Does oily skin even need a moisturiser?
Not necessarily. Those who tell you to stick to the traditional cleanse, tone and moisturise routine usually sell skincare products… Just saying…
Here’s the deal: the job of a moisturiser is to prevent dryness in the skin.
Dryness usually happens when your skin’s protective barrier is damaged and water evaporates through the cracks. A moisturiser patches these cracks up so moisture stays in.
If you have oily skin, chances are your skin’s protective barrier is intact and doing an awesome job at moisturising skin, so why the heck do you need to spend money on a moisturiser?
Well, there are a few exceptions:
- If your skin is oily AND dehydrated/sensitive
- If you’re living in a very cold climate
- If you’re using harsh skincare actives like retinol
then adding a lightweight moisturiser into your skincare routine to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier IS a good idea.
So, if you feel you need this step into your skincare routine, here are the 5 best moisturisers for oily skin:
- Best For Oily And Sensitive Skin: Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily Skin ($29.00)
- Best For Multitasking: Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($29.00)
- Best With SPF: CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion With Sunscreen SPF 30 ($17.99)
- Best On A Budget: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (£4.99)
- Best For Oily & Dehydrated Skin: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel ($52.00)
Best For Oily And Sensitive Skin: Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily Skin ($29.00)
If you have oily skin that’s also sensitive and throws a tantrum every time you try something new, Paula’s Choice Calm Redness Relief Moisturiser Normal To Oily Skin could be the answer to all your prayers. The lightweight, non-greasy formula is enriched with all the anti-irritants you can think of. Licorice, allantoin, willow herb & co soothe irritations, tone down redness and even alleviate rosacea. Plus, in true Paula’s style, this moisturiser also has its fair share of antioxidants to fight off free radicals and premature wrinkles.
Available at: Dermstore, Feel Unique, and Paula’s Choice
Related: 9 Soothing Ingredients To Calm Down Irritated Skin
Struggling to put together a skincare routine that minimises shine and prevents breakouts? Download your FREE “Best Skincare Routine For Oily Skin” cheatsheet to get started. It features product recommendations + right order application:
Best For Multitasking: Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($29.00)
If you’re the minimalistic kind, Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel is right up your alley. Think of it as an one-stop shop for everything oily skin needs: humectants (moisture magnets that attract water from the air into the skin) to hydrate skin, antioxidants to fight wrinkles and anti-irritants to soothe skin. The gel texture is so lightweight, it sinks into your skin without leaving a greasy residue behind. What more could you ask for?
Available at: Dermstore, Nordstrom and Paula’s Choice
Related: How To Care For Oily Skin
Best With SPF: CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion With Sunscreen SPF 30 ($17.99)
CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion With Sunscreen SPF 30 keeps it basic: it uses humectants to hydrate skin and ceramides to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier against harsh weather and other skin’s enemies. Plus, it has SPF to boost the effectiveness of your sunscreen. That’s it. If you want to fight wrinkles too, you need a separate antioxidant serum.
Available at: Ulta
Related: The Best Antioxidant Serums For Every Skin Type And Need
Best On A Budget: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA (£4.99)
If you just need a basic, no frills moisturiser for oily skin, look no further than The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA. Natural Moisturizing Factors refers to the moisturisers naturally found in your skin, a.k.a. the “glue” that makes up your skin’s natural protective barrier. This moisturizer has quite a lot of them: urea, Hyaluronic Acid, fatty acids… Put them back into your skin and you make it softer and stronger, better able to withstand the attacks from cold, germs, and other skin enemies. Plus, the texture is lightweight and doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty and Feel Unique
Related: The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA Review
Best For Oily & Dehydrated Skin: Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel ($52.00)
Is your skin feeling tight and dehydrated, yet it won’t stop pumping out too much oil? Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Gel is just what the doctor ordered for you. This lightweight, oil-free serum/gel moisturiser deeply moisturizes skin without adding more oil to it. How? It uses humectants like hyaluronic acid and panthenol to draw moisture from the environment into the skin. It also has a few antioxidants to keep those pesky premature wrinkles at bay.
Available at: Cult Beauty, Sephora and SpaceNK
Related: Oily Skin? Here’s Why You Need An Oil-Free Moisturiser
Thanks for the recommendations. I am 40something with oily skin, but can get dry with tretinoin use at night and glycolic acid in the day. I have been trying to use Pai rose hip oil in the day for hydration, but wasn’t sure if I could add CeraVe lotion on top of that? Do ceramides mix well rose hip?
Jo, yes, you can use them together. But I’d apply CeraVe lotion first and rosehip oil on top to seal everything.
Hi Gio, I’ve been enjoying your blog.
I’ve been using solely been using products enriched with ceramides for the past few weeks but I’ve noticed that my skin DURING THE DAY is dehydrated (feels tight, especially around the cheeks and forehead). I do feel some kind of VERY mild itchiness. I feel that I need to re-apply my ceramide moisturizer again as soon as I feel tightness. I’m in my early 40s and want to have a minimalistic approach when it comes to my skin routine.
