The ultimate skincare battles have to be those that fall into the oily brigade. You’re advised dozens of different, contradicting ways to combat the culprit, which makes it difficult to be consistent.

The reason it happens is pretty simple. Your sebaceous glands, which produce natural oils to keep your skin hydrated and healthy, over produce and leave you shiny whilst clutching onto a pile of blotting paper. Breakouts are common as the excess sebum mixes with dead skin cells and gets stuck in your pores.

The more difficult thing to ascertain is why your skin is reacting this way. It could be genetic, hormonal, environmental, stress, diet or just plainly messing up your skincare routine and using the wrong stuff in a woeful and wild attempt to fix the issue. And these are only a few of the potential narratives. 

Ironically, with all this mayhem, most people think that attacking the skin with everything in your arsenal will give it a good telling off and it will start behaving. The answer however, is to be as kind as you can to your skin; scrubbing and cleansing it to within an inch of its life will only result in your skin over producing even more oil to replenish what excessive cleaning has taken away.

Unfortunately,  there is no biblical pathway to banishing oily skin. But we have uncovered some products for each step of your skincare routine that might help.

In our roundup, we’ve explained why each type of product is important to your regime, while hopefully busting some myths along the way. Take a breath, examine your skin and have a peep if any of these might help. Oil on oily skin? Believe it or not, we say yes. Let’s do this.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

Paula’s Choice skin perfecting 2% BHA liquid exfoliant, 118ml: £26, Paula’s Choice

A great exfoliant is integral when it comes to blemish-prone skin. What you should not do though, is get an exfoliant that is literally going to grate your face off. We’ve come a long way since the days of traditional scrubs.

This 2% salicylic liquid exfoliant from Paula’s Choice is the perfect mix –  It’s a hydrating, viscose formula that will help shed surface skin as well as clear out pores reducing the prospect of blackheads and blemishes. Green tea extract also helps protect the skin.

Apply to a cotton pad and dab into the skin, don’t repeat in the same spot. There are no naughties in here, as with all of Paula’s range. 

Ease your way into this if you’re new to acids. Build yourself up and look closely to your skin to see where to apply. For instance, we only applied to our cheeks once a week but the rest of the face three times to balance it entirely. You’ll undoubtedly start to see a more even texture and less breakouts with continued use. There’s a reason this is so beloved, even by those with perfect pouts.

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Verso micellar water, 200ml: £32, Cult Beauty

The most common thing we hear, and wince at, is when people with oilier complexions cleanse like crazy in an attempt to balance the surface of the skin. Ironically, if you scrub away and cleanse skin within an inch of its life, it will automatically overproduce oil to fix what the cleansing has taken away. If this sounds like you, it’s imperative you approach your skin more mindfully when you’re in wash mode. 

A great micellar water is a wonderful way to gently cleanse skin without robbing it and causing it any trauma. This one from Verso is infused with niacinamide  and turmeric for an anti-inflammatory touch. Invest in some good cotton pads and sweep across the skin to remove any excess debris and dirt. It’ll refresh you but also hydrate and balance with a hint of hyaluronic acid. 

We found it didn’t irritate whatsoever and we also kept it in the fridge to help add a moment of calm to stressed skin. This is particularly good for a morning cleanse so you’re not overdoing it. You’ll find that with a little less aggression, you’ll bring solace to the skin. Stick with it!

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Peter Thomas Roth cucumber de-tox foaming cleanser, 200ml: £21, Look Fantastic

For a more thorough cleanse, you still want to keep it on the gentle side. Foaming cleansers can usually leave your face a little dry but the texture is perfect for more sensitive skins. The whipped consistency is comforting and doesn’t drag on the skin. This one from Peter Thomas Roth is the perfect compromise. The texture is so light that it feels like there’s hardly anything on your face, and it’s steeped in cucumber extract for a cooling effect and other fruit heroes like pineapple extract which will gently exfoliate along the way.

We found no irritating aftermath with this one and left skin cleansed but not dried out as it’s alcohol-free. This is great to use in the evening to take off the day and give yourself some love.

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Dr. Roebuck's lifesaver brightening toner, 100ml: £24, Space NK

Toners have somewhat taken a backseat in the skincare game. It’s possibly because in the age of Instagram instant results, the toner doesn’t shout as loudly. It however can be your partner in crime if you want to scrape up any extra debris post-cleanse. The key is to find a non-astringent, non-drying helping hand, which is tricky when that tightening sensation some give can be so alluring – but that’s a temporary fix that won’t last long.

