What Are the Causes of Oily Skin?

Mother Dirt

Everyone experiences oily skin from time to time. Whether you’ve had oily skin since you were a teenager or just seem to get a little greasy during certain times of the month, oily skin can be hard to manage.

Learning how to bring your skin back into the neutral, non-oily zone starts by learning what causes your oily skin in the first place. 

Let’s get our hands a little greasy and learn about why skin gets oily and what you can do to combat it.

What Is Oily Skin?

Maybe your skin is oily, or maybe it isn’t. Sometimes it’s hard to determine, especially if your oiliness shows up in patches instead of all over your face. 

Classic oily skin is hallmarked by:

  • Skin that feels excessively moist or greasy to the touch;
  • Large, visible pores;
  • Shiny areas of skin, especially on the forehead, nose and chin; and
  • Skin that is blemish-prone.

If you can identify with most of these symptoms, chances are you’ve got some really active sebaceous glands.

Oily skin is the result of overactive sebaceous glands that produce too much sebum, the natural oil your skin makes to protect it and keep it hydrated. 

However, there are numerous reasons why your sebaceous glands can make too much oil. 

Causes of Oily Skin

You can have oily skin your entire life, or develop it during certain times. Here are some of the most common factors that trigger your sebaceous glands to put in overtime.


Blame it on genetics because science says that oily skin has a lot to do with our parents. If your parents have oily skin or had it when they were younger, you’re more likely to have it, too. 

What makes oily skin hereditary? It’s all in the glands. 

The size of your sebaceous glands is determined by genetic factors, and if you have larger sebaceous glands, you’ll have oilier skin. 

If you want to make an educated guess as to whether or not you’ll end up with oily skin at some point, look at your parents’ pore sizes (and your own). If you have pores that are visible in areas like the nose, cheeks and chin, you’ll likely experience oily skin at some point in your life.


Oily skin and acne are often attributed to a particular change in hormones during the monthly cycle of individuals who are of menstruating age. While this is true, it’s also important to note that hormonal changes can affect all members of the population, not just those who menstruate. 

Hormones regulate functions and processes in our bodies from metabolizing blood sugar to controlling proper growth and development. As such, our hormones are constantly changing, which can lead to fluctuations in the amount of moisture in our skin. 

For instance, when androgen hormones, like testosterone, are at its highest, the sebaceous glands produce more oil. 

The oil produced when testosterone is high is thicker, stickier, and more problematic than the oil normally produced by sebaceous glands. Thick oil production can clog pores more easily and lead to breakouts and blemishes. 

Conversely, when more estrogen is produced, the skin seems to benefit from an increase in collagen production, more balanced moisture levels, and even faster wound healing. 


It’s no secret our skin changes as we age. 

One of the biggest and most notable changes is that our sebaceous glands begin to slow down with sebum production. This is why oily skin is most common in young adults and teenagers. 

It’s possible to still have oily skin during middle age and even in your 60’s and 70’s, but it is much less common. The benefit of having oily skin into adulthood, is that the added moisture can help keep your skin looking more youthful.


If you seem to experience oily skin only during certain seasons, the climate could be the culprit. Living in a hot, humid climate can cause your skin to be oilier than it would be in colder, drier locations. 

If you live in a temperate zone, your oiliness can become seasonal. Additionally, the presence of air conditioners and heaters can leech moisture from your skin, making it dry. 

When this happens, your sebaceous glands can produce more oil to compensate, leaving you with oily skin. 

Improper Skin Care and Products

Oftentimes we self-sabotage our skin without even realizing it. Lack of a solid skin care routine, failure to actually take care of your oily skin, and using products that are too harsh for your skin type can all cause skin to be oily and irritated. 

Continually skipping makeup removal or face cleansing at the end of the day can lead to oiliness and breakouts. Sometimes, products marketed to individuals with oily skin can have adverse effects on the skin. 

Many oil-targeting products work a little too good, stripping your skin of all its natural moisture and leaving it dry and chapped. Your sebaceous glands then get the message that more oil is needed to lubricate the skin, so they produce even more oil. This leaves your skin oily once more. 

