Managing Oily Skin

By Maggie Staszcuk

There are many stereotypes about oily skin and it’s common for the overproduction of oil to be the result of product use, lifestyle, medications, or skin disorders. Let’s dive into some of the common characteristics of oily skin types, as well as daily treatment.  

What causes oily skin? 

Oily skin is the result of overactive sebaceous glands, which produce a waxy, oily substance called sebum that protects and moisturizes the skin. Oily skin will appear shiny, feel greasy, have enlarged pores, and be prone to acne.  

A common belief is that this skin type will age better or slower when compared to dry skin, but this is only half true. Having oily skin may contribute slightly to a reduction in wrinkles, but it doesn’t slow down the aging process. Aging presents itself in many ways, such as pigmentation, loss of tone and texture, distended blood vessels, and more, and having oily skin does not prevent these issues from occurring. Wrinkles also form due to a breakdown of collagen and elastin, not from oil or lack of oil production.  

Often, when we see oily skin, our first instinct is to annihilate it; break out the big guns of oil-fighting, oil-stripping ingredients and declare war! But there is more to it than that. As with all skin conditions, searching for the cause of the condition is what will bring balance and relief to the skin. Oily skin could be the result of intrinsic factors, extrinsic factors, or both.  

Here are a few of the reasons skin may be oily:1 

1. Genetics 

Overactive sebaceous glands may run in the family. Oily skin can be passed down from our parents. 

2. Age 

One thing is certain: our skin goes through changes over time in the same way our bodies do. Teens and young adults may see more oil production as they go through puberty. As we age and hormone levels drop, so does sebaceous gland activity.  

3. Hormone fluctuations 

From month to month and even over the course of our lives, our hormones are always fluctuating. This has a big impact on our oil production and sebaceous gland activity.  

4. Environmental factors 

Both seasonal weather changes as well as the climate we live in can greatly impact the amount of sebum our skin produces. Humid, warm weather leads to more oil production while cold and dry climates tend to dry us out.  

5. Stress 

Stress and hormones go hand-in-hand to increase sebum production. When stress goes up, cortisol levels in the body increase, and the sebaceous glands start pumping out more sebum as a result.  

6. Diet  

A healthy diet that’s low in processed foods and has good water intake will keep your insulin levels down and sebum production in check.   

7. Product Usage

Overproduction of oil can occur when clients are stripping their skin with products that are too astringent, or that contain irritating detergents like sodium lauryl sulphate. It may be that clients are also cleansing more than necessary to get that squeaky-clean feel. Even exfoliating more than necessary can send the skin into a panic and cause it to produce more sebum to repair its barrier function.  

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these are the dos and don’ts of oil control:2 


1. Wash your face morning, evening, and after exercise. Avoid scrubbing your skin, even to remove makeup. 

2. Choose skin care products that are labeled “oil free” and “noncomedogenic.” Look for these labels on cleansers, moisturizers, and makeup products. 

3. Use a gentle, foaming face wash. Using a face wash that is too harsh can irritate your skin and trigger increased oil production. Instead, look for a mild, gentle face wash. 

4. Apply moisturizer daily. Although you may have oily skin, it is still important to apply moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated. 

5. Wear SPF outdoors. Sunscreen helps prevent sun damage that could lead to wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer. To prevent acne breakouts, look for sunscreen that contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, and do not use sunscreens that contain fragrance or oils. 

6. Choose oil-free, water-based makeup when possible. 

7. Use blotting papers throughout the day. Absorb excess oil by gently pressing the paper against your face. Don’t rub the paper on your face, as this will spread oil to other areas. 


1. Use oil-based or alcohol-based cleansers. These can strip and irritate your skin. 

2. Sleep in your makeup. Always remove all makeup before going to sleep. 

3. Touch your face throughout the day. Touching your face can spread dirt, oil, and bacteria from your hands to your face.  


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