What are the best products for oily skin? When your face’s an oil slick, putting a skincare routine together can feel like a mission impossible. It’s hard enough to find a moisturiser that doesn’t add more oil to your already oily face.
But a sunscreen that doesn’t feel like you’ve just rubbed your head into a greasy pan? Or a cleanser that removes excess oil without turning your skin into a tight mess? The struggle is real. If you’re tired of wasting money and time on trial and error, you’re in luck. Here are the best skincare products – from cleansers to sunscreens and oil-absorbers – for oily skin:
- How Do You Know If You Have Oily Skin?
- Best Cleansers For Oily Skin
- Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin
- Best Exfoliant For Oily Skin
- Best Oil-Controlling Products For Oily Skin
- Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin
- Best Oil-Free Moisturisers For Oily Skin
- Best Spot Treatments For Oily Skin
- Best Primer For Oily Skin
- The Verdict
How Do You Know If You Have Oily Skin?
You’ll know if you have oily skin. It’s perhaps the easiest skin type to identify with the naked eye. Oily skin happens when your skin produces way too much sebum (your skin’s natural moisturiser). Some of this excess gets trapped into your pores, contributing to acne. Here’s how to tell if you have oily skin
- Your skin looks shinier and greasier as the day progresses
- You’re prone to blackheads, whiteheads, and pimples
- You have large pores, especially on the t-zone
- Your makeup “slides off” your face after a few hours
If you’ve answered yes to all the signs above, this is your skin type. How do you deal with it? Read on to find out what the best products for oily skin are.
Best Cleansers For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: A lot of cleansers for dry skin are too harsh and remove too much sebum. You want to get rid of excess sebum, not strip away all moisture and dry it out. For best results, use gentle, pH-balanced foaming cleansers that remove excess oil and dirt without disrupting your skin’s natural protective barrier.
1. CeraVe Foaming Cleanser ($15.99)
Oily skin is the only skin type that can get away with a foaming cleanser. CeraVe Foaming Cleanser has gentle surfactants that foam well, removing every trace of makeup, dirt, and excess sebum from the skin – without leaving it feeling all tight and dry. Plus, it has Hyaluronic Acid to keep skin supple during the cleansing process. It’s a bit stronger than other foaming cleansers out there, but your skin can take it.
Available at: Boots, Dermstore, Sephora, and Ulta
2. Corsx low PH Good Morning Gel Cleanser ($14.00)
This Korean cleanser is one of my fave options for oily skin. Foaming cleansers tend to have high pHs that disrupt the skin’s protective barrier and cause irritations. Not this one. It has a skin-friendly pH of 5.5 that allows it to remove every last trace of dirt and impurities without irritating skin. It’s also gentler than most other foaming cleansers out there, making it a good buy for skin on the sensitive side. There’s not much else to say about this cleanser. It works.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Sephora, SokoGlam, Stylevana, Ulta, and Yes Style
3. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Oil-Reducing Cleanser ($18.00)
A gentle, pH-balanced cleanser that effortlessly removes impurities, excess oil, and even makeup without stripping skin bare. The creamy texture turns into a slight foam as you mix it with water and feels luxurious against your skin. Paula added aloe vera to add some extra hydration and soothe skin during the cleansing process. It’s fragrance-free, so sensitive skin can use it safely too.
Available at: Paula’s Choice
Related: How To Choose The Best Cleanser For Your Skin Type
Best Vitamin C Serum For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: There’s anecdotal evidence that L-Ascorbic Acid, the pure form of Vitamin C, can aggravate acne in some individuals with oily skin. For this reason, I recommend all my oily-skinned clients to use a serum with Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, the only form of Vitamin C that helps treat acne. It works by reducing sebum oxidation (a main cause of acne and inflammation) by up to 40%!
1. Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum ($33.99)
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals, boosts collagen, and even brightens the skin tone. But it’s one of the trickiest ingredients to incorporate into a routine for oily skin. Why? It often causes small breakouts. 🙁 Your best bet is to go with Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, a Vitamin C derivative that helps treat acne. It works by reducing sebum oxidation (a main cause of acne and inflammation) by up to 40%! You’ll find it in Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum, together with other antioxidants to fight premature aging. It also has Hyaluronic Acid to keep skin hydrated and supple for hours.
Available at: iHerb and Ulta
2. Artnaturals Vitamin C Serum ($12.99)
A hydrating Vitamin C serum for oily skin. It contains Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, the best form of Vitamin C for oily skin. It fights free radicals, brightens your complexion, and reduces sebum oxidation to keep acne at bay. Plus, it also has ferulic acid and vitamin E, two antioxidants that are scientifically proven to boost the effectiveness of Vitamin C and provide photo protection. It’s very liquidy, so be careful during application.
