Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

Helping People Achieve Clear Skin Since 2007

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Have Acne and Oily Skin? Read On!

By Dr. Jaggi Rao, MD, FRCPC, Double board-certified dermatologist

People used to think that only oily skin got acne, but the truth is, excess oil is only one factor in acne formation. Acne can occur on any skin type, oily, dry, normal, or combination. Treating acne on oily skin, however, requires a different skin care treatment plan and different skin care products than those used to treat acne in dry skin. What works on dry, normal, or combination skin usually does not work on oily skin.

Acne Facial Mask
Facial masks can be used to treat acne on oily skin.


  • Excess oil can cause acne, but it’s important not to strip the skin of all its natural oils in an attempt to treat acne.
  • It is possible for skin to be both dry and oily at the same time.
  • Oily skin is usually shiny.
  • People who have oily skin usually have large pores, especially after they successfully treat acne.
  • Oily skin acne responds well to vitamin A and other products containing retinoids.
  • Facial masks are a good treatment for oily skin acne.
  • Certain foods and drinks can make oily skin acne more noticeable.

The Causes of Acne: Excess Oil, Bacteria, and Inflammation

Excess oil production is just one of the factors involved in acne formation, along with bacteria growth and inflammation. People with oily skin may develop acne due to excess oil, but acne can still develop in other skin types if inflammation or bacteria get involved. For instance, those with dry skin often develop acne because their skin is easily irritated, leading to increased rates of inflammation. If you have oily skin, the biggest factors in your acne are likely excess oil production and bacteria growth, because the two are often closely related.

A certain amount of oil is necessary for the health of our skin. It helps protect us from irritants like allergens and harsh weather conditions, which in turn prevents the inflammation that could cause acne. However, when our skin produces too much oil, it can become a problem. Excess oil clogs pores, leading to blackheads and whiteheads, but it also feeds the acne-causing bacteria that always live on the surface of our skin. When these bacteria are given a large influx in food, they reproduce more quickly until there are so many of them, they start to form small infections in your pores. This is how pimples and cysts form.

Many people believe that the best way to treat acne in oily skin is to strip the skin of as much oil as possible, but remember: a certain amount of oil is necessary for healthy skin. Harsh skin care products that strip the skin of all its oil may give you clear skin in just a few days, but then a few days after that, the acne will return. This is because these harsh products irritate and inflame the skin, which often leads to more acne, not less.

Quiz: How Can You Know Whether Your Skin Is Oily?

How can you know whether you have an oily skin type? Take this simple, 10-question quiz.

1. In photographs, the skin on your face usually looks:

a. Shiny.
b. Healthy.
c. Rosy.
d. Wrinkly, ash-colored, or flaky.

2. You wash your face without using any moisturizer or other products. A few hours later you look at your face under bright light. The skin of your face:

a. Seems to reflect a glare.
b. Looks well-hydrated and smooth.
c. Looks tight.
d. Is cracked, flaky, or has a gray cast.

3. If you use makeup but don’t use powder on your face, two or three hours later the skin of your face looks:

a. Both shiny and streaked.
b. Shiny.
c. Smooth.
d. Caked with tiny particles of foundation makeup.

4. In unusually dry weather, the skin of your face:

a. Still looks shiny.
b. Looks great; you don’t need moisturizer.
c. Feels normal.
d. Feels tight or flakes and cracks.

5. When you look in a magnifying mirror, you see:

a. Pores the diameter of a pinhead or larger over most of your face.
b. Many pores the size of a pinhead or larger, especially across the cheeks and on the nose.
c. A few pores the size of a pinhead or larger, mostly across the cheeks.
d. No enlarged pores.

6. When you use a facial cleanser that foams vigorously or makes big bubbles, after you rinse your skin:

a. Still feels oily.
b. Feels great!
c. Feels just a little rough or dry.
d. Cracks and may even begin to peel.

7. You get whiteheads and blackheads:

a. Nearly all the time.
b. Almost every week.
c. Occasionally.
d. Never.

8. When you don’t use any moisturizer on a dry day, at the end of the day your skin:

a. Feels fine.
b. Might feel just a little rough or dry.
c. Feels noticeably rough or dry.
d. Cracks and peels.

