How to Solve Oily Skin Problems

Oily skin and hair are a source of great anxiety for many. It's easy to feel you're in a "no-win" situation, because the more you clear the oil, the worse it seems to get! That, funnily enough, is the secret to keeping oily skin under control.

The human body is designed to keep everything in balance. Your system has its own standards, such as how much weight you should be carrying, or how dry your skin should be. If you attack those standards agressively, your system will panic and over-react to protect them.

So, if you use harsh products to remove every trace of oil from your skin, your system will over-compensate and produce even MORE oil. So the secret is to treat your skin gently. Creep up on the problem instead of hitting it head-on, so you don't trigger an over-reaction from your body.

If that's the key, you ask, why do so many cosmetic manufacturers make harsh products especially for oily skin? Because they sell, that's why! They are responding to what people instinctively want - products that will blitz the oil from their face. And, of course, if the products create more oil, why should the manufacturers worry? That means you have to buy more of their product!

My regime comes from a dermatologist who treated one of my friends for oily skin and severe pimples many years ago. The dermatologist's view was that the more we touch and tamper with the skin, the more oil it will produce - so his approach is to cut skincare back to the minimu needed for hygiene. And judging by my friend's skin, it really worked. I was so impressed, I've used the same routine myself ever since.

A Dermatologist's Prescription for Oily Skin Care

First of all, buy a pH balanced, water soluble cleanser. Neutrogena makes a good one. Or you could use a cleansing bar. Don't use a toner or astringent as they will only stimulate the production of oil.

Every evening:

  • Apply your cleanser, massaging it over the face.
  • Rinse the cleanser off thoroughly with cool or lukewarm water - 20 splashes at least (you can wipe most of it off with a clean washcloth first, if you prefer).
  • Use an eye make-up remover on your eyes if necessary.
  • Apply a little moisturiser on any dry areas, and dab some cream (e.g. Clearasil) on any spots.

In the morning, DO NOT CLEANSE. Your face hasn't got dirty overnight, so there's no need, and using cleanser or soap will only stimulate oil production. Plain water is enough to wash away sweat. Dunk your face under the shower (not too hot), splash it with water or wipe with a clean washcloth.

Everyone should use a sunscreen during the day. Look for one that is suitable for oily skin or claims to be non-comedogenic. If you use a foundation, you could choose one with a sunscreen built-in.

Please, don't use alcohol-based wipes (like Wet Ones) on your face. The alcohol will feel refreshing, but it will stimulate more oil. If you need to blot your face during the day, use a dry tissue or an alcohol-free baby wipe.

There's only one situation where anti-bacterial wipes should go anywhere near your face, and that's if you wear a hat.  A hatband is a breeding ground for bacteria, so whenever you take your hat off, it's important to clean your forehead - so if soap and water is not available, use a wipe.

For make-up, it's fine to use products that claim to control oily shine. These don't remove the oil, only soak it up, so they won't cause an over-reaction. Oil control powders and mineral foundations are usually more effective than liquid foundations. If you don't like the powdery look, apply the powder then take a slightly damp washcloth or cotton wool and work across your face, pressing the cloth firmly against your skin (make sure you press, don't rub, or you'll just wipe it off).

Your oily skin may seem to get worse for the first few days, but it will settle down with this gentle treatment. And by the way, there are some skin conditions (like rosacea) which look like acne but are actually the result of very sensitive skin. Harsh treatment can make those conditions dramatically worse, so this regime will help them, too.

Pimples and Acne

If your oily skin comes with pimples (acne), there is one very gentle but very effective treatment that's worth trying - blue light phototherapy. Until recently you had to get this done at a salon, at around $100 a session. Now there are hand-held, at-home devices available.

Trophy Skin BlueMD Acne Light Therapy Device
Trophy Skin BlueMD Acne Light Therapy Device

This home version of blue light therapy isn't quite as powerful as the big salon machine - but on the other hand, you're able to give yourself treatments more often, so it evens out!


The blue light therapy is effective for simple pimples and for skin conditions like rosacea. In fact, it's very healing on the skin generally. Don't confuse it with red light phototherapy, which reduces wrinkles and sagging and improves hydration.

There is one important thing to bear in mind when the grease on your face is driving you to despair: because your skin is so well lubricated, you will still be gloriously wrinkle-free when your dry-skinned friends are starting to crinkle around the eyes and grow furrows between their brows. So you DO have something positive to look forward to!


All text copyright Marisa Wright.

Facepack photo with thanks to JCardinal18, rinse photo by Freddy the Boy

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Comments 5 comments

Katherine Ko 8 months ago

Thank you so much for the tip. But I HIGHLY recommend Chambuu Facial Blotting Tissue. I personally use it since it's organic and it's made of Charcoal Bamboo which has high absorbent properties and it comes with 200 sheets for a cheap price. I hope it helps.

Ilana 6 years ago

Chocolate does contain a anti-oxidants, but we should all keep in mind that most chocolate (in candy form) comes with fat and sugar, which are not that good. But all in all, the most significant reason for oily skin is your genetics and not the food you eat. For more info on treating oily skin, see these pages: and

Liza_Gemz 6 years ago

Dark choc is good n got lots of antioxidant ... GREAT!!

Staci-Barbo7 profile image

Staci-Barbo7 7 years ago from North Carolina

Marisa, I had never heard that chocolate is an acne-fighting superfood, but I sure hope it is!!! That's just one more reason to believe that chocolate is REALLY good for me.

Lady_E profile image

Lady_E 7 years ago from London, UK

Very useful Hub Marisa. I will definitely do away with those alcohol wipes. Thanks for sharing. :)

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