An Unbalanced Skin Microbiome

Your skin is host to a vast population of healthy bacteria that keep it functioning properly and looking radiant. This little ecosystem is called your skin’s microbiome

Normally, your skin’s microbiome does a great job of taking care of itself: healthy levels of bacteria prevent intrusion from bad bacteria and keep your skin even and your pH level perfectly balanced. 

However, when the skin’s microbiome becomes unbalanced, you can experience chronic skin conditions and disruption in your skin’s normal moisture levels, which can leave your skin either super dry or oily. 

What Causes Microbiome Imbalance?

We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the important role the skin’s microbiome plays in the overall health of our skin. What we do know is that when the skin’s microbiome is unbalanced, we experience skin conditions like:

  • Dryness;
  • Oily skin;
  • Irritation, redness, and itching;
  • Certain chronic skin disorders; and
  • Decrease in skin function.

Skin microbiome imbalances occur for numerous reasons. 

Sometimes, external stressors, like sun exposure or pollution, can be to blame. However, the most common reason we experience imbalances with our skin microbiome is due to traditional skincare.

We’ve effectively stripped, peeled and deep-cleaned away the vital, healthy bacteria of our skin microbiome with modern hygiene. 

Methods of skin treatment intended to help keep our skin looking its best have actually had the adverse effect, weakening the microbiome and in turn, weakening our skin’s functionality. 

While oily skin may seem genetically impossible to escape, that isn’t always the case. Treating your oily skin by restoring balance to your skin’s microbiome can support your skin’s natural moisture balance, letting your sebaceous glands take a break and giving you a little less shine.

Balancing the Skin Microbiome

Thankfully, restoring order to your skin’s microbiome is easy. Just like the use of probiotics helps balance and protect your gut flora, you can use probiotics to restore peace and harmony to your skin microbiome. 

One of the best ways to start is by using a restorative probiotic spray. Mother Dirt’s probiotic spray contains Ammonia-Oxidizing Bacteria, or “AOB.” 

AOB works with ammonia on your skin and in your sweat to produce two important skin-healthy compounds (nitrite and nitric oxide) -- that are essential to a balanced skin microbiome. Combined with a daily skin care routine of probiotic skin care products, AOB can help restore and replenish levels of healthy bacteria and help bring peace to the microbiome. 

Getting Started With Probiotic Skin Care

Probiotics can seem confusing, but Mother Dirt has made it easy for you to take care of your skin and restore your microbiome. 

For oily skin we recommend The Difference skin care system. 

This system comes with our AO+ Restorative Mist Probiotic Spray and:

  • Probiotic Foaming Cleanser. Gentle enough for all skin types but effective in combating oily skin, our Probiotic Foaming Cleanser combines probiotics and prebiotics to help restore and nourish healthy bacteria and remove impurities without stripping your skin. 
  • Daily Acne Treatment Lotion. Stop attacking your oily skin with harsh products that strip it of moisture and cause irritation. Our Daily Acne Treatment Lotion combines a powerful blend of probiotics with salicylic acid to nourish your skin, restore harmony and battle blemishes gently yet effectively. 

Healthier, more balanced skin (with less oil slicks) in just three steps a day. Restored, healthy skin microbiomes reveal restored, healthy skin. 

The Bottom Line

While there are many causes for oily skin, including genetics, excess oil could be the result of an imbalanced skin microbiome. Using probiotic skin care products can help restore balance to your skin microbiome, which can result in more balanced skin moisture levels. 

Mother Dirt offers probiotic skin care that features the groundbreaking culture AOB, a healthy bacteria that helps our skin microbiome function properly and retain balance. 

You’ve got amazing, healthy skin underneath the oil. Balancing your microbiome can help you find it. 


Oily Skin: A Review of Treatment Options | NCBI 

The Influence of Genetics and Environmental Factors in the Pathogenesis of Acne: A Twin Study of Acne in Women | JID 

Estrogen and Skin: An Overview | PubMed 

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