Why Do I Have Oily Skin?

oily skin mask

Why Do I Have Oily Skin?

Why Do I Have Oily Skin?


Your skin is oily because the sebaceous glands are producing too much sebum. Sebaceous glands are attached to hair follicles all over your body (except on the palms and soles). And it’s a good thing: sebum (oil) lubricates the skin, acts as a protective barrier. It also refreshes the skin with its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Without oil, your skin would look and feel dry and brittle.

The problem comes when the glands are producing too much oil. That’s when your face looks “greasy.” The oil mixes with dead skin cells, clogs the pores, and disrupts the natural skin-shedding cycle. The excess oil also traps in bacteria and other irritants that inflame the skin.

So that’s how your skin becomes oily. The question remains: Why do the glands overproduce?

Causes of Oily Skin


  • Genetics: Overactive or larger than average sebaceous glands are usually inherited.
  • Hormonal Changes:  Androgen are the hormones mostly responsible for oil production. When they fluctuate, oil production increases, such as during puberty, just before menstruation, during pregnancy and during menopause.
  • High Stress Levels: Cortisol, the stress hormone, rises when you are stressed and increases oil production.
  • Climate: Humidity and hot weather stimulate oil production. In cold or arid climates, the skin dries out, causing the oil glands to go into overdrive to compensate.
  • Enlarged pores: Pores can stretch out due to age, weight fluctuations and previous bouts of acne. Large pores produce more oil.
  • Over-cleansing: You can wash your face or exfoliate too often or too harshly. Or you can use water that is too hot. In so doing, you strip the oil from your skin. The glands get an emergency message, the skin needs oil, and step up production.
  • Failure to Moisturize: It may be counterintuitive, but oily skin needs moisturizing. When your skin is not receiving enough hydration, the glands kick in.
  • Medication: Oral contraceptives and hormone replacements can increase oil production, as will some steroids. Other medications can dehydrate the skin and produce excess oil.
  • Poor Diet: A diet high in carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice and sugar, may lead to high levels of insulin, which in turn can elevates oil production.


There are some causes that you can fix, e.g., poor diet, over-cleansing, stress. There are causes that you have absolutely no control over, e.g., genes, hormones, climate, but that does not sentence you to a troubled complexion for life. If you cannot prevent the oiliness, there are ways for you to manage it.


Managing Oily Skin


Keep Your Face Clean

Wash your face twice a day, morning and evening, (and after strenuous exercise) with a gentle cleanser and lukewarm water. Avoid cleansers with fragrances or harsh chemicals that irritate or dry out the skin. Avoid loofahs and rough washcloths—the friction damages the skin barrier stimulates the oil glands.


Use Skin Care Products That Contain Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid is non-abrasive, hydrating and exfoliates both the surface of your skin and the pore lining. Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid. This means it is soluble in oil and can easily penetrate the glands. Oily skin often has a thick coat of dead skin cells and a thick pore lining. Salicylic acid is able to break through the surface debris and get into the pores, clearing them out and reducing excess oil.


Use Retinol-Based Night Creams

Retinol is a derivative of Vitamin A. It combats free radicals that cause oxidative stress and result in the oil glands to stepping up production. Retinol also changes the way that the skin cells develop from the inside out and increase turnover of these cells. This results in healthy, unclogged pores. Retinol-based creams used at night, therefore, reduce the amount of oil that your skin produces. Retinol also helps keep pores tighter so that they create and secrete less oil.


Have Medical-Grade Facials

Medical-grade facials are performed in a dermatologist’s office, use medical-grade products and tools, and are customized to your specific skin type. While they include similar general procedures as a spa facial: cleansing, exfoliation, extraction and hydration; the difference is that stronger and more effective products are infused into the skin.


Treat Your Face to a Chemical Peel

Chemical peels are an in-office procedure where the surface layers of  dead skin are gently removed. Salicylic acid is commonly used on oily skin to control oil production. It penetrates more deeply to clear out clogged pores and has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce skin irritation. Other key ingredients in chemical peels include alpha-hydroxy acids, like glycolic acid and lactic acid. Some skin types are more sensitive to burning and discoloration, so chemical peels should only be performed under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist.



For more information, call 301-678-5772 or book an appointment online to schedule a consultation. Dr. Ife Rodney  is a board certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with expertise in skin care, anti-aging and skin rejuvenation for all skin types. Eternal Dermatology is conveniently located in Fulton, MD, and serves Clarksville, Columbia, Ellicott City, Laurel, Bowie, Silver Spring,  and Howard County, Maryland.




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