Best skincare ingredients for people with oily skin

Vanessa Gibbs

When it comes to skincare, finding the best ingredients can be one of  the hardest things. Not only are there thousands of ingredients to choose from, there are also some that work better for some skin types and conditions, but not for others. If you have oily skin, you should be looking for ingredients that can control oil production and reduce shine, all without drying out the skin and making the problem worse. Not sure what these ingredients are? We’re here to help. 

Here at Face Dr, our team of experts have been working in the world of skincare for decades. So we know a thing or two about the best ingredients out there for every skin type—including oily! Here, we’re going to share the exact ingredients you should be including in your skincare routine. 

The best ingredients for oily skin: 

#1 Salicylic acid

#2 Hyaluronic acid 

#3 Niacinamide 

#4 Retinol 

#5 Clay  

Interested in which ingredients we recommend for other skin types? We’ve covered sensitive skin and dull skin, too. And if you want to save time and get expert recommendations straight away, we offer free skincare consultations where one of our skin experts can share the best ingredients for your exact skin type and concerns.

Before we dive into why these five ingredients make the cut, here’s what oily skin actually is. 

woman using face mask for oily skin

What is oily skin? 

Everyone’s skin produces sebum—or oil—but those of us with oily skin simply produce too much of it. While it’s completely harmless and natural, it can cause breakouts, blemishes and a shiny appearance. 

Oily skin is most likely caused by genetics, but it can also be triggered by everything from age to hormones and stress to diet. Plus, if you’re using the wrong products or using some products too much—like over exfoliating, for example—this can trigger the skin into making more sebum, leading to excess oil on the skin’s surface. 

The best ingredients for oily skin 

Luckily, there are ingredients out there that can help. Look out for these ingredients in skincare products to reduce oil production, combat shine and take that best care of your skin, no matter how oily it is. 

#1 Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, or BHA, and it acts like a deep clean for your skin. It’s ideal for those with oily skin and those who are prone to breakouts and acne. The ingredient is an exfoliant and works to break down dead skin cells, dirt and—best of all—excess oil. This clears out the pores, helping to reduce current and future breakouts, and it makes visible pores look smaller. 

You’ll most often find salicylic acid in cleansers, toners and serums or even targeted treatments like pre-soaked pads. 

Face Dr top pick: ZO Oil Control Pads. These pre-soaked pads are an easy way to add salicylic acid to your routine. Simply swipe across the skin to control oil, acne and breakouts.  

#2 Hyaluronic acid 

Hyaluronic acid is a go-to moisturising ingredient. While this may sound counterintuitive for those looking to banish excess oil, it can actually work wonders for oily skin types. The ingredient attracts and holds onto water, giving the skin a much needed moisture boost. If your skin is producing excess oil because it's dehydrated or has been stripped of its natural oils, hyaluronic acid can help to rebalance and rehydrate the skin to stop this process. 

Plus, hyaluronic acid is a lightweight and soothing ingredient that won’t weigh oily skin down. Look out for this ingredient in moisturisers and serums.

Face Dr top pick: AllSkin Med C Radiance Gel. Boost radiance and combat signs of ageing with this hydrating serum that’s lightweight and ideal for oily skin. 


#3 Niacinamide 

Niacinamide is another hydrating ingredient that can work wonders on all skin types, including oily skin. But it not only hydrates, it can also absorb and remove excess oil from the skin, leaving behind a much less shiny appearance. And it may also reduce the amount of oil our skin makes in the first place. 

Face Dr top tip: Niacinamide may also be listed as vitamin B3 on ingredient lists.  

Niacinamide is also great for those looking for anti-ageing ingredients as it can boost collagen production which firms the skin. Plus it also reduces the look of large pores. You can find niacinamide everywhere from cleansers to moisturisers and even dedicated serums. 

Face Dr top pick: ZO Exfoliating Cleanser. Add niacinamide to your daily routine with this exfoliating cleanser that can remove make-up, dirt and excess oil, all without drying out the skin.  

man using serum with ingredients for oily skin

#4 Retinol 

You may have heard of retinol as an anti-ageing ingredient, but it can also be helpful for oily complexions. The ingredient is derived from vitamin A and works to increase cell turnover in the skin. This, in turn, helps to unclog and tighten pores, leading to less breakouts, oily patches and eventually less oil production. It also helps you shed dead skin cells to reveal a brighter and healthier complexion. 

Bonus: retinol is not only great for lines and wrinkles, it can also reduce hyperpigmentation, too. 

Face Dr top tip: while people with oily skin tend to be less sensitive, retinol is still a harsher ingredient and may cause some irritation. Start using the ingredient slowly and see how your skin reacts. You can also speak with a skin expert to find out exactly which retinol product you should be using to minimise the chance of irritation. 

Face Dr top pick: ZO Daily Power Defense. Add retinol to your routine with this powerful serum that tackles signs of ageing while strengthening the skin and brightening the complexion. Plus, ZO Skin Health has retinol products from 0.25% to 0.5% and 1%, so you can increase the percentage in your routine as your skin learns to tolerate it more. 

#5 Clay  

Clay can be found everywhere from cleansers to masks and it’s a great addition to a skincare routine for oily skin. The ingredient works to soak up excess oil on the skin’s surface as well as the oil that’s clogged inside your pores. It’s great for those with shiny patches and those who experience acne. 

Using a once-a-week clay mask can be a great way to absorb and remove excess oil and keep the skin balanced and looking clear. 

Face Dr top pick: ZO Complexion Clearing Masque. This mask is ideal for absorbing excess oil and mattifying to skin with clay. Apply all over to combat an oily complexion or simply use it as a spot treatment for breakouts and blemishes. 

clay skincare ingredient for oily skin

Which ingredients don’t work for oily skin? 

Now you know which ingredients you should be looking out for, what are the ingredients to avoid for oily skin? 

Here are the three top things to watch out for: 

  • Alcohol — this can be overly drying, causing the skin to produce even more oil in response 
  • Coconut oil — thick products like coconut oil can clog the pores, leading to breakouts and a build-up of excess oil 
  • Harsh physical scrubs — these can strip away the skin’s natural oils, leaving it dry and damaged and, eventually, even more oily to make up for it

Need expert advice? 


When it comes to skincare ingredients, the choice is never ending. The decision is even harder when you’re trying to take care of oily skin and perhaps tackle other skincare concerns, too. Not sure which of these five ingredients is for you? Why not speak to an expert to get a personal recommendation? 

At Face Dr, we offer free skincare consultations that you can do from the comfort of your own home. In a 30-minute video call, one of our experts can analyse your skin and ask about any other concerns you may want to tackle. Then, they can give you the very best ingredients for the job and the exact products to use that contain them. Plus, if you need help building a skincare routine to tackle oily skin, they can help with that, too. 

We only ever recommend brands and products that we know work, so you can trust that you’ll walk away with a product recommendation that can deliver results for oily skin. 

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