Available at: Target
3. BeautyPie Superdose™ C C-Suite Rapid Action Power Brightener (£80.00)
A simple, no-frills Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate to brighten the complexion, fight the free radicals that cause wrinkles, and help you reduce acne faster. It also uses urea, a powerful humectant that draws a ton of moisture into your skin to deeply hydrate it without adding more oil to it. Plus, ferulic acid to support Vitamin C in its wrinkle-fighting action. It’s the most expensive option on the list, but it works.
Available at: BeautyPie
Related: All Types Of Vitamin C Used In Skincare: Which One Is Right For You?
Best Exfoliant For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR: The only exfoliant oily skin needs is salicylic acid (BHA). Oil-soluble, it penetrates deep into your pores, removing the excess oil, dead skin cells, and other impurities that give you acne. It helps to both prevent and treat whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe inflammation and redness.
1. Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution With 2% Salicylic Acid ($34.00)
Oily skin needs only one exfoliant: salicylic acid (BHA). Oil-soluble, it easily penetrates through the skin’s oily barrier and deep into your pores, removing all the excess oil, dead skin cells, and anything else that’s clogging them up. While it’s at it, it also exfoliates the surface of the skin before dead cells can fall into your pores, creating another pore-clogging cycle. That’s not all. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe redness and inflammation. I’m partial to Paula’s Choice Clear Regular Strength Anti-Redness Exfoliating Solution with 2% Salicylic Acid because it has the best texture out of all PC’s BHA exfoliants. Lightweight and toner-like, it doesn’t leave a shiny residue behind.
Available at: Dermstore, Paula’s Choice, Selfridges, SpaceNK
2. The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution ($6.50)
A simple, no-frills serum with Salicylic acid, a powerful exfoliant that unclogs pores, removes blackheads, and treats acne. Used regularly, it also prevents blackheads and blemishes from coming back. The texture’s very lightweight and doesn’t dry out skin – unless you overdo it. Exfoliation isn’t a daily job. For best results, use it only every other night.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, SpaceNK, The Ordinary and Ulta
3. Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($134.00)
Don’t let the name fool you. This exfoliant does contain 1% salicylic acid to unclog pores, remove blackheads, and treat acne. Glycolic acid is here too (obvs) to fade away the dark spots that pimples sometimes leave behind. Plus, this exfoliant is loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals, helping to prevent premature wrinkles. The gel-like texture is lightweight and absorbs easily without leaving a tacky residue behind. It’s especially useful for period acne.
Available at: Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, and SpaceNK
Related: Why Salicylic Acid Is The Best Exfoliant For Oily Skin
Best Oil-Controlling Products For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Look for ingredients that can absorb the excess oil that’s causing shine and acne. The best ones are zinc, clays, and silica.
1. The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($6.00)
You can use a clay mask three times a week to keep oil production under control. Or you can opt for The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. It’s my fave option because these two superstars do wonder for oily skin. Niacinamide is a multitasker that helps treat acne, soothes the redness that always comes along with pimples, fades away the dark spots they leave behind and shrinks your pores. While it’s at it, it also hydrates skin and strengthens your protective barrier. Zinc helps regulate oil production and soothe skin keeping your skin matte for longer. It works so well, it can feel a little too drying on the skin sometimes. If that happens, cut back usage to every other day.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Sephora, SpaceNK, The Ordinary, and Ulta
2. Clinique Acne Oil Control Cleansing Mask ($29.00)
A cleansing clay mask with kaolin to absorb excess oil, so it won’t clog pores and give you pimples. It also has its fair share of anti-inflammatory ingredients, like chamomile and aloe vera, to reduce redness and irritations. Use it a couple of nights a week, right after cleansing, to give your skin a glowy, never shiny, look. The best part? It doesn’t dry out skin and makes less of a mess than traditional clay masks.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Sephora, and Ulta
3. Niod Flavanone Mud (£29.00)
If I could only use one clay mask for the rest of my life, it’d be Niod Flavanone Mud. It’s totally mess-free. It uses a new dispersion mechanism that allows you to apply way less product. Translation: it’s easier to remove and feels more comfortable on the skin. While it’s on, it doesn’t feel like it’s cracking up and you can’t move your face. It uses clays to absorb excess oils, antioxidants to fight premature aging and soothing ingredients to calm down irritations. Afterwards, your skin is matte, softer, and smoother.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Cult Beauty, and Niod
Related: Can Zinc Help Treat Acne?
Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Look for lightweight formulas that absorb quickly. Although chemical UV filters are usually lighter and more suitable for oily skin, your skin can use mineral sunscreens as long as it’s lightweight and doesn’t contain heavy oils and butters.
1. Paula’s Choice Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 ($37.00)
Paula’s Choice Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense SPF 30 is, hands down, the best sunscreen I’ve found for oily skin. It uses 13% zinc oxide to provide broad spectrum sun protection without irritating skin, but you’d never guess it. Its lightweight texture glides smoothly on the skin and dries to a matte finish that helps keep oil production under control. It’s tinted, so it doesn’t leave behind any white cast either. Plus, it has its fair share of antioxidants to boost the sun protection of the sunscreen. What more could you ask for?
Available at: Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Paula’s Choice, and Sephora
2. EltaMD UV Pure Broad-Spectrum SPF 47 ($25.00)
A mineral sunscreen so lightweight that’s suitable even for oily skin. Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide provide broad spectrum protection from UV rays even on torrid summer days. Vitamin C is here too to boost the effectiveness of the sunscreen and fight the free radicals that cause premature aging. The silky texture glides on smoothly and makes it easy to reapply. It’s also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Available at: Dermstore
3. La Roche-Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Dry Touch Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 60 ($19.99)
A super lightweight sunscreen with chemical filters that provides high broad-spectrum protection even on the hottest days of the year. Easy-to-reapply, what makes it stand out from other sunscreens is its powerful oil-absorbing ability. It soak up excess sebum throughout the day, so that your skin never gets too shiny. It works well under makeup and is safe even for acne-prone skin.
Available at: Blue Mercury, Boots, Dermstore, La Roche Posay, and Ulta
Related: What Are The Best Sunscreens For Oily Skin?
Best Oil-Free Moisturisers For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: The best moisturisers for oily skin are oil-free or very low in oils. Instead, they use humectants that draw moisture from the environment into your skin, so it stays hydrated without adding extra oil to it. The best humectants are glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea.
1. CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion ($20.99)
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturising Lotion is one of those rare skincare gems that work for all skin types, including oily. It uses humectants that hyaluronic acid and glycerin to attract water into your skin and ceramides (natural components of your skin’s barrier) to lock it in. This way, your skin is hydrated, soft, and plump – without the need of using comedogenic oils. The star of the show is niacinamide, a form of Vitamin B3 that does everything: it treats acne, it fades away dark spots, it hydrates skin, it soothes irritations, and even minimises the look of wrinkles.
Available at: Beauty Bay, Boots, Cult Beauty, Dermstore, and Ulta
2. Boscia Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer
This cream is an one stop shop for all the moisturising needs of oily skin. Humectants like hyaluronic acid draw moisture from the air into your skin to make it softer and plumper without adding extra pore-clogging oil to it. Silica soaks up excess oil, keeping your skin from becoming a shiny frying pan during the day. Plus, lots of antioxidants, including green tea, that have both wrinkle-fighting and soothing properties to prevent premature aging and reduce redness. The texture isn’t too thin or thick, and an absolute pleasure to use.
Available at: Ulta
3. Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Invisible Finish Moisture Gel ($29.00)
Paula’s Choice has some wonderful moisturisers for oily skin, but this is my fave because it’s loaded with antioxidants – and who doesn’t want a cream that goes the extra mile and helps prevent wrinkles too? To hydrate skin, it uses a mix of glycerin, a powerful humectant that draws moisture from the air into your skin, and niacinamide a form of Vitamin B3 that makes skin softer and smoother. And helps treat acne. And fade away the dark spots pimples sometimes leave behind. And soothe redness. Niacinamide is awesome like that. Did I mention that the moisturiser also helps absorb excess oil so makeup doesn’t melt off your skin within an hour? It’s a gem, I tell you.
Available at: Paula’s Choice
Related: Why Oily Skin Needs An Oil-Free Moisturiser
Best Spot Treatments For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Look for actives that can kill P.Acnes, the bacteria that cause acne. Sulphur and Benzoyl Peroxide are my faves. They’re harsh on the skin, but get the job done.
Epionce Purifying Spot Gel ($38.00)
Derms love to recommend benzoyl peroxide to get rid of pimples. If you want to go down that route, you’ll be fine. BP works. But I prefer sulfur. It gets rid of pimples faster than anything else I’ve tried. The reason? It’s a multitasker: it has antibacterial properties, so it kills the bacteria that cause acne, helps exfoliate dead skin cells, dry out blemishes, and reduce oiliness. I like Epionce Purifying Spot Gel because it also has azelaic acid, another powerful acne-fighter.
