Have Acne and Oily Skin? Read On!
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.
- 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:
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.
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.
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.
10. You consider your skin to be:
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 skin1 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 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. 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 avoid6 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 resistance7, 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 condition8, 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.
- 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.
- Bowe WP, Kircik LH. The importance of photoprotection and moisturization in treating acne vulgaris. J Drugs Dermatol. 2014 Aug;13(8):s89-94.
- Mukhopadhyay P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disorders. Indian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):2–6. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.77542
- 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.
- Zeichner JA. The Use of Lipohydroxy Acid in Skin Care and Acne Treatment. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2016;9(11):40–43.
- Chularojanamontri L, Tuchinda P, Kulthanan K, Pongparit K. Moisturizers for Acne: What are their Constituents?. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014;7(5):36–44.
- Marshall J., Dunaif A. All women with PCOS should be treated for insulin resistance. Fertility and Sterility. 2012;97(1):18-22.
- PCOS Symptoms. PCOS Awareness Association. 2017.
To be your most trusted ally in your pursuit of clear, healthy skin.