How to deal with oily acne prone skin

Hey everyone! I hope you’re all well. This is one of the most waited upon blogposts and I’m glad to finally get it up on the website for all that asked on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re still reading this you probably want some help with skincare so grab some coffee or wine because this is going to be a rather detailed post.

Before we dive in it’s good to know the causes of different types of acne on your face. In summary, those around the mouth and chin area are mainly caused by poor diet, those on your forehead could be caused by stress or periods for the ladies, those on your cheeks or sides of your face could be caused by sleeping on dirty pillowcases or if you’re a natural like me it could be because the oils and butters in your hair constantly rub on your face while you sleep at night. For more information about this click HERE to read more but I find those the most common spots to get pimples. 

It’s also good to note that genetics play a big role and you have to go for a thorough skin examination by a dermatologist or cosmetologist before taking advice from anyone online even a blogger like myself. I’m sure every big hospital has one but if you live in Nairobi I recommend visiting Ava Pharmacy at the Hub in Karen since they offer free ones and the staff are pretty good. After buying the products they recommend, be consistent when using them unless you notice an ingredient that’s making the situation worse for example a mineral oil like paraffinum liquidum. This also means you should develop a habit of reading the ingredients list on products especially the first 5-7 to ensure there are no nasties like parabens and glycols.

I’m going to try and explain various remedies and products that will help you maintain a fairly clear skin if you have oily acne prone skin or combination (normal to oily) skin or sensitive skin overall. I’ll be listing the products in order of application on the face and the other remedies at the end of the blogpost.

Cleansers and Face washes

A clean face is the first step in battling acne since dirt carries bacteria that settles in your pores and your sebaceous glands form pimples as a result. If you have oily skin you will want to consider buying cleansers and face washes with an acidic ingredient like salicylic acid. The word acidic should not scare you because our skin has a general pH of 5.5 so we need acidic cleansers to keep the sebum at bay and so that bacteria does not clog up our pores and form pimples. Many brands have such cleansers like Neutrogena, Mary Kay, Clinique, Estee Lauder, Rhonda Allison,, Clearasil etc. All you have to do is look out for the active ingredient listed at the back of the product and it will usually show 2% salicylic acid or whichever other acid your dermatologist recommends.

Some of these may contain drying components like alcohol and sulfates so if you have rather sensitive skin you may want to look at other options in those product lines that exclude the acid. They will usually be written on “for sensitive skin” or “deep pore cleanser” and won’t leave your face irritated.

Another natural option that is extremely popular is African black soap. It’s a soap originally from West Africa made of cocoa pods ash, plantain skin ashes, palm oil and shea butter. It’s really cleansing and suitable for all skin types. It’s the kind of soap you use when you are done battling severe acne or when you don’t feel like using something harsh on your face.

If you have money to spare, you can invest in a cleansing brush. Your hands can’t possibly get all the dirt out from your pores especially if you wear makeup often like I do. The brush comes with a number of brush heads for exfoliating and washing your face. I like to wash my face in a circular motion when using it to ensure all the dirt gets out. There are several brands that make these like Vanity Planet, Clarisonic, Pixnor, Peter Thomas Roth etc. These brushes also act as physical exfoliators and can fade dark marks though they are not as effective as chemical exfoliators.

Face scrubs

These are also cleansers except they have a much coarser feel to them to aid with exfoliating your skin and removing dead skin cells. With long term use they can aid in fading dark spots caused by hyperpigmentation. I have one with an acidic component (Clearasil) and one without (Boots) and both work just fine. If you have sensitive skin you may want to stay away from scrubs if they cause any form of irritation after use.

Toners and Astringents

Just like I’ve been saying you will want to buy products that match the acidic pH of your skin and that applies to toners as well. I love me a good toner and the one I used before (Rapid Clear by Neutrogena) got out of stock so I have started trying out this one (Triple Action by Neutrogena) and I think both are equally good. Just like the cleansers, the acidic active ingredient will be listed at the back and you can decide which toner to buy from the many brands available. For those with sensitive skin you will want to steer away from any toner that brings irritations due to the excess acidity and go for those that exclude such ingredients.

Natural options you can try out include Raw organic apple cider vinegar (recommended brand – Braggs), Witchazel, or a toner with Tea tree oil.

