Yes, You Can Control Oily Skin — Here’s How

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

04.05.22DISCLAIMER

Can’t avoid that midday shine? Struggling to keep your makeup on? Are you fed up with breakouts and blackheads? It sounds like you have oily skin. While this skin type is not uncommon, it can be frustrating to deal with. Not to mention, sometimes the efforts made to control the condition — including products for oily skin — can genuinely make the problem worse.  

If you’re constantly wondering, “Why is my skin so oily?” or want to learn how to get rid of oily skin (hint: it’s about balance, not elimination), you’ve come to the right place. The reality is every skin type is manageable, providing you’re willing to put in a little effort and, in this case, a skincare routine for oily skin.

Controlling your daily sheen is about mastering what not to do and adhering to a skincare routine for oily skin. Don’t stress (you’ll actually produce more oil.)  Here’s how to treat oily skin so you can put more balance in your complexion and maybe your life, too. 

Why Is My Skin So Oily? 

Everyone has oil in their skin, but those with an “oily” skin type produce an excess of sebum. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Even researchers admit that deciphering why some people suffer from excessive oil production while others endure dry skin remains challenging to explain. 

While the root cause of oily skin is an overproduction of sebaceous glands, numerous factors have been proposed to play a role in the development of oily skin, which makes it challenging to pinpoint just one successful treatment. Let’s take a closer look.

Genetics 

Oily skin tends to run in the family. If one of your parents has oily skin, you’re apt to have overactive oil glands, too, so you can stop wondering how to stop oily skin.

Hormones 

Excess androgen hormones (sex hormones) stimulate sebum production, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Hormonal fluctuations, particularly menstruation, pregnancy, and disorders of the ovaries, testicles, and adrenal glands can also trigger sebum production. Oily skin is the most common around puberty when the hormones are at their peak levels. 

You’re Using the Wrong Skincare Products

There are a few possible scenarios here. Either your skincare products are too heavy for your oily skin type, the formulas aren’t non-comedogenic (won’t clog the pores), or you’re using overly harsh cleansers, astringents, and scrubs. 

While you may be inclined to believe that these types of products will cut down on oil, in reality, they are causing your skin to produce even more oil to compensate for the dryness. Harsh formulas and over-cleansing strip the skin of its natural oils. So, if you’re wondering how to treat oily skin, this isn’t the direction you should take. 

You’re Skipping Out on Using Moisturizer

A moisturizer is still a vital skincare step even if you have oily skin — especially if you’re using products with drying ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. It’s not that these aren’t excellent ingredients to control oil and blemishes, but again, dryness will just lead to the production of more oil. The best moisturizer for oily skin is obviously a vital component in every skincare routine for oily skin, too. 

Stress

Stress raises cortisol (stress hormone) levels causing your skin to produce more oil while aggravating an acneic condition. 

You’re Dehydrated

Yes, oily skin can be dehydrated simultaneously, so you can guess what happens? You guessed it — more oil. Factors that can lead to this situation include not drinking enough water, extended sun exposure, certain medications, and air conditioning. 

 

Change of Seasons or Climate 

It’s not uncommon to experience an increase in sebum during the spring and summer and in more humid climates. 

How To Control Oily Skin

If you’re wondering how to stop oily skin, the truth is, you really can’t. But that doesn’t mean you can’t manage your daily sheen. Here’s how to control oily skin. 

Read Your Product Labels 

A skincare routine for oily skin is vital, but specific keywords and ingredients can indicate whether skincare products will help you tame oil production or make it worse. “Use products labeled with terms like “non-comedogenic,’” “non-acnegenic,” “doesn’t clog pores.” This indicates the manufacturer considers the product to be formulated for people with oily or acne-prone skin.” While it’s not a solid guarantee because everyone’s skin reacts to products differently, it is a helpful guideline.

Wash Your Face — But Not Too Much

It can be tempting to wash your face several times a day to keep your skin looking matte, but overwashing strips the skin of its natural, protective oils, which can leave your skin feeling tight and dry. The best face wash or best oil cleansers won’t do that.

As you’ve already learned above, your skin responds by making more oil. Stick to washing a maximum of twice a day. If you’re an exercise enthusiast, consider swiping micellar water or gentle toner over your face versus going for a third wash. 

