Why Is My Face So Oily? 6 Reasons + How to Stop It
If you’re a man, you don’t need to go drilling in Alaska to find oil. It’s in abundance on your face. Oily skin in men is a very common problem, and there are a variety of reasons for it. We’ve consulted with Dr. Steve, our founding dermatologist, to tell us why oil is a problem particular to men — and what to do about it.
If you struggle specifically with oily noise — check our post Your oily nose, explained.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why men get oily skin
- Why you get oily skin during the day
- Why you get oily skin all of the sudden
- How to get rid of oily skin
- Best ingredients for oily skin
- If a honey mask or oatmeal can help oily skin
- Mattifying options for oily skin
- How niacinamide can help.
- How Geologie can help with your oily face.
What causes oily skin in men?
Here are 6 things that can cause oily skin in men:
Testosterone: The chief culprit in the overproduction of natural oil (sebum) — and the lack of which is why we don’t look like a Hemsworth. Simply put, men produce more oil. If you’ve ever tried a woman’s products and wondered why it’s still on your hands 20 minutes later, it’s because their skin needs that oil. But most men simply don’t need more than they make naturally.
Blood-sugar spikes: Your body starts producing oil when you first wake up in the morning (or the afternoon, you do you). That’s when a blood sugar spike jump-starts your glands into action. It’s nature’s way, the natural rhythms of the body, and there’s not much you can do about that — it’s why many guys grow more oily as the day progresses and reach peak oiliness in the afternoon.
Overwashing: Don’t make the mistake that many guys do and overwash your face, you’ll be removing the sebum your skin actually needs to protect itself — and signal your glands to create more oil to compensate for the loss. Stick to twice a day and feel free to experiment with washing just once per day, while using warm water alone at the other times. Some guys find success this way too.
Exercise: Your increased physical activity creates sweat while increasing oil production. If you’re going to work out in the first half of the day, consider delaying your morning regimen until after your workout. And if you work out late in the day, after work or in the evening, feel free to hit your night regimen then.
Stress: This can also make a major contribution. I tell my patients all the time: get a handle on your stress, ideally by exercising, and you can get a handle on your breakouts too. Even just basic cardio like walking can improve your skin. Stress comes and goes but it can drive oil production and breakouts and that can be frustrating. Just stick to your regimen; periodic oiliness or breakouts will pass, just like the stress.
- Climate: Can be a factor too. In colder and drier climates oil isn’t such a bad thing: it protects your skin from harsh elements (and indoor winter heat and arid climates as well). But in warmer climates -- well, oil’s not so welcome. It’s annoying, like bees at a picnic, and it can cause acne.
Q: Why is my skin so oily all of the sudden?
Dr. Steve: One cause can be men using oils and thicker moisturizers. Environmental changes can be another — sudden hot to cold or cold to hot can affect your skin. In a hot humid climate you’ll get more buildup of oil and dirt and less of a drying effect that could create greater oiliness.
Q: Why is my face so oily when I wake up?
Dr. Steve: Overnight, our skin loses water, causing our sebaceous (oil) glands to work in conjunction with eccrine sweat glands to “emulsify” the sweat, making it more lipid and not so easily lost during perspiration. This is what causes that thick oil buildup in the morning. Also, not getting enough sleep and excessive stress can cause an increase in androgen production – a hormone that stimulates oil production.
Treatment: How to get rid of oily skin
Every man’s skin is different, which means that every man’s oily skin is different. Don’t worry, here’s how to tackle it:
When you wake up, you get a blood sugar spike and oil production kicks into motion. Now is the time for salicylic acid to clean out the pores.
You also want to moisturize in the morning. Seems odd to moisturize oily skin, but you're protecting your skin from the elements, the harsh outside environment. It’s important to use a light moisturizer that's non-comedogenic like ours that’s not going to exacerbate the problem.
Oil production will continue and accumulate throughout the day, especially in men who wash their face too frequently (they’re stripping away layers of moisture and drying out their skin; when your skin is dry your glands compensate by producing more oil.)
If you’re struggling with oily skin throughout the day, it’s OK to apply the everyday face wash in the afternoon.
When you're sleeping, the temperatures are cooler, you’re less physically active, your circadian rhythm, your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are tuned down. Everything's shut down — including oil production.
That’s why the night time is the right time to tackle oily skin. Our night creams include retinol, which promotes the production of balanced sebum and the growth of healthy cells. After about six weeks, you’ll start to see results of the retinol doing its thing: it’ll actually improve the makeup of your skin.
