Skincare simplified: The best routine for oily, dehydrated skin

Tackle skincare for an oily T zone in six to eight steps

skin care routine oily skin

by Lucy Smith |
Updated on

Having oily skin can be a pain. From the five o'clock shine on your oily T-zone to the inevitable foundation slippage as the day goes on, there's a whole bunch of qualms us oily types have to battle against.

Of course, there's the upside that oily skin is more wrinkle-resistant. Still, it would be nice to not worry if your forehead shine is going to reflect camera flash like a mirror. Just once 😂.

Before you ask, yes, it is true that oily skin can be hereditary, but that doesn't mean there aren't skincare products we can use to help.

Whatever your woe, from a shiny T-zone to enlarged pores, there are moisturiser, toner and serum solutions. Plus, we've whittled down all the best options to save you time.

In just six to eight steps, with these products, you can work to minimise shine, reduce the appearance of pores AND help to prevent acne, all while hydrating the skin. So say goodbye to drying foam cleansers and say hello to products your skin with actually love 👋.

CHECK OUT: The best products for oily skin

Just so you know, while we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this page, we never allow this to influence product selections.

First up...

1. First cleanse/make-up removal

Before you get stuck in with your active ingredient skincare, it's really important to remove your make-up with a first cleanse. You can probably skip this step in the morning, or if you don't wear make-up BUT, if you do wear SPF then you're going to want to do a primary cleanse regardless.

SPF can cling to pores like glue and, if you don't remove it, you could encourage an unwanted bout of acne. No, thank you.

One of the best products to help break down SPF is an oil-based cleanser.

But wait...

Can you use an oil-based cleanser on oily skin?

As aesthetic practitioner Nalan Aksahin (of Rejuv Lab London) explains, "Using an oil-based cleanser as a first cleanse/make-up remover on oily skin is great as part of your evening routine.

"Simply wash away the excess with your second cleanser."


Oily dehydrated skin

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CREDIT: Amazon


Before you even LOOK at cleansers, you are going to need at least eight flannels in your arsenal (one for each day of the week + another for laundry day). This is a tip from skincare guru Caroline Hirons and it's one you should get on board with, stat. Washing away your make-up with a splash of water just won't do the job, and you'll be left with residue product. These cotton flannels will wash like a dream, they're soft to the touch and, most importantly, they'll wipe away all the day's make-up and grime no problem. This pack includes 12 flannels for less than a tenner - a bargain if you ask us.

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Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

Best high-end cleanser for oily skin

This no-nonsense cleansing balm is one of the best in the business. It transforms from a solid balm to a satin oil between your fingertips and, with a quick massage into your lashes, it'll do away with waterproof mascara in seconds. Plus, it's fragrance-free for sensitive skin.

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CREDIT: the body shop

Camomile Sumptuous Makeup Cleansing Butter

Best budget cleanser for oily skin

The Camomile Sumptuous Makeup Cleansing Butter is the perfect first step in a double cleansing routine to remove that day-old, caked-in makeup from your skin to reveal your natural glow. It'll even get through dried waterproof mascara - impressive. It is a perfect hydrating cleanser for oily skin, without overdoing it.

2. Second cleanse

After removing your make-up and/or SPF, a second cleanse, or 'skin cleanse', is your first chance to really get in contact with the skin. Because of this, the ingredients in your second cleanser are arguably more important.

According to Nalan, a good ingredient to look out for in cleansers for oily skin is salicylic acid.

She says, "The salicylic acid breaks down oils that can lead to breakouts and penetrates right down into the pores. It also acts as an exfoliator so cuts down the need for scrubs or cleansing brushes."


Cleanser and toner for oily skin

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CREDIT: Beauty Bay

Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel

Best high-end cleanser for oily skinOskia's Renaissance cleanser is renowned in the industry, and for good reason. It combines vitamins A, C and E - to encourage skin regeneration and healing - with lactobaccilus, or pumpkin enzyme, to clear pores and rid the skin of dead cells.

