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Here’s Your Complete (and Affordable) Skincare Routine for Oily Skin

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Main image – Dianevilladsen/Stocksy

So you’ve got oily skin. Let’s not beat around the bush, as someone with oily (and acne-prone) skin myself, I know it can be up there with the most frustrating skin types to deal with.

As if adulting wasn’t complicated enough, now we have to deal with shiny patches or angry red spots that need a trowel to cover up? No fair! (Although give me a bad enough skin day and I will happily go to the supermarket wearing a sheet over my head. Just watch me).

But all this calls for is a seriously good skincare routine. And contrary to popular belief, choosing yours doesn’t have to be confusing.

Well, not when you’ve got your own pick ’n mix guide, filled with affordable products to help you through, with tips from three skincare experts, Dr Noreen Galaria, Laura Chacon-Garbato, and Akis Ntonos on what ingredients to look out for in the perfect oil and spot-busting skincare routine.

Once you’ve read this, you’ll hopefully be clearer on your options, what you can afford and how to build your own routine. Beware oily skin and breakouts. Your days are numbered.


The best cleansers for oily skin

Cleansing oily or acne-prone skin twice a day is absolutely vital for keeping pores clean and free of any unnecessary oil or bacteria build-up. 

Ntonos recommends you look for ingredients like salicylic acid. “Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that works well for oil and acne-prone skin,” he says. “It has the ability to penetrate the pores deeply, helping to unclog them and reduce blackheads and whiteheads.”


Image – Cult Beauty



  • I love Caudalie’s Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser (£20 from Cult Beauty UK /$30 from Caudalie US), which contains salicylic acid and I’ve found really helps to mattify the skin, removing excess oil.
  • Cor’s Silver Soap (£15 from Cor UK /$15 from Cor US for a starter size) is a favourite of our editor, Sally Underwood, as it expertly cleans the skin and lasts a surprisingly long time.
  • Another of my favourites is Face Theory Clarifying Cleanser C2 Pro (£19 from Face Theory UK /$27 from Face Theory US), which contains salicylic acid as well as skin-brightening glycolic acid and lactic acid. A little goes a long way because of the active ingredients but it helps to buff my pores and keep them clear.
  • Clay is a brilliant way to draw out impurities from the pores whilst absorbing oil and keeping the skin well balanced. Dermalogica Active Clay Cleanser (£39 from Dermalogica UK /$45 from Dermalogica US) leaves my skin smooth and refined after washing my face.
  • CeraVe Acne Control Cleanser (£13 from Boots UK /$18.99 from Ulta Beauty US) contains both clay and salicylic acid. Plus it’s gentle, fragrance free and super affordable.
  • 47 Skin Anti-Blemish & Scar Repair Everyday Cleanser (£29 from 47 Skin UK /$45 from 47 Skin US) is a creamy cleanser, packed full of acne and scar-fighting, anti-bacterial silver. 


The best toners for oily skin

If you’ve gone for a relatively plain yet effective cleanser (like Cor Silver Soap) look for an acid toner containing things like BHAs and AHAs which help to gently exfoliate the skin and buff pores. 

If your cleanser is packed full of acids (like Face Theory Clarifying Cleanser C2 Pro), choose a simpler toner that helps to soothe and hydrate. This will mean you’re not over loading your skin with active ingredients.


Image – La Roche Posay


  • Caudalie’s Vinoclean Moisturising Toner (£18 from Cult Beauty UK /$30 from Caudalie US) contains soothing rose water and won’t encourage breakouts.
  • One of my other favourites, La Roche Posay Effaclar Clarifying Lotion (£16 from Look Fantastic UK /$18.99 from Ulta Beauty US) is an acid toner and has been created for blackhead-prone skin. It contains salicylic acid to control oil and LHA (lipohydroxy acid) which is a micro exfoliator.
  • I also love Ren Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£30 from Cult Beauty UK /$40 from REN US), which is lactic acid based and refines, hydrates and seriously brightens my skin. Plus it smells beautifully zesty.
  • Finally, I also use Dermalogica Micro Pore Mist (£23 from Dermalogica UK /$22 from Dermalogica US), which I’ve found minimises pores and soothes the skin all at the same time thanks to antioxidants like witch hazel and refreshing cucumber extract.


