What causes oily skin?

Vanessa Gibbs

You may have heard of oily skin as one of the four main skin types along with dry, combination and sensitive. But oily skin is much more common than you think. Some experts even think that 80% of us may have oily skin. 

Everyone’s skin produces oil, but for some of us, our skin makes too much of it, leading to a shiny appearance and maybe even blackheads and acne. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to control that shine and keep your skin as clear and healthy as possible. 

Here at Face Dr, our team of experts have decades of experience working in the skincare world. They’re knowledgeable about everything from the latest ingredients to the best treatments and exactly what you should be doing at home to take care of your skin. 

Here, we’ll share this knowledge and cover what oily skin actually is and some things you should be doing to control it. 

We’ll cover: 

  • The symptoms of oily skin 
  • What causes oily skin 
  • How to prevent oily skin 
  • How to treat oily skin 
  • Products for oily skin  

Interested in other skin types? We’ve covered sensitive skin and ageing skin as well. 

What are the symptoms of oily skin? 


woman applying face mask for sensitive skin


First up, how do you know if you actually have oily skin? Most of the time it’s easy to tell from home, but the best way to get a diagnosis is by speaking with a skin expert. We offer free online consultations, so you can find out straight away if you have oily skin and get tailored recommendations for which products you should be using. 

To determine if you have oily skin yourself, check for these common symptoms: 

  • A shiny looking complexion 
  • Skin that feels greasy, even after cleansing 
  • Blackheads
  • Acne  
  • Visible pores 

What causes oily skin?


If you’ve determined you’ve got oily skin, here’s what is actually going on behind the scenes. Everyone’s skin contains sebaceous glands that produce sebum, or oil. This oil is natural and actually helps to protect the skin and keep it hydrated. However, some of us produce too much sebum which can lead to a shiny appearance, clogged pores and acne. 

There are several different reasons why your skin may be producing too much oil. Some of these can’t be changed like: 


This is the most common reason for oily skin, you’re simply born with it. If oily skin runs in your family, you’ll most likely have it, too. 


While some people’s skin gets drier with age, other people find their skin actually gets more oily. That’s because the sebaceous glands actually grow as we get older and may produce more oil. 


Our hormones actually control those oil-producing glands, meaning how much sebum they make could change throughout the month. 

Skin tone 

Dark skin tones tend to be more oily by nature. 

How to prevent oily skin 

 woman facial


There are also some causes of oily skin you can control. Here’s what to do to reduce the chances of excess oil or keep already oily skin under control. 

Keep stress in check 

Stress can increase sebum protection, so it’s important to take time to rest, recover and keep stress at bay. 

Eat a balanced diet 

We all know how important a healthy diet is to keeping skin clear, but eating too much sugar and processed foods can also increase oil production. 

Use the right skincare products for you 

Using products designed for a different skin type, or products that simply don’t work well with your skin, may cause your skin to produce more oil as a reaction. The wrong products may also simply not be able to remove excess oil—if you’re using products designed for dry skin for example. 

Be careful not to over cleanse or over exfoliate 

If you’ve got oily skin it can be tempting to want to wash your face regularly or scrub away excess oil, but over cleansing and exfoliating could actually be the reason for your oily skin. Washing the skin too much can strip away those natural oils. This triggers the skin into making more oil to replace this, which can essentially make the problem even worse. 

How to treat oily skin 


skincare products for sensitive skin


Already got oily skin? Here’s what to do to control it. 

Find the right routine for you — we already mentioned that using the wrong products can cause more oil to be produced. But using the right products can not only stop more oil from being made, but remove excess oil altogether. Look out for products designed for oily skin. 

Opt for lighter products, like gels and lotions, over thick creams. Avoid thick heavy moisturisers which can clog the pores and lead to more oil, plus blackheads and acne. Instead, opt for lighter moisturising products. 

Face Dr top tip: When it comes to choosing skincare products, look out for “non-comedogenic” which means that the product won’t clog your pores and should work well for oily skin types. 

Look out for ingredients like salicylic acid, niacinamide and clay, which can help to break down excess oil, rebalance the skin and unclog blocked pores. 

If you’re got oily skin, it can be tempting to simply avoid any product with “oil” in it. But oil-based cleansers can actually help control oily skin. These solutions can break down excess sebum and remove it from the skin’s surface. 

Speak with a skin expert — of course, the fastest and most effective way of treating any skincare concern is by simply speaking with an expert. They can give you the best products, treatments, tips and tricks when it comes to oily skin. 


Ingredients to avoid for oily skin: 


If you’ve got oily skin, it’s always better to use products that were designed for this skin type in mind, so avoid anything made specifically for those with dry skin, for example. 

Ingredients such as alcohol can dry out the skin and make it more oily in the long run. 

Plus thick gels and creams, like petroleum jelly, can clog the pores and cause oil build up. 


Products to try for oily skin: 



ZO Skin Health products


Here are our top recommendations for your everyday skincare routine: 

Cleanser: ZO Exfoliating Cleanser 

SPF: AllSkin Med Mineral Fluid SPF 50 

Exfoliator: ZO Exfoliating Polish

Beyond finding the right daily essentials, you can also add targeted treatments to your skincare routine that are designed to tackle excess oil. 

Here are our top recommendations: 

Want to talk to an expert?

 skincare expert offering skincare consultation

Now you know what is actually going with oily skin, it’s time to do something about it. The first step is building the perfect skincare routine for oily skin to ensure you’re not triggering more oil production and to make sure products can break down and remove excess oil. Need help building this oil-fighting routine? Why not turn to an expert. 

Here at Face Dr, we offer free online skincare consultations. A member of our team can analyse your skin over a video call and recommend the best products to help your exact skin type. Plus, if you have any other concerns—like acne, hyperpigmentation or signs of ageing—they can recommend products to help with those, too. 

Our consultations are free and there’s never any obligation to buy. Plus, we only ever recommend brands and products we’ve tried and tested ourselves and seen first-hand results from. So you can save time and money finding the best routine to control oily skin straight away. 

Find the best facial masks to try in the comfort of your own home. Facial masks are an excellent way to target skin concerns and add a little more TLC to your skin routine. Discover our top mask recommendations from ZO Skin Health, Obagi and other brands on the market.
Read more