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CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

Best budget cleanser for oily skinTaking on board Nalan's salicylic acid recommendation, CeraVe's Smoothing cleanser is a great shout and it comes at a great price, too. According to the brand, it uses SA to "exfoliate without disturbing the skin's natural barrier," and it's also packed full of hyaluronic acid to encourage hydration. A real hero product, if our opinion.

3. Toner

Once you've cleansed, a toner is a really good point in your routine to try and target skin congestion. This can mean excess sebum (oil) and dead cells on the surface of the skin which, if left, could go on to clog pores and create acne.

As, senior aesthetician Fatma Gunduz (of Skin and Sanctuary) explains, salicylic acid is the "oil loving" acid, so oily skin types should look for both this and glycolic acid in their toners.


Cleanser and toner for oily skin

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CREDIT: Amazon

Paula's Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant

The best high-end toner for oily skinAnother cult industry classic, the Paula's Choice BHA toner combines our fave, salicylic acid, with green tea extract to calm irritation and redness while targeting and clearing congested pores. Apply every other day until skin adjusts to the formula, at which point increase use to every day.

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CREDIT: Beauty Bay

Acid trip exfoliating toner with AHA and PHA

Best budget toner for oily skinFor £5.40, this is a real powerhouse product. It pairs glycolic acid to remove dead skin with a gentle PHA to smooth and brighten complexion. Plus, it's vegan and cruelty-free.

4. Spray hydrate

An optional step, but one that can help to boost hydration (a big tick if your skin feels tight after cleansing) and, at the end of the day, feels a little luxurious - think spa, wellness retreat.

Nalan says, "As well as salicylic acid, keep an eye out for hyaluronic acid. These two ingredients work so well together as the hyaluronic acid replaces moisture and keeps your skin hydrated.

"It will prevent your skin from feeling tight or dry in the way that many oily skin products can."


Skincare for oily dehydrated skin

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CREDIT: Look Fantastic

Pixi Hydrating Milky Mist

Best mid-range face spray for oily skinNot quite high-end at £16, the Pixi spray uses hyaluronic acid and black oat extract to pump the skin with moisture while soothing any redness and/or inflammation. All in all, it's a truly enjoyable product to use.

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CREDIT: Cult Beauty

Heritage Store Rosewater and Glycerin Spray

Best budget face spray for oily skinAs Caroline Hirons says, a spray should ideally have, "glycerin or hyaluronic acid in there somewhere but a good quality rosewater etc is fine. I mean good quality." The Heritage Store spray ticks two of those boxes with rebalancing rosewater and glycerin to help the skin retain moisture - a win, win.

5. Eye cream

Yet another optional step, an eye cream is a luxury that sometimes time and money can't afford, but if crow's feet and fine lines are your nemesis, it might be something to start considering.


Oily t zone products

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CREDIT: Feel Unique

Kiehl's Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado

Best high-end eye cream for oily skinSkin-type regardless, you're probably going to want to something creamy and calming to put on your eyes, especially if you're a fan of day-to-day eye make-up. With its moisturising avocado and shea butter formula, the Keihl's eye cream is just that. It was a huge hit around 2014, and we see no reason why it shouldn't be now, too. Definitely a treat worth buying.

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CREDIT: Feel Unique

Q+A Caffeine Eye Serum

Best budget eye cream for oily skinIf you're conscious of oily eyelids, this is the eye product for you. It has a thin, water-based formula and combines caffeine and pomegranate extract to 'wake-up' and brighten your under-eye area.

6. Serum

Now THIS is where the magic happens. Save all your money for this step because the serum stage is where you're going to target your skin's real problem areas. From acne to dryness (yes, oily skin can still by dry), a serum can pinpoint those concerns and, trust us, it's going to be your best friend.

For blemish-prone skin, Fatma recommends Niacinamide at this stage.

She says, "Niacinamide, also known as B3, is great for enlarged blemish prone-skin with discolouration.

"It also helps with dullness and repairing a weakened skin barrier."


Skincare for oily T zone

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CREDIT: Feel Unique

Murad Revitalixirâ„¢ Recovery Serum

Best high-end serum for oily skinIf you're one of the really lucky ones that's been blessed with oily and dehydrated skin (irony...) then you'll love this serum, even if it is a little pricey. It brings together niacinamide with hydration-boosting hyaluronic acid (along with rose water and a whole bunch of other skin-loving ingredients) in a water-based serum that's just picture perfect for oily skin. Can't recommend it enough.