My typical AM routine is:
Wash face only with cold water (I don’t use any cleanser).
Apply Vitamin C essence – Melano CC
Then apply ceramide serum – https://www.lenalinasf.com/skincare/restorative-ceramide-serum
Then apply ceramide moisturizer – https://www.lenalinasf.com/skincare/creme-rejuv
Then apply sunscreen ONLY when I’m going out. I use Elta MD SPF 47 clear sunscreen.
My PM routine is:
1st cleanse with Botanic Farm Cleansing Sherbet (ONLY when I applied sunscreen or makeup during the day).
Then wash face and on a damp face, apply cleansing milk (Clarins Gentian).
Then wash face and on a damp face, apply toner (Clarins Toning Lotion with Iris – no alcohol).
Then apply the ceramide serum then ceramide moisturizer.
Last step is apply Sundari Neem Night Cream (I feel this cream helps a lot with hydrating my skin; when I wake-up I don’t feel tightness at all).
I do a weekly peel with Refresh Skin Therapy Fruit Acid 15% Gel Peel then apply my Vitamin C essence, then apply ceramide serum, ceramide moisturizer and seal it with Sundari Neem Night cream. I feel this weekly peel keeps my skin refresh and eliminates clogged pores that I get on my cheeks and foreheads. I am doing this as I’m trying to get rid of post acne PIH.
In the middle of week (2-3 days after the fruit peel) I would apply Secret Nature Volcanic Ash Pore on full face. Makes my pores look temporarily smaller. Then apply my Vitamin C essence, then apply ceramide serum, ceramide moisturizer and then LENA & LINA Bio-cellulose Facial Mask. My face feel very supple every time I do this.
Overall, I like the routine that I have but I do feel that I am dehydrated during the day. I’m hoping to incorporate another product that will make me feel hydrated all day. Do I need to ditch any of these products and go for products (or mix) with hyaluronic acid?
Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you soon!
Jan, your skincare routine is good. I like that you’re using the right actives to tackle your skin concerns. But yes, I’d add a hyaluronic acid serum to the mix. You can check out my faves here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/best-hyaluronic-acid-serums/
I’d say Niod MMHC is the most hydrating of the lot but the others are pretty good too. You can use them before your ceramide serum or mix it with it. Hope this helps.
I was hoping you could help me as I get a bit lost in this skincare business! I’m in my early 30s and have sensitive and dehydrated skin, but oily too with some acne (specially on the chin when I get my period – no whiteheads thankfully!).
I use a gentle retinol about 3 nights a week, followed by a simple moisturiser. The other nights I use Pai’s copaiba and zinc serum followed by rosehip oil or moisturiser. Once a week I use The Inkey List’s lactic acid (not on the same night as retinol).
In the morning, I use Mad hippie’s vit c serum followed by Pai’s serum, moisturiser and EltaMD UV element sunscreen.
I have been using this moisturiser since my teenage years and it’s a basic Avene one for oily/sensitive skin. I don’t feel like it’s enough anymore. I was wondering whether I should get a hyaluronic acid serum and add it to my routine, but it feels like one extra step and I don’t even know in which order to use it! Maybe I should get a moisturiser with hyaluronic acid in it, which seems easier and said moisturiser might have some extra goodies too. Which of the two would you recommend and which specific product? Sadly my skin reacts badly to every Paula’s Choice and The Ordinary product I’ve tried.
Second question: as I now use physical sunscreen, I’ve been trying to find a cleanser that can get rid of that + my make up at nights. I’m interested in oil cleansers as they seem to be the most effective. Any recommendations please?
Third question: should I be using salicilic acid instead? I find it dries my skin quite a bit, but maybe that product wasn’t a match and there is another one waiting for me out there?
And last (sorry for the long post!): I’m thinking of adding NIOD’s copper amino isolate serum to my routine (as per your recent newsletter :). What would your thoughts be on that? And which step should it be in my routine?!
First of all, if you have acne, switch to salicylic acid. If you don’t get along with Paula’s Choice or The Ordinary, try The Inkey List or Cosrx BHA. Cosrx uses a derivative of salicylic acid so it may be better for you.
I think a moisturiser with hyaluronic acid is the best option for you. Your moisurizer may already have it. An oil-free mosturizer may be the best choice for you: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/oil-free-moisturizers/
I’ve written about how to remove sunscreen + cleanser recommendations here: https://www.beautifulwithbrains.com/should-i-remove-sunscreen-at-night/
You can use CAIS either in the morning or night after cleansing. Just wait 5 minutes before using anything else.
Thanks for this list Gio. I’d like to add a product that has revolutionized my oily, acne prone skin. Almost all moisturizers cause me to get clogged pores, tiny whiteheads, and or breakouts– even the Paula’s Choice ones designed for my skin type. I started using a Korean product called “Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel” made by Benton.” My skin is loving this stuff. My face has not been this smooth and hydrated since I was like, 10 year old! I highly recommend it, especially if you use strong actives or if your skin barrier gets compromised. This product is really healing.
Geo, thanks for sharing! Glad it’s working so well for you.