The best serums for oily skin

Look for a serum to apply after your cleansing routine that contains things like niacinamide, which is suitable for all skin types, particularly oily and acne-prone. “It can effectively control breakouts by unclogging pores and reducing inflammation,” says Chacon-Garbato

Also, consider acids like azelaic acid too. “It can prevent comedones and speed up the improvement of pigment changes after acne,” adds Dr Galaria


Image – The Ordinary


  • Balance Me Niacinamide Complexion Booster (£33 from Balance Me UK /$39.60 from Feel Unique US) is lightweight but when used consistently helps to balance out the skin and reduce enlarged pores.
  • 47 Skin Anti Blemish & Scar Repair Serum (£29 from 47 Skin UK /$45 from 47 Skin US) pairs beautifully with the 47 Skin cleanser and contains a combination of silver and chitoderm, which help to reduce spots and scars. Apparently, it’s the only blend of its kind in the world!
  • The Ordinary Retinol Serum 0.5% in Squalane (£7.80 from Cult Beauty UK /$8.60 from Ulta Beauty US) is loved by our Senior Beauty Editor Laura as it helps to strengthen the skin and improve scarring. Retinol is a strong ingredient though, so if you’re new to it, start on a low concentration like 0.2% so that your skin can build up tolerance. 
  • Mario Badescu Clarifying Serum with Azelaic Acid (£17.50 from Cult Beauty UK /$18 from Mario Badescu US) works wonders for breakout-prone skin as it uses prebiotics and postbiotics to calm spots and azelaic acid to reduce pigmentation.


The best moisturisers for oily skin

Here, you could go easy on the actives. This is because your serum will do most of the hard work as serums penetrate deeper into the skin. Focus on hydration here and go for lightweight, oil-free moisturisers.

The Inkey List


  • I’ve found La Roche Posay Effaclar Mat (£20.90 from Cult Beauty UK /$35.99 from La Roche Posay US) reduces excess oil and helps to calm and minimise pores. 
  • Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Gel Cream (£35 from Kiehl’s UK /$39 from Kiehl’s US) is also a favourite as it doesn’t clog pores or feel too heavy on my skin, plus it reduces greasy shine. 
  • The Inkey List Blemish Clearing Moisturizer 2% NovoRetin (£19 from Cult Beauty UK /$20 from Sephora US) is a good one to use if you haven’t already included retinol in your routine. As well as being hydrating, NovoRetin is a plant-based alternative to retinol and helps to clear blemishes without risking a skin reaction.
  • Paula’s Choice Skin Balancing Moisturiser (£34 from Paula’s Choice UK /$35 from Paula’s Choice US) leaves a matte finish- which I love for shiny face days- and has been created for breakouts, blackheads and enlarged pores.


The best breakout treatments for oily skin

For the steps in between and extra reassurance, try some targeted treatments if you’re noticing lots of breakouts. Remember to read the instructions on how often these should be applied as overuse of peels and/or acne treatments can lead to irritation and even another breakout.

Image – Dr Dennis Gross


  • Sally loves Dr Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Daily Peel (from £21 from Space NK UK /from $20 from Sephora US). It’s 2-step peel for exfoliating and improving skin tone.
  • Laura also rates The Ordinary’s AHA 30% and BHA 2% Peeling Solution (£8.90 from Look Fantastic UK /$11.40 from The Ordinary US). It helps to clear congestion whilst hydrating and evening up the skin tone.
  • Personally, I can understand why Mario Badescu Drying Lotion (£17 from Cult Beauty UK /$18 from Mario Badescu US) is a cult classic – it dries spots overnight meaning they look smaller in size by morning.


The best sunscreens for oily skin

The trick with sunscreen is to find one that’s non-comedogenic (that doesn’t clog your pores) to prevent further breakouts. Also, look for ingredients like zinc oxide which is an anti-inflammatory and controls oil. 

Image – La Roche Posay


  • La Roche Posay Anthelios Clear Skin Oil-Free SPF 50+ (£21.90 from Cult Beauty UK /$19.99 from La Roche Posay US) is the only one I use as it doesn’t feel tacky or heavy on my skin and it absorbs quickly.
  • Dermalogica Prisma Protect SPF 30 Moisturiser (£65 from Look Fantastic UK /$69 from Dermalogica US) is packed full of anti-oxidants so not only does this protect against UV, but also acne-inducing pollution.


The takeaway

Mixing and matching one product from each of these categories will help you to build a pretty solid oily skincare routine. Every single product mentioned in this article was created with oiliness and breakouts in mind.

If you find that your skin feels too overloaded, or if it feels like it’s not coping with certain products, it’s ok to simplify your routine even more. You can either reduce how often you use specific products (usually an acid toner or retinol product), taking it down to 2-3 times a week. Or you can swap them out altogether.

As long as you use an oil-control cleanser, moisturiser and sunscreen at the very least, you should start to notice an improvement.


Meet the experts

Noreen Galaria, MD FAAD is a board-certified Dermatologist with a laser and cosmetic fellowship and has been practising for over 20 years. She is also the CEO and Founder of Inner Glow Vitamins, a dermatologist and plastic surgeon-developed brand of skin nutraceuticals.


Laura Chacon-Garbato is a licensed aesthetician and has received post-graduate education from the International Dermal Institute in the US. She is a member of the Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP), director of Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training at Herbalife, and is Chairwoman of the Outer Nutrition Advisory Board.


Akis Ntonos is a dermatology nurse practitioner, injectable specialist, and co-founder of Aion Aesthetics, a premier New York aesthetic and injectable clinic. 


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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