18 Best serums for oily skin (2023)
Oily skin causes all types of problems. It clogs your pores which leads to acne, blackheads, and an increased look of aging—all things you want to avoid. That’s where facial serums come in.
Since they tend to be more lightweight than traditional moisturizers, serums leave the face feeling refreshed rather than bogged down. Facial serums also include more active ingredients, meaning they’re more effective for clearing acne, fading dark spots, smoothening hyperpigmentation, and evening your skin tone. Frankly, facial serums are that one step you just might be missing in your skincare routine.
To make your life easier, we took it upon ourselves to test and research the best face serums on the market, compiling a list of the 18 best serums for oily skin in 2023. That said, we’ve got options, and you do too.
What We Looked For in a Serum
There are literally hundreds of facial serums out there. Without science-backed research, it can be hard to know if they actually work or if they’ll just increase the oils on your face. But don’t worry—we’ve done the hard work for you. Here are a few of the things we recommend looking at when purchasing a face serum.
As a guideline, we recommend staying away from a serum that has a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Instead, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which is ideal for almost all skin types and brightens and refreshes dry skin.
The second ingredient we recommend is vitamin C (also called ascorbic acid). Vitamin C can do it all, from evening skin tones to fighting free radicals which cause acne. It also reduces excess oils on the skin and returns the pH balance back to its natural composition. Other ingredients we recommend to unclog your pores are zinc, niacinamide, and salicylic acid (which is a form of BHA).
The second thing you need to consider is the formulation of the serum. That being said, most serums contain vitamin C which cannot include over a 20% concentration without a prescription. Additionally, it’s important to note that the higher the concentration of a vitamin or acid, the more likely it is to cause irritation. For this reason, we recommend using serums with a 10-15% concentration of vitamin C (and lower if you have sensitive skin).
It’s also beneficial to have multiple vitamins or anti-inflammatory agents in your serum. That way, each ingredient can target your oily skin in a different way and stop the problem for good.
Face serums can be purchased anywhere from $10 to $300—or more for a prescription product! That being said, expensive products aren’t always better. Luckily for you, we’ve included options for everyone—no matter your budget.
Our Top 18 Face Serums of 2023
Now that you know exactly how we created our list of the top 18 serums for oily skin in 2023, it’s time to share it. Here are our choices:
1. Blu Atlas Vitamin C Serum
Our favorite face serum comes from New-York-based men’s skincare brand, Blu Atlas. This serum combats oily skin with rich antioxidants from vitamin C, mulberry root extract, aloe vera, and pyrus malus fruit (apple) extract. The serum is also proven to fade dark spots, prevent acne, and provide a more even skin tone.
The four ingredients we mentioned are key to an even skin tone. Some of the most expensive options on this list include the same formula. The only difference? Blu Atlas’s serum is one third the cost. Their product is also free from animal cruelty, parabens, phthalates, sulfates, artificial or synthetic fragrances, and it’s made in the US.
With 97.6% of the ingredients naturally sourced (and completely vegan), Blu Atlas is a no-brainer. Did we mention there’s also a money-back guarantee?
2. Skinceuticals C E Ferulic
Second on our list is Skinceuticals C E Ferulic. It’s a clinically proven facial serum that protects against fine lines, wrinkles, loss of skin firmness, and dark spots. By neutralizing free radicals, this face serum slows the production of oil on the skin, making it perfect for anyone with blocked pores. The only downside of the Skinceuticals facial serum is that it’s over five times the price of Blu Atlas’s serum—with virtually the same benefits and ingredients.
With a 15% formulation of vitamin C and a 1% addition of vitamin E, Skinceuticals facial serum has the added benefit of protecting against environmental damage. Oftentimes, environmental damage can contribute to fine lines, wrinkles, and sun spots. This facial serum is proven to reduce the damage caused by oxidative stress by as much as 41%.
Skinceuticals product is free of parabens, fragrances, dyes, alcohol, and silicone. However, unlike Blu Atlas, it’s not vegan, cruelty-free, and doesn’t mention sulfates—which have a bad rep in the skincare world.
3. Rosen Skincare Paloma Serum
Coming in at number three for the 18 best serums for oily skin in 2023 is Rosen Skincare’s Paloma Serum. This product really focuses on breaking up clogged pores and decreasing the levels of oil on the skin. It doesn’t feature as many additional benefits as our top two options, but it’s also one of the cheapest choices on our list.
