Top Causes of Oily Skin

Top Causes of Oily Skin


If you have oily skin, chances are you lament the fact that you didn’t win the genetic lottery and are stuck with this skin type to deal with. It is true that people with oily skin are more prone to acne and breakouts, and it can be very uncomfortable to walk around with a greasy face all day. However, genetics aside many people don’t realize that oily skin can be a result of many different factors, including lifestyle habits. Oily skin is primarily caused by the activity of the sebaceous glands, oil-producing glands in the skin. It’s worth noting that oil in the skin is not bad, it’s actually what helps keep our skin soft and smooth. People with dry skin have lower levels of oil in their skin and hence they often have thin-looking and sallow skin. But of course, too much of a good thing can be a problem and that’s the case with sebum or oil. While sebum keeps our skin looking soft and young, too much of it also causes acne and greasiness as there is an excess of sebum lying on top of the skin, leaving lots of chance for bacteria to mix with the sebum and become a clog in the hair follicles or pores, creating a pimple. 

To better understand oily skin, let’s take a look at the top causes of it!


There is no doubt that genetics plays a huge role in your skin and the oiliness of your skin is no different. If your parents have oily skin or even your grandparents, the chances of you getting oily skin are much higher.

Hormonal fluctuations

Hormones also play a big role in the amount of sebum that is produced. The hormones responsible for sebum production are androgens, and the male hormone testosterone is a type of androgen. Both females and males have androgens, it isn’t just limited to just males. When a rise in testosterone occurs — this can be due to a range of factors such as puberty, the second half of a menstrual cycle, or getting off birth control pills. Testosterone causes an increase in the activity of the sebaceous glands, the oil-producing glands. The skin becomes oilier and greasier due to this increase in sebum production. A fall in estrogen levels can also result in an increase in oil production, which is why women might experience acne during menopause and the second half of the menstrual cycle. Essentially, the higher the amount of androgens present, the more sebum is being produced and secreted out. When children start to undergo puberty, it is this change in hormone levels that results in acne formation.

Overly greasy skincare products

If you’re using rich, heavy moisturizers and creams, chances are you’re aggravating and exacerbating the oil levels already on your skin. If you have oily skin, you don’t need a very thick moisturizer. Only people with very dry skin will require rich moisturizers to replenish the lack of oil. Oily-skinned people should stick to using lighter formulas, and go for gel or water-based moisturizers instead of creams.

Harsh cleansers and scrubs

Using cleansers and scrubs that are drying or harsh can also be a cause for oily skin. Exfoliating is crucial for oily skin because it helps to slough off dead skin cells and build up that might have occurred. Exfoliating will help to remove the top layer of dead skin cells that have mixed with excessive sebum on the skin surface which leads to acne such as blackheads, whiteheads, and more severe pimples. But if you are using an abrasive, rough exfoliant with grains or beads, you might be stripping the skin of too much oil, leading the receptors to sense lower levels of oil and hence stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more oil. Similarly, washing your face with too harsh a cleanser or too often will also trigger the receptors and result in more oil production. It is hence best to get a foaming cleanser that can effectively remove the oil and dirt built up on the skin, but without stripping the skin. If your face feels tight after washing it, that’s a sign that the cleanser is stripping your skin of too much oil.

Your hair and scalp are oily

If your hair and scalp are oily, the chances are this oil will transfer onto your face when you go about your daily activities and especially when you sleep at night. If your hair is oily, the oil will probably transfer onto your face when you toss and turn in your sleep. One method to combat this is to wash your hair daily to keep it clean. Alternatively, you can try to tie it up when sleeping and avoid sleeping on the side of your face. Face the ceiling and sleep straight to avoid your face touching the pillow and getting more oil on it.

The makeup products you use are comedogenic

If you regularly use makeup, you should check if it is comedogenic, which means it will clog your pores. Try to change your base makeup according to the suggested dates on the packaging, and look out for oil-free products that will not cause blockages in the pores and skin follicles. Another thing to note is that cleansing your face properly after wearing makeup is crucial. You should remove your makeup with a heavier makeup remover or micellar water to effectively remove the dirt and makeup molecules. Then, use your regular cleanser to wash the residue off. This method of double cleansing will remove more residue than just one round.

Your diet is causing your skin to produce more oil

Your diet plays a huge role in how your skin looks. Dairy products like cheese, milk, and butter can cause the sebaceous glands to produce more oil due to the presence of hormones in them. These hormones can create an imbalance and hence increase the production of oil. It is generally better to avoid dairy if you are oily or acne-prone and try alternatives such as plant-based milk like almond, oat, and soy milk.


While we can’t control the amount of oil our sebaceous glands produce, we can definitely not aggravate them to produce more! By being more conscious of our lifestyle habits, we can definitely prevent the skin from secreting more oil than it should.

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