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Have Acne and Oily Skin? Read On!

People used to think that only oily skin got acne. Now experts recognize that it is oil on the skin, not in the skin, that causes acne, and that acne can occur on any skin type, oily, dry, normal, or a combination of oily around the eyes and nose and normal or dry elsewhere around the face. Treating acne on oily skin, however, requires a different skin care treatment plan and different skin care products. 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.


  • Oiliness is caused by oil on the skin, not oil in the skin.
  • It is possible for skin to be both dry and oily at the same time. This most often happens around the eyes.
  • 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.

How Can You Know Whether Your Skin Is Oily?

Oily skin is skin that has excess oil on the skin. Oily skin is not a condition of excess oil or moisture in the skin. It is possible to have skin that is both oily, having too much oil on the skin, and dry, having too little moisture in the skin. Dryness tightens the skin and shrinks pores, while excessive oil accumulates in the pores and feeds bacteria. Fortunately, combination skin is usually limited to the nose, cheeks, and area around the eyes.

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 cheeks 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?

People who have acne on oily skin:

  • Usually, benefit from retinoic acid creams. These vitamin A-based products reduce oiliness of the skin1 and also help keep pores open.
  • Usually, benefit from moisturizers around (but not in) the eyes and nose. Even oily skin can dry out. Products that combine a moisturizer with sunscreen2 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 soap3—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 masks4 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 acids5 (for light skin) or beta-hydroxy acids (for dark skin), or from facial scrubs, but not from using both exfoliants and scrubs. Use one kind of product or the other. A scrub is a microdermabrasion product placed on the skin, not the action of rubbing the skin with a brush. Always be kind to your skin, especially when acne breaks out.
  • Sometimes do better when they avoid6 mineral oil, Vaseline or other petroleum jelly products, or coconut oil. Test on a smaller 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.

People who have oily skin sometimes get unexpected reactions to food and drink. Earl Grey tea is flavored with bergamot. Drops of Earl Grey tea around the mouth can stain the skin around a pimple. Margaritas made with lime juice can irritate the corners of the mouth and cause pimples to break out, even without the action of acne bacteria. Celery, celeriac, parsley, carrots, Queen Anne’s lace, and limes, applied to the skin in any way, usually make blackheads blacker.

People who have oily skin acne are also sensitive to foods that contain lutein and lycopene. Eating too much sweet corn, kale, spinach, tomatoes (and especially tomato sauce) can increase oil production in the skin, even though these foods are generally highly nutritious.

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.


  1. Pan J, Wang Q, Tu P. A Topical Medication of All-Trans Retinoic Acid Reduces Sebum Excretion Rate in Patients With Forehead Acne. Am J Ther. 2017 Mar/Apr;24(2):e207-e212.
  2. Bowe WP, Kircik LH. The importance of photoprotection and moisturization in treating acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Aug;13(8):s89-94.
  3. Mukhopadhyay P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):2–6. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.77542
  4. Meier L, Stange R, Michalsen A, Uehleke B. Clay jojoba oil facial mask for lesioned skin and mild acne–results of a prospective, observational pilot study. Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19(2):75-9.
  5. Zeichner JA. The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne TreatmentJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2016;9(11):40–43.
  6. Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36–44.


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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

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