For being such a budget-friendly option, we thought the ingredient list of Rosen Skincare’s serum was impressive. Its second ingredient is glycolic acid, which is proven to break down built-up oils on the skin and boost collagen production. Third, it includes white willow bark, which, again, reduces excess oils and stops acne in its tracks. We also appreciate that Rosen Skincare’s product has a delicious citrusy smell. It’s light, gentle, and subtle.
For those with sensitive skin, you may want to avoid this product. It includes grapefruit oil—an essential oil—that can cause irritation on the skin. But if you don’t have sensitive skin and just want to try a facial serum out, we recommend this as a starter!
4. Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum
Neutrogena is a household name when it comes to skincare. They’ve been making products since 1930 and have had time to find what works. When it comes to their Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum, it’s no different. This serum includes dimethicone, a highly effective moisturizer for the skin, and aluminum starch octenyl succinate, which effectively absorbs oil.
The Neutrogena face serum is the only product on this list that’s sold in your average pharmacy or grocery store. Just like the Rosen Skincare serum, it’s affordable and a good choice as your first facial serum if you don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Neutrogena says that you’ll start to see results as quickly as one week. We’re not so sure about this since studies have shown it typically takes up to six weeks before you notice any major differences in your skin. Either way, when this serum starts to work, you’ll notice a brighter skin complexion and a more even appearance.
5. Renée Rouleau Pore + Wrinkle Perfecting Serum
This facial serum by Renée Rouleau packs two benefits in one. Not only does it clean and remove oil from your pores, but it also stops wrinkles in their tracks. Using an advanced blend of 17% glycolic, salicylic, and lactic acid, this facial serum smoothes, balances, and brightens your skin.
Something we quickly found that we loved about the Renée Rouleau serum was that it could be used in multiple ways. It makes for a great hand or chest cream by exfoliating the dead skin, removing dryness, and revealing the soft skin underneath. While this product sits at a more moderate price, you can save money by replacing this with your daily lotion.
Renée Rouleau formulates their products without parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, dyes, gluten, drying alcohol, or animal cruelty. It’s also 100% vegan—even the packaging. When applied, the serum sinks right into the skin, leaving a lightweight, moisturized feel that’s not weighed down like other face creams.
6. Dr. Barbara Sturm Calming Serum
A great choice for someone with sensitive skin is Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Calming Serum. With a complex formula of plant-based ingredients such as cardiospermum, echium plantagineum, and sunflower, this serum will rebalance the natural oil levels in your skin. Additionally, purslane is used to resolve any irritation and reverse the look of aging.
Something we found interesting about Dr. Barbara Sturm’s facial serum was that, when used regularly, it reduces the sensitivity of your skin. We couldn’t find this same benefit in any other serums for people with sensitive skin—unless it was prescribed by a dermatologist.
Since it’s made for people with sensitive skin, this serum is free from everything you could imagine. Additionally, it’s allergen free and ideal for people who commonly face irritation from skincare products. Due to its ability to break down and balance the oils in your skin, it can also prevent and reduce acne. So if you can’t seem to find a serum that agrees with your sensitive skin, we recommend trying Dr. Barbara’s!
7. Biologique Recherche Serum Placenta
One of the simplest choices on our list is Biologique Recherche Serum Placenta. Containing only four ingredients (water, hydrolyzed placental protein, phenoxyethanol, and ethylhexylglycerin), it boosts your skin’s natural healing process. This serum is best used for people who suffer from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or scarring.
With this serum, a little really does go a long way. You only need a single pump of the product to cover your face. That being said, it is one of the more expensive options—but if you have scarring that other serums can’t fix, you should try it.
The four ingredients each play a large role in the serum. Hydrolyzed placental protein works to expedite the healing process of your skin. Phenoxyethanol comes from green tea and provides the skin with antioxidants that lift away eye bags and dark spots. Finally, ethylhexylglycerin works to moisturize the face without adding any additional oils or unbalancing the skin’s pH.
8. SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum
The price tag on SkinMedica is impressive, but so are the results. SkinMedica’s TNS Essential Serum is a fan-favorite from dermatologists due to its ability to reduce fine lines, wrinkles, skin tone, and texture. Using human-derived growth factors—which may be off-putting to some—this serum can regenerate skin cells for an age-defying look.
