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

Read on to learn about some methods for making the skin less oily. This article also covers when to see a doctor.

A young woman washes her face with cleanser as one of the ways how to get rid of oily skin.Share on Pinterest
Alongside gentle or medicated cleansers, reducing stress and making dietary changes may help reduce the appearance of oily skin.

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, non-soap cleanser every morning and evening — as well as after exercise — is crucial to maintaining clean, healthy skin.

It is important to choose gentle, foaming 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 and cause blood vessels and oil glands to enlarge, which also enlarges the skin’s pores.

Try to limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink daily.

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.

Apply exfoliating products in gentle, small, circular motions for around 30 seconds or under using warm water.

4. Using blotting papers or medicated pads

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

Gently press blotting papers or pads against the skin for a few seconds, and 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.

Look for daytime moisturizers with an SPF of 30 or higher that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.

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

6. Making a facial mask

Although scientific evidence is limited, people have used a variety of 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. Clay also helps tone the skin.

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

Try applying moisturizers, toners, or using facial washes with a 3% green tea extract.

8. Making dietary changes

The American Academy of Dermatology suggest 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:

  • most fresh vegetables
  • some fresh fruits
  • beans and peas
  • most whole grain oats and cereals

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

9. Reducing stress

Researchers know that stress can trigger the release of hormones that help produce sebum.

Try limiting stress by using stress-reducing techniques such as:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • avoiding nicotine or alcohol
  • sleeping well
  • exercising regularly
  • staying hydrated

10. Using mineral and setting powders

Oil-free and water- or mineral-based makeup products are less likely to clog the pores. Using 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 a deeper level of 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

Although more research is necessary, it seems that certain derivatives of vitamin A called retinoids — in particular, tretinoin and tazarotene — reduce pore contents and sebum production.

These are prescription products, so a person should talk to 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.

Try using topical products with 2% L-carnitine to reduce oily skin.

16. Using isotretinoin

One older study found that isotretinoin, an oral retinoid, reduced sebum production by 90% over 6 weeks. Isotretinoin may, therefore, be an effective treatment for severe acne.

Most people who complete 4–6 months of treatment may be free of acne within this timeframe, but the results depend on the dosage.

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. Other research also found that cyproterone acetate 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.

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