Oily Skin: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

 Some of us have naturally oily skin, but none of us are immune to bouts of excess oil from time to time. Although it's frustrating to look in the mirror and see a shiny complexion staring back, too much oil can actually lead to other skin issues, like clogged pores and acne breakouts.

In this article we'll first cover the root causes of oily skin before we get into how to treat it. Sometimes we can make other, less obvious, adjustments even before we reach for a skincare product.

What Causes Oily Skin?

Oily skin occurs when there’s an overproduction of sebum from the sebaceous glands that live under the surface of the skin. Sebum is an oily substance made from organic fats.

These natural oils produced by our skin are a very important factor in providing protection and hydration. However, an oversupply can lead to clogged pores, large pores and eventually acne. Before we starting treating oily skin, let's first address some of the other root causes of oiliness.

  • Stress. Ah, stress! This is something that every human experiences and must learn to manage. Unfortunately stress finds many ways to manifest itself and our skin does not get a free pass. If you lead a stressful life, you really need to take active measures to reduce and defend against stress. Practicing yoga or meditation might actually be a better place to start than heading over to the cosmetics counter.
  • Diet. We already know that an unhealthy diet can do bad things for our skin. And, if you're living a stressful life, it's really easy to slip into bad eating habits, getting less exercise and drinking more alcohol. Enough said.
  • Hormone changes: Our hormone levels can fluctuate as a result of a number of things, including medications and menstruation. When this happens, you may notice that your skin first gets oily and then settles down once your hormone levels balance out. If you suspect that your hormones may be out of whack for longer than usual then it’s time to consult with a dermatologist or your doctor and fix that first.
  • Age and genetics: It's a harsh reality but our skin is going to change over time as we get older. That’s why age is one of those variables that will influence our skincare routine over time. Age does not necessarily mean your skin turns oily, it just means that your skin changes over time and part of that change might be oilier skin. Genetics, on the other hand, will have granted you a specific type of skin that might be prone to oiliness. You can’t do much about your genes but armed with the knowledge of your skin type and its challenges, you’re much better equipped to manage oiliness.

Once you begin making changes to your lifestyle and your skincare routine, you’ll need to give it time before you see results. Things won’t happen overnight, so don’t give up in frustration. Keep at it and give your skin time to adjust. After about 30 days with a new routine and any lifestyle adjustments you really will start to notice obvious improvements.

Tips for Preventing and Reducing Oily Skin

One thing to remember is that you aren’t doomed to a life of slick, oily skin even if you are genetically more inclined. Instead, you can be smart about creating and following a skincare routine that will not only prevent, but also reduce oil output. These tips will completely change the way your skin looks and feels:

  • Lifestyle improvements. Take a long hard look at what you're eating. In fact make a list of every single thing you put in your mouth for the next 7 days. You'll be surprised at how many little treats sneak past your radar. Things like sugary or salty snacks, fried foods or a little too much alcohol. No need to go crazy and cut everything out, just a little moderation will go a long way.
  • Wash and moisturize your face. Cleansing is so important for removing dirt, bacteria, and environmental pollutants from your skin. That’s why you want to give your face a good wash twice per day. Make sure you choose a cleanser that’s right for your skin and don’t use anything that’s too harsh or drying. You should also moisturize morning and night as well. It might seem counterintuitive to use a moisturizer on oily skin. However, if you let your skin get too dry there is a risk that your body ends up producing even more oil to compensate for that dryness.
  • Use products designed for oily skin. One of the biggest skincare mistakes is using the wrong products for your skin type. To combat oily skin, you need to use products that are designed to eliminate oil without being too dry or irritating. For example, you may want to try a gel cleanser that will provide a deep clean without stripping the skin. Then, follow it up with a toner that’s designed to leave the skin feeling nice and matte, never dry. The right clay mask will also help absorb oil and impurities on the skin.
  • Use blotting papers or powder for touch-ups. If you notice oil appearing on your face throughout the day, blotting papers can help ease the problem. These are thin papers that you simply press onto the skin and they’ll absorb the excess oil, leaving you completely shine-free. They’re inexpensive and you can find them at any drugstore. Stash them in your bag when you leave the house so they're always within reach.
Another option is to keep a setting powder on hand. This will eliminate the shiny appearance that often pops up on your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) as the day goes on. Your best bet is to choose a translucent powder, as opposed to one that offers color correction.
  • Seek assistance from a dermatologist. And finally, if nothing seems to be working to cut down your skin's oil production, seek help from a dermatologist. There are specific medications that can help reduce oil and shrink your oil glands (such as Isotretinoin). Unfortunately, this option does come with a variety of side effects, so try all other options first.

Oily skin is manageable. If you’re ever feeling frustrated with your oily skin, you aren’t alone. We all get a little oily from time to time and as we've discussed, there are remedies, treatments and lifestyle adjustments that will eliminate the problem over time.