Skincare tips & advice
Understanding Your Skin: Why Is My Face So Oily?
Oily skin naturally produces more sebum (natural oils) than other skin types. This can cause your complexion to have a consistently shiny, greasy-looking appearance that leaves you wondering, “Why does my face look so oily?” To help you control the appearance of slick, oily skin on your face, we’re sharing the main causes of oily skin below. Plus, discover tips on how to build the ideal oily skin routine to support balanced (i.e., not too oily, not too dry), healthy-looking skin.
Caring for oily skin begins with understanding what gives your complexion that greasy, shiny sheen in the first place. Oily skin can be caused by a number of factors, including genetics, weather, stress, and hormones. Washing with an overly aggressive cleanser can also irritate your skin and potentially trigger increased oil production, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.1 Regardless of why your face is oily, a skincare routine designed specifically for oily skin is key. Read on to discover some of the primary causes of oily skin and how CeraVe’s lightweight, dermatologist-developed products for oily skin can help minimize a shiny-looking complexion.
Tips for Creating an Oily Skin Routine
- Look for a gentle face wash that’s formulated to thoroughly cleanse, without disrupting your skin’s moisture barrier.
- If your oily skin is acne-prone, consider a cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to visibly clear breakouts and help prevent new ones.
- Choose non-comedogenic moisturizers that won’t clog your pores—including a daytime formula with broad-spectrum sunscreen and a lightweight nighttime formula.
- Excessive cleansing or exfoliating can disrupt the skin barrier and irritate your skin. This, in turn, can trigger an increase in sebum production and cause oily skin.
- Look for skincare products formulated with ingredients like niacinamide, which helps calm the skin, or ceramides, which are naturally found in the skin’s protective barrier.
What Is Oily Skin?
Your skin type is determined by the amount of sebum your skin produces. The oily skin type produces an excess of natural oils—especially around the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). This type is characterized by shine, enlarged pores, and blackheads, and is more prone to acne breakouts. On the plus side, however, those with an abundance of natural oils in their skin may have fewer wrinkles and fine lines, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).1
How Do I Know if I Have Oily Skin?
If you frequently feel like you have what can be described as a greasy face or an oily face, there’s a good chance you have oily skin. However, if you're not sure, you can use blotting sheets to test it. To do so, dab one blotting sheet on your cheeks, another on your forehead, and another on your nose—then hold them up to the light. If all three of the sheets are saturated in oil, it's reasonable to believe that you have oily skin. (Note: Normal skin will show only light oil stains from all areas of the face, while oily skin will show an abundance of oil from all areas.)
If you notice oiliness around your T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) but dryness in other areas (such as your cheeks), you may have combination skin. To learn more, check out this essential skincare routine for combination skin, Or, for more help understanding your skin type, head to our skin type guide.
Why Is My Face So Oily?
So, what causes oily skin, exactly? There are actually many factors that can impact your skin’s sebum. Here are some of the most common causes of oily skin to keep in mind.
Genetics can, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cause your sebaceous glands to produce an excess of sebum, causing oily skin.2 In other words, if your family members have oily skin, there may be a higher chance that you will as well.
Overwashing or Using the Wrong Cleanser
It’s a common misconception that people with oily skin require stronger products to “dry out” their skin. In reality, washing your face too often or with the wrong cleanser can strip your skin of natural oils —triggering an increase in oil production—and may also damage its protective barrier.
The amount of oil your skin produces typically varies throughout your lifetime. Sebum production spikes during puberty and decreases dramatically after menopause for women and after age 60 for men. According to various studies, oily skin was reported in approximately 66-75% of participants aged 15-20, making this skin concern more common in young adulthood.3
Hormone levels can play a role in the skin’s oiliness as well. For example, according to research, higher testosterone levels may cause men’s skin to have more sebum than women’s skin.2 And, as mentioned above, oil production changes during life phases with natural hormonal shifts, such as puberty and menopause. Women may also experience an increase in sebum production during ovulation.4,5
The oily skin type naturally produces more sebum than other types, but this doesn’t mean that it requires any less moisture. In fact, when your skin isn't properly hydrated, it may naturally compensate by producing even more sebum.