This lifesaver from Dr. Roebuck’s is our favourite. It’s got a whopping amount of witch hazel which is a terrific anti-inflammatory, along with aloe to calm and a hit of glycolic acid to get deep into pores to unclog. There’s no silicones to get in your way either, but this still leaves you soft and balanced.  Choosing a good toner following a light cleanser might be all you need! Put the flannel down...

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SVR sebiaclear mat + pores, 40ml: £14, Feel Unique

In the extra treatment territory, we found this gel from SVR. Their sebiaclear range is aimed at super sensitive skin types.  What’s particularly great about this is that it offers gentle exfoliation and peeling without the use of harsher AHA’s. So if you have particularly sensitive skin, this might be your new best friend.

The translucent gel consistency can be applied over the entire face or spotted onto the t-zone for an extra sebum beating boost.  We added this to a primer pre-makeup application, which helped the slap slide less throughout the day. It’ll mattify the skin as well as giving you extra antibacterial help. A wonderful addition to your regime if you need some extra regulating.

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Glossier super pure niacinamide + zinc serum, 30ml: £24, Glossier

Niacinamide is the wonder ingredient that anyone can benefit from. It’s been proven to help with everything from providing brightness and getting to grips with large pores. It’s water-light consistency is particularly good for oiler complexions as it doesn’t leave a slick on the skin like traditional serums can. 

If your main concern is larger pores, this B vitamin is your saviour. Niacinamide helps to normalise the pore lining; keeping dirt and debris from contributing to rough and clogged skin. It’ll also help brighten up skin and improve scarring over time. Glossier’s in particular is also formulated with zinc which calms the skin and reduces any oil slick. It marries well with any other products too. Add it to your moisturiser to make it a weapon to be reckoned with.

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Glow Recipe watermelon glow pink juice moisturiser, 20ml: £19.50, Cult Beauty

We understand it’s tempting to not moisturise at all when you’re feeling greasy already. We hate to break it to you but if you’re in this camp, you could be contributing to what you’re trying to prevent. Avoiding giving your skin any hydration can send it into overdrive and trick it into overproducing to get itself through the day. But you don’t want to shove a rich cream on if you’re already feeling oily.

How do I win?…you may ask. This watermelon ditty from Glow Recipe is oil-free and deliciously light. It’s packed with watermelon goodness which is traditionally used to treat irritated and inflamed skin. The beautiful gel texture won’t overwhelm and cools skin upon application. This is the perfect antidote if you’re finding other gel formulas irritable or if they’re leaving a what feels like a film on your face. There’s enough goodies in this one to work with and not against you, we promise.

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Origins active charcoal mask to clear pores clear improvement, 100ml: £22, Origins

We’ve established this is a slow race, but sometimes you just want a pick me up. This is an ace, budget-friendly clay and charcoal hybrid. The actives in here will absorb oil from the surface of the skin while digging deeper for a more thorough cleanse. It rinses off easily and will temporarily give you some respite at the very least. It’s super cooling on the skin which is nice if you’re feeling a tad frazzled. 

It rinses off easily too as opposed to leaving your bathroom sink entirely black. It’ll reduce breakouts and leave you a little brighter. This is simple, effective and fragrance-free – ticking all the boxes for the quick fix.

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Drunk Elephant virgin marula luxury facial oil, 30ml: £61, Space NK

A common misconception is that oil is only suitable for salad dressing. Truth is a lot of products targeted for oily,  acne-prone skin are too harsh and stripping. This causes the skin to overproduce oil in order to counteract the dryness. Similarly, some oils are comedogenic and can lead to breakouts, so it’s understandable why oil is a bit of a taboo subject for the acne prone. 

Drunk Elephant’s marula oil is one of the core products of the line and is a great option for oily skin. Marula is high in antioxidants which work effectively at protecting the skin from outside spot causing aggressors. It’s also loaded with essential fatty acids that calm and soothe stressed out complexions. We found any surface redness and active breakouts lessened quite considerably after applying this daily. 

One to three drops is all you need, however some may prefer a bit extra for a more luxurious feel. The texture is silky and glides on smooth. It feels rich, not greasy, and comforting.  Free of all the nasties, this is a great substitute for a generic moisturiser, especially in summer.

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The verdict: Skincare products for oily skin

A good exfoliator is key if you want to keep your skin on side. Paula’s Choice has the top spot for its triple threat approach to combating breakouts while hydrating the skin. Origins’ mask is a great weekly addition if you need a clean slate, while Dr. Roebuck’s toner is a dark horse that can help bring balance and calm with prolonged use. 

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.