you shouldn’t skip.
Although oily skin does contain more natural moisturizing factor (which consists of chemical compounds such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid that help to keep the skin hydrated), it still does lose water to the environment. So even if your skin is oily, it can still become dry if too much water is lost to the environment – and this can actually lead to an increase in the production of oil (as well as inflammation and irritation).
So, today I’m going to show you that there are many Korean moisturizers available for even the oiliest types of skin!
The trick is just to look for light weight lotions/emulsions or even gels if you have oily skin, and avoid thicker and heavier creams that can feel suffocating and leave your pores clogged.
TL;DR: (Don’t have time to read the whole article? Here are the products I recommend in this post):
- Etude House – Soon Jung 10 Free Moist Emulsion (Buy on Amazon)
- COSRX – Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream (Buy on Amazon)
- I’m From – Vitamin Tree Water Gel (Buy on Amazon)
- Benton – Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel (Buy on Amazon)
- Laneige – Cream Skin Refiner (Buy on Amazon)
What To Look For And What To Avoid
I’ve already mentioned that lightweight lotions and gels are better suited for oily skin and that thicker and heavier creams should be avoided. But what about skincare ingredients? It’s important to know about just a few of them.
What Ingredients Are Okay For Oily Skin?
When choosing a moisturizer, look for ones that contain humectants (ingredients that help to hydrate the skin). I’ve written a whole article on humectant ingredients, but the best ones to look for are:
- Hyaluronic acid (and sodium hyaluronate)
- Panthenol, and
- Aloe vera
It’s also okay to use moisturizers that contain cold-pressed plant-based oils (such as rosehip oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil and squalane oil). These oils are low-comedogenic and light in texture, meaning that they are much less likely to lead to clogged pores.
Snail mucin is another fantastic skincare ingredient for oily skin. It’s extremely hydrating (as it contains hyaluronic acid), is lightweight, and it’s great for acne-prone skin as it has healing properties.
What Ingredients Should I Avoid If I Have Oily Skin?
So, you now know which ingredients to look for when choosing a moisturizer (if you have oily skin). But, there are also some ingredients which you should be avoiding.
Some moisturizers are not as lightweight, and are quite thick and heavy. This is because they contain a larger percentage of emollient oils, occlusives and less water.
The oils used in thicker moisturizers tend to have a higher oleic acid content (in ratio to linoleic acid content), which is what makes them heavier – and not very suitable for oily skin. They also have higher comedogenic ratings, which means that they are much more likely to lead to clogged pores.
So the main oils you should be avoiding include:
- Olive oil
- Coconut Oil
- Cocoa butter
- Coconut butter
- Almond oil
- Avocado oil
Occlusive ingredients physically prevent water from being lost from the skin to the surrounding environment, and include petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil, and silicone derivatives such as dimethicone. Although, occlusives are great for keeping dry skin hydrated, they can make oily skin feel greasy and suffocated.
Although you’re not likely to find them in moisturizers, as a general rule, everyone (no matter your skin type) should also avoid denatured or SD alcohol, sulfates, synthetic fragrances and essential oils as these either strip the skin of it’s natural moisture barrier, or cause skin sensitization and irritation.
The Benefits Of Moisturizing Oily Skin
I mentioned already that even oily skin can become dry and that moisturizing is a very important step in your skincare routine, even if you have oily skin.
The main benefit of moisturizing oily skin is therefore to keep your skin hydrated, which directly results in:
- A healthy skin barrier that is able to function properly
- The prevention of fine lines and wrinkles
- A reduction in skin irritation, sensitization and breakouts.
The added benefit of moisturizing oily skin (with suitable products such as the ones I’m mentioning in this post), is that your skin will likely produce less oil. Conversely, skin that is dehydrated (and not moisturized regularly) actually produces more sebum to compensate for the lack of moisture!
The Best Korean Moisturizers For Oily Skin
I’ve spent many, many hours narrowing down an endless list of Korean moisturizers to those that I think are most suitable for oily skin. In fact, these moisturizers would suit all skin types, except that people with dry skin might need to finish with an occlusive to lock in that hydration.
