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The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Treating Oily Skin

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding and Treating Oily Skin

Embarking on a journey towards managing oily skin requires a comprehensive understanding of its underlying causes, characteristics, and effective treatment strategies. This guide aims to equip you with the knowledge to discern the nuances of oily skin, enabling you to tailor a skincare regimen that addresses excess sebum production while maintaining the integrity of your skin's natural barrier. Through a blend of scientific insight and practical advice, we'll navigate the complexities of oily skin together, ensuring that you feel confident in your skin's health and appearance. Welcome to your ultimate guide to understanding and treating oily skin.

How to Determine If You Have Oily Skin

The ‘blotting sheet’ test is a quick way to assess your skin type. Gently pressing a blotting paper on different areas of your face will reveal oil levels — if the sheet picks up little to no oil, you likely have dry or normal skin. If the paper becomes saturated with oil, particularly from the forehead, nose, and chin (the T-zone), it's a sign of oily skin.

Understanding Oily Skin

Understanding oily skin is key to managing it effectively. This skin type is characterized by an excess production of sebum, the natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in the skin. While sebum is essential for keeping our skin healthy and moisturized, too much can lead to a shiny complexion, clogged pores, and acne outbreaks.

What is the difference between Oily and Combination Skin

Navigating the world of skincare can be a bit like solving a puzzle, especially when it comes to understanding and caring for different skin types. Two of the most commonly confused types are oily and combination skin. Though they might sound similar, they have distinct needs, and using the wrong products can actually do more harm than good. Let's break down these skin types and understand why it's crucial for people with oily skin to avoid products meant for combination skin.

What is Oily Skin?

Oily skin is exactly what it sounds like – skin that produces an excess amount of oil (sebum). This overproduction leads to a shiny or greasy appearance throughout the day. Oily skin is more prone to acne, blackheads, and enlarged pores due to the accumulation of oil and impurities.

What is Combination Skin?

Combination skin, on the other hand, is a little bit of everything. It's characterized by an oily T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) and dry or normal cheeks. This type of skin requires a balancing act in skincare, as you need to address both the oiliness and the dry areas.

Why Shouldn’t Oily Skin Use Combination Skin Products?

  • Insufficient Oil Control: Products designed for combination skin might not be potent enough to tackle the excess sebum produced by oily skin. They often aim to strike a balance between moisturizing dry areas and controlling oil in the T-zone, which may not be enough for the more demanding oily skin.
  • Risk of increasing oiliness: Some combination skin products include heavier moisturizing ingredients to address dryness. For oily skin, these can be too rich, potentially leading to an even oilier complexion and increasing the likelihood of breakouts.
  • Ineffective Pore Cleansing: Oily skin requires deep cleansing to keep pores clear and minimize their appearance. Products for combination skin may not provide the necessary level of cleansing, leaving pores clogged with oil and dirt.

Symptoms of Oily Skin

  • An overall greasy feel throughout the day
  • Visible pores, especially on the nose and forehead
  • A tendency to develop acne, blackheads, and whiteheads frequently
  • Persistent greasiness even after cleansing
  • Makeup that seems to "slide off" your face
  • Frequent acne and blemishes
  • Enlarged and often congested pores
  • A thick or rough skin texture
  • Post-acne hyperpigmentation due to excess oil aggravating breakouts

Causes of Oily Skin

Internal Causes

  • Stress: It triggers cortisol which can increase oil production.
  • Genetics: If oily skin runs in the family, it’s likely you’ll have it too.
  • Poor Diet: High-glycemic foods can cause spikes in insulin, affecting your skin's oil levels.
  • Hormones: Androgens, which increase during puberty or other life stages, can up sebum production.
  • Medications: Some contraceptives and hormone therapies can make skin oilier.

External Causes

  • Climate: Hot, humid weather can stimulate oil glands.
  • Overwashing or scrubbing: Stripping away oil ironically signals your skin to produce even more.
  • Hormones: Androgens, which increase during puberty or other life stages, can up sebum production.
  • Overuse of Skincare Products: Misusing or overusing products, especially harsh exfoliants, can disrupt your skin’s balance.
  • Environmental Pollutants: Pollutants can lead to oxidative stress on the skin, causing it to protect itself with increased oil production.

Preventing Oily Skin

Lifestyle Adjustments

  • Embrace a balanced diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.

  • Regular exercise to regulate hormones and manage stress.

  • Adequate hydration to maintain skin's moisture balance.

Skincare Habits

  • Choose oil-free and non-comedogenic makeup and skincare products.

  • Avoid excessive use of AHA and BHA peels.

  • Regularly clean items that touch your face, like phone screens and pillowcases.

  • Be mindful of over-exfoliating which can irritate and dry out the skin, prompting more oil.

With personalized skincare from AVE & YOU, you will find the right skincare for your skin. In addition to your skin type, you have the option of specifying very specific skin goals. Based on our many years of experience and over 150,000 skin tests, we can find the best possible skincare for oily skin. Find out and complete your skin test in just three minutes.
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Oily Skin and Sensitive Skin

The co-occurrence of oily and sensitive skin is rare but possible, often a result of over-stripping the skin or reactions to aggressive treatments. A balanced routine with hypoallergenic products is key.

