What causes oily skin and how to prevent it

We spoke to a skin expert about this common skin type and what you can do to control it.

Oily skin is very common, but it can also be annoying to deal with.

While it’s important that your skin produces oil to help preserve it, overactive production can leave you with blocked pores, a shiny complexion and leaves you prone to acne.

Here, we quiz Debbie Thomas, advanced laser and skin expert, and founder of D. Thomas Clinic, about what causes it, how to prevent it and the type of products you should avoid…

What exactly is oily skin? And what are some of the signs that you have it?

“Skin classified as ‘oily’ means it is producing an above average amount of sebum – the skin’s natural oil,” explains Thomas. “This over-production of sebum will leave the surface of the skin feeling ‘greasy’ and the skin will often look shiny.” A common area prone to excessive is your T-zone; the area across your forehead and down your nose.

Additionally, oily skin may be more prone to blemishes. “Oily skin can also result in enlarged or blocked pores and more often than not, oily skins can breakout in the form of spots,” says Thomas.

What causes oily skin? 

Put simply, oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous glands. “Sometimes this can be due to outside stimulation, for example, from certain products, but for many it is due to hormonal balance and sensitivity,” says Thomas.

“It is well-documented now that testosterone plays a part in overactive sebaceous glands. For some people this means they have an imbalance or higher levels of testosterone. But for others, they are simply much more sensitive to normal levels.”

How can you prevent oily skin? 

As two of the biggest reasons for oily skin are hormonal balance and sensitivity, it can be hard to address how your skin genetically behaves, says Thomas. However, she suggests paying attention to things which may affect your hormonal balance can help.

“Stress, diet and general lifestyle can all impact how your skin behaves,” she adds. Begin by identifying any points of stress and working to eliminate those. Keep track of the types of food you’re eating and whether this correlates with how oily your skin gets.

How often should you exfoliate oily skin? 

If you have oily skin, it’s important to shift dirt and dead skin cells regularly to prevent build-up. When searching for the best type of exfoliator for you, you need to consider the overall condition of your skin and the product’s own guidelines, advises Thomas. “I prefer milder daily products for the most part as they mean consistency for your skin,” she says. “Think acid tonics, cleansers or overnight gels which include mild acids or retinol-type ingredients.”

What type of skincare ingredients should you avoid if you have oily skin?

If you have oily skin, you can still use the majority of skincare products but there are a few that Thomas recommends leaving out of your routine. “Avoid oils and rich creams,” she says, “Also, avoid trying to strip the skin. Many oily skin products are very drying and by over-drying you actually put your skin into a type of panic-mode where it responds by making even more oil.”

Additionally, Thomas stresses that it’s important to focus your skincare routine on all of your skin’s needs, rather than focusing on just how oily it gets. “Oil is only one aspect of someone’s skin, so they need to use products that work for the skin overall,” she explains, “Retinol has been shown to regulate the skin, including oil production, but it can take months to see the results and needs to be introduced slowly.”

The best products for oily skin

  • Best cleanser: CeraVe SA Smoothing Salicylic Acid Cleanser, £12

    As well as removing oil, dirt and make-up easily, this CeraVe cleanser contains 0.5% salicylic acid to gently exfoliate the skin.

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  • Best exfoliator: Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £23.80

    If you want a product specifically dedicated to exfoliating, look no further. Sweep this leave-on exfoliant over the entire face after cleansing. The lightweight formula will gently get rid of dead skin cells and tackles blemishes, leaving you with a smoother complexion.

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  • Best acid toner: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Astringent Toner, £12.49

    This La Roche-Posay toner is a cult product in the beauty industry – and with good reason. Created for oily and blemish-prone skin, it works to get rid of excess oil while unblocking pores.

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  • Best moisturiser: Clinique Dramatically Different Hydrating Jelly Anti-Pollution, £31

    It’s important to keep oily skin hydrated, otherwise your skin may begin to over-produce oil. This Clinique jelly moisturiser is the perfect non-sticky formula for oily skin types. It penetrates skin quickly, working to hydrate, strengthen the skin’s barrier and retain the skin’s moisture levels.

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Main image: Getty

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