A lady looking in a mirror and touching her face.

9 of the best cleansers for oily skin

28 May 2021 • 4 min read


Combination skin getting you down? Having a skincare routine that uses products that have been specifically designed for your skin type is one of the best ways to eliminate excess oil and reduce the appearance of spot-prone or blemish-prone skin. 

From why you need to cleanse to which ingredients you should be looking out for, here’s our guide to the best cleansers for oily skin.

What does oily skin look like?

Oily skin is quite easy to spot. The main tell-tale signs are:1

  • A shiny face, that gets greasier as the day goes on
  • Make-up ‘sliding’ off your face
  • Breakouts and blackheads on the oilier parts of your skin
  • Enlarged pores, especially around your nose and on your chin and forehead
  • Your T-zone (forehead and nose area) is oily and looks shiny

Can oily skin use a cleanser?

Yes, absolutely, but not just any cleanser. The best cleansers for oily skin are gentle on the skin, i.e. won’t dry it out or remove too much natural oil.2

Drying your skin out can compromise your skin barrier, which can lead to it producing even more oil. Cleansers for oily skin need to clean skin, but also maintain natural oil levels while also moisturising, but not over-moisturising. As for what these cleansers are, keep reading, we’ve listed 10 examples down below….


  • Oily skin can easily be identified through signs, such as greasy skin, sliding make-up, an oily T-Zone and breakouts and blackheads
  • Cleansers can, and should, be used on oily skin
  • But they must clean and hydrate skin, rather than strip it of its natural oils

Why is cleanser important?

Cleansing is perhaps the most crucial step in caring for your skin and should definitely be something you do – regardless of your skin type!

For people with particularly oily skin, though, cleansing is even more critical. That’s because it helps clean out your pores and remove any excess sebum, dirt or make-up that could go on to cause breakouts or blackheads.

Depending on the ingredients, your cleanser may also help your skin cells to regenerate, in addition to offering them protection against things like harmful UV rays and pollution.

What to consider when picking a cleanser

There are a few different things you should keep in mind when choosing a cleanser. If you have oily skin, it's important to look for these 5 main ingredients. 

Cleanser ingredients for oily skin

Like many things, not all cleansers are created equal! Luckily, there are lots of different options out there that come packed with beneficial ingredients for those who struggle with greasiness or breakouts. Here’s what to look out for in the best cleansers for oily skin:

  1. Antioxidants

Antioxidants are great for the entire body, not just the skin. Put simply, they’re molecules that help with the negative effects of free radicals – compounds that could potentially harm your cells and lead to various skin concerns.3 When it comes to skincare, antioxidants can help purify your skin, reduce sensitivity, and even brighten up your complexion.4 Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that features in many cleansers for oily skin.5

  1. Salicylic acid

This form of beta hydroxy acid is a common ingredient in many skincare products, not just cleanser. Why? As an exfoliator, it’s able to penetrate deep into the skin and unblock pores that may have become clogged with dead skin, oil and other nasties.6  To keep on top of your oily skin, try cleansing twice a day. You should follow this up with a lightweight, oil-free moisturiser that will smooth out and hydrate your skin without re-clogging your pores.                  

  1. Hyaluronic acid

Lots of people with oily skin mistakenly think their skin isn’t dry, but that oil isn’t the same as moisture. This means oily skin can actually be crying out for some moisture, but not the type that’s too rich and heavy and leads to blocked pores and suffocates oily skin.7

Light, yet deeply enriching moisture is what’s needed, which is precisely what hyaluronic acid provides. Look for oil-free moisturisers that contain hyaluronic acid, which happens to be intensely hydrating as well as lightweight.

Handpicked content: The best hyaluronic acid products for skin

  1. Retinol

Retinol (or Vitamin A) is great for oily skin because it helps keep pores tight. In doing so, this means they create and secrete less oil. So, as well as helping reduce the appearance of wrinkles, fine lines, blemishes and age spots, retinol can also help keep oil control in check too.8

Handpicked content: Is retinol good for skin?

