5 Super-Secret Things That Are Making Your Skin Oily

Burgers and fries may be the least of your worries.

Oily skin
(Image credit: Getty)

The whiteheads forming a constellation on your left cheek. The pesky blackheads on your nose. The fresh pimple on your forehead...

You have but one thing to blame for them *all* and that's your very own skin oil, otherwise known as sebum. It's mixing with dead skin cells—and a slew of other things you don't want to think about —and clogging your thousands of pores. And as Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne wash commercials have been teaching us for forever, this is what ultimately causes breakouts. (Not to mention, the ever-unfortunate shiny forehead situation.)

Because summer is bound to make excess oil that much more of an issue, we decided to get to the bottom of what's causing it right beneath our noses (because it's not just Shake Shack, right?) with help from Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group.

Over-Cleaning the Skin

Okay so this is the trigger you really have control over. "Skin that is being over-washed or over-cleansed will sense that the barrier is being stripped. And although you can over-dry your skin this way, many patients will notice their skin looking shinier as their oil glands try to balance things out," explains Nazarian. She advises sticking to a simple gentle cleanser, like the classic Dove Beauty Bar ($5.49), and patting skin dry rather than rubbing too vigorously.

Dove soap

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Non-Greasy Foods

It's no secret that fried, unsaturated fats are making you shiny, but dairy products can be just as guilty of clogging up pores. This is because dairy, even if it's organic, contains natural hormones. Furthermore, much like refined grains (white bread, pretzels, and rice), it's a source of sugar, which can raise your glycemic index.

Your Hormones

Simply put: Your period has a LOT to do with it. "Your monthly hormonal cycle, which fluctuates week to week can trigger increased activity of the oil glands in the skin, even on your scalp" she says. "This means you may feel like your skin is getting oilier and shinier depending on time of your cycle." Being more wary of the week leading up to/during your period is key, and hey, tucking blotting papers into your handbag can't hurt. Try: Tatcha Aburatorigami Beauty Papers ($12).


(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Your Go-To Products

I know—say it ain't so, but it's time to take a closer look at the ingredients and consistency of what you're slathering on your face. "I see many patients that don't realize the products they're putting on their skin can be making their oiliness worse," says Nazarian. "Avoiding heavier products allows your skin to continue getting feedback from its surroundings and in many ways 'breathe' more effectively, avoiding unnecessary excess oil production." A good rule of thumb is looking for products that are strictly oil-free and feel light on your skin. 

Your Genes

Ah! The genetic lottery strikes again. "The number of glands and their activity level is actually a pretty complex and specific characteristic of each individual and it's influenced by your genetics,  meaning your skin may, at baseline, produce more oil, or you may have more oil glands on your face, then someone else." Whomp, whomp. But that's why the universe invented clay masks! Kiehl's Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque ($26) is our tried-and-true favorite. 

Kiehl's Cleansing Masque

(Image credit: Marie Claire)

Follow Marie Claire on Instagram for the latest celeb news, pretty pics, funny stuff, and an insider POV.

Lauren Valenti
Lauren Valenti

I’m the associate web editor at Marie Claire. I love to while away the hours at coffee shops, hunt for vintage clothes, and bask in the rough-and-tumble beauty of NYC. I firmly believe that solitude can be a luxury if you’ve got the right soundtrack—that being the Rolling Stones, of course.