Skin Type 101: A Beginner's Guide to Oily Skin for Men

Everything you need to know about men's oily skin; including the causes and best ingredients. 

Man washing face
Written by Rebecca Loades
Apr 26, 2023 

Let's start by clearing the air, oily skin is a very common skin type - it is perfectly normal to have oily skin as much as it is to have any other skin type. Everyone with oily skin may have a different experience as it will depend on one's genetics and skincare routine (source).

There are different ways to approach and treat every skin type as it is a combination of internal and external factors. A good example would be your diet, what you put into your body will always be reflected on your skin.

What does it mean to have oily skin?

Men with oily skin type tend to have shiny or greasy-looking skin with large visible clogged pores and possibly blackheads. This can become more and more apparent when there is no men's oily skincare routine in place. Oily skin is usually caused when your skin naturally produces too much sebum (source). So, how does this happen? 

Our skin naturally produces oil, but the amount we produce varies from person to person. It starts at the sebaceous glands, which are microscopic glands living under the skin. Its main function is to excrete sebum, which is an oily substance. It uses the hair follicles to transport oil from inside the skin to the exterior (source).

Sometimes the sebaceous glands produce too much oil; therefore, it has to excrete more sebum than usual (source). This can be caused by hormones, genetics, lifestyle, and even stress. When you have oily skin, you’re more prone to breakouts, blocked pores, large pores, and acne. 

What causes oily skin?

There are several factors that can contribute to oily skin.

• Genetics can surprisingly have an affect on how oily your skin is. Oily skin can run in families, meaning that if your parents or grandparents had oily skin, you may be more likely to experience it as well.

• Environmental factors, such as hot and humid weather, can trigger the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, leading to oily skin.

• Hormonal changes, particularly during puberty, can lead to increased sebum production and oily skin. Certain medications are known to affect a change in hormone levels and the production of sebum in the skin. It's important to discuss this with your doctor. 

• Using skincare and makeup products that are too heavy or not suitable for your skin type can disrupt the balance of sebum production, leading to increased oiliness. Also, washing your face too frequently, and not moisturising can all lead to an overproduction of sebum as the skin tries to compensate for the loss of moisture.

• Dehydration causes oily skin due to the sebaceous glands producing a large amount of oil to overcompensate for the lack of moisture in the skin. 

• Diet and lifestyle can also be contributing factors. Some studies have suggested that a diet high in carbohydrates and dairy products can contribute to oily skin. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as white bread, sugary snacks, and soft drinks, can also exacerbate oily skin by increasing insulin levels and inflammation in the body.

How do men deal with oily skin? 

Now that you know where oily skin comes from, it might be useful to learn a few tips on men's oily skin and how you can take care of it. Oily skin still needs to be kept nourished and hydrated - it can be oily and dehydrated at the same time.

Just like you need to exercise to get and stay in shape, your skin also needs consistent attention. The best way to deal with oily skin is to have a specific skincare routine in place and follow it daily. This would support you when taking care of oily skin as well as any other reaction said skin type might have caused, acne is a good example of oily skin outcomes (source). 

Cleansing - This is an essential step for oily skin to remove excess oil, dirt, and impurities. Look for a gentle, oil-free or foaming cleanser that won't strip the skin of its natural oils, as harsh cleansers can cause the skin to produce even more sebum in response to the dryness.

Exfoliation - Exfoliating 1-2 times a week can help unclog pores and remove dead skin cells that can contribute to oily skin. Look for a gentle exfoliator with salicylic acid, which is a beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) that can penetrate the pores and help control excess oil.

Toning - Using a toner formulated for oily skin can help balance the skin's pH and remove any remaining traces of oil and impurities. Look for a toner that contains witch hazel, tea tree oil, or other astringent ingredients that can help tighten the pores and control oiliness.

Moisturising - Contrary to popular belief, oily skin still needs moisturisation. Look for a lightweight, oil-free, or non-comedogenic moisturiser that can hydrate the skin without clogging pores. Hyaluronic acid or water-based moisturizers can be a good option for oily skin as they provide hydration without adding excess oil.

