Oily Skin, its Causes, and Treatment

What is Oily Skin?

Notice that your skin emits a little extra shine? The fact is, everyone has oil in their skin. Oily skin happens when the sebaceous glands in the skin make too much sebum. Sebum is the waxy, oily substance that protects and hydrates the skin.

Under each of your pores is a sebaceous gland, In some people, though, the sebaceous glands can produce too much oil. This creates oily skin.

What does oily skin look like?

You know you have oily skin if your skin constantly looks shiny, and you go through several blotting sheets a day. Oily skin can even feel greasy within hours of cleansing.

Breakouts are also more likely because the sebum mixes with dead skin cells and gets stuck in your pores.

What causes Oily Face?

The causes of oily skin include,

  1. Genetic
  2. Environmental
  3. Lifestyle factors
  4. Over-Washing
  5. Medication
  6. Cosmetics
  7. Hormonal Changes
  8. Poor Diet

While you can’t necessarily get rid of oily skin, you can take steps to make your skin less oily. The key is to identify one or more of these underlying causes.


Oily skin tends to run in families. If one of your parents has oily skin, you’re likely to have overactive sebaceous glands, too.


While you don’t necessarily grow out of oily skin, your skin will indeed produce less sebum as you age. Aging skin loses protein, such as collagen, and the sebaceous glands slow down.

This is why many people who have aging skin also have dry skin. This is also the time when fine lines and wrinkles are more noticeable because of the lack of collagen and sebum.

One benefit of oily skin is that you may not show signs of aging as quickly as your drier counterparts.

You may have oily skin now, but you’ll need to evaluate your skin as you get older. Even people in their 30s may not have the same skin composition as they did in their teens and 20s.

An aesthetician can help evaluate your skin type every few years to see if you need to make any changes to your skincare routine.

Living Place and Season

While genetics and age drive the underlying causes of oily skin, where you live and the time of year can also make a difference.

People tend to have oilier skin in hot, humid climates. You’re also more likely to have more oil on your skin during the summer than you would in the fall or winter

While you may not be able to pick up and move away because of your oily skin, you can adjust your daily routine during days of high heat and humidity.

Keep blotting sheets on hand to touch up excess oil throughout the day. A matte moisturizer or foundation can also help soak up extra oil.

Enlarged pores

Sometimes your pores can stretch out due to age, weight fluctuations, and previous breakouts. Larger pores also tend to produce more oil.

You can’t shrink your pores, but you can take extra care to blot areas of your face with enlarged pores throughout the day.

Wrong Skin Care Products

Oily skin can also be brought on by using the wrong skincare products for your skin type. Some people mistake combination skin for oily skin, and they might use too heavy creams, for example.

If you have drier skin during the winter months, you may need to change your skincare plan for the spring and summer with lightweight moisturizers and gel-based cleansers.

Using the correct skincare products can make a huge difference in the amount of oil that’s left on your face.

Overdoing your Skincare Routine

On the flip side, washing your face or exfoliating too often can also make your skin oily. This can seem like an oxymoron since the purpose of washing and exfoliating is to get rid of oil.

But if you do this too often, you strip away too much of the oil from your skin. This can cause your sebaceous glands to go into emergency mode, where they produce even more oil to make up for the loss.

You only need to wash your skin twice a day to keep excess oil at bay.

Failing to wear sunscreen can also dry out your skin, leading to more sebum production. Make sure you wear sunscreen every single day. Moisturizers and foundations with sunscreen tend to be less oily, but you may still need to reapply throughout the day.

Skipping your Moisturizer

It’s a myth that moisturizer causes oily skin. In fact, if you’re using acne treatments such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you definitely need a good moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. Without a moisturizer, any skin type will dry out.

So instead of skipping moisturizer, the key is to find the right kind of moisturizer. Lightweight, water-based moisturizers work well for oily skin. Always make this your last step after cleansing and toning.

Also, look for products that say they’re “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic” to help keep pores clear.

What do we learn?

Oily skin is complex with many causes. It’s also possible to have more than one cause of oily skin.

For example, oily skin may run in your family, and you might also live in a humid climate. In such cases, you’ll need to address all the causes of excess oil to help achieve cleaner, clearer skin.

Once you’ve come up with your oily skin action plan, you’ll need to give it some time to work.

Sometimes it can take a month or two until you see any major improvements. If you’re still dealing with excess oil after this time, you may want to see your dermatologist.

Treatment of Oily

Here, we give six ways in which a person can reduce the symptoms of oily skin if it is problematic for them.

Wash Regularly

Washing regularly can reduce the amount of oil on the skin. The following methods are recommended for washing oily skin:

How do you clean oily skin?

