As a beauty editor with oily skin, these are the 8 cleansers I swear by

They keep excess shine at bay

Best cleanser for oily skin - black model wearing neon green top and gold hoops - getty1699161488
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As most people with oily, spot-prone skin are, I am obsessive about skincare. From acne patches to exfoliating toners, if it claims to ease breakouts, reduce excess oil, or calm inflammation then I will have put it through its paces. And through years of testing and trialling, I’ve found that when it comes to creating a truly efficacious skincare routine for oily skin you need to get the first step right—and that’s with the best cleanser for oily skin.

What type of cleanser works best for oily skin?

Texture is key when it comes to choosing an effective cleanser for oily skin, and experts tend to agree that a foaming formulation makes the best choice. “Oily skin naturally produces an excess of sebum, our skin’s natural oil. While this is essential for skin health, an excess can make the skin more prone to congestion. Foaming cleansers work by dissolving the excess sebum on the skin, which is then rinsed away with water,” explains Pippa Harman, Cosmetic Scientist and Formulator and Co-Founder of Renude. However, unlike the harsh and astringent cleansers of my teenage years, Pippa points out that the aim isn’t to entirely strip the skin of all its natural oils, so a cleanser with a gentle texture and ingredients is best.

Which ingredients should you seek out in a cleanser for oily skin?

Cleansers are often an overlooked step in our skincare routine because you quite literally wash them down the drain, but there are some ingredients which can work efficiently as part of this step. “The most effective ingredients within cleansers are exfoliating acids as these work straight away on the surface of the skin,” says Pippa. “For oily skin, salicylic acid is the best acid ingredient as its able to dissolve excess oil and reduce congestion.” However, if you use acids in the rest of your routine (like your toners or serums) then Pippa advises considering whether it’s necessary “so as not to overwhelm the skin or damage the natural lipid barrier, which is essential for skin health”. 

The best cleansers for oily skin

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel

(Image credit: Dr. Dennis Gross)

Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta AHA/BHA Daily Cleansing Gel

Best for keeping breakouts at bay

Reasons to buy

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Deeply cleanses
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Reduces frequency of spots

Reasons to avoid

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Expensive

This is a real cleansing heavyweight for oily skin types, that uses a combination of alpha and beta hydroxy acids to deeply cleanse the skin, decongest pores, and exfoliate away dead skin cells. It leaves skin wonderfully refreshed and bright from first use, and used regularly I’ve found that it really does minimise the regularity of breakouts and helps my skin to look more even in tone.

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel

Best Cleansers for Oily Skin La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel

(Image credit: La Roche-Posay)

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Cleansing Gel

Best for your daily morning cleanse

Reasons to buy

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Gentle, hypoallergenic formula
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Refreshes skin

Reasons to avoid

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No-frills—not particularly luxe

As with all of La Roche-Posay's product offering, this foaming cleansing gel has been created alongside dermatologists to create a gentle formula that won't irritate skin. The result is a refreshing gel texture infused with thermal spring water, sebum-reducing zinc and citric acid to gently exfoliate and smooth the skin. I keep this in my shower as a quick daily cleanse to rid my skin of any oil build-up that's accumulated overnight. 

Farmacy Beauty Whipped Greens Cleanser

Best Cleanser for Oily Skin Farmacy Beauty Whipped Greens Cleanser

(Image credit: Farmacy Beauty)

Farmacy Beauty Whipped Greens Cleanser

Best for brightening dull skin

Reasons to buy

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Lovely light, creamy texture
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Leaves skin radiant

Reasons to avoid

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Skin feels slightly dry after use

If you have the type of oily skin that means your complexion can look quite congested and dull then this cleanser is a great solution. The star ingredients are green clay, which soaks up excess oils and unwanted shine, and papaya enzyme which nibbles away at dead skin cells to reveal fresh, new skin beneath. The mousse-like texture lathers into a nourishing cream that rinses clean to leave your skin looking bright and glowy. 

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser 

Best Cleansers for Oily Skin CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

(Image credit: CeraVe)

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

Best salicylic aid cleanser

Reasons to buy

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Contains expert-approved salicylic acid
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Can be used on face and body

Reasons to avoid

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Not the most luxurious option

One of my most-recommended salicylic acid cleansers ever, this gently exfoliating formula contains 0.5% salicylic acid—the ingredient that Pippa recommended oily skin types should seek out in their routine. It really does a brilliant job of smoothing the skin's surface, deep cleansing pores, and minimising congestion. Plus, if you suffer from breakouts or rough skin elsewhere on your body then it can be used as an all-over wash too. 

Paula's Choice Clear Cleanser

Best Cleansers for Oily Skin Paula's Choice Clear Cleanser

(Image credit: Paula's Choice)

Paula's Choice Clear Cleanser

Best for stubborn blackheads

Reasons to buy

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Hydrating, lightweight foam
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BHAs to target blackheads and spots

Reasons to avoid

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Might be too active for very sensitive skin

As someone with persistently oily skin, I'm used to the excessive levels of sebum causing persisting blackheads—particularly on my nose. With regular use, this cleanser does a brilliant job of lifting away that pore-clogging oil and deeply cleansing the pores through the key ingredient of BHA (aka salicylic acid). My skin is always much more clear when I use this often, yet it never feels excessively stripped or dry thanks to the addition of hydrating glycerin and vitamin B5. 

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Best Cleanser for Oily Skin The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

(Image credit: The Inkey List)

The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser

Best affordable cleanser for oily skin

Reasons to buy

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Affordable
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Minimises blemishes  

Reasons to avoid

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Would like it to lather more

For the price point, this cleanser is surprisingly effective and makes a great morning or first cleanse for oily skin. It also contains salicylic acid to to reduce the redness of active spots and prevent the formation of new ones, but also has zinc extract to target excess oil levels. It only lathers slightly, so you don't get the satisfaction of the foaming action of some of the other cleansers on the list, but it leaves skin feeling comfortable and soft and looking much more even in appearance. 

Kinship Naked Apple Niacinamide Deep Pore Gel Cleanser

Best Cleansers for Oily Skin Kinship Naked Apple Niacinamide Deep Pore Gel Cleanser

(Image credit: Kinship)

Kinship Naked Apple Niacinamide Deep Pore Gel Cleanser

Best gel texture

Reasons to buy

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Thick gel-to-foam texture
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Contains actives and probiotics

Reasons to avoid

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Strongly fragranced

Cleansers for oily skin have a tendency to feel quite basic, but this one from Kinship has a beautifully thick gel texture that transforms into a rich, frothy foam on contact with water—it's actually a joy to use. And texture aside, it's brimming with great ingredients to target texture and future-proof your skin against excessive breakouts. Lactic acid gently exfoliates, niacinamide soothes, and probiotics protect your skin barrier for greater skin health. An apple a day might really keep excess oil at bay.

Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash

Best Cleansers for Oily Skin Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash

(Image credit: Elemis)

Elemis Dynamic Resurfacing Facial Wash

Best luxury cleanser for oily skin

Reasons to buy

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Great for more mature, oily skin
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Feels rich and nourishing

Reasons to avoid

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Nothing—it's perfect!

I adore the entire Elemis cleanser collection, but this one is my top pick for oily skin. It's a gel, yes, but it feels wonderfully rich and almost milky in texture—a real treat to use and perfect if you have oily skin but are also noticing lines or dry patches as you grow older. At its heart is a tri-enzyme technology which breaks up the dead skin cells that cause congestion without compromising your skin barrier. Plus, there's moringa to provide an antioxidant and soothing white truffle. My skin always looks so refreshed after using it that it's as if I've had a mini facial.