9. Your face is oily in the “T-zone:” across the forehead and up and down the nose:

a. All the time.
b. Most of the time.
c. Once in a while.
d. Never.

10. You consider your skin to be:

a. Oily.
b. Normal.
c. Combination.
d. Dry.

Score 4 points for every “a” answer, 3 points for every “b” answer, 2 points for every “c” answer, and 1 point for every “d” answer. If your total is 30 or more points your skin is oily. If your total is 22 to 29 points, you have normal skin. If your total is less than 22 points, you have dry or combination skin. So what does this tell you about the best ways to deal with acne?

All About Oily Skin

People who have acne with oily skin:

  • Usually benefit from retinoic acid creams. These vitamin A-based products reduce oiliness of the skin and also help keep pores open.
  • Often benefit from moisturizers around (but not in) the eyes and nose. Even oily skin can dry out. Products that combine a moisturizer with sunscreen are best since one product can be put on the skin in a thinner layer than two.
  • Can use stronger cleansers than people who have dry skin and get better results from ordinary bath soap—but if you have dark skin, be sure to avoid any kind of skin irritation, since it creates melasma or spots.
  • Usually get good results from facial masks and mud packs, up to twice a week. Grapeseed masks make blackheads and pimples on oily skin less noticeable.
  • Benefit from exfoliation with alpha-hydroxy acids (for light skin) or beta-hydroxy acids (for dark skin), or from facial scrubs, but not from using both exfoliants and scrubs. Using both products will almost definitely dry out even the oiliest of skin, leading to irritation, inflammation, and more acne. Always be kind to your skin, especially when acne breaks out.
  • Sometimes do better when they avoid mineral oil, coconut oil, or Vaseline and other petroleum jelly products. Test on a small area before committing to including them in your skincare routine.
  • Usually are less sensitive to after-shaves, perfumes, and essential oils, although it is usually a good idea even for people with oily skin to avoid them.
  • May have acne more affected by dietary choices. Some people with oily skin may be suffering from a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrom, or PCOS. This hormonal condition is still poorly understood, but one common symptom is acne and/or oily skin. People with PCOS often suffer from insulin resistance, which results in the overproduction of certain hormones to help break down sugars in foods. These hormones also cause an increase in oil production, which can lead to oily skin and acne. If you notice your acne is very closely related to eating particularly sugary foods, and you notice any of the other symptoms of the condition, you may want to speak to a doctor about PCOS.

Taking care of oily skin can be complicated if you try to do it all on your own. It’s a lot easier to get rid of your acne with a system like Exposed Skin Care.

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Jessica Johnson Reply

dermalmd acne cream is the best acne cream I have ever tried. A little bit goes a long way. It worked on my cystic acne and now my face is clear. You do have to watch for drying of the skin though but that is usually the case with any good acne cream

April 23, 2015 at 9:21 am Reply
sammy Reply

hi there, Can Vaseline blue seal really cure acne and dark spots. I'm really suffering I have tried expensive products nothing works, recently I tried home remedy turmeric and lemon n egg still nothing works I don't know what to do now. thank you so much

April 13, 2016 at 3:33 pm Reply
Cindy Reply

Hi...There are several items you may find in your kitchen that will work. Lemon juice is one of them. Give it time.. If you suffer with acne, baking soda mixed with lemon juice and raw honey is awesome. If you google 'diy' home remedies for acne prone skin and discoloration, you will be amazed what you can try. From avocados, bananas, oatmeal, coffee grounds, cinnamon and the list goes on. Find what works best for you. Good luck!

June 13, 2016 at 11:26 am Reply
Ronald Owens Reply

My face seems really olwhen wet but a few hours later my skin is flaking real bad don't know what to do help Thanks Ronald Owens

November 24, 2016 at 4:33 am Reply
Mary Scott Reply

Ronald Owen, all skin types need exfoliation, especially oily skin type, flaking clogs our pores as does dirt and oil. A good men’s exfoliator will make a hugh difference, keep in mind your skin texture is different from a woman’s. Not all exfoliators are created equal, look for one that has fine milled beads a men’s line will have what you’re looking for.

April 21, 2019 at 7:11 pm Reply

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