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Oily skin is not an uncommon dermatological concern. Be it acne, enlarged pores or a greasy appearance, oily skin is host to many skin issues. 

There are three basic skin types - normal, dry and oily. Our skin requires a certain amount of natural oil to stay healthy. Sometimes the skin overproduces sebum (oil) which leads to clogged pores. This may also result in acne breakouts. It is always essential for you to follow a skincare routine and stay hydrated to avoid this. 

Here are a few remedies, tips and information regarding oily skin. (1)


What causes oily skin?

How to get rid of oily skin

Do I have oily skin?

How to prevent oily skin throughout the day

What causes oily skin?

Oily skin can result in acne outbreaks.

Oily skin can result in acne outbreaks.

When your skin produces excess amounts of sebum, it makes your skin oily. A shiny, greasy appearance is the first symptom to determine an oily skin type. 

Sebaceous glands within the skin produce sebum. This natural oil lubricates and keeps the skin hydrated. It also removes dead skin cells and bacteria from your pores. 

Hyper sebaceous glands may overproduce sebum leading to clogged pores. This may result in various forms of acne - pimples, whiteheads or blackheads. (2)

Do I have oily skin? 

There are several ways to determine whether you have oily skin. 

  • Greasy skin/appearance
  • Frequent breakouts
  • Immediate family members have oily skin
  • Constant sweaty/sticky skin
  • Enlarged pores
  • Makeup “slides off”

Overactive sebaceous glands cause oily skin.

Overactive sebaceous glands cause oily skin.

How to get rid of oily skin 

  • Wash your face regularly

Washing your face at least twice a day should be part of your skincare routine. This cleans clogged pores, removes dirt and bacteria from your skin. It also prevents breakouts. 

Don’t over-wash your face. Over-washing can dry up your skin too much and cause the skin to produce excess sebum. (3)

  • Drink lots of water

Your body should stay hydrated at all times. If your body lacks water, it may produce too much oil to keep your skin hydrated. 2-3 litres of water a day is ideal to keep your skin healthy.

  • Avoid direct sun exposure

Direct exposure to the sun dehydrates your body and skin. This may cause your body to overproduce oil. Wear sunscreen before you step-out. (4)

  • Say hello to moisturizers!

Though it may sound contradictory to apply moisturizers to oily skin, it is a helpful product. Moisturizers keep your skin hydrated and prevent it from producing excess sebum. 

A moisturizer will keep your skin moist, soft and supple. Choose an oil-control moisturizer if you have oily skin.

  • Add a toner to your skincare regimen

Toners cleanse your pores and add moisture to your skin, leaving it well-hydrated. It can be used as a deep cleanser. Toners help with removing oil and dirt from your skin. It restores your skin’s pH balance and refreshes it.

  • Blotting paper

Blotting paper is a good option for you to get rid of your mid-day greasy appearance. 

However, one must be careful to not press these sheets too hard on the skin. You don’t want to deprive your skin of necessary oils. Reusing a part of your sheet on another area of your skin is a bad idea too. It pushes the dirt you previously collected down your pores.

  • Follow a skincare routine

It is always healthy to follow a basic skincare regimen to allow your skin to breathe. Don’t compromise on the right products. 

Buying the right products (even if they may be slightly above your budget), will benefit your skin. Conduct a patch test before you use a product on your face. Purchase only dermatologically tested products.

  • Pat dry your face

Rubbing too hard may cause your skin to stimulate sebum production. After washing your face, gently pat it dry with a clean towel.

  • Clean your makeup tools regularly 

Make it a point to clean your makeup equipment at least once a week. Dirty tools can lead to clogged pores.

  • Use oil-free makeup products

If you’re prone to oily skin, buy oil-free makeup products. Oil-based products can clog your pores and result in skin conditions like acne. Always make it a point to remove your makeup before sleeping.

Treatment options reviewed by dermatologists 

Topical Retinoids 

These come in the form of lotions, creams and gels. Retinoids are rich in Vitamin A, a good source for skin health maintenance. Studies suggest that some retinoids reduce pore size. 

However, there is no scientific proof suggesting that they reduce sebum production. (5) People often tend to believe that all retinoids are the same. This doesn’t hold true. Retinoids come in several types and the strength of each varies. 

What to keep in mind before using a retinoid

  • It is always a better option to start with a cream-based retinoid, in order to avoid irritation
  • If you have sensitive skin, do not wear it on for too long. It may cause irritation and redness


Cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products that claim to be medically beneficial. These products are made with bioactive ingredients. However, they are purely evidence-based. There is no guarantee that cosmeceuticals will live up to what they stand for. Studies suggest that certain bioactive ingredients like green tea, help treat oily skin. 

