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This article is from the WebMD Feature Archive

Oily skin: Solutions that work -- no matter what your age

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Although most people associate oily skin with the teenage years, age is only part of the story.

While problems don't usually begin until around puberty, for many people oily skin persists long after the school leavers’ disco has faded into memory. For some oily skin can last a lifetime. 

“If you have oily skin, you have oily skin.  It's just something that happens to some people,” says Dr Joel Schlessinger, of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery. While genes can play a role, if your mother or father had oily skin you might too. Hormones also can affect your skin.

Oil production is stimulated by hormone production, so anything that causes hormones to fluctuate can cause skin to become more oily, says dermatologist Dr Doris J Day. For women hormone changes occur not only during puberty, but at the start of each menstrual cycle and during pregnancy and perimenopause. For both women and men oily skin can be stimulated by any physical or emotional situation that puts hormones in a tailspin.

However there is good news: regardless of the cause(s) of your oily skin, there are steps you can take to control it.

We talked to four top dermatologists to gather the facts on what works and what doesn't to keep oily skin looking great. From proper cleansing techniques and oil-targeted skin care, to treatments aimed at reducing oil production, you can replace that oily shine with a healthy glow, in less time than you think.

Taking care of oily skin: where to start

Regardless of your age, oil (also known as sebum) is always produced by the sebaceous glands. 

Located deep within the second layer, or dermis, of the skin, these glands are most plentiful in the face, neck, chest, head and back, one reason that these areas appear to be affected by oil production the most. 

To get from the glands to your skin the oil flows into nearby follicular pores, and eventually works its way to the surface. Here it plays a vital role in the health of both skin and hair.

“It helps seal moisture in, which gives hair that healthy sheen and helps keep skin plump and hydrated,” says Dr Charles E Crutchfield, Clinical Associate Professor of Dermatology, at a US University. 

In some people too much oil is produced. Skin and hair no longer look healthy, but instead greasy, slick and even dirty. 

One way to control that is with proper cleansing.  If you think you need harsh products to scrub away the extra oil, think again. Experts say that's a big, and all too common, mistake.

Oily skin: solutions that work - no matter what your age

Oil production is nature's response to irritation, so the harsher the cleansing, the more likely the body is to respond by producing more oil, says Schlessinger.

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