Ask Curology: what causes oily skin

Tips for oily skin from a Curology medical provider.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
May 11, 2020 · 4 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Welcome to Ask Curology, penned by one of our in-house medical providers in response to your questions about all things skincare. This week, we’re talking about how to take care of oily skin.

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Dear Curology,

How do I reduce oily skin? My face is always oily, even after I wash it. I think the oil in my skin is clogging my pores, so I also have pretty bad breakouts. Please tell me how to make my skin less oily!


Too Slick

Dear Slick,

I understand — oily skin can be frustrating and difficult to deal with! If you’re wondering what causes oily skin, some factors, like genetics, are relatively out of your control. Oily skin might not seem like much of a blessing when you’re digging in your bag for blotting papers, it has its benefits too!


Oily skin isn’t ALL bad, it has its benefits too! ✨ @zackthepa #oilyskin #skincare #curology #skin

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Benefits aside, your oily skin woes are manageable with skincare products and some lifestyle changes.

  1. Reduce stress. When you feel stressed, hormones that stimulate the oil glands are released, increasing sebum (oil) in the skin and beginning a process that can lead to acne. Self-care (think exercise, yoga, and meditation) can lessen stress and therefore may help to decrease sebum production.

  2. Try avoiding dairy. Dairy can increase oil production in some people, so you might try dropping dairy products from your diet for a few weeks. Some people see an immediate reduction in oiliness and blemishes.

  3. Avoid pore-clogging ingredients. Makeup and skincare products can sometimes contain ingredients that make breakouts worse. Thankfully, tools like cosDNA make it easier to research your product’s formula.

Curology’s complete skincare set is non-comedogenic, and so are all of the skincare products I’ve reviewed below. If you’re looking for makeup for acne-prone skin, check out our no-breakout makeup series for product recommendations.

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Products for oily skin

In addition to making lifestyle changes, you can also build a solid skincare routine to help manage oily and acne-prone skin.

Blotting paper

It may seem a bit “old-school,” but I’ve found oil-absorbing face sheets to be incredibly helpful for blotting away excess oil throughout the day. Here are a few products you may consider trying:

Oil-free sunscreen

Make sure to wear sunscreen every day…and it should be at least SPF 30! For oily skin types, it may be helpful to use an oil-free sunscreen. Here are a few of our favorites:

Get Curology's guide to sunscreen for oily skin 👉

Micellar water

Micellar water uses micelles (tiny oils suspended in soft water) to quickly and gently remove excess oil, makeup, and grime from your face.


A gentle cleanser with non-comedogenic ingredients can help all acne-prone skin types. If you’re oily, foaming cleansers can also help dry things out. Here are a few we recommend:

Get Curology's complete guide to cleansers for oily skin 👉


An upside of oily skin: your skin is producing its own natural moisturizer, so you can probably skip using an extra facial moisturizer! If you’d like, you might consider using one with niacinamide, which may decrease sebum (oil). Here are some non-comedogenic moisturizers that contain an extra boost of niacinamide:

Get more recommendations for oily-skin friendly moisturizers 👉

If lifestyle changes and over-the-counter products aren’t cutting it for you, don’t give up! Prescription-strength ingredients may be able to offer you more help. You can get access to custom skincare without having to leave home when you sign up for a free month of Curology. Just take our quick skincare quiz, snap a few selfies, and one of our in-house medical providers (like me!) can prescribe you a custom mix of 3 ingredients for your skin concerns.

If you have any more questions, feel free to sound off in the comments, or get in touch with your Curology medical provider.

All my best,

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

• • •

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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