The best cleansers for oily skin

Posted by for Beauty

Cleansers are crucial part of any skincare routine, and more so than for those with oily skin. Stylist explores the fundamental role of a cleanser, as well as highlighting the best products for oily skin.

Those with oily skin know that the pursuit of the perfect cleanser that leaves skin feeling fresh without completely stripping it of its natural oils is riddled with frustration.

The search can feel endless. A cleanser for oily skin has to tick a multitude of boxes to even be considered: not only does it need to contain the ideal ingredients to balance the complexion, there’s also the vital consideration of whether you opt for a foam, cream or gel texture. And getting it right can make all the difference to how your skin feels throughout the day.

So where exactly do you start? Stylist probed skincare specialist, Dr Emma Cunningham, to find out how those with oily skin should shop for cleansers, before sharing some of the team’s favourite formulas.

What makes skin oily?

Simply put, oily skin is caused by an over-production of sebum (an oil secretion from the sebaceous glands in our skin). To make things slightly more complicated, there are many reasons why your skin could be over-producing oil, with one factor being weather changes.

“Hot and humid environments appear to stimulate production of oil from the sebaceous glands and cold environments cause the skin to dry out and this results in the sebaceous glands powering up to over compensate,” says Dr Cunningham.

Stress is also a factor. “When stressed, our bodies produce more cortisol (a stress hormone) and studies have shown that this results in an increase in our body’s natural oil production,” she says. “At various stages in a woman’s menstrual cycle there is a hormone shift which results in our sebaceous glands producing more oil.” 

What we eat can have real influence on oil production, too. “Diets high in processed carbohydrates result in a high serum glucose levels and therefore an increase in insulin production. Studies have shown that increased insulin levels can lead to an increase in sebum production.”

What types of cleansers should you use if you have oily skin?

Stick to a gentle cleanser. “The primary aim of any skin routine for oily skin is to control oil production and contrary to popular belief, harsh and abrasive cleansers actually do more to encourage oil production that reduce it,” explains Dr Cunningham. “BHA’s (beta hydroxy acids) are great for oily skin types as they are oil-soluble; they work to stimulate the exfoliation of dead surface skin layers, unclogging pores. They also have calming properties which work well with blemish-prone skin and inflammation.”

How often should you cleanse oily skin?

“A gentle cleanser should be used twice daily, morning and night and possibly after extensive exercise,” says Dr Cunningham. “This helps prevent clogged pores that occur as a result of the excess oil production mixed with make-up, pollutants and sweat. Resist the temptation to wash any more than this as over cleansing can actually cause the oil glands to over react, having the opposite effect to what you set out to do.”

Ready to add an oil-balancing, yet hydrating cleanser to your skincare routine? Stylist has curated a list of the best ones to try out.

The best cleansers for oily skin

  • The blemish control cleanser

    Bybi Crystal Clear Cleanser

    What is it? A lightweight gel cleanser that, when lathered up, turns into a hydrating foam.

    Why is it brilliant? It contains willow bark extract, which is a natural form of the exfoliator salicylic acid, making it perfect for preventing spots and gently exfoliating skin.

    Shop Crystal Clear Cleanser at Bybi, £24

  • The gentle make-up removing cleanser

    Dr Sam’s Flawless Cleanser

    What is it? A clear thick gel-textured formula that doesn’t foam, but removes make-up and cleanses skin.

    Why is it brilliant? It doesn’t block pores, is fragrance-free and contains aloe vera extract to calm red, oily or blemish-prone skin. Quite frankly, it’s the definition of a gentle, effective cleanser.

    Shop the Flawless Cleanser at Dr Sam Bunting, £16.

  • The everyday balancing cleanser

    Cerave Foaming Facial Cleanser

    CeraVe Foaming Cleanser

    What is it? A cult foaming cleanser that prioritises keeping the skin’s moisture levels in tact. 

    Why is it brilliant? Not only does it remove make-up effectively, it leaves skin feeling hydrated thanks to its nourishing ceramide-rich formula.

    Shop CeraVe Foaming Cleanser at Lookfantastic, £7.10

  • The calming cleanser

    Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Herbal Cleanser

    What is it? A cream-based cleanser that works up into a gentle creamy foam.

    Why is it brilliant? It contains a generous dose of cannabis sativa seed extract, known for its soothing properties in skincare. It works to balance out moisture levels leaving skin supple, soft and not stripped of its natural oils.

    Shop Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Herbal Cleanser at Parfum Dreams, £21.95

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Images: Getty and courtesy of brands.

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