Moisturizers and Sunscreen

I rarely feel the need to moisturize my face unless I’m stepping out to run a few errands because my skin is quite oily and produces enough sebum to keep it moisturized all day. An oil free moisturizer is great for combination, sensitive and oily skin types. I believe all skin types should avoid applying thick oils like coconut oil and shea butter on their faces often because most oils are comedogenic i.e. block the pores on your skin and cause breakouts. If this does not affect you, please keep on using or if you’re using an oil to treat a skin condition like eczema and psoriasis, don’t stop using because of this. Like mentioned before, many brands have these products all you have to look out for is the active component which in this case is “no oil”. I recommend the Dual Action oil-free moisturizer by Clean and Clear which you can find at any supermarket.

Sunscreen is key. I don’t care if you’re darker than me or as light as Rihanna, you have to wear sunscreen especially if you live in hot regions. We are exposed to harmful UV rays on a daily basis that increase hyperpigmentation of dark spots  thus making them even darker. Over exposure to UV rays can cause skin cancer, development of wrinkles, premature aging etc. so if you don’t want your black to crack wear some sunscreen. I have an oil-free sunscreen by Neutrogena that I bought online and it does not break me out at all. I love it!

Spot removers and essential oils

If you have stubborn acne that you want gone overnight or in a few days before a big event, I recommend using an essential oil like lemon e/o or tea tree oil. They have anti-bacterial components that break down the pimple and cause it to reduce in a short period of time. Another home remedy is placing a cold spoon with a bit of ice over the acne spot repeatedly.

Spot removers are not really essential but if I feel the need to speed up the acne drying process, I use one. They are not compulsory or essential either so if you have money to spare invest in one but if not you are not missing out on much anyway.

Another chemical solution that works well is a blemish serum with vitamin C and/or hyaluronic acid for fighting acne and fading dark marks. Brands like InstaNatural, TruSkin and Rhonda Allison have good ones you can check out.

Face masks

With oily skin, you may want to use more clay masks than gel masks or polish masks. Everyone has preferences but I find clay masks to be extremely cleansing and detoxifying. My favorite clay for a DIY clay mask is bentonite clay and I wrote a post about it HERE. I tried out Moroccan clay as well out of curiosity but bentonite clay is still bae! If you have activated charcoal, add it to your clay mask mix for an even better feel and result. You can also make a peel-off mask with activated charcoal to remove blackheads on your skin.

Aloe vera gel or juice

Last but not least, apply this miracle plant’s juice to your face since it soothes the skin, clears dark spots over time and moisturizes the skin. I use it as both a toner and moisturizer when I am too lazy to do the whole regimen as I should. I noticed softer skin within a week of use and I’ve not stopped buying it since.

If you experience razor bumps after shaving, you can apply the juice on the affected area and the bumps will subside quickly.


Your skin’s health is greatly affected by the foods you eat and the drinks you take on a daily basis. Eat healthy and note down the foods that trigger your acne so you can avoid them. A huge culprit is dairy products so try and keep them on a minimum or completely eliminate them from your diet if you can. Spicy foods may irritate some skin types so take note of that as well.

If you want, you can buy multivitamins upon prescription by your dermatologist so you can have the essential amino acids and building blocks for healthy skin. A personal favorite for me is adding moringa powder in my juice or tea since it is rich in nearly all vitamins, all 9 essential amino acids and 46 anti-oxidants.

Lastly, drink water. Lots and lots of water to constantly hydrate your body and skin. Scientists say you should drink half your biomass in liters of water daily so if you weigh between 60-70kgs drink 2.5ltrs per day, <60kgs should drink at least 1.5ltrs per day and >70kgs should drink 3ltrs and more.

Where to find the products

Most of the products can be found at Super Cosmetics stores in Nairobi, Eve&Nico store at Kisementi in Kampala, Pioneer Mall in Kampala, Savostore online store, Bu.Ke_Products and NaturalHairKenya pages on Instagram, Healthy U and Goodlife Pharmacies in Nairobi and Kampala.

I’ve refrained from stating exact prices because I find that they differ from place to place but nothing I’ve listed cost me more than 15USD (1500kshs/50000ugx).

I hope you found this helpful and informative. Thank you for being patient and reading through the post till this point. You’re a gem! If you have any questions you can always DM me on all social media apps (@soafricane). Share this post to help someone out there in need of these tips. 

Live and Love,