Some of the notable ingredients in this serum include an innovative peptide complex that nourishes and breaks down the oils in your skin and french flax seed, which repairs the skin. Additionally, marine extract and green microalgae increase collagen and elastin levels, which gives your skin the flexibility it once had.
By using it regularly, SkinMedica TNS Essential Serum is proven to deliver results as quickly as two weeks. This is a lot quicker than other face serums, but you’re paying for it. In their clinical study, patients felt they looked, on average, six years younger after using this serum. So if the high price tag doesn’t scare you and you want to look younger—this is the serum for you.
9. Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
Our first 100% organic facial serum on this list is Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum. With a blend of 22 natural botanicals, this serum has become a fan favorite over the years. If you’re scared of the chemical and acid blends that are mentioned in other serums and want to take the all-natural route, then this is the stop for you!
Within the serum, there are over 60 essential nutrients and antioxidants found in the ingredients. You’ll discover brightening and balancing vitamins, moisturizing fatty acids, free-radical fighting oxidants, revitalizing phytonutrients, and nourishing omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9. You can find a detailed list of all the ingredients, as well as the benefits behind each one, on their website.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum is such a hit that the company only sells one other product. Their goal is to use high-performing plants to reduce the levels of build-up oils and return your skin’s texture back to its natural form.
10. Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Serum
Retinol carries a bit of controversy in the skincare world. Some people swear by it, and some avoid it at all costs. Dr. Dennis Gross Advanced Retinol + Ferulic Texture Serum labels itself as one of the only retinol facial products that are safe to use for people with sensitive skin.
The major benefits of retinol and ferulic lie in their ability to increase your skin’s natural collagen production—which gives your skin that natural youthful glow. If you’ve never used retinol before, and are hesitant to try it, this is the ideal serum for you—it’s lightweight, non-irritating, and packed with antioxidants.
The only thing we don’t love about this serum is its strong scent. That being said, you’ll need to smell it yourself before you make an informed decision—some people might love the scent. Overall, we found ourselves impressed with this retinol-based facial serum.
11. Augustinus Bader The Serum
This is the most expensive choice on our list. For skincare lovers, Augustinus Bader’s The Serum is a cult-classic facial serum that’s proven to be just about everything you’d ever want. It reduces the look of aging, fades dark spots, heals hyperpigmentation, smoothes uneven skin tones, supports the production of collagen, lifts sagging skin, hydrates, calms irritation, and protects against environmental stressors. And yes, it’s clinically proven to do all those things.
Augustinus Bader’s serum uses TFC8 patented technology—which is a combination of 40 ingredients and 30 years of research. They use sustainably sourced ingredients, clean beauty and science standards, sustainable packaging, and carbon-balancing options. The product also comes in a vegan version if you prefer.
Frankly, for its price, we think it’s a little hard to justify. Our number one choice, Blu Atlas, has just about all the same benefits at a much lower cost. That being said, if you want to try out this serum, go for it! 90% of user and clinical studies said that this serum lived up to its standards.
12. BYOMA Hydrating Serum
BYOMA Hydrating Serum is a simple and affordable option to help restore your skin barrier. It’s ultra-lightweight and sinks into the skin for easy application. Using it regularly will leave your skin feeling and looking bouncy, hydrated, and rejuvenated—not to mention all the benefits of healing your skin barrier!
This serum uses what BYOMA calls its tri-ceramide complex. It’s composed of fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol. Each of these works to reduce flakiness, redness, and dryness on your face by moisturizing your face without leaving it packed with oils.
Even though BYOMA’s serum will leave your skin overall healthier, it doesn’t have many additional benefits. It’s really more of a moisturizer than a serum—but that being said, it’s affordable and is great at what it does. So, if you want a dermatologist-tested and approved, non-comedogenic, oil-free, alcohol and fragrance-free, vegan, and cruelty-free moisturizer at an affordable price, this is for you.
13. ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40
There aren’t a lot of facial serums that combine skin nourishment with SPF—at least not a lot that do it well. ILIA Super Serum Skin Tint with SPF 40 is an outlier. Not only does this serum have SPF, but it’s also tinted and comes in 32 shades. It’s really an all-in-one product that does great at limiting the number of bottles you have cluttering your bathroom counter.
ILIA’s serum includes our favorite ingredient: hyaluronic acid. It also has plant-based ingredients such as niacinamide and squalane. All three of these ingredients fight off inflammation and environmental stressors that can damage your skin.