  1. Glycolic acid

Here’s another ‘acid’ to add to your oily skin checklist! Face washes, lotions and creams that contain glycolic acid are great for reducing excessive oil and preventing pores from getting clogged with oil.  It works by helping to keep the top layer of skin exfoliated, leading to smooth and more balanced skin in the process. 9


  • Cleansing is critical for people with oily skin because it helps clean out pores and removes excess sebum, dirt and make-up that could go on to cause breakouts or blackheads
  • Ingredients that get on with oily skin include: antioxidants, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and retinol

And what should I avoid?

Now you know what you should be looking out for in your hunt for the best cleanser for oily skin, it’s worth learning what you should avoid too.10

  1. Occlusives

Occlusive ingredients, such as paraffin, lanolin and petroleum, are specifically designed to tackle dry skin, but they’re way too thick for oily skin to handle.

These heavier ingredients can quickly lead to increased blocked pores and prevent any moisture from evaporating, which can be a pore-clogging nightmare.

  1. Certain face oils

Natural oils do work for some people with oily skin. But on the whole, they’re highly prone to clogging pores, especially oils with a high oleic content, such as coconut or hazelnut oil. The fatty acids within these oils simply sit on the skin’s surface and cause pore blockages.

Oily skin gets on much better with natural oils with a higher linoleic content, such as rosehip or primrose oil.

  1. Alcohol-based products

Some alcohol based products are designed to provide skin hydration and some are aimed at cleansing skin. Steer clear of cleansers that contain high levels of alcohol, as it’s highly likely that, over time, they’ll strip your skin of its natural moisture.

Then, because your skin is dry, it’ll wind up overproducing oil, which can lead to having excessively oily skin.


  • Certain ingredients can make oily skin worse
  • They include: occlusives, face oils with a high oleic content and alcohol-based products

9 best cleansers for oily skin

It can be hard knowing where to start when you're looking for new beauty products.

Luckily, we've rounded up 9 of the best cleansers for oily skin, along with what our customers have to say about them. 

1. Trilogy Cream Cleanser 100ml

Use Trilogy Creamy Cleanser for soft, smooth completely clean skin. This simple, one-step cleanser removes make-up and impurities from your face and eyes and harnesses the benefits of rosehip, evening primrose and carrot. Rich in pure plant oils and non-drying, it leaves skin feeling smoother, softer and beautifully refreshed.

MCro – Love this! – 5/5 stars

‘Excellent product. Very gentle, removes make-up so well, the smell is divine. My skin has been soft and supple since I started using it. Will definitely buy again.’

2. Antipodes Grapeseed Butter Cleanser - 75ml

This sleek, minimalist cleanser contains an enchanting blend of nourishing cacao butter with soothing olive and harakeke oils. It also features revolutionary Vinanza® Grape from New Zealand’s sauvignon blanc grape seeds. Soothing lavender and blue chamomile combine to help calm sensitive skin, as well as refresh and cleanse, while hibiscus bloom gentle exfoliates. This cleanser helps balance oil production and also boosts dry and thirsty skin.

Eli J – The most amazing cleanser – 5/5 stars

‘This is the holy grail of complexion cleansing, I have absolutely fallen in love with it. It has such a nice smell, texture and my skin feels extremely soft and indulged after use! I have combination/oily skin prone to spots and this product hasn’t caused any irritation or made my complexion worse.’

3. Sukin Foaming Facial Cleanser - 125ml

This sulphate-free wash provides a gentle, non-drying cleanser to remove impurities, leaving skin feeling soft, clear and clean. It combines chamomile, aloe vera, witch hazel and green tea with macadamia and evening primrose oils to purify and balance skin. Suitable for all skin types, especially oily and sensitive.

Nii01 – Great cleanser – 5/5 stars

‘Love this cleanser, my skin was breaking out with spots and feeling dull. This has cleared my spots and left my face feeling fresh and less oily.’

4. Sukin Rosehip Cream Cleanser 125ml

This rosehip infused cream cleanser works to remove make-up, oil and dirt build up on the skin. A blend of rosehip and borage oils and quandong extract nourish and hydrate, while an infusion of shea butter, evening primrose oil and camelia oil work to refresh and rejuvenate tired skin.

Lisa K – Lovely cleanser – 5/5 stars

‘I have tried all sorts of other cleansers for my skin, which is prone to hormonal breakouts yet dry patches too. This is by far the best. My skin no longer feels dry after washing, but it doesn’t cause spots either. Works really well as a hot cloth cleaner too.’