Choose Your Toner Wisely

Skip the alcohol-based toners that strip the skin. Instead, opt for a formula that has both astringent and moisturizing ingredients such as witch hazel, charcoal, glycerin, aloe vera, and hyaluronic acid to mattify and nourish your skin. 

Be Careful Not to Over-Exfoliate

Exfoliating is important because it helps remove the dead skin cells sticking to the skin’s oily surface. Because oily skin is often associated with breakouts and comedones, opt for a non-grainy chemical exfoliant that contains ingredients such as glycolic and salicylic acids to dissolve dead skin cells and break up the intercellular glue holding on to dead skin, dirt, oil, and other blemish-causing impurities. 

Experiment with a glycolic or another type of home peel once or twice a week. You can also incorporate acids into your cleansing or mask routine. Suppose you notice any dryness signs, back off on the frequency, or try using a different product. Conduct a patch test when incorporating acids into your routine. 

 

Add Retinol to Your Routine

Regular use of retinoids helps shrink sebaceous glands and reduce oiliness. Still, newbies beware: They can dry the skin, so it takes a delicate balance to avoid stimulating more oil production. Start slowly (one to two times a week) until you work up a tolerance. Avoid home peels when using retinol because this potent ingredient also exfoliates the skin.

Always Wear Sunscreen

Sunscreen doesn’t have to make your face look greasy. Just make sure you choose a lightweight, oil-free version with mineral blockers (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) and mattifying ingredients. If you go the chemical sunscreen route, opt for a light liquid or gel that’s formulated for the face. If you’re worried about the heaviness of using a moisturizer and sunscreen, choose a moisturizer with a built-in SPF.

Become Acquainted with Niacinamide

One of the products for oily skin you may not think about is a niacinamide serum.

Niacinamide (vitamin B3) is anti-inflammatory, helps to absorb sebum, and strengthens the skin barrier. The serum form is desirable because you will get the most potent dose and the most effective delivery. 

Try a Laser Treatment

There are copious lasers on the market, but Revlite Laser and Forever Young BBL are great for oily skin. They claim to reduce sebaceous gland function and size via photothermal effect with results that can last several weeks.

Soak Up Extra Oil With Blotting Papers

If you’re wondering how to prevent oily skin during the day, oil blotting papers, like rice paper, absorb excess oil more effectively than caking on another layer of face powder — though some leave behind a light, powdery finish. Stash a pack in your purse, gym bag, desk, etc., to make it easier to touch up that midday shine.

Lighten Up Your Makeup

If you can’t part with cosmetics, switching makeup products from creams to powders is a great way to keep excess oil at bay. Creamy makeup formulas can look cakey and lead to clogged pores, whereas mineral-based powders are non-comedogenic. 

Up the ante with a mattifying product after sunscreen and before your makeup. This extra step is instrumental in warmer climates where it can be challenging to keep makeup from sliding off. 

Avoid Touching Your Face

This tip can be tricky to adhere to when you’re stressed, nervous, or have particular sleeping habits, but touching your face is a surefire way to spread dirt and bacteria, which can exacerbate clogged pores and breakouts. 

Get a Hold of Your Maskne

While mask mandates are easing up, even occasional use can aggravate breakouts and trap oil for those with oily skin. Once you’ve finished learning how to control oily skin, check out our tips for mastering maskne

Get a Hold of Your Stress Levels

Keep those cortisol levels down by engaging in stress-reducing activities such as yoga, meditation, a guided app, limiting alcohol consumption, getting regular physical activity, and engaging in some form of hobby that pleases you. 

Be Mindful of Your Diet

It’s no secret that what you put into your body on the inside shows up in your skin on the outside. If you’re wondering how to prevent oily skin with your diet, try to avoid consuming sugar and refined carbs (think junk food, white bread, sugary drinks) because they cause your blood sugar levels to spike, causing your pancreas to release insulin and stimulate oil production. Reach for foods that are deemed as low GI, meaning they don’t spike blood sugar. We’re talking about vegetables, many fruits, whole grains, legumes, and seeds. 

The American Academy of Dermatology revealed a study of 2,258 patients who were placed on a low-glycemic diet to lose weight. This diet also reduced their acne, with 87% of patients saying they had less acne and 91% saying they needed less acne medication.

