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What Causes Oily Skin? (Plus, 8 Products that Will Get Rid of Excess Shine)

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Oily skin can be frustrating, to say the least. That said, there are a few things you can do about it. For one, it’s important to know what causes oily skin to occur. Contrary to what you might think, there are several lifestyle factors that might have something to do with the excess oil wreaking havoc on your complexion. According to board-certified dermatologist, Dr. Debra Jaliman, hormones, stress and climate are all key factors in the causes of oily skin.


“The worst climate for oily skin is very hot, humid and tropical conditions,” says Dr. Jaliman. “When it is very hot there is an overgrowth of bacteria [which] tends to break the skin out,” she adds. While we don’t always have control over what climate we are in, there are some ways to combat the effects of it. For starters, Dr. Jaliman says to avoid certain ingredients like coconut oil, wheat germ oil and other comedogenic ingredients, as they “can be too greasy for oily skin and will clog your pores, especially if you are already oily.”

If you want an oily skin–friendly facial oil, Dr. Jaliman suggests trying jojoba oil, as “its structure is similar to that of your skin’s own sebum, so it’s more suitable for oily and acne-prone skin.” In addition, she recommends using products formulated with geranium essential oil because “it can help control the sebum production in your skin, [making it] suitable for oily skin types.”


According to Dr. Jaliman, hormones can also play a major role in the production of excess sebum. “Fluctuating hormones can result in increased androgen levels which can cause oily skin,” she says. For example, “When you are on your menstrual cycle, your oil glands are stimulated due to a change in hormones—which may cause oily skin.” If you are experiencing oily skin caused by fluctuating hormones, the first thing you should do is consult your doctor, as they can help create a customized game plan to help get things back on track.

In addition to consulting your doctor, you’ll want to stay away from some of the comedogenic ingredients previously mentioned. Plus, “Look for products formulated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid and aloe,” says Dr. Jaliman. She also suggests avoiding products formulated with oil, as those tend to be comedogenic, meaning they can clog pores.


Can we all agree that stress is the ultimate enemy? These days, stress is all around us, wreaking havoc on our lives, and, as it turns out, making our skin worse too. Furthermore, one major impact stress has on the skin is actually its impact on our hormones (go figure!). “Stress can cause hormonal changes,” says Dr. Jaliman. “This can lead to an increase in the production of oil from oil glands,” she notes.

While some products can help combat the effect of oil overdrive, they can’t target the root cause—aka, the stress. With that in mind, you might want to consider taking a closer look at what is causing your stress. Once you’ve determined where your stress lives, seek ways to ease the impact it has on your life. Some of our favorite ways to reduce stress are meditation, yoga, taking a relaxing bath, turning our phones off and reading a book.

The Best Products For Excess Oil

In addition to the causes of oily skin, knowing what types of products to buy can be super helpful in your quest for clearer, less oily skin. We share some of the best products to combat excess oil, ahead.

  1. 1. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46
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    1. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46

    Shopping for an everyday sunscreen can prove to be quite the challenge—especially for those with oily skin. With that in mind, Dr. Jaliman suggests looking for “products labeled as oil-free and non-comedogenic,” or, in other words, products formulated for acne-prone skin. EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 is enriched with lactic acid, which is known for its ability to gently exfoliate the surface of the skin. Using products formulated with exfoliating ingredients like lactic acid can allow products to better penetrate the skin, rather than float on the surface and cause more buildup of oils.

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  2. 2. GlamGlow GRAVITYMUD Firming Treatment
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    2. GlamGlow GRAVITYMUD Firming Treatment

    Those with oily skin can benefit from the use of weekly at-home mask treatments, such as GlamGlow’s GRAVITYMUD Firming Treatment. Formulated with witch hazel, licorice and marshmallow leaf, the deep-cleansing facial mask can help rid the skin’s surface of excess oil buildup and reveal a cleaner, fresher, more refined-looking complexion post-facial.

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  3. 3. Peter Thomas Roth Max Anti-Shine Mattifying Gel
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    3. Peter Thomas Roth Max Anti-Shine Mattifying Gel

    There’s a difference between shine and glowing skin and Peter Thomas Roth Max Anti-Shine Mattifying Gel exists to help you achieve the latter without adding to the mess of excess oil. Thanks to its lightweight formula and mattifying effect, the gel treatment can help minimize the look of pores, absorb excess oil and allow for a fresher makeup application.

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  4. 4. Dermalogica Active Moist
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    4. Dermalogica Active Moist

    When it comes to shopping for oily skin–friendly products, reading the labels is important. That said, sometimes the name alone can tell you if it was made for your skin type. Case in point: Dermalogica Active Moist. This oily skin lotion is formulated with burdock, sage and cucumber to calm and hydrate the skin.


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  5. 5. Avene Oil-Free Gel Cleanser
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    5. Avene Oil-Free Gel Cleanser

    Per Dr. Jaliman’s advice about products labeled oil-free, Avene Oil-Free Gel Cleanser can be a great option for those who experience a buildup of sebum on the regular. The lightweight gel cleanser works hard to gently rid the skin of dirt and excess oil from the day’s grind, revealing a softer, smoother, more refreshed-looking complexion post-cleanse. In addition, its formula contains Avene Thermal Spring Water, which can soothe the skin and have a mattifying effect on the complexion.

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  6. 6. SkinCeuticals Daily Moisture
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    6. SkinCeuticals Daily Moisture

    Made with oily and combination skin types in mind, SkinCeuticals Daily Moisture can provide the skin with a hydration boost, sans the oil slick. Enriched with a blend of algae extracts, vitamin E and witch hazel, the daily moisturizer pairs well with oily or combination skin as it protects against environmental aggressors, tones the complexion, helps balance oil production and even refines the look of pores.

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  7. 7. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask With Red Clay
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    7. First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Purifying Mask With Red Clay

    Your search for a peel-off face mask for oily skin ends here. Enriched with mineral-rich red clay, licorice root, vitamin C and probiotics, First Aid Beauty’s Skin Rescue Purifying Mask With Red Clay acts like a magnet to draw impurities away from the surface of the skin while helping to deep-clean the complexion, target breakout-causing aggressors and promote a clearer, more even-looking complexion.

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  8. 8. FOREO LUNA for Combination Skin
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    8. FOREO LUNA for Combination Skin

    Cleansing the skin is important, especially for those prone to excess oil and breakouts. That said, sometimes your hands alone won’t cut it. That’s where the FOREO LUNA for Combination Skin comes into play. Made for complexions that experience both dry and oily areas, the silicone facial-cleansing brush uses T-sonic technology to gently massage the skin, exfoliate the complexion and get rid of pore-clogging dirt and debris in one simple step. Pair it with your favorite face wash and you won’t be sorry.

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Beauty Reporter

Jessie Quinn

Jessie Quinn is a writer and editor with work published in NYLON Magazine,,,, and more. She is a graduate of Academy of Art University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fashion Journalism. Originally from Los Angeles, she currently resides in Brooklyn—her home for the last five years. In Jessie’s free time, you can find her creating content for her beauty blog, Hair Skin Kale, testing out DIY beauty recipes, exploring her neighborhood, or binge-watching episodes of Friends. Her background in fashion has taught her that beautiful skin never goes out of style. Follow her on Instagram.