Oily skin may be vilified, but oil isn’t a bad thing. It’s what hydrates, protects and balances your skin, and it’s what supports it to stay supple, strong and elastic. The key is finding a skincare routine that strikes the right balance, and you may need to customise your regimen accordingly. 

What is oily skin and why does it happen?

For most people, having oily skin is thanks to genetics. Having larger sebaceous glands that produce excess oil is a hereditary attribute. For others, humidity and hot weather can stimulate the secretion of sebum too. Stress and hormones can kick sebum production into overdrive — excess androgens and cortisol can stimulate an increase in oil production. In every case, hydrating and maintaining the perfect balance while treating related skincare conditions is key.  That’s why we found the best skincare routine for oily skin—here’s everything you need to try now. 

Cleanse, but don’t over cleanse

If you wake up with an oil slick, you’ll want to cleanse in the morning. But using scores of mattifying, oil-reducing products won’t do you any favours. Stripping your skin of oil, could then trick your skin into producing more oil—and that can make oily skin appear even oilier. It seems counterintuitive, but an oil cleanser is your best bet if you want to get rid of the oil, debris and makeup on your skin. Because only oil can dissolve and break down oil. Double cleansing is a good call. You can massage in a balm or oil cleanser to get rid of sebum and sunscreen, and then emulsify with a water-based gel, lotion or cream cleanser to whisk it all away. If you’re working out, or get particularly sweaty, a micellar water (which works similar to an oil cleanser) can really remove any pore-clogging gunk. 

Tone your skin to prep it for the rest of your skincare

Toners are fast-penetrating formulas that bring the skin back to its acidic pH. They work by removing impurities and leaving it hydrated and ready for creams and serums to sink in better. If you have oily skin, you’ll want to look for AHA, BHA and PHA-based products. These will improve cell turnover and absorb into pores to clear makeup, oil and dirt out. What they won’t do however, is shrink or get rid of your pores. However, your pores are likely to be stretched out when they’re clogged, so clear pores look smaller on the surface. Pros suggest skipping intense astringent-heavy alcohol-based toners, as those could strip the skin and majorly mess with its pH.

Treat with clarifying ingredients

Look for exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid and retinol. They reduce excess oil production and prevent plugging of pores that lead to breakouts. They are able to actually reduce sebum and improve cellular turnover, so whether you add these ingredients to your routine as a toner, serum or moisturiser, make sure to look for ones that’ll work for your skin type. 

Acne is a common occurrence if you have oily skin. If that’s your bugbear, you’ll want to treat it by soothing the spot, reducing sebum and preventing the clogging of pores. Look to salicylic acid to break down dead skin cells and go deep into your pores to clear up debris, niacinamide to reduce oil production and calm inflammation, and retinol to push newer, fresher skin cells to the surface. Oil can also breed bacteria. So a bacteria-reducing ingredient like benzoyl peroxide can be helpful to have on hand too, particularly as a spot treatment for areas most prone to breakouts. 

Masks and peels work well too, because those with oily skin are able to handle stronger ingredients without struggling with too much sensitivity. Look to clay—it absorbs excess sebum and sucks out the debris out of pores. 

Moisturise, but pick a lightweight product 

Yes, you do still have to hydrate and moisturise your skin even if it’s super slick. Skin produces oil when it needs to hydrate the skin surface, so it is important to keep it balanced to prevent overproduction. Smooth on a hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA or glycerin formula to hydrate and prevent transepidermal moisture loss. Then, layer with a lightweight, non-comedogenic lotion or gel with ceramides and antioxidants—this will feel nourishing and never greasy. It might seem counterintuitive, but oils can really help oily skin, particularly jojoba oil and squalane oil, which mimic the molecule size of sebum and brighten instead of clogging pores. Pros suggest skipping petroleum, vegetable oils, coconut oil and shea butters, as they are potentially comedogenic. 


Sunscreens are usually sticky, so they can leave your face looking and feeling like an oil slick through the day. If that’s why you’re skipping sunscreen, stop! Look for a zinc oxide-based product that’ll sink in easily and leave a more matte finish to your skin. Plus, this ingredient is antibacterial, so it is perfect if you usually break out when you wear SPF.