  • Wash with gentle soap and warm water.
  • Avoid soaps with fragrances, added moisturizers, or harsh chemicals, which can irritate or dry out the skin, making it respond by creating more sebum.
  • Avoid loofahs and rough washcloths, as added friction may stimulate the skin to make more oil.

If this is not effective, some medicated acne care products may help. These products contain acids that can tackle oily skin, such as:

  • Salicylic acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Beta-hydroxy acid
  • Benzoyl peroxide

These acids may be irritating to some skin types. When starting a new product, use it on a small area of skin first to see how the body reacts.

What iS the best cleanser for oily skin?

Choosing the right facial cleansers may work well for some people. A 2015 study found that a mild facial cleanser made with sodium Laureth carboxylate and alkyl carboxylates was effective for tackling moderate facial acne, although it increased sebum production in some areas of the face.

For many people who simply have oily skin and not acne vulgaris, fragrance-free glycerin soap and hot water may do the trick.

Use a Toner

Astringent toners that contain alcohol tend to dry out the skin. However, according to a 2014 study, natural astringents, such as witch hazel, can have skin-soothing properties.

Witch hazel has a high tannin content that makes it a natural astringent and anti-inflammatory. Many people with oily skin use witch hazel as their only toner.

In some people, natural astringent toners can make enlarged pores seem smaller and remove small bits of product or makeup that could clog pores.

However, these products may not work for everyone. Some may find that their face tingles or itches when using astringent toners. If this happens, it may be a sign of irritation that could lead to more sebum production.

People should test out any new toner on a small patch of skin to avoid potential irritation.

Pat the Face Dry

When drying the face after washing and using toner, people should gently pat their skin dry with a soft towel.

This should be done with care, however. Pulling down on the skin with a towel, or using a rough washcloth, is not advised, as it may stimulate the skin to create more sebum.

Use Blotting Papers and Medicated Pads

Many companies make blotting papers, which are specially designed absorbent papers that pull oil from the skin.

Blotting papers will not treat the sebum production in the skin, but they can be used to lift excess oil off the skin throughout the day to make it appear less shiny.

A person could also try cloth pads that are medicated with familiar cleansing ingredients, such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These may help to remove excess oil throughout the day while cleansing the pores and skin.

Use a Facial Mask

Certain facial masks may be beneficial for treating oily skin. These may contain ingredients such as:

  • Clay. Masks containing minerals like smectite or bentonite can absorb oils and reduce skin shininess and sebum levels without irritating the skin. Use them only occasionally to prevent the skin drying out, and apply a gentle moisturizer afterward.
  • Honey. A 2011 study reports that natural raw honey has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. A 10-minute honey face mask may reduce acne and oily skin while keeping the skin soft.
  • Oatmeal. Masks containing colloidal oatmeal may help to cleanse the skin, as suggested in a 2014 study. Oats contain gentle, cleansing saponins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that could soothe irritated skin.

Apply the best moisturizer

While many people with oily skin steer clear of moisturizers for fear that their skin will look greasier, using the right moisturizers can benefit this type of skin.

For people with very oily skin, an oil-free moisturizer could help keep the skin moist and protected, without it feeling greasy.

2014 study suggests that aloe vera could be a good moisturizer for treating acne and oily skin.

Certain compounds in aloe vera can have a naturally soothing effect on the skin. The study noted that a product should have at least 10 percent aloe in it to be an effective moisturizer.

Some people choose to use pure aloe gel for moisturizing, but they need to be aware of hidden ingredients, especially denatured alcohol, which could dry and irritate the skin.


Oily skin that is linked to genetics can be difficult to prevent. Even oily skin caused by changes in hormones is difficult to control.

The best prevention for oily skin is for an individual to find a consistent skincare routine that works, and to stick to it.

When oily skin arises, it can be tempting to hide it with makeup. However, certain products, particularly oil-based products, could make symptoms worse or clog the pores.

Water-based makeup may be a better option for some, while others find wearing no makeup works best for their skin.

Many people also say their diet is what keeps their skin from acting up. It may help to stay hydrated, avoid greasy foods and trans fats, and eat a well-rounded diet full of whole foods.


Many home remedies for oily skin are not well researched, though there are some that scientific evidence suggests can be effective.

The ultimate test of effectiveness is a personal experience. A person should find a routine that works for them and stick with it.

The best course of action may be to consult a dermatologist and work with them to make a note of daily activities and factors that could cause oily skin.

It is essential to test any product or method on a small patch of skin first to note any reactions by the skin. If the skin reacts badly to a certain product, it should not be used again, and people should consult a dermatologist for other options.

A person with severe acne and symptoms of oily skin should consult a dermatologist for the best way to protect the skin and prevent serious complications or scarring.

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