Sun protection -  Sunscreen is crucial for all skin types, including oily skin. Look for a non-greasy, oil-free, or matte-finish sunscreen with at least SPF 30 that can protect the skin from harmful UV rays without adding extra oiliness.

man wiping face

Top tips for managing oily skin

In addition to a proper skincare routine, here are some additional tips for managing oily skin:

• Avoid over-washing - Over-washing the face can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to increased sebum production. Stick to cleansing your face twice a day, morning and night, and avoid using hot water, as it can stimulate oil production.

• Use oil-absorbing products -  Look for skincare products or makeup that are labeled oil-free or oil-absorbing. These products are formulated to help control excess oil and keep the skin matte.

• Use blotting papers - Keep blotting papers on hand throughout the day to gently blot away excess oil without disrupting your makeup. Blotting papers can help control shine and keep your skin looking fresh.

• Avoid heavy makeup - Heavy or oil-based makeup can clog pores and exacerbate oily skin. Opt for oil-free or non-comedogenic makeup products, and try to keep your makeup minimal and lightweight to avoid adding extra oiliness to your skin.

• Don't touch your face - Avoid touching your face with your hands throughout the day, as it can transfer dirt and oil from your hands to your face, leading to breakouts and increased oiliness. Be mindful and resist the urge to touch your face, especially if your hands are not clean.

• Watch your diet - Although there is no direct link between diet and oily skin, some research suggests that consuming a high glycemic index (GI) diet, which is high in sugary and processed foods, may contribute to increased sebum production and worsen oily skin. Opt for a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to promote overall skin health.

• Stay hydrated - Drinking enough water can help keep your skin hydrated and balanced, which can in turn help regulate sebum production. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep your skin and body well-hydrated.

Ingredients and routine for men’s oily skin

When getting started with a skincare routine, there are a few ingredients you can keep in mind when choosing what products to use. You should be cleansing day and night, whatever your skin type.

This is far more important with oily skin to remove excess oil and avoid blocking your pores. Use a gentle cleanser that won’t strip the natural oils from your skin - stripping your skin can actually lead to it producing even more oil to compensate. It’s very important to read up on the products you are adding to your running to make sure they are “oil-free” products (source).

Ensure to replenish your skin with a light moisturiser afterwards so that your skin doesn’t dry out. Below are some of the most common and easy-to-find ingredients to help you get your routine started:

Salicylic Acid
• Retinoids
• Glycolic Acid 

Is it safe to use a moisturiser for oily skin?

Absolutely, it is safe to use a moisturiser even if you have oily skin. In fact, using a moisturiser can actually help regulate oil production and improve the overall appearance of your skin.

When your skin is dehydrated, it can actually produce more oil to compensate, leading to a vicious cycle of excess oil production and breakouts.
Using a lightweight, oil-free moisturiser can help hydrate your skin without adding excess oil or causing breakouts. Look for moisturisers that are specifically formulated for oily skin, and that are labeled as non-comedogenic (meaning they won't clog pores). Ingredients such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid can help hydrate the skin without leaving a greasy residue.

Additionally, if you have oily skin, it's best to use a water-based moisturiser instead of an oil-based one. Water-based moisturisers are lighter and more easily absorbed by the skin, making them less likely to clog pores or cause breakouts. It's important to remember that everyone's skin is different, and what works for one person may not work for another.

You can read more about the best moisturisers for oily skin here

Ingredients to avoid if you have oily skin

As well as great ingredients and products to rely on, there are also a few things you might need to keep an eye on and try to avoid.

• Cocoa Butter & Shea Butter - These can be too too oily for the skin and cause breakouts. 
• Coconut Oil
• Petroleum Jelly (vaseline, for example)
• Alcohol - This can strip the skin of natural oils. 
• Silicones - Whilst they can help to smooth the skin, they can also trap oil and debris in the pores. Keep an eye out for non-comedogenic silicones such as dimethicone or cyclomethicone. 

These ingredients can be heavy and rich on the skin and can block your pores; causing an overproduction of sebum on the skin. 

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