Oily skin occurs when glands in the skin produce too much sebum. Several home remedies, lifestyle adjustments, and clinical treatments may help reduce the appearance of oily skin.

Oily skin is a common concern for many people. It can also lead to a variety of skin conditions.

This article details several methods for reducing oil on the skin, what causes it to occur, and when a person should contact a doctor.

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There are plenty of ways to reduce the appearance of oily skin. Some are home remedies, while others are more clinical.

These methods include:

1. Cleansing regularly

Washing the face with a gentle, pH-balanced, nonsoap cleanser every morning and evening is crucial to maintaining clean, healthy skin.

People may also benefit from choosing gentle face washes. This is because strong, harsh products can trigger additional oil production.

2. Limiting alcohol use

Chronic alcohol consumption can damage the blood vessels. It can cause blood vessels and oil glands to enlarge, which also enlarges the skin’s pores.

As a result, people with oily skin may benefit from reducing alcohol consumption.

3. Using salicylic acid products

Gentle exfoliation, ideally using a chemical-based exfoliator such as salicylic acid weekly, can help remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and other debris from the skin’s surface.

For best results, people should apply exfoliating products in gentle, small, circular motions for around 30 seconds or less using warm water.

4. Using blotting papers or medicated pads

Blotting papers and medicated pads can usually help absorb excess oil from the skin’s surface.

People can gently press blotting papers or pads against the skin for a few seconds. It’s best to use a new paper or pad when it becomes filled with oil or debris.

5. Moisturizing regularly

Some people think that moisturizers increase the amount of oil on the skin or clog the pores, but oil-free, noncomedogenic moisturizers help keep the skin hydrated.

For especially oily skin, people can try using a higher formula moisturizer at night, such as switching from heavy cream to a serum or gel.

6. Making a facial mask

Although scientific evidence is limited, people have used various herbal or natural products to reduce excess skin oil. It is possible to incorporate many of these products into homemade masks.

According to recent research, some of the most studied and recommended masks for reducing oily skin include clay and parsley.

Clay — especially green clay — has several cosmetic uses, including absorbing and removing debris, dirt, and oil from the skin’s surface.

Parsley contains a diverse mixture of vitamins and minerals that help manage sebum production and absorption. Masks containing around 4% parsley powder could be effective in managing excess oil.

7. Using products with green tea

The antioxidant polyphenols in green tea could help treat various skin conditions, including oily skin. Although more research is necessary, one 2017 review found that the polyphenols in green tea may reduce sebum secretion.

People may benefit from using moisturizers, toners, or facial washes with a 3% green tea extract.

8. Making dietary changes

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that high glycemic foods and beverages may stimulate inflammation and sebum production as they raise blood sugars quickly.

Therefore, people with oily skin should try to focus on eating low glycemic foods, such as:

Given its glycemic index, cow’s milk can also trigger acne through inflammatory pathways. This results in clogged pores.

9. Reducing stress

Stress can trigger the release of hormones, including cortisol, that help produce sebum.

As a result, reducing stress may reduce oil production in the skin. A person may wish to try stress-reducing techniques, such as:

10. Using mineral and setting powders

Oil-free and water- or mineral-based makeup products are less likely to clog the pores. Setting powders that do not contain talc can also help absorb excess facial oils.

11. Removing makeup before going to bed

When a person leaves makeup on overnight, it can clog the pores and irritate the skin.

Always remove makeup before bed using a gentle, pH-balanced cleanser. Remember to gently dab the face dry with a clean cloth rather than scrubbing it.

12. Using a sonic cleanser

Using sonic brush cleansers can provide deeper cleansing and exfoliation that may help reduce excess sebum.

One 2019 review concluded that sonic cleansers may offer a gentle, effective way to remove debris without stripping away too much sebum.

Learn more about unclogging pores on the nose here.

13. Using products with retinoids

Derivatives of vitamin A called retinoids may reduce sebum production and pore size. However, a 2017 review concluded that further research is necessary to assess the provisional link between retinoids and sebum production.

These are prescription products, so a person should talk with a board certified dermatologist for more information.

14. Using products with niacinamide

Niacinamide, a derivative of vitamin B3, could help reduce sebum excretion rates and reduce the appearance of oily skin.

According to one 2017 review, 100 people who applied topical products with 2% niacinamide experienced significant reductions in sebum production rates after 2–4 weeks of use.

15. Using products with L-carnitine

Some research shows that L-carnitine, an amino acid the body produces to help break down fatty acids, may help decrease the appearance of oily skin.

16. Using isotretinoin

Isotretinoin, an oral retinoid, can reduce the amount of sebum the sebaceous glands produce. However, this medication is only suitable for the treatment of severe acne.

People should only take isotretinoin as prescribed by a healthcare professional.

17. Trying hormonal therapy

Hormonal medications, such as antiandrogens, could be effective in reducing sebum production.

In one study, dermatologists used spironolactone to treat oily skin in females. They found that their skin produced less sebum.

Studies show that cyproterone acetate (not available in the United States) reduced sebum production in females.

18. Taking oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives may help balance hormones that can trigger excess oil production. Estrogen, in particular, seems to reduce sebum production.

However, it is worth noting that some types of progestin that a person may take with estrogen can actually increase sebum production.

Therefore, people should discuss their contraceptive plan with a doctor to ensure that they receive a type of progestin that is not associated with oily skin.

19. Receiving Botox injections

Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections inhibit the growth of sebaceous glands and reduce sebum production.

Injections may produce results within a week, but a person may need treatment every few weeks or months to maintain the results.

The sebaceous glands are small glands in the skin. They are present on all areas of the skin except the palms and soles of the feet.

These glands produce sebum, an oily substance that coats and protects the skin. When the body produces too much sebum, the skin can become oily. Sebum can mix with dead skin cells and other debris, which may block pores. This can lead to skin conditions such as acne.

Learn more about sebum here.

A person can talk with a doctor whenever oily skin becomes a concern for them, either physically or psychologically. This is especially important if home or over-the-counter (OTC) remedies do not seem to have any effect.

Home and OTC remedies can reduce the appearance of oily skin. Most offer fairly immediate, though temporary, results. However, some only work after weeks or months of consistent use.

Oily skin can be a cosmetic nuisance, but excess skin oil can also clog the pores and contribute to the development of acne — which, without treatment, can cause scarring.

Most people will experience oily skin at some point in their lives. To remedy it, they can try cleansers or home remedies.

A person should talk with a doctor about severely oily skin, especially when home remedies or OTC cleansers do not seem to work.