For most people, oily skin is experienced during the teen years. However for some people, this problem can persist long after puberty ends. Oily skin is a common skin condition that occurs when the sebaceous glands become overactive and produce excess oil in the skin. This often causes the skin to appear shiny or greasy, and pores to appear open and large. Oily skin can disrupt the skin’s natural shedding process, which can lead to an accumulation of dead skin cells. Dead skin cells can clog and block the pores, leading to acne and blemishes. However, one benefit of oily skin is that it may be less wrinkled as it ages, in comparison with other skin types. Sebum produced by the sebaceous glands acts as a lubricant and also helps retain moisture in the epidermis. Oily skin may be caused by a variety of factors including heredity, diet, pregnancy or weather. An increase in testosterone levels during puberty is one of the main causes of oily skin for teenagers. In the majority of cases, oily skin can be easily managed with proper skin care.


Common symptoms of oily skin include:

Excess oil: The sebaceous glands overproduce oil, which leaks out onto the skin

Oily look: Oily skin often has a greasy or wet sheen to it

Enlarged pores: In severe cases, pores can become enlarged and clogged, leading to acne

When caring for oily skin, it is important to find skin care products that are specially designed for this skin type. Oily skin requires specially formulated cleansers that easily rinse off. You may want to consider trying products created for acne-prone skin. Facial cleansers formulated for oily or acne-prone skin are designed to gently remove dirt, excess oil, makeup and bacteria that cause acne. Mild cleansers can be effective in removing excess oil from the skin for those that have acne. A variety of gentle skin cleansers are available for acne treatment, or for treating generally irritated or aggravated skin. Oil-free and non-comedogenic products are best for those with oily skin, and will help prevent pores from clogging. Water-soluble cleansers, or soap substitutes are gentle on the skin, non-greasy, unscented, and generally contain few ingredients which can irritate the skin. They serve to remove cosmetics as well as excess oil that are left on the skin pores.

There is a strong genetic component to oily skin, as there is to any skin type. Aside from powerful drugs like isotretinoin, treatments cannot fundamentally alter a person’s skin type, as skin types are not diseases. However, oil production is also influenced by environmental factors as well as hormonal factors, some of which you will have control over. Appropriate use of cleansers will be important to control the amount of oil left on the skin, and to prevent clogging of pores. This is especially important during the summer months as oil production tends to increase with heat.

The key to preventing oily skin and acne breakouts is a regular skin care regimen. Daily management of acne-prone skin should include twice daily cleansing – once in the morning and again at bedtime. If you’re getting ready for an evening out, cleanse your face to remove the build-up of grime and residual makeup before re-applying cosmetics. After each cleansing, for an added layer of protection, always use a suitable moisturizer to rehydrate visibly dry areas. As a cautionary note, over-cleansing can cause skin irritation, and may aggravate your skin condition. As with all skin care products, it is important to use these products exactly as instructed. Used appropriately, mild cleansers will be an important skin care product for maintaining a healthy skin free of excess oil. Remember to protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using sunscreen daily. Look for sunscreens labeled “broad spectrum” which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays.

Look for over-the-counter products that contain active ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids which are helpful in removing excess oil. Some recommended cleansers include:

  • Aquanil®
  • Cetaphil® cleanser
  • Dormer® cleanser
  • Dove®, by Unilever
  • Spectro Derm™
  • Spectro Jel™
  • Seaquanil®

A doctor may prescribe Isotretinoin, which is approved for the treatment of acne, and is the only drug that can permanently reduce the quantity of oil production.Testosterone receptor blockers such as spironolactone and cyproterone acetate can be effective for as long as the drug is being taken. Some birth control pills may also reduce the amount of oil produced in the skin.