I started with a list of about 20 moisturizers, and after careful examination of all their ingredient lists and customer reviews, I have chosen the following 5 Korean moisturizers. It was really difficult to make the choice to cut some extremely popular Korean moisturizers from my original list, but I really wanted to make sure I wasn’t including any products with potential irritating ingredients (such as essential oils). So if you’re wondering why I haven’t included some best-selling moisturizers – that is why.
As you will see, most of the moisturizers I have chosen are lightweight gel moisturizers or lotions/emulsions that don’t leave you skin feeling greasy or oily in even the hottest and most humid weather.
#1 Etude House – Soon Jung 10 Free Moist Emulsion
The Soon Jung range of skincare products is one of my favorites and I do rave about these products quite a lot here. But for good reason – the entire range is suitable for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin. This is because all the products in the Soon Jung line have short (yet effective) ingredient lists and don’t contain any irritants.
In fact, Soon Jung is a no-fuss line, comprising basic, yet very effective skincare products (so please don’t be fooled by the simple packaging of these products). I’d say that the line is similar to COSRX (although some COSRX products do contain some sensitizing ingredients such as essential oils).
The Soon Jung 10 Free Moist Emulsion is a low-pH and lightweight moisturizer that is perfect for oily skin.
This best-selling emulsion is extremely hydrating, as it contains a great mix of humectants: glycerin, panthenol and butylene glycol. In particular, both glycerin and panthenol (also known as pro-vitamin B5) are extremely effective at hydrating the skin. Panthenol also has anti-inflammatory properties (when used in the long-term), making it effective at soothing red, inflamed skin and itchy skin.
And speaking of soothing, this emulsion also contains madecassoside and Camellia sinensis leaf extract. Madecassoside is one of the four main components found in the plant extract of Centella asiatica – which is one of the most popular ingredients in Korean skincare for it’s amazing ability to soothe and calm red and irritated skin.
In total, this emulsion is made formulated with 93% naturally-derived ingredients and contains no artificial fragrances, essential oils, bad types of alcohols.
It glides onto the skin easily and feels hydrating without leaving your skin greasy or oily. It also doesn’t contain any heavier oils or butters commonly found in other moisturizers that can lead to clogged pores.
Full Ingredients List: Water, Glycerin, Propanediol, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Squalane, Panthenol, Madecassoside, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Cetearyl Alcohol, Bis-diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/vp Copolymer, Polyglyceryl-3 Methylglucose Distearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Stearic Acid, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Glyceryl Caprylate, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin, Hydroxypropyl Starch Phosphate, Butylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA
#2 COSRX – Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream
This is probably my favorite skincare product – ever. I honestly can’t live without it, and I don’t know why I hesitated to try snail mucin on my skin for so long.
I prefer the COSRX Advanced Snail 92 All In One Cream over the COSRX Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence, just because it feels much more hydrating and can be used in place of a moisturizer if you have oily skin. In the evenings, I even blend it with some rosehip seed oil (which is high in linoleic acid, pro-vitamin A and tretinoin).
As the name of this all in one cream suggests, it contains 92 percent snail mucin extract (the essence contains 96 percent). I’ve already written an article about the benefits of snail mucin, but in short I’m talking about the slime that snails produce as they slither about.
Snails actually use this slime to protect their soft bodies from drying out and to prevent physical damage (such as cuts from rough terrain).
Snail mucin is actually a wonder of nature, as it’s packed full of compounds that are often staple ingredients in so many skincare products, including:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Allantoin, and
- Glycolic acid
These compounds are all natural humectants, which is why this All In One Cream is so hydrating.
On top of 92 percent snail mucin, this cream contains additional sodium hyaluronate (a derivative of hyaluronic acid that is just as effective), allantoin, as well as panthenol and betaine – which are all hydrating ingredients!
Allantoin also has skin-healing properties and has the ability to stimulate the growth of new tissue (making it a great ingredient for treating acne scars). Panthenol also promotes wound healing and helps to reduce skin itching and inflammation (it’s super under-rated I think!).
