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Oily Skin

The best skin care routine for oily facial skin is one that deeply cleans pores without overly drying your skin. Look for products you can use twice a day that don’t add an additional oily or heavy product feel to your skin. Finding the perfect balance with your skin care is the trick when you have an oily complexion. Let me help. As a dermatologist, I have treated patients with a range of oily complexions over the years. I watch the scientific literature regarding the role of skin oil in causing skin problems, and I listen to my patient's observations about what works and what doesn't work to help their oily skin concerns. 

FAQs about your facial oil glands:

  • You have the highest concentration of oil glands on the T-zone of your face.
  • Your hormones and stress can increase oil gland activity.
  • The oil produced is a natural skin moisturizer and is protective. It contains antioxidants and has components that help fight skin infections.
  • The exact composition of skin oil components varies in certain skin problems such as acne, rosacea, and facial dandruff. The exact ramifications of this are not fully understood yet. It was long ago believed that oil production was increased in these conditions, but now that is controversial. Even in acne, the severity of the acne is not directly related to sebum production! Acne lesions are probably more related to the composition of the sebum. This is impacted by factors like diet, hormones, and stress.

The bottom line is that your facial oil production is complicated.

People with oily facial skin complain that their skin is shiny and greasy soon after washing. Their pores often are larger, and can become clogged with oil and dead cells. Because you have regional variation in your facial oil production, I recommend treating the different parts of your facial skin according to their oily or normal complexion tendencies; what your skin needs on the T-zone may be different than what it needs on the rest of your face.

Build your complete facial skin care routine based on any needs to treat facial skin problems (acne, rosacea, dandruff, uneven skin pigment, skin aging and sun damage, etc.) and your need to balance skin oils. Use products that deeply clean oils and dead cells from your pores, especially in the T-zone. Use hydrating products on areas of your skin that are drier, like the sides of your face.

Some examples of how I build a complete skin care routine for my oily complexion patients include products for the 4 essential steps in complete skin care:

  1. Cleanse: Use foaming cleansers in the T-zone to remove oil. Consider adding the Clarisonic Brush to sonically cleanse deeply in the pores. Remove excess oil and help loosen dead cell build-up with keratolytic ingredients that loosen the ‘glue’ holding dead cells together. These ingredients in cleansers include glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and benzoyl peroxide. My Foaming Acne Cleanser, Foaming Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser, and Acne Treatment Pads are great options. You can also use my Hydrating Rose Toner for natural and gentle skin oil cleansing after washing.
  2. Correct: Treat skin problems with light texture products that don’t add a heavy feel to your oily complexion. Look for non-comedogenic products that don’t block your pores, especially in the T-zone. 
  3. Hydrate: Notice if you need more hydration on the non-T-zone parts of your face. My patients usually find that my Day Cream for Oily to Normal skin is the perfect moisturizer for oily skin. Non-oil water binding ingredients to look for to hydrate skin include glycerin, PCA, and hyaluronic acid.
  4. Protect: Oil-free matte sunscreens are ideal for oily skin. Great examples are Sure Strength Pure Physical Sunscreen and MDSolar Sciences.

Mineral makeup powder can provide additional mattifying minerals to help absorb oil during the day. My patients with oily complexions also like the feel of their skin when they use clay masks several times a week. They feel that the clay helps to ‘pull’ oil and debris from their pores to give their skin a clean feel without irritation. They also say that their pores often appear smaller after a clay mask is used.

Can astringents, alcohols, and harsh products cause more oil production from sebocytes (the oil-producing cells in oil glands)?

I have been asked this daily in my practice for over 30 years. Believe me, I keep my eyes open for the answer in the scientific literature. To date, I still have not seen a study that answers this question. If you have a scholarly article that shows an increase in facial skin oil production in vivo caused by removing skin oil with soaps, detergents, alcohol or acetone, or from the presence of an irritant dermatitis, please forward the reference to me!


Vivian Y. Shi, MD, Michael Leo, BS, Lauren Hassoun, BS, Dev S. Chahal, BS, Howard I. Maibach, MD, Raja K. Sivamani, MD, MS, CAT, Role of sebaceous glands in inflammatory dermatoses, Journal of American Academy of Dermatology  November 2015Volume 73, Issue 5, Pages 856–863

Nishit R. Trivedi Zhaoyuan Cong, Amanda M. Nelson, Adam J. Albert, Lorraine L. Rosamilia, Surendra Sivarajah, Kathryn L. Gilliland, Wenlei Liu, David T. Mauger, Robert A. Gabbay, Diane M. Thibouto Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors Increase Human Sebum Production, Journal of Investigative Dermatology, September 2006Volume 126, Issue 9, Pages 2002–2009

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  1. Vanicream Lip Protectant

    Vanicream Lip Protectant


    The best dermatologist recommended hypoallergenic lip balm and sunscreen - all in one product!

    Learn More
  2. Loose Mineral Makeup Blush™

    Loose Mineral Makeup Blush™


    Two lovely, soft shades to invoke a natural looking, delicate health-radiating glow to your skin (without the sun!).

    Learn More
  3. Pressed Mineral Makeup Powder™

    Pressed Mineral Makeup Powder™


    Oil-free pressed minerals give you medium to full coverage with a smooth, long-lasting matte finish. This mineral makeup foundation is full coverage, yet oil-free. The light reflecting powder is so fine that it won't flake or cake. You get a natural, healthy skin look because the tiny mineral particles are so fine that they layer imperceptibly on your skin giving you complete coverage to show off your skin.

    Learn More
  4. Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 2.5% Sensitive Skin™

    Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Cream 2.5% Sensitive Skin™

    Better than expensive prescription acne treatments: Benzoyl peroxide continues to be the best acne−treating ingredient in medical studies. Learn More
  5. Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream™

    Retinol Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream™


    Retinol is one of the best non-prescription skin care ingredients you can use to reverse the signs of skin aging. Every serious anti-aging skin care routine should include a retinoid product.

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  6. Retinol Ultra-Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream™

    Retinol Ultra-Intensive Anti-Wrinkle Night Cream™

    Ultra-high concentration retinol is one of the best non-prescription skin care ingredients to fight skin aging. Learn More
  7. MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Broad Spectrum

    MDSolarSciences Mineral Tinted Creme SPF 30 Broad Spectrum

    Luxurious, Broad Spectrum Sunscreen with a Silky "Barely There" Finish. Learn More
  8. Naturally Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin™

    Naturally Best Bar Soap for Dry Skin™

    Unscented, glycerin-rich soap made with healing oats for your dry and sensitive skin. Learn More
  9. Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin™

    Daily Moisturizing Face Cream for Oily to Normal Skin™


    Gentle, oil free hydration for facial skin. This light glycerin moisturizer is perfect for acne prone skin and to use in combination with all of our therapeutic facial products.

    Learn More
  10. Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, 4 oz.

    Vanicream Moisturizing Skin Cream, 4 oz.

    Dermatologist recommended skin cream for sensitive skin. One of the best skin care products to heal dry skin for people with eczema or skin allergies. Learn More

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