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CREDIT: Beauty Bay

SkinHit Soothing Serum with Niacinamide and Cooper

Best budget serum for oily skinIn a nutshell, this is a niacinamide blemish zapper with added copper to help regulate oil production and, in an ideal world, help to prevent future blemishes. At £5, it's an entryway to active skincare and we're here for it.

7. Moisturiser

Contrary to popular belief, your moisturiser isn't necessarily where you should be splashing your cash. Yep, according to the one and only Queen Caroline Hirons, your moisturiser is like "a good coat."

She explains, "Think hydration and protection, not the second coming of Jesus."

In fact, it's your serum where you want to prioritise your spending, says Caroline (so give that Murad serum a go 😉).


Best products for oily T zone

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Clinique Moisture Surge 72H

Best high-end moisturiser for oily skinNow this is a real one. Clinique Moisture Surge has been around for over two decades, and for good reason. Its water-based formula is jam-packed with hyaluronic acid and its texture is light as air on the skin. It'll leave your skin hydrated to the max and, because of its light feel, it's the perfect product to layer over a serum AND under an SPF.

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CREDIT: Superdrug

Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Moisturiser

Best budget moisturiser for oily skinWe're not going to overdo it, this is Clinique's Moisture Surge at a lower entry level. It's a bargain £12.99 and uses hyaluronic acid in a light formula to hydrate the skin. Simple and very much effective.

8. SPF

Last and definitely not least, sun protection factor.

Now, before you hit us with, "SPF breaks me out," or, "It makes my T-zone greasy," you need to face the facts: SPF is the biggest weapon we have in our arsenal against ageing. You don't want to miss this step.

Plus, we've found the SPFs that absolutely won't add to your T-zone shine. And, remember, you should be wearing SPF every day you leave the house, not just when it's sunny.


Moisturiser with SPF for oily dehydrated skin

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CREDIT: Feel Unique

Medik8 Advanced Day Total Protect

Best high-end SPF for oily skinA water-based formula (big tick for oily skin types) with added anti-pollutants and anti-blue light extracts which all boils together to provide you with a light as air, all-singing, all-dancing daily SPF. Plus, Caroline Hirons uses this sooo...

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CREDIT: Feel Unique

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Anti-Shine Sun Cream SPF50+

The best mid-range SPF for oily skinNot quite affordable enough to sit in the 'budget' category but pretty good in terms of finding an actually non-greasy SPF. Designed for oily skin, La Roche-Posay's Anthelios SPF has a dry to the touch texture and leaves no white marks ud83dude4c.

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Does oily skin need moisturiser?

Yes! Oily skin most definitely needs moisturiser, you just need to find the right one.

Oily skin can still be dehydrated and in need of moisture. Note, dehydrated skin isn't the same as dry skin; the first denotes a lack of water in the skin, while the second describes a lack of oil.

Alas, oily skin types are best-suited to a water-based moisturiser to boost hydration without adding to the skin's natural sebum, or oil, production.

Of course, not all oily skins are dehydrated, but excess oil production can be the skin's way of letting you know that it's in need of moisture, AKA she's thirsty, hun x.

Should oily skin types use face oil?

Yes and no. Generally speaking, oily skin types should stick to water rather than oil-based products, to minimise the appearance of shine, a.k.a excess sebum production.

That said, there are lighter oils (particularly oil-serum hybrids) that can work well on oily skin, you just need to know how to apply them.

Is my skin dehydrated or oily?

The best way to tell if your skin is merely dehydrated or actually oily is to examine the state of your pores, says Katherine Daniels Cosmetics.

Dehydrated skin pores will present as open and grey at the base, but not full - they are often confused with blackheads. Whereas oily skin pores will present as waxy and, where there are blackheads, they will be almost like 'plugs', slightly raised and clearly filled with sebum and dead skin.

It's also important to note that dehydrated skin may look dull - this is a good tell that you need to up your water intake, both topically and by glugging a good 'ole glass 'o H20.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us