Oily Skin Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention and Remedies

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Is your skin often shiny? Is your makeup always ‘sweating’ off your face? Is your face prone to pimples? Then you’ve got oily or a combination skin type.

Oily skin causes, symptoms, prevention, treatments and remedies

People with oily skin shine on their face and have regular breakouts. Their pores are large and easily noticeable.

People with a combination skin type exhibit two skin types on their face. Their cheeks and other face portions appear dry and cracked while the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) will be oily.

Why does your skin become oily

Our skin is kept supple and soft by sebum produced by the body. If too much sebum is produced, it leads to acne breakouts and oiliness. The oiliness can be blamed on two factors: genetics and hormones. Medically, it is referred to as seborrhea and is caused by overproduction of sebum within the pores.

Fluctuating hormones, especially during puberty, menopause, pregnancy or periods lead to an increase in androgen levels (a hormone that causes oiliness). The androgens are male hormones which are found in both species, signaling maturity of the skin’s sebaceous glands. As they mature, the production of oil increases.

The more androgens you have present, the more sebum is produced through the pores. This then sits on the skin surface, forming an oily sheen. This excess sebum gets trapped in the pores and combines with bacteria and dead skin cells to form pimples, blackheads, and blemishes.

Genetics is also a cause. Reaction to hormonal changes in most patients depends on hormones and genes. Hormone fluctuations could be a result of events like pregnancy or puberty. Hereditary or genetic factors determine your skin’s reaction to these fluctuations.

Other causes include:

  • Use of the wrong amount of skincare products. Sometimes while we are trying to look younger and get smooth skin, we over-exfoliate or over clean. Too much exfoliating and cleaning products strip away sebum, leading to overcompensation by the sebaceous glands.
  • Cosmetics: some makeup products (especially the oil-based ones), make the sebaceous glands active and this makes the skin heavier and greasier. Most liquid cosmetics make the skin oily too.
  • Diet: excessive caffeine, processed foods, foods high in salt and fats and sugary products could lead to oiliness.  Unhealthy diets cause dehydration and malnourishment on the skin, leading to overproduction of sebum.
  • Pregnancy: the estrogen hormone drastically fluctuates during pregnancy. The sebaceous glands get out of control but the skin goes back to normal after delivery.
  • Seasonal changes: the drastic increase of humidity and heat during summer causes sebum overproduction. On the contrary, during the winter, the air becomes arid, which cause dehydration. The sebaceous glands overcompensate for the dryness and an increased level of sebum is produced.
  • Birth control pills
  • Stress

Symptoms and signs

Those with this skin type look more youthful and have fewer wrinkles. It’s not all bad news but some of the things to look out for include:

  • Shiny and greasy skin sometimes on the T-zone area alone or the entire face
  • Enlarged pores especially on the nose and cheeks.
  • Constant acne breakouts
  • Spots, blackheads, and pimples
  • Makeup doesn’t last
  • Use of foundation leads to oxidation i.e. foundation color changes color a few hours after you apply it.


You can take preventive measures against this problem especially if it’s caused by external factors.

Wash your face correctly

It must sound like a no-brainer but when and how you wash your face could be causing your oily skin. Wash in the morning and evening before sleep. Washing often dries out the skin causing the sebaceous glands to overreact and produce more sebum. Avoid using hot water because it may irritate or dry it too, instead use lukewarm water. Do not use harsh soaps or facial cleansers which dry the skin. Use gentle cleansers suitable for oily skin, this will unclog pores and make your face shine-free.

Stay hydrated and eat healthily

If you suffer periodic bouts of shininess but your skin isn’t oily, change your diet habits. Your food intake should correspond with your skin type. Avoid dairy, sugar and refined carbohydrates since studies show that this aggravates the situation. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables and increase the intake of natural foods.

Drink enough fluids to prevent it from drying out. Drink at least two liters of water on a daily basis and avoid caffeinated beverages and alcohol.

Wear correct makeup

Sometimes over powdering leads to clogged skin and a chalky appearance. You can use the right oil-free skincare products that help control sebum production and reduces shine. Remember to wash off the makeup before sleeping. Use products labeled non-acnegenic, oil-free and non-comedogenic. You can also use oil-free powder and blotting papers that are oil-absorbing.

Use a skin-friendly moisturizer and cleanser

Oily skin needs moisturizing so as to prevent it from overproducing sebum. Use moisturizers that are oil-free and avoid makeup-removing cold creams and lotions that could leave it with a greasy film. Use lotion moisturizers that have a lighter cream, a gel formula or hydrating serum. Toners you use should contain salicylic acid when exfoliating your skin.

Get enough sleep and avoid stressful situations

Excessive stress and lack of enough sleep could lead to a spike in androgen production. Get enough sleep and unwind at some point during the day. Physical exercises, meditation and a few minutes relaxing in the bath can help too.

Protect your face from oil contact

Some of the items we use on a daily basis may transfer oils to your face. Keep your hands off your face and clean your cellphones with alcohol wipes. Also, make a habit of changing face towels regularly and washing your makeup brushes.


Consult a professional

Visit a dermatologist to help identify the cause of your oily skin before seeking out treatment.  The doctor will prescribe medications to deal with it/ He may also suggest the use of topical creams that alter how pores secrete sebum to reduce oiliness.

For extreme cases, heat energy therapy, pulsed light, and diode laser therapy may be suggested. This target sebaceous glands and could destroy them. These methods are also expensive and long-term risks and benefits are not clearly known.

Control the shine

You can control shinning by using a sebum-control primer (base) before applying makeup. This absorbs sebum produced throughout the day and keep the skin shine-free and fresh. Powder could be another option to help soak up additional sebum on the oiliest areas. Oil control papers can also help when you need a quick fix.

Change your skincare routine.

Switch to an oily skin regimen.

  1. Look for cleansers containing sulfur, tea tree oil or salicylic acid that dissolve excess sebum. You can also use Glycolic acid to improve the texture and tone of your skin. After cleansing uses an alcohol-free, mild toner that removes impurities. Finish off with a light oil-free moisturizer and do this twice every day.
  2. Use an astringent every other day to tighten pores and remove excess sebum. They contain high alcohol levels however and could be over-drying and harsh. They should therefore not be used after exfoliation.
  3. Exfoliate to prevent clogged pores. Do it every once a week using an oil-free scrub designed for your skin type. Be gentle however to avoid irritation.

Warning: be wary of home remedies

Home remedies aren’t well researched and success depends on the quality of products used and specific situation. Dr. Leyda Elizabeth Bowes, a dermatologist warns that home remedies can be a miss or hit. They depend on whether you use too many ingredients or the right amount.

For example, too much lemon may lead to hyperpigmentation, if you use the sugar lemon scrub. Steaming is another home remedy that she warns against, “The high temperature can be dangerous and strip your skin of fatty acids you need,” she says. “It’s the same reason why I tell patients not to take hot showers or go in Jacuzzis.” She recommends exfoliation every once a week.

Following the above preventive measures and getting treatment will help get rid of your oily skin. If a remedy you have been using makes it sensitive, causes allergies or worsens the situation, stop using it.

Do you have oily skin? What works for you? Tell us in the comment section.

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