Here’s How to Control Oily Skin with Face Peels

Shannon Farrell
Here’s How to Control Oily Skin with Face Peels
Photo: David M Benett/Getty Images

We love summer—but with summer comes heat and with heat comes oily skin and trying to figure out how to control it. There’s a fine line between a glowing face and a greasy face, after all.

The trick to balancing the seesaw that is our perfect complexion? Lots of exfoliation. Face peels, which tout hardcore exfoliation and expiated cell turnover, are a great option to keep summer grease in control. We reached out to Dr. Hadley King, MD, board certified dermatologist at NYC’s SKINNEY Medspa (where they perform peels daily) to tell us everything about facial peels and busting summer grease.

When your main concern is oil, Dr. King suggests salicylic acid treatments.

“Salicylic acid is lipid soluble and therefore able to penetrate deeper into clogged pores from which acne and oil secretions arise,” she tells us.

The peel slows down oil production, so skin is left supple and free of blemishes. Because this peel has a tendency to dry out skin, the results are both immediate and long-term—there’s less oil instantly, as well as less oil in the future.

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So what can you expect from a salicylic acid peel, other than radiant skin? Immediately after the treatment, you can expect mild redness and possible stinging. Some peeling will occur and last around two to five days—the amount, of course, depends on the individual. It’s nothing some concealer can’t handle, but to be on the safe side, plan your peel around big events.

Around five days after the peel, you’ll notice a remarkable difference in the texture of your skin. Red blotches completely disappear, as does any acne. But most importantly, oil will remain completely under control. You’ll notice that you don’t require much toner, or go through as many blotting papers. It’s basically a miracle treatment.

While most oil-prone skin isn’t very sensitive, if you suspect that yours might react to a peel like this, try an at-home version first.

“At-home peels are generally milder and can be used on a twice monthly or even weekly basis if your skin tolerates it,” says Dr. King. Because the specific ingredients and their concentrations are less potent, the peeling and redness won’t be as severe—but the results also won’t be as obvious.

To test drive peels, Dr. King recommends AcneFree 2-in-1 Acne Wipes.

“The salicylic acid towelettes provide for easy application to the face as well as the chest and back,” she says, while the 0.5 percent acid level gets results without irritation. Dr. King also swears by Glytone’s Rejuvenating Mini Peel Gel and Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Facial Peel.

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Word of warning: when using any of these peels, choose your sunscreen wisely—their greasy consistency can ruin any oil-banishing progress made. Opt for oil-free formulas, such as Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15, or powder, such as Brush on Block.

Originally published July 2015. Updated May 2017.