Oil (Sebum) Composition

The technical name for the substance that gives you that glisten is sebum, which is produced through your sebaceous glands — microscopic exocrine glands in the skin. Sebum is composed of a mixture of lipids, including

  • Glycerides
  • Free fatty acids
  • Wax esters
  • Squalene
  • Cholesterol esters
  • Cholesterol

Oil glands tend to be clustered in some regions of the face, including the forehead, nose, mid-cheeks, and chin (aka your T-zone), which is why these areas tend to look extra greasy if you have oily skin.

The sebaceous glands produce lipids and triglycerides, which are broken down by bacterial enzymes (lipases) in the sebaceous duct to form more minor compounds called free fatty acids. The oil on the surface of your skin is a complex mixture of sebum, lipids (from the surface skin cells), sweat, and environmental material — all the more reason why you should be washing your face correctly!

 

The Oil Production Cycle

Sebum production is regulated by sex hormones (androgens). The sex and adrenal glands make these hormones and others. The amount of oil your skin produces varies throughout your life. Here’s a basic rundown:

  • At birth, sebaceous glands produce a relatively high amount of oil. 
  • Not long after birth, oil production decreases until puberty. At this time, sebum production dramatically increases.
  • Oil production doesn’t decline again until after menopause for women and somewhere between a man’s 60s and 70s. 

The Silver Lining 

While controlling shine and breakouts can be frustrating, there is a silver lining for oily skin. Sebum reduces water loss from the skin’s surface and protects from infection and inflammation caused by bacteria and fungi. 

The fatty acid composition of sebum also adds more protection against free radical damage from environmental pollutants and the sun’s UVA and UVB rays (although it still requires regular sunscreen usage). Thanks to the lubrication and emollient protection sebum possess, it’s easier to maintain skin hydration (although dehydration is still possible, as noted above), contributing to a healthier-looking complexion.

While you don’t necessarily grow out of oiliness, your skin will produce less sebum with age. You may notice fine lines and wrinkles later in life than those with drier skin because of this added lubrication providing you’re not living an unhealthy lifestyle — too much alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep, excessive stress, poor diet, etc. 

Also, those with oily skin aren’t exempt from other signs of premature aging, such as uneven texture and discoloration — primarily since oiliness is often associated with acne, which may leave behind scars and a rough skin texture. 

Of course, as with all skin types, you need to continuously evaluate your product routine to ensure it aligns with your skin’s current needs. If you’re ever at a loss for what to use, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with a dermatologist or licensed esthetician. 

How To Control Oily Skin: The Bottom Line

Are you wondering how to get rid of oily skin? Well, you can’t —  but that doesn’t mean you can balance your complexion. 

Oily skin is primarily caused by overactive sebaceous glands, which can be influenced by genetics, hormones, the wrong skincare products, skipping out on moisturizers, dehydration, stress, and climate. 

The goal of a skincare routine for oily skin is to balance the skin’s oils — not wholly strip them away, as this will only cause the skin to produce more oil to compensate for the loss. This means not over-cleansing or skipping out on sunscreen or a moisturizer and incorporating key ingredients like retinol, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid into your regimen. 

From a lifestyle perspective, try to avoid touching your face, get your stress levels in check, go easy on sugar and refined carbs, and lighten up your makeup with oil-free mineral-based powders. 

Remember, your skin will change as you age, so your skincare routine is going to have to adjust along the way. Don’t hesitate to seek the advice of a dermatologist or esthetician if you’re not sure what needs tweaking. 

 

Sources:
“Picardo M, Ottaviani M, Camera E, Mastrofrancesco A. Sebaceous gland lipids.” Dermatoendocrinol. 2009;1(2):68-71. doi:10.4161/derm.1.2.8472.
“Endly DC, Miller RA. Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options.” J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(8):49-55.
“Makrantonaki E, Ganceviciene R, Zouboulis C. An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne.” Dermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(1):41-49. doi:10.4161/derm.3.1.13900.
“Chen Y, Lyga J. Brain-skin connection: stress, inflammation and skin aging.” Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2014;13(3):177-190. doi:10.2174/1871528113666140522104422
“ Rouhani P, Berman B, et al. “Poster 706: Acne improves with a popular, low glycemic diet from South Beach.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009;60(3, suppl 1):AB14.

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