Best ingredients for oily skin
Fortunately there are many things you can do to control oily skin..
- Salicylic acid: The acid part of the molecule does the heavy lifting, dissolving some of the intracellular “glue” that holds skin cells together. This acid breaks down skin debris and oil that clogs the pores. Find a great salicylic acid face wash, it’s a game-changer for oily skin.
- Retinol: Retinol modulates and reduces the amount of natural oil that your body produces. By reducing the oil, the resulting dryness will help control acne. A strong retinol night cream can fix that oily skin.
- Niacinamide: Like retinol, this ingredient helps regulate the amount of oil the sebaceous glands produce to keep your skin from getting too oily. It’s also an anti-inflammatory, which helps with acne, among other things. The eye cream has niacinamide, which works in tandem with the night cream.
Q: How do I prevent an oily face during the day?
Dr. Steve: The amount of oil you produce during the day can be affected by stress and your environment as well. So if you're sweating more, or stressing, that can increase oil production in the later afternoon.
Salicylic acid is a great exfoliator, and you can find it in the face wash.
Q: Can a honey mask help oily skin?
Dr. Steve: Not really. Honey has antibacterial and antiseptic properties — it’s embedded in band aids — but it also has wildly different characteristics. It’s a very complex viscous fluid, with different origins. It’s kind of a fad thing. If you like it and it makes you feel good, it's unlikely to really hurt you. But it's also messy and sticky, traits that make it completely infeasible to use on a daily basis.
To me, when it comes to efficacy for acne, go with salicylic acid and retinol. They have way better evidence, performance and proven results (which is what you want) compared to honey. Think about what you can use consistently, effectively, and daily. That’s what we’ve made for you at Geologie.
Check out the Essential Acne set.
Q: Can oatmeal really absorb oily skin?
Dr. Steve: Long story short - no. Keep in mind that oatmeal is a big part of moisturizer — Aveeno is famous for using colloidal oatmeal, a kind of mashup of oatmeal into a paste. Oatmeal itself has lipids, fats, and moisturizing elements. So it really isn't an oil-absorbing agent, it’s a moisturizing agent.
Q: Is it true that oily skin doesn’t need moisturizer?
Dr. Steve: Wrong. It’s easy to mistake oily skin for hydrated skin, but here’s the difference: Skin oil is the waxy substance (sebum) secreted by the sebaceous glands to coat, protect and lubricate your skin. Skin hydration is the term used when water is absorbed into the layers of the skin to maintain its elasticity and resiliency.
Hydration makes our skin feel soft, but it won't stay soft without oil to protect that hydration from escaping. And when the oils are depleted — due to any number of reasons, as detailed in this blog post about dry skin — the result is dry skin. When your skin is dry, your glands compensate by producing more oil. So keeping your skin hydrated can also fight excess sebum production.
Q: I have oily skin and I’ve been told I need something that’s mattifying.
Dr. Steve: Mattifying is a broad term. It’s used to describe something that soaks up oil, and it also means something that’s anti-oil. For example, hyaluronic acid is considered a mattifying agent by some experts because as a moisturizer it’s very hydrophilic, but it’s unique in that it doesn't have an oily, heavy feel to it, so it won’t worsen oily skin.
Niacinamide can even be considered mattifying because it helps regulate oil production. Same with retinol, which is an acne-slayer that also regulates oil production. Salicylic acid would be considered a mattifying agent because it's an exfoliant that’s helpful for oiliness, as well as glycolic acid.
But if you were to ask me what is a true mattifying agent, I would say dimethicone, which is designed specifically to absorb oil. We use dimethicone as one of the main ingredients in all of our moisturizers — and all of our AM creams have silica, another mattifying agent.
Q: Does niacinamide reduce shine on the face?
Dr. Steve: It does definitely modulate sebum production, so it's probably decreasing the shine because of that, but not because it's magically absorbing oil. I love niacinamide, here's why I included it in both the morning cream and the repairing night cream.
How Geologie can help with your oily face
Go personalized! Take our skincare quiz for a personalized skincare routine just for you and your oily skin.
Want something quick and easy? Try our Oil Control Routine. Our exfoliating salicylic face wash teams up with our oil free gel moisturizer to hydrate your skin first thing in the morning.
Not ready for a full routine? A good place to start is with our best selling Salicylic Acid Exfoliating Cleanser 2-Pack. The primary active ingredient is 2% salicylic acid – is an ace exfoliator that combats acne and oil, reduces inflammation, and promotes healing.
Still not sure? Browse our entire catalog of skincare products for oily skin.