What Is Oily Skin?

Skin Care Questions
What Are The Signs Of Oily Skin?

Oily skin, also called seborrhea, is a common condition that typically affects women in puberty but may last into adulthood. Certain ethnic groups (those with sallow skin) may be more likely to have oily skin in adulthood. If you have oily skin it means that your sebaceous glands (tiny oil production glands beneath the surface of the skin) produce excess sebum (oil). It gives your face a shiny, greasy appearance and contributes to the development of acne.

Signs Of Oily Skin

• Shiny, greasy appearance to the skin.
• Large pores on the face.
• Blackheads.
• Spots or acne.
• If you rub your finger along the side of your nose, it picks up grease.
• Skin may be oilier around your period time or in hot, humid weather.
• Not sure of your skin type? See, what is my skin type?

Studies show that up to 75 percent of 15 to 20 years old suffer from oily skin, and many report feeling 'ugly, unkempt, grimy and uncomfortable' by their appearance. Many also report problems applying makeup which seems to 'slip off' the skin. Another study showed that 18 percent of participants with oily skin washed their face 6 to 15 times a day and 50 percent washed 3 to 5 times a day.

What Causes It?

Diet probably has very little to do with oily skin. In a recent research study of people with acne, those who were fed chocolate reported no worsening symptoms than those who continued eating a normal diet. In reality your skin type probably has much more to do with your genes (oily skin can run in the family or be more common in certain ethnic groups) and hormones.

The Effect Of Hormones

Hormones are like little chemical messengers that whiz about the body, telling cells what to do. During puberty (read about the development of the female body) both boys and girls produce a group of hormones called androgens (testosterone is a type of androgen). While androgens are primarily male hormones, girls (and women) produce them in small amounts too. Androgens help the body to mature but they also instruct the sebaceous glands when to produce oil. Adolescence is generally the worst time for oily skin (and spots) because androgens are on the rise and so too then is oil production. The highest concentration of sebaceous glands are found on the face, back and chest, which is why spots are more likely to appear in these places. As adolescence ends, androgen levels decline and oil production normalizes. Some women however develop a sensitivity to androgen and continue to have oily skin into adulthood.

Further Information...

• Although there is a connection between oily skin and acne, not all people with oily skin develop acne. Some people with dry skin can have acne. See, what is acne?
• What may look like dirt inside your blackheads is not. It is melanin - a pigment that gives your skin color. Scrubbing your face hard will not 'clean it'. Instead you should use a gentle cleanser and wash your face in warm water twice a day.
• Only use oil-free cosmetics if you have oily skin. See also, what are the ingredients in skin creams?

• Need more information? See: Skin structure and function.
• Got another question? See: Skin Care Questions

Related Questions
What is dry skin? Signs and causes, plus what is the best treatment for dry skin?
What is sensitive skin? Triggers, causes and symptoms.

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