Keeping Oily Skin Under Control

Much of what is happening in the world is out of our control, but one thing we can take control of is our skin. Whether we’re working from the comforts of our home or taking a break to stroll our neighborhoods, the increased temperature and humidity levels that accompany summer months can lead to changes in our skin. One of the most common changes during this time period is an increase in oil production. This means many shiny foreheads and oily noses that can sometimes feel impossible to get rid of. Thankfully, with a few adjustments to your daily routine and advice from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you can enjoy these warmer months with less concern over the oiliness of your skin.


Is Oily Skin Bad?

Oily skin often gets a bad reputation because of the appearance it gives of being “greasy” or “shiny” and its frequent association with acne and large pores. Although these depictions are less than ideal, the AAD reports that “people with oily skin tend to have thicker skin and fewer wrinkles”. A recent trend present on many runways and in multiple makeup advertisements is “dewy” skin, which may be only a few points away from oily skin. The key is to find a balance between maintaining the level of oil produced while still preserving the skin’s natural moisture. In short, no—oily skin is not bad, but it does require care.


Causes of Oily Skin

In a 2017 article published in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, Drs. Dawnielle Endly and Richard Miller explain that the activity of sebaceous glands throughout our bodies produce sebum – the oily, waxy substance that gives the appearance of oily skin. These glands are highly concentrated in the face, upper chest, and back, which is why these areas are more prone to acne.


While genetics plays its part, several other factors can play a role in the amount of sebum produced, including age, gender, race, and climate. Puberty triggers a dramatic increase in sebum production that does not drastically decline until about age 60. This explains the likely presence of acne for individuals in their teenage years and beyond. Additionally, men tend to have higher levels of sebum production due to increased levels of testosterone and women may experience increased levels during ovulation. Endly and Miller also explain that black individuals have “enlarged pore size that can be attribute to higher rates of sebum output”. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the summer months often characterized by warmer and humid climates may also lead to oily skin.


Now what can we do to fix it?


Switch Up Your Products

What once worked for your skin in the winter may not work for your skin in the summer. With this understanding, it may be time to change your cleansers and moisturizers to adjust to the new changes in temperature. It may be time to put away the oils and thick moisturizers and trade them in for lighter serums and gel products. The key is to listen to your skin.



When it comes to the frequency of cleansing, this will likely not change in your routine. Maintaining a routine where the face is washed in the morning, evening, or after exercise will suffice. Increasing the amount of cleansing may be irritating to the skin and cause a surge in the production of sebum—the opposite result of what you may want.


To address oily skin concerns, the type of cleanser that you are using may need to change. Depending on your skin, it may be best to use a gentle cleanser that does not completely strip the skin. Look for cleansers that are not oil-based or alcohol based and keep the skin clean without over-drying. According to Advanced Dermatology, gel-based cleansers tend to work best with oily skin because cream cleansers are more likely to have an oil base. While you’re washing, it will also be helpful to keep the water lukewarm to avoid high heat.


Hydration is Your Friend!

While it may feel intuitive to avoid moisturizers at all costs to stop the production of oil, this may not be the right move. If your skin is left without moisture or hydration, the sebaceous glands will feel the need to compensate by producing more oil. Ensuring that your skin is properly moisturized will actually decrease oil production. If you have oily skin, look for moisturizers that are labeled “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic”. These products will be effective in keeping the skin hydrated, while preventing clogged pores. The best thing you can do is listen to your skin by changing products when your skin is feeling too dry or oily.


Remove Your Makeup

If you’ve read through the articles on our site, you’ll likely see this holy-grail tip come up time and time again: remove your makeup before you go to sleep. For those that choose to wear makeup throughout the day, choosing options that are oil-free and water-based can help in preventing excess oil production. Oil-free products may work well with most skin types because of its ability to prevent the clogging of pores that may lead to acne. At the end of the day, your skin will thank you if you take the time to remove your makeup, followed by a proper cleansing for your face. In doing so, you are removing the debris that has accumulated on your skin throughout the day and allowing your skin to be breathe overnight.


Only Touch Your Face to Blot!

The only time you should be touching your face throughout the day is when you are cleansing and moisturizing your skin or when you are using blotting papers to absorb excess oil from the surface of your skin. Touching your skin can not only spread the germs you encounter on a day-to-day basis, but it can also transfer “dirt, oil, and bacteria from your hands to your face” (AAD). The transfer of these substances can not only lead to oily skin, but it can also lead to acne. Using a medicated pad or cosmetic blotter throughout the day to dab typically oily areas like the forehead, nose, and chin can be a refreshing way to give the skin a matte appearance.


Wear Sunscreen

Adding another layer of moisture to the skin may feel grueling for someone trying to clear up their oily skin. The reality is, sunscreen is one of the greatest methods of protection we have in maintaining the health of our skin. According to the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, many dermatologists have noted the benefits of sunscreen in preventing UV damage, wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer. For those out there with oily skin, try a mineral suncreen that contains the ingredients zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are better options for oily skin than a chemical sunscreen because they are lightweight, less greasy, and can allow your skin to breath.


While oily skin is sometimes inevitable, taking the suggestions provided in this article can help improve the production of oil in your skin. While it may be tempting to try a multitude of new products that address this specific issue, keep in mind that it can take the skin many weeks to adjust to just one new product. Give your skin time to acclimate to new environments and products before introducing new things. As always, if any problems do arise, make you consult a board-certified dermatologist for a professional diagnosis of your skin condition. 

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