What is Oily Skin? Understanding This Skin Type
Each of us has a certain amount of skin oils that work to keep our skin healthy and protected from the elements. While these skin oils are essential, and without them, we would all be in a sad state, there are times when oil production becomes unbalanced. In some cases, not enough oil is produced, leading to dry skin. In other cases, the oil glands below the skin’s surface are overactive and overproduce a skin oil called sebum. When this happens, the result is the classic definition of oily skin.
What Is Oily Skin?
The simplest answer to this question is that oily skin is produced by overactive skin oil glands. Just below the skin’s surface are these tiny little sebaceous glands that produce a moisturizing skin oil called sebum. On its own, sebum is good stuff – at least when present in a balanced amount. Sebum keeps the skin soft, smooth, and supplies a protective barrier against the elements.
As the sebaceous gland produces sebum, the oil rises up to the surface of the skin through pores. From there, it naturally spreads over the skin. When the sebaceous glands are over-productive, too much oil is produced and it either accumulates on the skin’s surface or gets backed up in the pores – both situations causing problems.
Oily skin can be difficult to control because so many of the “remedies” that are suggested only make the problem worse. Treatments that are too harsh can cause the skin to overreact and protect itself by producing even more oil – not exactly the desired result.
Signs of Oily Skin
A good number of us experience at least mildly oily skin at some point in our lives. Maybe you remember being a teenager and waking up to find a bit too much of a sheen across your face, or perhaps you noticed that your skin became oilier as the weather turned humid or when you were exercising frequently. There are all sorts of factors that can contribute to oily skin, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, we should talk about how to determine if you’re someone who has what would be defined as classically oily skin.
Common signs of oily skin include:
- Your skin seems to have a shiny or oily appearance, and it only seems to get worse throughout the day
- A light oil sheen is visible on your skin within 30 minutes to an hour of washing it
- Cosmetics don’t “stick” and often seem as though they’re sliding off your skin
- Your pores are enlarged. This is caused by excess oil accumulating in the pores and essentially stretching them
- You experienced acne, including red inflamed blemishes and blackheads, on the oiliest parts of your skin
- Oily skin may appear thick, even rough in areas
- You may notice deeper set lines and wrinkles as the first signs of aging as opposed to fine, dry lines
If you’re unsure whether your skin qualifies as oily, take our Skin Care Quiz to determine your exact skin type.
Factors That Contribute to Oily Skin
We often forget that the skin is the body’s largest organ, and that its health is greatly influenced by what’s going on within the body, as well as the surroundings. There are several main causes of oily skin, one of the most influential being hormones.
If you think back to the very first time you noticed your skin appeared oily, it was probably at a point in your life when hormones could be blamed as a contributing factor. For instance, the hormonal shift that occurs during puberty is the bane of many an adolescent that feels devastated by their changing complexion. Hormones are also an influence during pregnancy, menopause, and throughout a woman’s regular menstrual cycle.
As if shifting hormones weren’t enough, there are other uncontrollable factors that might be behind why your skin is oily. Genetics can play a major role in skin type, and if your parents or other close relatives are prone to oily skin, then you might be as well. Genetics can also be the cause of enlarged pores. While enlarged pores are often an occurrence with oily skin, they can also be the cause. Larger pores simply hold more oil and produce more oil on the surface of the skin. Unfortunately, they’re also more prone to clogging and acne.
Other factors that can cause oily skin include:
- Hotter, more humid climates seem to contribute to oily skin.
- Cold weather. In contrast to hot, humid environments, the harsh cold can cause the skin to overreact and produce excess skin oils
- Over-washing. If you’re over-cleansing your skin, oil production can ramp up to protect against moisture loss
- Using the wrong skincare products for your skin type
- Sun exposure
- Certain medications
- Certain cosmetics
Caring for Your Oily Skin
The most important thing to remember when caring for oily skin is that you want to achieve a balance. It’s all too common for someone to run out and buy the harshest anti-oil, anti-acne products they can find to combat the shine. However, these products can damage the skin and cause the skin to produce even more oil in response to the assault. Choose oil-free cleansers and skincare products, but don’t go overboard on harsh ingredients.
Regular, gentle cleansing is key to easing the symptoms of oily skin. Cleanse your face once in the morning, and once before bed. Resist the temptation to cleanse it more than this unless you’ve been doing something that caused you to get all sweaty or dirty. Cleansing too often can strip too many oils and make the problem of oily skin even worse. Also, remember lukewarm water is best, no matter what skin type you have.
Skincare products like toners and gentle, enzymatic exfoliants are great for removing excess oils and dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. This is key in preventing breakouts that are so common with oily skin types.
Finally, don’t skip the moisturizer. There’s a myth out there that oily skin doesn’t need moisturization. A good quality moisturizer or serum is important, no matter what your skin type but for those with oily skin who might also be using harsher oil control products, a moisturizer is absolutely essential. The key to moisturizing without making the problem worse? Choose gentle, natural oil-free moisturizers with soothing ingredients.
You Don’t Have to Live with the Shine
We each have a unique skin, and sometimes our own skin type can be problematic. The good news is that no matter what your skin type, there are options out there for gentle, natural skincare that will soothe your skin, ease your woes, and leave you looking and feeling beautiful. Skin type is only one part of a much larger picture, and by treating your skin wonderfully, you’ll be rewarded with a radiant, glowing complexion.