Caring For Oily Skin

What You Need to Know

For those of you who have really oily skin, you may be wondering about the best way to deal with it, and whether or not you still have to moisturize. If you fall into this category, you are not alone!  After all, it is a common issue for women.

Let’s discuss a few things that tend to make skin oily:

Caring For Oily Skin - What You Need to Know


Age: Skin becomes more oily during puberty when there is a surge in hormones. Oily skin generally improves after puberty, and most people develop drier skin as they age.

Environment: Humid, hot weather will cause skin to be oilier than dry weather. Most people need a different skin care routine in the summer than the winter.

Stress: Stress will also affect hormone levels and cause a surge in oil production and possibly breakouts. Sometimes taking a B complex supplement twice daily can help moderate oil production. B vitamins are easily depleted with stress (physical, mental or emotional).

Diet: A diet loaded with high-glycemic carbohydrates, sugar and refined oils will also lead to an increased production of oil in the skin. Dairy, including whey protein, can cause a surge in insulin production, which results in increased oil production in some individuals.

Genetics: You cannot change this, but it doesn’t mean you need to live with oily skin or have the large pores your grandmother had.

Even though I am in my 40s and live in the desert, I still struggle with oily skin when it is hot, I am having a stressful day or my diet is suboptimal. Understanding what products to use and when to use them is essential to achieving balanced skin and overcoming these external influences. This will take some practice and patience. Managing oily skin is not just about using the right moisturizer; you want to use the right products in all steps of your regimen.

Cleanse: Wash twice a day with a salicylic acid cleanser. Salicylic acid is lipophilic (attracted to oil) and is effective at unplugging pores without irritating skin. SkinCeuticals purifying cleanser and LHA cleansing gel are very effective without being harsh. I recommend applying a small amount of cleanser to dry skin and using a Philips PureRadiance or Clarisonic cleansing brush moistened with lukewarm water to wash for two minutes. The sonic technology will gently unplug oil and dead skin cells from pores. Harsh soaps and aggressive rubbing can actually stimulate more oil production, so avoid this. If you need a little more oil control than twice daily washing, a salicylic acid or lactic acid toner, such as PCA Skin Smoothing toner, can be used with an exfoliating cotton round. I would only add a toner after a few weeks if your skin is still very oily. Don’t overdo it initially or your skin will become irritated. You definitely want to avoid any astringent with alcohol, as this will be too harsh for even oily skin.

Protect: In the morning after cleansing, apply a medical-grade vitamin C product, such as SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF gel or PCA Skin C-strength. Once dry, apply an SPF 30-plus sunscreen with zinc oxide. My favorite for oily skin is EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46. This can be either transparent or tinted, which is useful for covering up any blemishes and can be used as a makeup base.

Hydrate: At night after cleansing, apply an oil-free moisturizer. The right moisturizer will keep the skin healthy and balanced. Since most people have combination skin and tend to be oily in the T-zone but dryer to the cheeks, vary the amount of moisturizer applied depending on if your skin is oily or dry in that area. Over-the-counter CeraVe PM is a nice basic nightly moisturizer for oily skin. Always care for your neck and chest similarly to your face, using sun protection and moisturizer. And, be aware that all skin types need an eye cream (dry) or serum (oily).

In summary:

Morning: Cleanse, vitamin C, sunscreen, then makeup.

Night: Cleanse, oil-free moisturizer, eye cream or serum.

You will notice that you will need to modify your skin care routine depending on weather, stress and your diet. Give any new routine at least two months to achieve the desired effect. Using too many or too much product will confuse and aggravate your skin.

Most people find that oily skin doesn’t age as quickly as dry skin and tends to look healthier overall, so embrace the positive.


Jennifer Haley, MD, FAAD

Dr. Haley is a board-certified dermatologist with a degree in nutrition science from Cornell University. She has been an NPC Bikini competitor and a consultant to the U.S. Capitol. Dr. Haley advises multiple global Fortune 500 companies and speaks internationally on lifestyle strategies to achieve optimal skin health. Dr. Haley practices in Scottsdale, AZ and Park City, UT, where she enjoys an active lifestyle with her family. For more information, visit or email

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