Ingredients That Work Wonders on Oily Skin

Beyond salicylic acid and niacinamide, consider:

  • Charcoal: Acts as a magnet to absorb excess oil and impurities, deeply cleansing and reducing the appearance of enlarged pores.

  • Potato Starch: Known for its absorbency, it helps to mattify the skin by soaking up excess sebum without causing dryness.

  • Salicylic Acid or natural extracts containing Salin such as Willow Bark Extract: A powerful beta-hydroxy acid that exfoliates inside the pore lining, helping to clear out excess oil and reduce blemishes.

  • Zinc PCA: Offers oil-regulating properties that can help balance sebum production, minimizing the shiny appearance of oily skin.

  • Niacinamide: A versatile ingredient that can control oil, soothe inflammation, and improve the skin's barrier function.

  • Non-comedogenic oils such as grape seed oil and jojoba oil: These oils mimic the skin’s natural sebum, providing moisture and hydration without clogging pores or adding an oily sheen.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide: Targets acne-causing bacteria.

  • Azelaic Acid: A lesser-known but highly effective ingredient, Azelaic Acid is a multitasker for oily skin. It's known for its ability to reduce inflammation, kill acne-causing bacteria, and unclog pores. Additionally, it helps in evening out skin tone and reducing post-acne marks. 

Ingredients to Avoid

You should avoid these ingredients in your oily skin routine:

  • Isopropyl Myristate & Isopropyl Palmitate: Can clog pores.

  • Heavy oils like mineral oil.

  • Artificial fragrances: Can irritate and trigger oil production.

  • Lanolin: While hydrating, it can be too heavy for oily skin types.

  • Alcohol-based products: Short-term drying can lead to a rebound effect.

  • Comedogenic Oils: For example, coconut oil and palm oil can block pores.

  • Sulfates: Harsh cleansing agents can strip the skin and trigger more oil production.

Steps to Properly Treat Oily Skin

Balanced Cleansing: Choose a cleanser which can support the reduction of excessive sebum and oil. Ingredients like charcoal or potato starch are perfect without stripping the skin.

Refreshing Toning: Opt for a toner that is free from alcohol and astringents, which can overly dry the skin and trigger more oil production. A toner with witch hazel or niacinamide can help to refine pores and regulate oil levels.

Hydrating Moisturizing: It's a myth that oily skin doesn't need moisturization. Use an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer with ingredients like hyaluronic acid or glycerin that provide hydration without adding oiliness.

Targeted Serums: Implement serums that contain mattifying, oil-control ingredients such as niacinamide, zinc, or a mild concentration of willow bark to manage oil production and improve skin texture. You can still use light oil-serums occasionally.

Diligent Sun Protection: Sunscreen is non-negotiable, regardless of skin type. For oily skin, look for lightweight, gel-based sunscreens that offer broad-spectrum protection without contributing to greasiness.

Busting Myths About Oily Skin

Navigating through the many misconceptions about oily skin can be overwhelming. Let's debunk six prevalent myths and uncover the facts to help you understand and care for your oily skin better.

Myth #1: Oily Skin Doesn't Need Any Oils
Truth: It's a common misconception that applying oils to oily skin will worsen the problem. However, certain oils like jojoba or squalane can actually help to balance out your skin's natural oil production. These oils can mimic natural sebaceous secretions, tricking the skin into producing less oil, and thereby maintaining a healthier balance.

Myth #2: Oily Skin Doesn’t Need Moisturizer

Truth: Skipping moisturizer can cause oily skin to produce even more oil to compensate for dryness. It's crucial to use a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer to maintain balance.

Myth #3: Oily Skin is Always Acne-Prone

Truth: While oily skin can be more susceptible to acne due to excess sebum, not everyone with oily skin will experience breakouts. Proper skincare can keep pores clear and reduce the occurrence of acne.

Myth #4: Sunscreen Makes Oily Skin Greasier

Truth: Sunscreen is essential regardless of skin type. There are many formulations designed for oily skin that offer protection without the greasy feel or pore-clogging effects.

Myth #5: Alcohol-Based Products Are Good for Oily Skin

Truth: Alcohol-based products might give an immediate matte finish, but they can overly dry the skin and strip it of its natural oils. This can lead to an increase in oil production as the skin tries to compensate for the dryness, exacerbating oily skin issues in the long term.

Myth #6: Oily Skin Ages Slower, So Anti-Aging Products Aren’t Necessary

Truth: While oily skin may show signs of aging like wrinkles later, it's still susceptible to other aging signs like hyperpigmentation and loss of elasticity. Anti-aging products can help address these concerns.


In summary, navigating the world of oily skin care can be filled with misconceptions and misinformation. By understanding that not all oil is bad, recognizing the necessity of moisturizing, and choosing the right products, those with oily skin can achieve a balanced and healthy complexion. Embrace the journey of personal skin care by debunking myths, adopting a routine tailored to your skin's needs. With the right knowledge and tools, managing oily skin becomes a straightforward and effective process, leading to a clearer, more radiant you.