The Guide to Oily Skin

Skincare secrets for oily skin

Most of us have combination skin: oily in some places, dry in others. If your skin feels on the oily side even after washing, or if you regularly use blotting paper, fear not! A bonus? People with oily skin are thought to have fewer wrinkles and keep younger-looking skin for longer. Plus, this guide will help you manage your oiliness.

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What causes oily skin?

Oil comes from sebaceous glands under the skin, which release a fatty substance called sebum.

Sebum is generally a good thing: it keeps skin supple and reduces water loss.

These glands are most densely clustered on the nose, chest, and back. Some people have more than others. Hormones, stress, diet, and weather can all affect your glands.

Hormones. During puberty, sebaceous glands enlarge and produce more oil under the influence of hormones called androgens.

Stress. Stress makes our bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol, which triggers oil production.

Diet. Foods high in sugar or dairy can lead to oily faces.

Weather. As the temperature rises, oil glands tend to rev up!

Top 5 skincare treatments
to manage oily skin

1. Cleansers. Cleansers with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid help not only people with acne, but also those of us with oily skin. We recommend:

  • Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
  • Cerave Foaming Cleanser
  • Vanicream Free and Clear Liquid Cleanser
  • Topix Benzoyl Peroxide 10% Wash
  • Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash
  • Neutrogena Deep Clean Facial Cleanser

2. Oil-Free Sunscreen

  • EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46
  • Murad Oil-Control Mattifier SPF 15
  • Tizo Solar Protection Formula, Facial Mineral Fusion SPF 40

3. Oil-Absorbing Face Sheets

  • Clean & Clear
  • Boscia
  • NYX

4. Physical Exfoliators. These help remove oil and remove dead skin cells. Use exfoliators gently, no more than once a week at first, to avoid skin irritation.

  • Clarisonic devices
  • Konjac sponge

5. Niacinamide. Skincare products with this form of vitamin B3 may decrease oiliness.

  • CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion SPF 30
  • Elta MD AM or PM Therapy Facial Moisturizer

OTC vs. Prescription vs. Home remedies.
What's best for you?

If you have acne-prone skin that’s on the oily side of normal, it’s always better to consult a dermatologist. Because unfortunately, topical over the counter products tend to address only the symptoms of oiliness, not the underlying cause: they don’t affect how much oil is produced by the sebaceous glands. The same applies to home remedies such as yogurt, cucumbers or baking soda. Read on to see what works!


This Vitamin A derivative, isotretinoin, is usually prescribed for severe or treatment-resistant acne. It’s considered the only acceptable way to significantly decrease oiliness. You will have to see a dermatologist to help monitor you with blood tests during treatment. Commonly known by its former brand name Accutane, isotretinoin works to decrease the size and activity of oil glands.


Spironolactone is a mild diuretic. Usually prescribed for high blood pressure, it’s also recommended to women with hormonally influenced acne. Spironolactone targets androgens responsible for skin oiliness.


A word of warning: the use of toners for oily skin hasn’t been backed up by science. But some claim that toners can “restore and repair” the surface of the skin by providing antioxidants and skin-repairing substances such as glycerin, ceramides, and fatty acids. If you use a toner, it’s best to avoid those containing alcohol.

Some toners can contain chemical exfoliants, such as AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and BHA (beta hydroxy acid). These exfoliants dissolve the “cement” that holds the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, so that you shed them for efficiently. This can help dull, dry, or flaky skin and clogged pores, but won’t necessarily help with oiliness!

Some toners that include these exfoliants:

  • CosRx AHA 7 Whitehead Power Liquid
  • CosRx AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

Spearmint tea

There is some evidence that drinking two cups of spearmint tea may help breakouts and oiliness by decreasing androgens. If you want to give this a try, stick to just two cups per day. Since decreasing androgens can have unwanted side effects for males, we recommend this for females only!

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The most important takeaway? You’re not alone in facing oily skin! Everyone has sebaceous glands, and almost everyone has a combination of dry/oily/normal skin. Whether your skin is an oil slick, a parched desert, or a varied landscape, feel free to reach out to your Curology provider for personal advice.


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