What are the causes and remedies for oily skin?

Symptom Database

Oily skin is a common skin condition that affects many individuals. It occurs when the sebaceous glands in the skin produce an excess amount of sebum, resulting in a shiny and greasy appearance. While sebum is necessary to keep the skin moisturized, an overproduction can lead to clogged pores, acne breakouts, and an overall unbalanced complexion. In this article, we will explore the causes of oily skin and provide effective remedies and tips to manage and treat this condition.

Causes of Oily Skin

Understanding the underlying causes of oily skin is crucial in developing an effective skincare routine. Here are some common factors that contribute to excessive sebum production:

  • Genetics: Oily skin can be hereditary, meaning that if your parents have oily skin, you are more likely to have it as well.
  • Hormonal changes: Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during puberty, menstruation, or pregnancy, can trigger an increase in sebum production.
  • Environmental factors: Hot and humid climates can stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Additionally, exposure to pollution and certain chemicals can also contribute to oily skin.
  • Incorrect skincare routine: Using harsh or drying products can strip the skin of its natural oils, causing it to produce more sebum to compensate.
  • Diet: Consuming a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can exacerbate oily skin.
  • Stress: Chronic stress can disrupt hormone balance and lead to increased sebum production.

Skincare Routine for Oily Skin

Developing a proper skincare routine is essential for managing oily skin. Here are some tips to incorporate into your daily regimen:


Choose a gentle cleanser specifically formulated for oily skin. Look for ingredients like salicylic acid or tea tree oil, which help to control oil production and unclog pores. Avoid over-cleansing, as this can strip the skin and trigger more oil production. Cleanse your face twice a day, morning and night.


Use an alcohol-free toner to remove any remaining impurities and balance the skin’s pH levels. Witch hazel and rosewater are excellent natural toners for oily skin.


Contrary to popular belief, oily skin still requires moisturization. Opt for lightweight, oil-free moisturizers that provide hydration without clogging the pores. Look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which help to retain moisture.


Regular exfoliation is crucial for oily skin to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Use a gentle exfoliator with ingredients like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) two to three times a week. Avoid harsh scrubs, as they can irritate the skin and stimulate more oil production.

Sun Protection

Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, even on cloudy days. Look for oil-free or gel-based formulas to avoid adding excess oil to the skin.

Best Products for Oily Skin

Choosing the right products for oily skin can make a significant difference in managing its symptoms. Here are some recommended products:

Oil-Control Cleansers

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, Cetaphil Oily Skin Cleanser, La Roche-Posay Effaclar Gel Cleanser

Oil-Free Moisturizers

CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion, Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Gel, The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Salicylic Acid Treatments

Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, COSRX BHA Blackhead Power Liquid

Clay Masks

Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, Innisfree Super Volcanic Pore Clay Mask, Origins Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask

Oily Skin Remedies

While there is no permanent cure for oily skin, there are several remedies that can help manage and reduce its symptoms:

Blotting Papers

Carry blotting papers with you to absorb excess oil throughout the day without disturbing your makeup.

Clay Masks

Apply a clay mask once or twice a week to draw out impurities and control oil production.

Oil-Absorbing Powders

Use oil-absorbing powders or mattifying primers to reduce shine and keep your skin looking matte.

Avoid Touching Your Face

Touching your face with dirty hands can transfer bacteria and oil, leading to breakouts. Avoid touching your face unnecessarily.

Healthy Diet

Incorporate a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit your intake of processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

Oily Skin Tips

Here are some additional tips to help manage oily skin:

Use Oil-Free Makeup

Choose oil-free and non-comedogenic makeup products to prevent clogged pores and breakouts.

Avoid Heavy Creams

Avoid heavy creams and thick foundations, as they can suffocate the skin and contribute to oiliness. Opt for lightweight, water-based formulas instead.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from within. Proper hydration can help regulate oil production.

Don’t Overwash

Overwashing your face can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to increased oil production. Stick to cleansing twice a day.

Seek Professional Help

If your oily skin is severe and persistent, consider consulting a dermatologist who can provide personalized advice and recommend suitable treatments.

In conclusion, oily skin can be managed effectively with the right skincare routine and lifestyle choices. By understanding the causes and implementing the remedies and tips mentioned in this article, you can achieve a balanced and healthy complexion. Remember, consistency is key, and it may take some time to find the perfect routine for your skin. Embrace your skin type and take proactive steps to care for it, and you’ll be on your way to a shine-free and radiant complexion.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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