Oily complexion? Here’s how to look after it, according to dermatologists

When you’re suffering from oily skin, you might naturally gravitate towards a regime that includes harsh scrubs and is less moisturising – but halt! A dedicated and well-considered skincare routine should help refresh your complexion, stop excess sebum building up and allow your inner shine to take centre stage instead. 

From what ingredients to look out for to the formulations to avoid, here’s everything you need to know to help keep oily skin healthy and hydrated. 

How can you tell if you have oily skin?

"Oily skin produces an excess of sebum that causes the skin to appear shiny and feel greasy, especially throughout the T-zone," explains Dr Usman Qureshi, an aesthetic doctor and skin expert. If you produce more oil, you may notice your pores look larger and your make-up slips off by the afternoon. "People with oily skin tend to be more susceptible to clogged pores, acne and breakouts," explains Dr Catherine Borysiewicz, consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic. 

Top tips from dermatologists for oily skin

Always cleanse morning & night

"Cleansing morning and night is great for oily complexions," says Dr Qureshi. "Bacteria can accumulate throughout the night, so it’s especially important to get rid of it in the morning. Plus, using a gentle cleanser can help reduce oil sitting on the skin." 

Dr Alexis Granite, a CeraVe consultant dermatologist, agrees. "One cleanse in the morning and one in the evening should be more than sufficient if you’re using the right products and cleansing thoroughly every time," she explains. However, be careful not to over cleanse the skin. "Double cleansing can be over-drying, so using a gentle micellar water that contains ceramides, niacinamide and salicylic acid can be a good option for removing make-up residue without drying out the skin," adds Dr Granite. 

And don’t forget to use your face cleanser to wash your back, chest and other spot-prone areas, too.

Consider the ingredients you’re using

Opting for (and avoiding) certain ingredients in your cleansing routine is a must when it comes to oily skin. Here are Dr Qureshi’s ultimate formulation recommendations.  

Those with oily skin should try:

Retinol: This is great for reducing the signs of ageing, but it can also be effective for those with oily skin. "It has the ability to help accelerate cell turnover, sloughing off dead skin cells to bring in fresh, new ones," says Dr Qureshi.

Niacinamide: "Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide is another hardworking ingredient that comes with several benefits," says Dr Qureshi. It’s soothing, protective, supports collagen and can help dial down the results of increased oil production, too. Check out our guide to the best niacinamide serums to find your perfect match.

Clay: "Whether it's kaolin, bentonite, or rose, clay is a must-have for oily skin," says Dr Qureshi. "It’s terrific at absorbing oil and leaving skin with a smooth, matte feel. Each of these clays have fine consistencies that feel comparable to velvet, as they suck up all that excess sebum."

Those with oily skin should avoid:

Petrolatum (petroleum jelly): "Greasy ointments and oily skin is a recipe for a pore-clogging disaster," says Dr Qureshi. "Stay away from these and instead stick to light creams and lotions. Also make sure to look for the term 'non-comedogenic' on the bottle. This means that the products are unlikely to block pores."

Alcohol: "Alcohol-based products like toners may help remove excess oil from the skin, but often go too far to strip the skin, leading to irritation," Dr Qureshi cautions.  

Get an oil-free glow with a great exfoliator

Sweep away make-up residue and persistent excess sebum with an exfoliator that’s non-abrasive and designed especially for slick skin – though it’s important not to overdo it.  "Generally, exfoliation can safely be done once or twice a week," says Dr Granite. "I’d avoid using hard physical body scrubs containing harsh grains as it can irritate skin."

Make moisturiser your best friend

A good moisturiser for oily skin will remedy a greasy look and encourage healthy-looking, dewy skin that stays hydrated throughout the day. Opt for moisturisers formulated for congested skin. "You should look for those that are lightweight, oil-free and water-based," suggests Dr Borysiewicz. And a surprising tip? We shouldn’t be afraid of facial oils. "Using a face oil helps lock moisture in and keeps skin healthy. They can help regulate your sebum production when you’re oily and they also soothe during your drier hours," says Dr Qureshi.

How can I take care of oily skin during the summer? 

Sunscreen should be a daily staple to help protect your skin from UV rays. "All skin types need SPF everyday,"  says Dr Borysiewicz. "There are so many different formulations of sunscreen and lots of multitasking options, so it’s never been easier to find a suitable SPF – just ensure you choose a product formulated for oily skin."

And always wash your face after you work up a sweat in the hot weather, because your pores can get easily clogged and lead to irritation or spots. Not washing your make-up brushes regularly can also lead to pore-clogging dirt, so stock up on some brush cleansers and check out our guide on how to clean your brushes properly to keep them fresh. 

If you’re on the go, you can absorb excess oil on the skin and help eliminate shine on the spot with a handbag-sized packet of blotting papers or a setting powder. To help combat oil in the first place, avoid applying heavy liquid foundation and choose powder-based products for a lighter finish.

Dermatologists’ top oily skin products at Boots
Dr Catherine Borysiewicz’s top pick for oily skin

Bioderma Sebium Pore Refining Cream

• Size: 30ml
• Non-comedogenic

Ideal for oily skin, this wonder cream refines the appearance of skin texture and large pores, while mattifying powders reduce shine. We love how it absorbs instantly and leaves a velvety finish.

Dr Alexis Granite’s top pick for oily skin

CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

• Size: 236ml

• Fragrance-free
• Non-comedogenic

This foaming gel cleanses skin to remove excess make-up, dirt and oil. It also contains ceramides to help protect the skin barrier, hyaluronic acid to help retain the skin’s natural moisture and niacinamide to calm a stressed-out complexion.

Dr Usman Qureshi’s top pick for oily skin

Eucerin Sun Oil Control Face Protection Sun Cream SPF50+

• Size: 50ml

• SPF50

Ideal for sensitive, congestion-prone skin types, this SPF is ultra-light with a non-greasy texture. Use daily for moisturised and protected skin.

Now the skincare secrets are out, you’ll be well on your way to brighter, smoother skin in no time.

Not sure on the right product for you? Try our skincare tool & find a personalised solution