5 Skincare Routine Tips for Oily Skin
Proper skincare for oily skin is the key to keeping your skin feeling fresh and looking healthy—while minimizing the appearance of unwanted shine. The goal is to deliver balancing benefits to your complexion, so that your skin maintains its natural moisture without excess oiliness. Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing oily skin, the below oily skin routine tips are a great place to start. Here are our top tips for building a skincare regimen for oily skin.
1. Choose products formulated for oily skin
We recommend choosing skincare products that are specifically formulated for oily skin. Avoid oil-based or alcohol-based formulas and opt for gentle products that are formulated with dermatologists. They should be labeled ”non-comedogenic,” which means they won’t clog your pores or contribute to acne breakouts. We also recommend opting for products that are lightweight, fragrance-free, and include gentle ingredients that won’t disrupt your skin’s moisture barrier.
2. Begin your routine with a gentle face wash
Your oily skin routine should start with a gentle, non-comedogenic face wash that won't clog your pores or strip your skin of its natural oils. For oily skin, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends cleansing twice daily, in the morning and at night, for example, with a gentle foaming face wash.1 For example, you can try CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser, our gel-based, non-drying foaming cleanser that deeply cleanses, removes excess oil, and refreshes your skin without disrupting its natural moisture barrier. If your oily skin is also prone to breakouts, choosing a facial cleanser with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can clear acne breakouts and help prevent new blemishes from forming.
3. Use a non-comedogenic daytime and nighttime moisturizer
A good skincare routine for oily skin should include a daytime moisturizer and nighttime moisturizer to help keep your skin properly hydrated. Look for daytime options with broad-spectrum sunscreen to help protect your skin from the sun's damaging rays, as well as a lightweight evening moisturizer that can help supply moisture while you sleep.
Facial moisturizers like CeraVe Ultra-Light Moisturizing Lotion With SPF 30 and PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion are non-comedogenic and include hyaluronic acid, as well as three essential ceramides. In addition, they are formulated with MVE Technology—a delivery system that continually releases moisturizing ingredients.
4. Remove your makeup before bed
Always remove your makeup before heading to bed. This is especially important for those with oily skin that’s prone to breakouts. Look for hydrating, alcohol-free makeup removers that gently and effectively remove traces of dirt, oil, and makeup from your face—such as CeraVe Comforting Eye Makeup Remover and Hydrating Makeup Removing Plant-Based Wipes. Always remove makeup gently, and avoid scrubbing or pulling at your skin, which can cause irritation.
5. Avoid touching your face
If you have oily skin, it’s best not to touch your face unnecessarily throughout the day. It may be tempting to wipe away excess oil on your face, but this may spread bacteria and other pore-clogging debris from your hands to your face. Always wash your hands before touching your face, or carry some portable face wipes with you as a helpful on-the-go cleansing option.
Learn more about oily skin and how to build the ideal oily skin routine in our gentle skincare regimen for oily skin.
- “How To Control Oily Skin.”American Academy of Dermatology Association. 13 March 2018.
- Sakuma, Thais H, and Howard I Maibach. “Oily skin: an overview.” Skin pharmacology and physiology vol. 25,5 (2012): 227-35. doi:10.1159/000338978
- Arbuckle R, Atkinson MJ, Clark M, Abetz L, Lohs J, Kuhagen I, Harness J, Draelos Z, Thiboutot D, Blume-Peytavi U, Copley-Merriman K. “Patient experiences with oily skin: the qualitative development of content for two new patient reported outcome questionnaires.” Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2008 Oct 16;6:80. doi: 10.1186/1477-7525-6-80. PMID: 18925946; PMCID: PMC2577631
- Endly DC, Miller RA. “Oily Skin: A Review of Treatment Options.” J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017 Aug;10(8):49-55. Epub 2017 Aug 1. PMID: 28979664; PMCID: PMC5605215.
- Kim, B Y et al. “Sebum, acne, skin elasticity, and gender difference - which is the major influencing factor for facial pores?.” Skin research and technology : official journal of International Society for Bioengineering and the Skin (ISBS) [and] International Society for Digital Imaging of Skin (ISDIS) [and] International Society for Skin Imaging (ISSI) vol. 19,1 (2013): e45-53. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0846.2011.00605.x
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