In summer we can feel our skin much oilier than usual, but this does not mean that our skin is oily. Oily skin has unique characteristics that are determined by its biology, therefore, the skin care routine must be specific for this type of skin. 

What determines an oily skin? 

Oily skin is mainly determined by the sebaceous glands. These are located in the hair follicles that are in the dermis. Sebaceous glands are formed, mainly, by sebocytes, cells whose function is the production of sebum. 

Sebum has a protective function due to its acidity, which gives it an antibacterial property that avoids skin infections. Additionally, sebaceous glands of the scalp naturally lubricate the hair, favouring its growth. 

However, when the sebaceous glands produce excess sebum, the skin becomes oily. 

What causes the increase in sebum production? 

The production of sebum by the sebaceous glands differs from one person to another. There are different factors that have been proposed as determinants in the levels of sebum production. 

Hormones: High levels of testosterone in men and progesterone in women seem to correlate with an increased in sebum production [1]. 

Climate: In climates where humidity is higher, skin seems to produce sebum in a greater degree [1]. 

Genetics: As with atopic dermatitis, genetics appear to play a role in oily skin. Thus, it is more common to find people with oily skin when one of the parents also has this type of skin [2]. 

Stress: High levels of stress lead to increased production of cortisol, which can cause inflammation of the skin and an overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands [2]. In addition, stress has other effects on the skin, such as increased hair loss or aggravating the symptoms of atopic skin [3]. 

Lifestyle: Diet and tobacco have been related to sebum production. On the one hand, there seems to be a relationship between tobacco consumption and an increase in sebum production. On the other hand, high glucose foods may promote sebum production, however, the relationship between diet and oily skin is not entirely clear [2]. 

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Oily skin and acne 

The hormones testosterone and progesterone are involved in the development of the sebaceous glands in the skin. During adolescence, there is an excess production of these hormones, which leads to increased sebum production. When hair follicles become clogged, excess of oil cannot be released and that is when blackheads and pimples characteristic of acne occur. 

Oily skin and acne are not always synonymous; although oily skin favours the production of acne, acne is a skin disease that requires specialized treatment depending on its severity [4]. 

Take care of oily skin 

Each type of skin requires specialized care. Therefore, oily skin requires a care routine and specialized products: 

Retinoids: Topical application of retinoids, such as vitamin A, reduce sebum production. Retinoids bind to the nuclear retinoic acid receptor (RAR), which binds to a specific region of cell DNA called the retinoic acid response element (RARE). This binding results in the transcription of genes that promote growth and differentiation of keratinocytes, decreases inflammation, and sebum production by sebocytes from the sebaceous glands [2]. 

Olumacostat glasaretil: Human studies with a topycal gel of olumacostat glasaretil seems to reduce the production of saturated and monounsaturated acyl chains of the major sebaceous lipids, in addition to decrease the size of the sebaceous glands. The action of olumacostat glasaretil occurs by inhibiting coenzyme acetyl carboxylase A (ACC), which reduces the production of sebaceous lipids [5]. 


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Cosmetics: Cosmetic products that have sebum-regulating ingredients are indicated for oily skin care. These ingredients are zinc salts, thioxolone, cysteine, s-carboxymethyl cysteine, thiazolidine carboxylic acid. 

We can also find plant extracts with antiseborrheic properties like: Arnica montana, Betuna alba, Cupresus sempervirens, Rosmarinus officinalis, Urtica ureas, or juniper. Finally, derivatives of undecylenic acid such as undecylenoyl glycine, has activity as a seboregulator and antibacterial effect [6]. 

Daily routine: To keep oily skin under control, it is necessary to clean it both in the morning and at night. After cleaning, it is advisable to use special moisturizing creams for oily skin, since the protective layer of the skin can be affected. 

Thus, by maintaining a daily care routine and using specific products for each skin type, we will achieve hygiene and skin quality that will not make oily skin a problem. 


  1. Endly, D. C., & Miller, R. A. (2017). Oily Skin: A review of Treatment Options. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 10(8), 49–55. 
  5. Melnik B. C. (2017). Olumacostat Glasaretil, a Promising Topical Sebum-Suppressing Agent that Affects All Major Pathogenic Factors of Acne Vulgaris. The Journal of investigative dermatology, 137(7), 1405–1408. 

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