This skin type is shiny an hour after you wash your face or apply powder, especially on your forehead, nose and cheeks. (If it takes three or more “blots” with oil-absorbing paper to cut shine, then you have oily skin, says Omaha dermatologist and founder of lovelyskin.com Dr. Joel Schlessinger.)
It also tends to have large pores, often with blackheads and whiteheads and even pimples and deep cysts—although it can simply feel greasy with no signs of acne.
On the bright side, oily skin is also thicker and less likely to act sensitive or wrinkle. “Many of my patients feel any oil is too much,” says Dr. Schlessiger. “That’s a shame because it’s actually good for the skin.” New York City dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D. agrees: “People with oily skin just age better.”
The science: The “male” hormone dihydrotesterone (DHT) triggers your sebaceous glands to produce sebum. This mixture of waxes of lipids like squalene and fatty acids protects and conditions your hair and skin. When there’s a spike in testosterone, your DHT levels rise as well and your skin produces too much oil.
Causes: Hormones control how much oil your skin produces, says Dr. Fusco, so anything that throws off their balance can affect sebum levels. During puberty, testosterone levels rise and are metabolized into DHT, which is why teenagers tend to have oily skin. Stress can also send your hormone balance into a tailspin, as can your menstrual cycle, pregnancy, birth control pills (especially when you go off of them), menopause, stress, medications like Lithium and cortisteroids—even smoking and diet.
Oily skin vs. acne-prone skin
While acne-prone skin is usually oily, oily skin does not have to be acne-prone: Pores only get clogged if dead skin cells get trapped with bacteria and sebum, explains Dr. Fusco. People with acne tend to have “sticky” skin cells, meaning they clump together and are more likely to clog pores. If your skin sheds dead cells efficiently, overactive sebaceous glands can simply mean your skin is shiny.
Tips for oily skin:
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