If you’ve got oily skin AND are wanting to focus on anti-aging too, you’ll be pleased to know that this cream contains adenosine, which has been shown to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Adenosine has only been used in skincare products over the last 10 years
Full Ingredients List: Snail Secretion Filtrate, Betaine, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Carbomer, Arginine, Dimethicone, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Sodium Hyaluronate, Stearic Acid, Allantoin, Panthenol, Xanthan Gum, Ethyl Hexanediol, Adenosine
#3 I’m From – Vitamin Tree Water Gel
I really like the brand I’m From for their very simple, yet effective formulations that feature natural ingredients sourced from the most pristine locations across South Korea.
The Vitamin Tree Water Gel is a brightening and soothing gel, however it also works as the perfect moisturizing cream for people with oily skin.
The star ingredient of this gel is vitamin tree leaf water/tea (a concentration of 68%) which has been sourced from organically-grown plants in the Taebaek Mountains of Korea (where it grows naturally at high altitudes).
Vitamin tree is another name for the sea buckthorn plant (Hippophae rhamnoides). The use of sea buckthorn in skincare products is becoming more popular as it is a potent source of antioxidants and other biologically active compounds that have benefits for the skin.
In particular, studies have found that sea buckthorn leaves contain compounds that have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, suggesting that this ingredient may be beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin.
These studies have also found that the leaves of the sea buckthorn plant contain a higher concentration of carotenoids and flavonoids (types of antioxidants that help protect the skin from UV damage) than the berries of the plant! To top it off, the leaves of the sea buckthorn plant also are an excellent source of L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and vitamin E.
I’m From also state that their vitamin tree leaves have been found to contain 7 times the amount of catechins in green tea (which are phenolic compounds with very potent antioxidant properties).
Apart from antioxidant and calming effects this cream offers, it also is extremely hydrating (without being sticky or making your skin oily). It’s a very lightweight, watery cream that penetrates the skin very easily. Take a look at the full ingredients list below: it contains a fantastic mix of humectants (in particular: glycerin, sodium hyaluronate, panthenol and aloe vera).
Since we’re talking about moisturizers for oily skin, you’ll be happy to know that this cream also contains niacinamide, which helps to control sebum production. It also contain soothing ingredients, with dipotassium glycyrrhizate being my favorite (one of the main soothing compounds found in licorice root).
As an added bonus, this cream also contains cloud berry, snow lotus, and rose of Jericho extracts, which have nourishing and hydrating properties, helping to balance oil production.
I’m really glad I decided to write this article, because I’ve been wanting to try a new moisturizer that is hydrating and soothing at the same time AND that won’t suffocate my oily skin in this humid tropical summer (which just leads to my skin breaking out).
Full Ingredients List: Hippophae Rhamnoides Extract (68.00294%), Glycerin, Butylene Glycol, Methylpropanediol, Dipropylene Glycol, Water, Niacinamide, 1,2-Hexanediol, Cyclopentasiloxane, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Cyclohexasiloxane, Sodium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Biosaccharide Gum-1, Sodium Hyaluronate, Panthenol, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Hydrogenated Polydecene, Trideceth-10, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Hamamelis Virginiana (Witch Hazel) Extract, Anthemis Nobilis Flower Extract, Saussurea Involucrata Extract, Rubus Chamaemorus Fruit Extract, Selaginella Lepidophylla Extract, Carbomer, Arginine, Allantoin, Bambusa Vulgaris Water, Nelumbo Nucifera Flower Water, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Pentylene Glycol, Caprylhydroxamic Acid, Boswellia Serrata Resin Extract, Ethylhexylglycerin, Ethyl Ascorbyl Ether, Phenoxyethanol
#4 Benton – Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel
Benton is one of the most well-loved Korean skincare brands and the Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel is one of the brand’s best-selling products!
As the name suggests, this gel cream contains both Aloe vera and propolis.
As I mentioned earlier, Aloe vera has humectant properties (meaning that it’s a great ingredient for hydrating the skin). As well as having hydrating properties, Aloe vera is also a rich source of antioxidant nutrients (including vitamins A, C and E), minerals (such as zinc) and phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and analgesic properties (which is what makes Aloe vera so soothing).
Propolis is another skincare ingredient that I really love (I’ve even written an article about the benefits of propolis) – and similar to Aloe vera, it has been used by people for possibly thousands of years.
Propolis has been shown to have many benefits for the skin as a result of its powerful antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. In particular, this makes propolis the perfect ingredient for oily and acne-prone skin as it helps to get rid of acne-causing bacteria and fungi.
