Myths You Should Stop Believing About Oily Skin

If your skin regularly sparkles and shines, even though you're not intentionally going for the disco beauty look, you probably have oily skin. According to WebMD, oily skin is the result of excess sebum, a natural oil that protects skin and hair. Everyone's skin produces sebum, but oily skin tends to make more of it, leading to a greasy appearance and feel.


Oily skin is often synonymous with teen years, though for some people, it can last into adulthood too. In fact, 35% of people in their 30s and beyond experience oily skin, according to SOFW Journal. Even though it's common, there can be a bit of confusion over this slick and shiny skin type.

Caring for an oily complexion begins with separating fact from fiction. Here, we debunk common myths about the causes of oily skin, how to treat it, and whether you're stuck with it forever (spoiler: you might not be).

Oily skin needs frequent washing

You just washed your face an hour ago but a shiny layer of oil is already making an appearance on your face. Should you give it another washing just to be safe? Absolutely not, according to experts. According to Healthline, many people with oily skin believe the myth that they should cleanse more than other skin types. In reality, twice a day is enough — once in the morning and once at night. If you exercise or sweat a lot in between washes, an extra quick wipe or rinse will do.


Dermatologist Dr. Loretta Ciraldo told Allure that signs of overwashing typically include a "tight and dry feeling," sensitivity, and redness. However, when people with oily skin overwash, the face may produce even more oil, perpetuating the cycle.

Strike a balance by limiting how often you cleanse. And if your skin turns greasy between washes, Medical News Today suggests soaking up excess oil with blotting papers as needed.

Oil and sunscreen don't mix

Sunblock can sometimes leave a greasy residue, so for people with naturally greasy skin, it can be tempting to skip the SPF entirely. But sun protection is a must — without it, you're more likely to get skin cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


It's a myth that oily skin can't tolerate sunscreen. The key is to look for formulations that won't cause breakouts. Dr. Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital's dermatology department, told Better by Today that those with oily, acne-prone skin should look for sunblocks with "non-comedogenic" on the label. This means it doesn't contain pore-clogging ingredients.

If you're still not convinced, Healthline explains that sunburns typically leave your skin parched, which can actually trigger sebaceous glands to work overtime — meaning your oily skin will become even more oily. Try out different SPFs until you find the right match for your skin, and make sure to slather it on every day.


Harsh products are necessary to control oily skin

The best way to stop oil in its tracks is by using drying ingredients, right? Not exactly. Stripping oils from the skin by going overboard on exfoliators and other harsh skincare products can make oily skin worse, says Healthline. And some go-to ingredients may be killing your glow, rather than controlling excess shine.


For example, Dr. Loretta Ciraldo told Well+Good that oily skin types should ditch acne-fighting benzoyl peroxide because it can cause "skin to overcompensate for the drying side effects of the ingredient," resulting in more oil. Similarly, Dr. Joshua Zeichner explained to Byrdie the downsides of using alcohol on the skin. "Alcohol-based products like toners may help remove excess oil from the skin but oftentimes goes too far to strip the skin, leading to irritation."

Add just a couple of ingredients to keep oil at bay without overdrying, such as salicylic acid and retinoids (per Radiance by WebMD). And overall, a gentle skincare routine, using gel cleansers and mild exfoliants, will keep your complexion supple, not stripped.


Oily skin can't be dry or dehydrated

Dry skin can sometimes be caused by a lack of oil production, says Mayo Clinic. So you might assume that oily skin can't possibly be dry or dehydrated. However, oily skin can suffer from dryness too (per Healthline). This type of skin is called "combination skin," and it's usually rooted in genetics. As for dehydration, any skin type can become dehydrated, which indicates a lack of water in the body, according to Medical News Today. Even if you look dewy on the outside, you may be parched on the inside.


So what's the fix for dry or dehydrated oily skin? A good starting point is your diet. Consume healthy oils, such as fish oil, and stay hydrated with water throughout the day. And even if your face is already glistening, you still need a moisturizer to lock in hydration. Oily and combination skin types should look for products that are oil-free, non-comedogenic, and lightweight, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick told Good Housekeeping.

Oily skin only affects the face

When you think of oily skin, you may only think of the face. But it's wrong to believe that this skin type is limited to your mug. Oily skin can also affect your scalp and hair, according to skin and hair care brand Ducray. The glands that release oily sebum are located primarily around the center of the face and the scalp — so if one of these areas is oily, there's a good chance the other is too.


However, you might not notice excess oil on your scalp, depending on your hair type. Curly, thick hair is less likely to appear greasy, while straight or fine hair might look oily soon after wash day (per Medical News Today). In either case, an oily scalp can be managed by cleansing regularly with a clarifying shampoo and using lightweight conditioners and styling products.

Limiting your intake of dairy and sugary, high-glycemic foods may also control oil on the scalp — a strategy that might also fight acne, according to Dr. Mark Hyman.

There are no benefits of having oily skin

Having oily skin might mean your face shines easily and you have to watch out for pore-clogging ingredients, but there are some hidden perks of having this skin type. Most notably, the oils on your skin may protect against signs of aging. Skin expert Katherine Frizoni explained to Cosmopolitan, "Oily skin is better at holding in natural moisture than dry skin. It works like a natural lid for your skin. When skin cells are moisturized they are able to function much more effectively and produce the goodies our skin needs to stay healthy like collagen, elastin, natural moisturizing factors and lipids." Translation: your skin might age more slowly than your dry-skinned friends.


A 2009 study published in the Journal of Zhejiang University-SCIENCE B (via Springer Link) backed this up, concluding that people with oily skin were less likely to experience skin creases and sagging. So next time you reach for your blotting papers, consider it the tiny price you must pay for skin that naturally ages well.

You'll have oily skin forever

It's a myth that skin type is a fixed part of who you are like a zodiac sign or personality type. "Your skin type can change over time due to environmental factors, age, hormones, and other health-related issues," dermatologist Dr. Michele Green explained to Byrdie. It's true that genetics can determine whether or not you'll have oily skin (per Healthline), but it's also common for skin to produce less oil as you age and go through other life changes. That can lead to skin that takes on the characteristics of "normal" or "dry" skin types, even if you've struggled with excess oil for years.


Besides natural and health-related triggers, there are also skin treatments that can permanently limit sebum production, especially if oil is accompanied by severe acne. One example is isotretinoin, or Accutane, which shrinks oil glands for good, according to Camas Swale Medical Clinic. However, DermaDoctor notes that while some people will stay grease-free after taking the medication, others may find that their oiliness returns.