Systemic Treatments for Oily Skin


Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid. It is rich in Vitamin A. It has proved to considerably suppress sebum production in the skin. (6)

However, it comes with secondary skin issues and side effects like dry skin and chapped lips. Isotretinoin should be consumed only after consulting a professional.


Studies show that Spironolactone directly reduces sebum production in the skin. In the recent past, dermatologists have turned to this drug to treat oily skin and acne in women. (7) However, certain temporary side-effects like irregular menstruation cycles have to be kept in mind before using Spironolactone. All-in-all, this one’s considered a safe systemic medication for healthy women. 

Oral contraceptives 

Oral contraceptives came into the picture after topical creams and oral antibiotics didn’t work for some people. A woman’s ovaries and adrenal glands produce androgens. 

High levels of androgens can trigger excess sebum production, leading to oily skin. Oral contraceptives contain estrogen and progesterone that regulate sebum production. Only 3 oral contraceptives to treat oily skin have been approved by the FDA.

Adverse effects of these include dryness, tightness and redness.

Home remedies for oily skin

These ingredients have been used for years by people to treat oily skin. However, they are not science-based. 

Aloe Vera 

Oily skin is prone to several skin hazards, including acne. The plant of immortality (aloe vera) helps prevent bacteria build-up in your pores. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties speed up the healing process after a breakout. If you have sensitive skin, aloe vera may not be the best option for you.

Olive Oil 

It may sound a bit unusual to say that olive oil combats oily skin. However it can benefit your skin in several ways. 

  • Olive oil is rich in antioxidants that prevents bacteria build-up in your pores
  • It is a great way to moisturize your skin and keep it hydrated and soft throughout the day
  • Its antibacterial properties minimize breakouts
  • Olive oil is non-comedogenic and won’t clog your pores. It helps dissolve bacteria and excess sebum

Multani Mitti 

This is a tradition followed by our moms and grandmoms. A multani mitti (fuller’s earth) face pack is an excellent way of tackling bacteria and dead skin cells. It acts as natural clay and soaks up the excess oil on your face. 

Multani mitti is rich in zinc that is vital to treat oily and acne-prone skin. It also contains iron, silica, magnesium and oxides. Multani mitti face packs can also help lighten blemishes and have no side-effects.

How to make a multani-mitti face pack

Multani mitti can be teamed with a number of ingredients to treat oily skin like tomato and lemon, rosewater, curd and turmeric. Curd, turmeric, tomato and lemon help reduce oiliness and regulate sebum production. Rosewater helps in balancing pH levels. 


One of the most common natural ingredients used to create face-packs is honey. Honey contains antibacterial and antiseptic properties. 

It fights bacteria clogging pores and prevents build-up. It adds moisture to the skin and prevents it from producing too much oil. A thin layer of honey over your face should do the trick!


Oatmeal not only absorbs excess oil, but is also a great natural exfoliator! It can be combined with curd and honey to create a soothing face-pack.

Egg-white masks

An egg-white, honey and flour paste can be used as a face-pack. This will soak up the oil from your skin and add to its firmness. 


Healthy food and lots of water play a major role in building up your overall immunity. Is there something you may be eating that doesn’t quite suit your skin? 

Avoid diets that are high in carbohydrates. Raw vegetables, pulses, fruits and other foods rich in Vitamin A and fibers are a good option for people with oily skin. Switch to eating dark chocolate if you have a sweet tooth. It not only tastes delicious but also does a great job in preventing inflammation. It controls the oil production in the skin.

How to prevent oily skin throughout the day

  • Avoid rough towels - Rough towels can stimulate sebum production and aggravate the issue. 
  • Don’t use harsh chemical soaps - Too many chemicals can increase sebum production. It’s always a better idea to use mild skincare products.
  • Avoid unhealthy foods - Diets rich in carbohydrates may not be a good idea for anybody. As for the issue at stake, food rich in carbohydrates contributes to sebum production in the skin. (8)
  • Oil-free products are a must - Make sure your makeup and skincare products are labeled ‘oil-free’. (9)
  • Remove your makeup before you sleep - Skin hygiene is a thing and should be maintained. Remove your makeup and cleanse your face every night before you sleep. Your skin needs to breathe too, just like you! Sleeping with makeup on may result in clogged pores.
  • Don’t exfoliate too much - Exfoliating is great but isn’t a good idea for people with oily skin. Gently exfoliating your skin once every few days should be enough. You don’t want to stimulate your skin to overproduce sebum by constantly scrubbing on it.

Oily skin is not the most pleasant skin-type. It comes with multiple skin issues and can cause anxiety in a person. However, if you maintain skin hygiene, this won’t contribute to your list of problems!