Apart from Aloe vera, this moisturizing gel also contains glycerin, betaine, butylene glycol and allantoin, which also have humectant properties. It also contains arginine, an amino acid with antioxidant properties that helps to stimulate the growth of new tissue.
This gel is perfect for anyone with oily skin as it’s light, non-greasy and doesn’t contain any heavier ingredients that are likely to clog your pores. It also absorbs really quickly so that you don’t have to wait to apply your sunscreen in the morning. If you also suffer from acne, it has the added bonus of containing a lot of soothing and acne-fighting ingredients.
Full Ingredients List: Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Butylene Glycol, Aqua (Water), Pentylene Glycol, 1,2-Hexanediol, Glycerin, Propolis Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Betaine, Cucumis Sativus (Cucumber) Fruit Extract, Portulaca Oleracea Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Allantoin, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice Powder, Zanthoxylum Piperitum Fruit Extract, Pulsatilla Koreana Extract, Usnea Barbata (Lichen) Extract, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Arginine
#5 Laneige – Cream Skin Refiner
Korean skincare has started to move away from dewy and glowy “glass skin” to what’s known as “cream skin” – which is a somewhat softer and less shiny look that is a lot easier to maintain.
Instead of using multiple products and skincare steps to achieve the look of glass skin, the supple and moisturized look of cream skin can be achieved with a lightweight lotion such as the Laneige Cream Skin Refiner.
In fact, these types of lotions (which are kind of hybrids between toners and moisturizers) are trending in Korea right now – as people move away from the 10-step Korean skincare routine to simpler routines that still provide all the benefits your skin needs.
It gets a bit confusing, because the term “skin” is actually also used as an alternative name for toners in Korea. So, in this case, I think the “skin” in the Laneige Cream Skin Refiner actually means toner.
So it really is a creamy toner.
And a really hydrating one. It’s contains just the right balance of ingredients to make it work really well as a creamy toner.
It contains glycerin and butylene glycol, which are both humectants. It also contains a non-fragrant and highly stable oil (meadowfoam seed oil), which has emollient properties. There is some research that suggests that meadowfoam seed oil can help to inhibit collagen degradation and protect against UVB radiation.
Sodium stearoyl glutamate and inulin lauryl carbamate have been added to this toner as they have emulsifying properties – which helps to blend the water-based and oil-based ingredients.
The star ingredient of this cream toner would have to be white tea leaf extract. White tea leaf extract actually comes from the same plant as green tea extract does, however the main difference is that white tea leaves are picked at a much younger age (they are the freshest leaves of the plant and are plucked before they unfurl).
White tea leaves contain the same types of antioxidants as green tea leaves, but in greater quantity as they undergo much less processing. These antioxidants have anti-aging properties and also help protect the skin from UV damage.
As I mentioned at the start of this article, green tea is a beneficial ingredient to include in your routine if you have oily skin (as it helps to control sebum production). White tea leaf extract can also help to control sebum production as they both contain the same compounds (since they come from the same plant – Camellia sinensis).
Last, but not least, this cream toner contains vitamin E, which is another fantastic antioxidant that helps to protect the skin from environmental stressors. Vitamin E is actually naturally present in our skin, although the amount present decreases with age and sun damage.
Full Ingredients List: Water, Butylene Glycol, Glycerin, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, 1,2-Hexanediol, Polyglyceryl- 10 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Inulin Lauryl Carbamate, Glyceryl Caprylate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Propanediol, Disodium Edta, Camellia Sinensis (White Tea) Leaf Extract, Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
What If Your Skin Needs Extra Hydration?
Sometimes our skin does need a little extra hydration, such as during cold and dry weather, or even after extended periods in the sun. There are ways to provide your skin with more intense hydration, without having to resort to thicker and heavier creams that are likely to cause your skin to become oily.
If you feel your skin needs more hydration than usual, a great tip is to use gel creams as a hydrating mask in the evenings.
Simply apply a thicker layer of whatever gel you like in your evening routine and leave it on your face for 20 minutes (wipe off the excess once the 20 minutes are up). You could even store your gel in the fridge for an extra cooling effect in hot weather and use a jade roller to massage the gel over your skin.