5. Weleda Purifying Gel Cleanser - 100ml

This purifying gel cleanser gently cleanses deep into the pores without drying the skin out, thanks to the willow bark extract, witch hazel distillate and liquorice root extract. It removes make-up while also reducing skin oiliness, shininess and surplus sebum, ultimately preventing future skin impurities.

EMMAa – Excellent product – 5/5 stars

‘Excellent wash if you have combination oily skin type. Left my face feeling fresh, clean and helps with breakouts.’

6. Hanna Sillitoe Hydrating Cleanser - 150ml

This naturally hydrating cleanser is ideal for cleansing the skin without leaving it feeling dry and tight. With a nourishing blend of amaranth, hemp and coconut oil, it goes on as a light gel and washes off as a soothing milk. Intended to leave skin feeling soft, smooth and moisturised, this cleanser works to hydrate skin, rather than strip it of its natural oils.

Ruthie P – Hanna Sillitoe cleanser – 5/5 stars

‘Lovely product, smells herby and delicious...doesn’t lather but face feels clean and no tightness.’

7. REN Perfect Canvas Jelly Cleanser

Deep clean your complexion with this clean jelly oil cleanser, REN’S gentle yet effective cleansing treatment. Ingredients include, grape seed oil, which is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and helps restore skin health and protect against free radicals. It also contains meadowfoam seed oil to help replenish the skin’s barrier with the essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6. Overall, skin appears purified, balanced and hydrated. 

Milmolmand – Great cleanser – 5/5 stars

‘Love, love, love this cleanser. From the smell, to the way changes texture, to the great feeling on my afterwards. Removes all traces of make-up and doesn't leave the skin tight at all afterwards. I use as 1st or 2nd cleanse... sometimes both!’

8. Q+A Peppermint Daily Cleanser - 125ml

This peppermint daily cleanser formula is packed with natural actives that will soon become essential in your daily skincare routine. It provides a gentle cleanse, that won't upset the natural oil balance of your skin. Formulated using cleansers derived from coconut, this formula cleans without stripping your naturally produced sebum, leaving your face feeling soft. The inclusion of peppermint oil and its cleansing properties, helps fight blemishes and revitalise your skin.

Windy Ferreira says – Very refreshing – 5/5 stars

‘This cleanser is gentle enough to use every day. it has an amazing peppermint smell that I just cannot get enough of. When I use it, my skin feels very clean, but without being tight or dry. As someone with oily skin, this cleanser is absolutely amazing.’

9. Clear Skin Days Clarifying Cleanser - 150ml

With less than 12 raw ingredients in each product, this clarifying cleanser, with salicylic acid and glycolic acid, effectively deep cleans and resurfaces skin. Gentle enough for daily use, the cleanser helps to clear up blemishes and absorb excess oil, helping to maintain a healthy-looking complexion. Formulated with aloe vera to hydrate and soothe skin.

Mils123 – Cleared skin within 5 days! – 5/5 stars

‘Within 5 days of using this, along with the other Clear Skin Day products, I noticed a remarkable difference to my teenage skin. It cleared up my skin and now 3 weeks into using it, I have had no outbreaks. AMAZING - cleared skin within 5 days!!’


Using cleanser regularly is one of the best ways to take care of your skin, even if it’s oily. Just be sure to use the right type of cleanser for your skin, which will give it the moisture it needs without impacting your natural oil levels.

Remember, oily skin isn’t necessarily oily, it can be skin that’s been stripped of its natural oil and overcompensating by producing more oil than it usually would.

Use products that have been specifically designed for oilier skin, including the 9 cleansers we’ve listed above.

Last updated: 28 May 2021

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.



Author: Manisha TaggarSenior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: May 2019

BSc Hons in Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Science

Manisha started her career at a Cosmetics distributor as a Regulatory Technologist followed by a Regulatory Affairs Officer, ensuring the regulatory compliance of cosmetic products from colour cosmetics to skincare.

After 3 and half years in this role, Manisha joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.

Manisha specialises in Cosmetic products, both own-label and branded lines, ensuring that these products and all relating marketing material comply to the EU Cosmetics Regulation.

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