Ingredients to look out for (and avoid) if you have oily skin

Megan Dominion

Having oily skin means that you might have a life-long maintenance plan that could change with every season! Before you get started on your ingredient watch-list, take a look at what causes oily skin. While we all have pores in our skin, some of ours produce more sebum than the next person. Some of us might have overactive sebaceous glands, too! It mostly boils down to your DNA, so your mom might have some good advice on what worked for her as the chances are high that they might work for you, too.

Ingredients you should stop putting on your oily skin

If you are struggling with oily skin, the first thing you should do is have a look at what you are currently putting on it. Sometimes we don’t realise it but our skincare ingredients are making our oily skin so much worse than it needs to be – I have definitely fallen into this trap before, and it took seeing a dermatologist to get me to review what I’m actually putting onto my skin.

Most Oils are making your skin worse

Not all oils are bad, some can be really beneficial for your skin, but if you are using any products with more ‘fatty’ types of oils in it, you run a very high risk of this ingredient creating more grease and clogging your pores. Some of the oils to be avoided are:

  • coconut oil
  • sunflower oil
  • hazelnut oil
  • avocado oil
  • shea butter
  • jojoba oil
  • moringa oil
  • olive oil

Oils such as Evening primrose oil, Rosehip oil, Hemp seed oil and Grapeseed oil are less ‘fatty’ and might be ok for your oily skin. Personally I’ve tried to avoid all oils just in case but everyone’s skin is different.

oil on skin

Harsh or physical exfoliants

Over-exfoliating your skin can lead to a damaged skin barrier, which in turn leaves your skin at the risk of losing too much moisture. Dry skin can lead to over-production of oil – your skin can be dry and oily at the same time, I often struggle with this conbination. When this happens, I’ll concentrate on repairing my skin barrier to encourage my skin to retain good moisture, and lower the amount of oil its producing. While doing this I will minimise the amount of exfoliation until my skin barrier feels like its in a better place.

The key takeaway here is, too much exfoliation, or the use of harsh physical exfoliants can lead to additional oil production by your skin.

Stripping Ingredients

Similarly to over-exfoliating, using ingredients that are drying or stripping can lead to a compromised skin barrier and lead to over-production of oils. These will mainly be your harsh, drying alcohols (except ceateryl alcohol) and are often found in skin toners. Best to avoid alcohols if you are struggling with oily skin.

Artificial frangrances

Artificial fragrances are often added to skincare products to (drum-roll please) make your skincare smell good! They can however, be the cause of skin irritation or cause itchiness & sensitivity, especially if your skin barrier is already compromised. This can also lead to oilier skin due to these reactions to fragrances.

If you are struggling with oily skin, best to avoid fragrances in case these are making things worse. You can always slowly introduce a product containing fragrances and see how your skin reacts to it once your skin is feeling more balanced and oil production is under control.

Ingredients We Love for Oily Skin

Unlike your mom’s generation, ours is offered a whole new world of skincare products and ingredients. From hyaluronic acid to retinol and niacinamide – let’s take a look at how these popular skincare ingredients affect oily skin types. Also take a look at this nifty guide on how to manage oily skin.

Hyaluronic acid & Oily skin

Hyaluronic acid is really great for DRY skin. It helps to absorb and lock in moisture into the skin’s multiple layers beyond the skin’s barrier. You can absolutely have both DRY and OILY skin at the same time. The good news is that it’s also safe to use for oily skin types as it doesn’t clog your pores. You still want to retain moisture in oily skin because when your skin is too dry – it will cause your oil glands to go into overtime and produce even more sebum. In a strange oxymoron kind of way – adding more moisture (the right kind) to oily skin may actually improve your skin’s appearance and make it look less ‘greasy’! This one gets a big “yes” tick from us!

Skincare serum dropper and hand

Niacinamide’s anti-inflammatory effects

Another “yes” tick! In fact, niacinamide is a form of vitamin B3. You find this vitamin in many foods such as eggs, green veggies and fish. Our bodies need niacinamide to maintain healthy cells. The liquid or cream format (for skincare) has proven anti-inflammatory results. Less inflammation = less oil production. It also has hydrating properties (especially when used as a serum) and is known to strengthen your skin’s outer layer or barrier. It’s known to be a gentle skincare product, so even those with sensitive skin can use it with confidence!

While you may want to purchase niacinamide skincare products and serums, you should also look at vitamin B supplements and a healthy, balanced diet to keep your body healthy because a happy and balanced body = happier, better-looking skin! We really are what we eat, after all! Also read our guide to rejuvinating your skin from the inside out for more tips.

Oily skin and moisturizers

This is actually a common mistake that people with oily skin make: they stop using moisturizers. It’s a huge myth that moisturizers cause or increase the appearance of oily skin! Instead, you need to find the right skincare routine and face cream for your skin type.

Many people with baseline oily skin use water-based moisturizers. Look out for ones that say “oil free”, too! You might find these in the more medicated topical cream area of your local beauty store. I had good success with Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel but it’s worth doing your research and trying out what you think your skin will react best to. You should also see if you need to adjust your skincare routine every season. What worked for your skin in summer, may not work in winter. Remember, when your skin is dry – it will produce even more sebum to counteract the dryness. What is “dry” for oily skin, is not “dry” for normal or combination skin.

Acne management and stress

Does oily skin need sunscreen

Yes, yes, yes! All skin needs sunscreen, but oily-skin peeps might prefer putting less products on their face. You can find great combos of sunscreen + moisturizer or foundation + sunscreen if you’re concerned about layering too many products.

Many brands also make fantastic grease-free, oil-free or natural sunscreens. Pro tip: you’ll often find these in the “baby and toddler” section.

Please consult with a skincare professional if you still have concerns about your oily skin or feel that you can’t find a routine that is as effective as you’d like!

Megan Dominion

Megan Dominion is SILKUP's Managing Editor. She's been down both the curly hair and skincare rabbit holes many times and loves that there's always something new to learn; a new science, method, product or personal experience.