We recommend applying this serum (and all facial serums) in the morning. That way, the mineral-based SPF can protect your skin against the sun’s rays when they’re at their strongest. However, the SPF included in the formula causes the product to be more of a liquid than other choices. This makes it more difficult to apply and easy to overapply.
14. Dermalogica AGE Bright Clearing Serum
Coming in at 14 on our 18 best serums for oily skin in 2023 is a product from Dermalogica—a completely vegan and cruelty-free skincare brand. Their AGE Bright Clearing Serum is known for its effectiveness in clearing up acne and opening up clogged pores. It sits at a middle-of-the-line price point but is relatively cheap compared to over-the-counter prescriptions for acne relief.
Dermalogica’s product relies on the oil-soluble salicylic acid that targets pores directly, breaking up excess oil. When combined with niacinamide, the serum reduces redness, inflammation, and lessens the pain behind pimples. Finally, it includes phyto-actives from the “resurrection plant,” known for its ability to reduce post-acne marking or scarring.
This product is a must-have for anyone dealing with acne. We only found one drawback, which was its scent—medicinal like other acne creams. Thankfully, the scent dissipates quickly after it’s applied and rubbed in.
15. Eadem Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum with Niacinamide and Vitamin C
Eadem’s Milk Marvel Dark Spot Serum is the only choice on our list that’s specifically tailored to your skin color. The main benefit of this is that it’s highly capable of smoothening hyperpigmentation and fading dark spots. No matter if your skin is damaged from prolonged sun exposure or acne, Eadem’s product can lift the spots away and brighten your skin tone.
Some of the ingredients included in Eadem’s serum are niacinamide, vitamin C, and amber algae. Vitamin C and niacinamide are both some of our favorite choices—since they provide long-lasting benefits like reduced acne, cleaner pores, and brighter skin. However, amber algae is a more unique ingredient. Amber algae evens your skin tone without affecting your tyrosinase—the enzyme that controls your melanin production.
16. Tatcha The Dewy Serum
With over 3,000 5-star reviews, Tatcha’s The Dewy Serum is a hit. After one use, the serum will revitalize dry skin and leave it feeling fresh. With their Hadasei-3 blend of ingredients, it holds moisture in the skin. This means that after using the serum regularly, you’ll start to notice long-term—as well as short-term—benefits.
Tatcha uses a green tea extract to exfoliate the skin and break down the oils in your pores. Once the pores are open, squalane and hyaluronic acid add the necessary moisture to your skin—as well as maintain the natural balance of oils under your skin.
We recommend this choice for someone who doesn’t know what they want in a face serum. With plenty of benefits and great all-around reviews, it’s a great choice for a high-quality beginner’s purchase.
17. Vieve’s Leaves Restorative Serum
Vieve’s Leaves Restorative Serum is a botanical that is made with plant stem cells and CBD. In fact, it’s the only product that uses CBD on this list. With a wide range of vegan (and cruelty-free) vitamins and antioxidants, this serum will leave your skin feeling silky smooth.
For those with sensitive skin, Vieve’s Leaves Restorative Serum is a perfect choice. With soothing aloe vera and kiwi fruit extract, this serum calms your skin while providing it with the moisture it needs. Additional benefits of this botanical include reduced redness, inflammation, and acne.
One of the other ingredients in this serum is our favorite, hyaluronic acid—which naturally occurs in the joints and acts as an anti-aging treatment. The only real downside to this product is the price—which is understandable considering the high-end ingredients.
18. Rose Ingleton MD Complexion Brightening Booster
Coming from a dermatologist-founded brand, Rose Ingleton MD, this facial serum is a brightener as much as it reduces oily skin. It’s a true multitasker, with wrinkle-smoothing properties, hydrating moisturizers, and free-radical fighting nutrients. We think that this product, founded on more than 20 years of research, is perfect for those focused on the smoothness of their skin.
The ingredients list includes their brand’s Jamaican superfood blend, which has sugarcane, hyaluronic acid, and citrus fruit extracts. Together these ingredients work together to unclog the pores, bring moisture into the skin, and even your skin tone. It also repairs skin tone and brightens your overall complexion.
Rose Ingleton’s product is vegan, cruelty-free, and free from any fragrances. It’s recommended for just about every type of skin, and noticeable changes can be seen in as short as two weeks. By using it twice a day, you can even receive results quicker than that!