What is oily skin?

Oily skin is a type of skin that produces more sebum (oil produced by the skin) than what is considered average. Sebum is incredibly important. This oily, sometimes waxy substance moisturizes the skin and protects it from damage. The natural body oil is a complex collection of wax esters, cholesterol, fatty acids, and triglycerides. However, people who have oily skin may have an overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands.

The skin is made up of several layers, hair follicles, and glands. One of the most important types of glands that are part of the skin is the sebaceous gland. These glands cover pretty much your entire body, except for the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands. However, the highest concentration of sebaceous glands is found in the skin of the face and scalp—around 900 glands in each square centimeter to be precise.

What are the signs of oily skin?

Oily skin is usually fairly easy to recognize. Most people experience problems with excess oil on the face, but you can have issues with other parts of your body as well. The most common symptoms of oily skin include:

  • The skin feels greasy or oily
  • The skin appears shiny, perhaps only in certain areas of the face
  • Occasional problems with breakouts
  • The pores are more obvious, possibly larger
  • Issues with blackheads or clogged pores
  • The skin appears thicker and may have a rougher texture

These symptoms can range in severity and may not be totally consistent. For example, some people have periods of oily skin or even specific areas of oily skin, such as the forehead, nose, and chin. It is also worth noting, people with oily skin sometimes have problems finding makeup that works well for them. The oil on the skin’s surface mixes with ingredients in products like foundation and eyeshadow, which changes its consistency.

Discovering your best skin starts with knowing your skin type.

What causes oily skin?

If you’ve dealt with the aforementioned symptoms, you have no doubt found yourself asking, “Why is my skin so oily?” The root cause of oily skin can be multifaceted. In other words, you may be dealing with a number of underlying things that are causing your skin to produce more oil than usual. Take a look at some of the most common causes of oily skin below.

  • Genetics

    Some people are genetically predisposed to having skin that is more oily than usual. Therefore, if a parent or grandparent has oily skin, there is a good chance that you will face issues yourself. In studies of identical twins and their sebum excretion, the twins had virtually identical sebum production rates. While the exact reason sebum production levels are hereditary is not wholly understood, researchers do believe that variances in the production of certain hormones may be to blame.

  • Climate

    If you have issues with oily skin periodically but not consistently, your environment or climate may be to blame. Heat and humidity in the air may actually encourage your skin to produce more sebum. Sebum is meant to maintain that protective moisture barrier, so when the weather is warmer and moisture levels are higher, higher levels of sebum production are common.

  • Hormones

    Hormones play an integral role in sebum production. This is why people can be more prone to oily skin and breakouts during events like menopause, pregnancy, or even during the menstrual cycle. Essentially, hormonal fluctuations encourage the skin to produce more oil. Androgens like testosterone are thought to be the primary influencing hormones when it comes to sebum production. However, estrogen fluctuations may also be to blame.

  • Skin Care Routines

    Sometimes, problems with oily skin are not biologically caused. Instead, the skin produces more oil due to exposure to certain things, such as abrasive cleansing actions or even ingredients in skincare products. For example, if you use a harsh exfoliator too frequently, this may trigger the skin to produce more sebum in an effort to restore the natural moisture barrier. Likewise, certain chemicals can trigger similar actions.

Things to avoid when treating oily skin

If you do have issues with excess oil on your skin, you do have to be careful which skincare products you use. Just as there are products that are well-built and formulated to target skin oil, there are some that should likely be avoided.

Harsh exfoliators

Watch out for things like sugar or seed-laced scrubs. While effective for exfoliation, these abrasive agents can deplete all of your natural skin oil and encourage higher levels of oil production.


Surfactants are a type of moisturizing agent, so these ingredients are often found in things like hair conditioners and moisturizers. Unfortunately, surfactants are designed to trap existing moisture particles, which will seal in excess oil and possibly cause problems with blocked pores.


Fragrances are most often chemical-based. If you have issues with excess oil production, adding chemicals to your skincare regimen may actually trigger more oil production.

How often should you
treat oily skin?

Oily skin is not necessarily treated but managed, and managing dry skin should ideally be a daily process. Once you have reached a consistent skin care routine for oily skin that works well for you, managing the issue is a lot easier. Keep in mind, what works for one person may not always work for everyone because the root cause of oily skin and the degree of oil production vary.

Best skin care routine for oily skin

The first step to learning how to get rid of oily skin is to implement a good routine when it comes to cleansing, moisturizing, and products for oily skin. While your personal skincare routine will likely need to be tweaked according to how your skin responds, here is a general oily skin routine.

Cleansing can be one of the most critical parts of deterring oil when you have issues with oily skin, but a good cleansing routine can also thwart the risks of a breakout due to clogged pores. The general rule is to cleanse your skin morning and night. However, you may also need to cleanse your skin after a workout or after spending a lot of time in the heat if you live in a warm, humid climate.

The best cleansers for oily skin are noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores) and non-irritating. Therefore, something like a foaming gel cleanser can be a good option. Cleansers with an oily or creamy consistency, which are often labeled as “moisturizing cleansers” may actually heighten problems with oil. For a natural cleansing option, consider integrating a tool meant for gently cleansing the face, such as an Ultrasonic Skin Spatula, which deep cleans with ultrasonic waves.

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Astringents are a type of facial toner that primarily removes excess oil and helps the pores contract. Once you have cleansed your face, use a cotton pad or cotton ball soaked in astringent to wipe the face and neck. You can take a lot of routes with astringents. For example, some people rely simply on something like natural witch hazel, which is derived from plants and may deter acne. Salicylic acid may also be an ingredient to look for in astringent products.

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When you are trying to figure out how to stop oily skin, adding a moisturizer to your skincare regimen can sound counterintuitive. However, you can have ample skin oil and still not have enough hydration to keep your skin supple and healthy. In fact, some people experience excess oiliness when their skin is not getting enough moisture. The key is to look for moisturizers that are formulated for use on oily skin.

Ingredients like emollients are important in moisturizers for oily skin. Emollients help thwart wrinkles. Instead of a standard moisturizer, you may also want to consider something like an anti-aging serum with hyaluronic acid. For example, Trophy Skin Argan Anti-Aging Serum is made with non-comedogenic argan oil, which supports natural skin rejuvenation processes, and hyaluronic acid, which is a natural moisturizer. Pair the serum with the Skincare Supercharger for even better results—this tool uses supersonic vibrations to push the serum deep into the skin.

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Exfoliation is done to slough away dead skin cells, which can accumulate on the skin’s surface. Sloughing away dead skin cells can be important when it comes to caring for oily skin because this helps to thwart the risks of breakouts and may help to shrink the pores. Exfoliating should only be done periodically and not daily, especially if you have oily skin. Look for gentle exfoliation products and tools that do not rely on chemicals or harsh scrubbers. The MiniMD is an option to consider. This is a personal microdermabrasion tool that gently buffs away dead skin cells. Likewise, the RejuvadermMD naturally buffs away dead skin cells gently and relies on a diamond tip and suction for a thorough exfoliation.

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Final Thoughts

Even though oily skin can be irritating to contend with, a good skincare routine can make all the difference. It can take a little trial and error with products to find out what works best for you. Further, some of your product choices or routine steps may have to be adjusted periodically if you deal with hormonally-rooted oil production. Just the same, you can keep that fresh-face look for much longer, avoid breakouts, and keep shine at bay with the right steps.

Take a look at Trophy Skin to make sure you have everything you need to manage all of your skin woes, including excess oil production.