5 Types Of Skincare Ingredients And What They Do For Oily/Acne-Prone Skin

Skincare is confusing for most of us. But, if you have oily skin and suffer from breakouts or acne then choosing products can feel a bit like a minefield for you!

But, it doesn't have to be. I've made a list of five very helpful ingredients for oily skin. In this post you're going to learn;

  • the best five ingredients for oily skin

  • exactly what they will do for your skin

  • how to incorporate them in your skincare routine

five best ingredients for oily skin

1. Beta-Hydroxy Acid (BHA)

BHA is lipophilic (oil-dissolving), anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, making it highly beneficial for oily and acne-prone skin. It has smallest molecular size out of all the exfoliating acids giving it a unique ability to penetrate the deeper layers of the skin where it gets to work dissolving pore-clogging oil and debris that cause breakouts. It also helps to combat excess oil production.

Salicylic acid, the most common BHA used in skincare has proven to have an extremely deep cleansing effect on oily skin types and help treat acne. You can add salicylic acid to your daily routine in the form of a serum —best used at bedtime, a cleanser, or in your moisturiser. Or, even a weekly mask.


All skin types can suffer from dehydration, including oily ones! Therefore, humectants are just as important to your skincare regime as they are to dry skin types. And that is because humectants are scientifically known as hydrophilic (water-loving) substances, meaning they hydrate the skin by attracting water like a magnet.

Some, like Hyaluronic Acid (HA) has proven to have anti-aging effects on the skin by improving wrinkles and hydration. HA can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water giving it an incredibly hydrating, plumping and youthful effect on the skin.

Humectants to look for in skincare;

  • Hyaluronic Acid

  • Saccharide Isomerate

  • Glycerin

  • Sodium hyaluronate

  • Hyaluronic acid

  • Sodium PCA

  • Sorbitol

  • Allantoin

  • Honey 

  • Aloe Vera

  • Seaweed, algae

Humectants to avoid in skincare;

  • Propylene glycol

  • Butylene glycol


Classed as emollients, occlusive ingredients are used in moisturisers, lip balms and salves to prevent trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), thus stopping the skin from becoming dehydrated. They have shown in studies to create a barrier on top of the skin that seals and locks in moisture, making them a vital skincare ingredients for dry, sensitive skin types that suffer from eczema or other dermatitis related conditions. However, if you have oily and acne-prone skin, choose carefully as these ingredients tend to have very high comedogenic ratings.

To avoid skin dehydration —especially during winter, it's important that your day and night cream contains suitable occlusives.

More commonly used by clean beauty brands, natural occlusive ingredients, such as oils and butters high in Oleic Acid (omega-9) and Stearic Acid are wonderful skincare ingredients because they also have the ability to nourish, moisturise and repair your skin while you sleep. They are particularly soothing and healing for dry, sensitive skin types that suffer from eczema or other skin conditions such as psoriasis. They are also necessary for protecting the lips and hands in extremely cold weather.

Natural occlusive skincare ingredients with low comedogenic rating;

  • Evening Primrose Oil

  • Grapeseed Oil

  • Sunflower Oil

  • Rosehip Seed Oil

  • Apricot Oil

  • Hemp Seed Oil

  • Mango Butter

  • Kokum Butter

Synthetic occlusives;


  • Cetearyl Alcohol

  • Cetyl Alcohol

  • Lanolin Alcohol

  • Coconut Fatty Acids


  • Cyclomethicone

  • Dimethicone

  • Cyclopentasiloxane

Synthetic occlusives to be avoided;

  • Petrolatum

  • Mineral oil

  • Paraffin


Antioxidant-rich ingredients —either in your skincare or food, protect the body from oxidative stress that causes disease and ages your skin. Oxidative stress is a process triggered by an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants within the body.

Free radicals are unstable molecules that the body produces as a reaction to environmental factors and other stressors. They are also a natural byproduct of cellular metabolism. Some common free radical triggers are environmental aggressors such as UV light, pollution, cigarette smoke, certain medication and pesticides/toxins.

These lifestyle factors have been linked to cancer and cardiovascular disease. So, oxidative stress could be the reason these substances lead to disease.

Free radicals are unstable atoms with an uneven number of electrons. Electrons like to be in pairs, so free radicals scavenge the body seeking out other electrons to become a pair. This causes damage to healthy cells, proteins and DNA.

Antioxidants are molecules that can donate an electron to a free radical without making themselves unstable. This causes the free radical to stabilize and become less reactive.

Antioxidant-rich ingredients —be it in your skincare or food, are proven to protect the body by neutralising free radicals in the body, therefore preventing or slowing damage to cells (oxidative stress) that leads to visible signs of aging in the skin.


Plant oils high in the essential fatty acids (EFAs) —alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and linoleic acid (omega-6) can dramatically improve the condition of acne-prone skin. These skin types have an imbalance of EFAs in their skin resulting in more oleic acid (omega-9) in their skin which makes the sebum thick and sticky leading to breakouts.

This imbalance also causes excess oil production in the skin. These plant oils have proven to balance the ratio between fatty acids.

Oil-free products were traditionally always thought to be best to treat oily and acne skin types. But, not all oils are pore clogging. We now have more and more evidence on the use of topical botanical oil sources of omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids not causing breakouts.

These oils, such as like prickly pear seed oil, argan oil, hemp seed oil, pumpkin seed oil and grapeseed oil are a wonderful, natural alternative to treating acne.

Avoid oils high in oleic acid (omega-9);

  • Olive Oil

  • Marula Oil

  • Avocado Oil

  • Brazil Nut Oil

  • Camellia Seed Oil

  • Sweet Almond Oil

  • Hazelnut Oil

  • Shea Nut Oil

  • Buriti Fruit Oil

  • Apricot Kernel Oil

  • Macadamia Nut Oil

  • Sea Buckthorn Oil


Lu J, Cong T, Wen X, Li X, Du D, He G, Jiang X. Salicylic acid treats acne vulgaris by suppressing AMPK/SREBP1 pathway in sebocytes. Exp Dermatol. 2019 Jul;28(7):786-794. doi: 10.1111/exd.13934. Epub 2019 May 15. PMID: 30972839.

Lee YJ, Kim HT, Lee WJ, Chang SE, Lee MW, Choi JH, Won CH. Anti-aging and hydration efficacy of a cross-linked hyaluronic acid microstructure patch. Dermatol Ther. 2019 May;32(3):e12888. doi: 10.1111/dth.12888. Epub 2019 Apr 17. Erratum in: Dermatol Ther. 2019 Sep;32(5):e13068. PMID: 30942947.

Lodén M. Role of topical emollients and moisturizers in the treatment of dry skin barrier disorders. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(11):771-88. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304110-00005. PMID: 14572299.

Masaki H. Role of antioxidants in the skin: anti-aging effects. J Dermatol Sci. 2010 May;58(2):85-90. doi: 10.1016/j.jdermsci.2010.03.003. Epub 2010 Mar 17. PMID: 20399614.


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