Available at: Dermstore
Indie Lee Banish Lotion ($21.00)
This lotion combines the powers of Salicylic Acid and Colloidal Sulphur to get rid of pimples faster. Salicylic acid exfoliates pores, unclogging all the crap inside that’s causing blackheads and pimples, while Sulphur dries the red buggers out so they disappear from your skin faster. The catch? It’s drying. Apply only on active pimples. For best results, leave it on overnight and wash it away in the morning.
Available at: Beauty Bay and Credo Beauty
3. Tula Go Away Acne Spot Treatment ($22.00)
If you prefer Benzoyl Peroxide, get yourself a tube of this little gem. Benzoyl Peroxide has anti-bacterial properties that kill P.Acnes, the bacteria that causes acne. The best thing about it is that bacteria don’t grow resistant to it. The worst thing about is that, like all acne treatment, it’s harsh and drying. Tula paired with glycerin and niacinamide to hydrate skin and counteract its drying effects and plenty of soothing ingredients (including bisabolol and liquorice) that calm down redness and irritations. For best results, use it on active pimples only.
Available at: Dermstore, Nordstrom, Tula, and Ulta
Related: Sulfur: Good For Acne, Bad For Skin?
Best Primer For Oily Skin
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Look for formulas with silicones, silica, and other oil-absorbers that can keep your skin matte all day long.
1. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer ($54.00)
If you wear makeup – and don’t want to see it melting away by midday -, you need a primer. Hourglass Veil Mineral Primer has a lightweight texture that softens fine lines and wrinkles, makes pores look smaller, and helps your foundation last longer. Most importantly for your oily skin, this stuff has alumina, a powerful oil absorber – it’ll keep your skin matte for a few good hours. It also promises to provide sun protection, but don’t trust it. You still need a separate sunscreen.
Available at: Cult Beauty, Nordstrom, Sephora, SpaceNK
2. Dr. Brandt Pores No More Pore Refiner ($45.00)
A silicone based primer that gives your complexion that my-skin-but-better look. Contrary to popular opinion, silicones don’t clog pores. Instead, they smooth them over, fill in fine lines and wrinkles, and just make every imperfection look that much smaller. Plus, they help absorb excess oil, so your makeup doesn’t slide off your face within 5 minutes (how annoying is that?). The finish? Lightly matte.
Available at: Dermstore and Dr Brandt
3. Smashbox Photo Finish Control Mattifying Primer ($42.00)
This primer claims to use zinc and salicylic acid to absorb excess oil and mattify skin. They’re in here alright, but in such tiny doses, they won’t do much for you. Instead, it’s the silicones that make this primer so effective at absorbing excess oil and keeping your skin matte – and your makeup intact – all day long. They also create a smooth canvas but filling in fine lines and wrinkles and reducing the look of pores. Plus, it has its fair share of antioxidants, so it helps you prevent premature aging too!
Available at: Sephora, Smashbox, Target, and Ulta
Related: The Best Primers For Oily Skin
FAQ ABOUT PRODUCTS FOR OILY SKIN
Can oily skin only use oil-free products?
Oily skin already produces all the natural oil (sebum) it needs, and then some more to cause trouble. Adding more oil to it can help clog pores and aggravate breakouts. Said that, not all oils are created equal. Rosehip oil, jojoba oil, and squalene are usually suitable for oily skin. They have lightweight texture that don’t tend to aggravate acne. Rosehip oil can help you fight it too!
Can you use scrubs if you have oily skin?
Yes, you can use scrubs if you have oily skin, but I don’t recommend it. They only exfoliate the surface of your skin, which helps a little bit with acne. If dead cells are off your skin, they can’t fall into your pores and clog them. So why don’t I recommend scrubs? For starters, they often contain particles with jarred edges that can irritate skin. Plus, they can’t get inside your pores and unclog them from within – and that’s what oily skin really needs.
How often should you use a cleanser for oily skin?
Twice, once in the morning and once at night. You may be tempted to use it more often, as your skin gets shinier during that day. In that case, use oil-blotting papers. Using a cleanser too often can dry out skin, leading it to producing more oil.
The best products for oily skin are low in oils, high in humectants like hyaluronic acid, and contain oil absorbents to keep excess sebum under control. Opt for lightweight textures that absorb instantly and don’t clog pores. And remember, salicylic acid is the only exfoliant you need!