Oily skin is an extremely common condition caused by excess sebum (oil) production from the sebaceous glands. Sebum is necessary to keep your skin from drying out, but there can indeed be too much of a good thing.
Some people with oily skin have all-around oiliness, while others might have just one part of the face that’s oilier than the rest, such as the forehead or nose. It’s no coincidence that sebaceous glands are also larger in these areas.
If you have overactive sebaceous glands, your forehead may feel sticky and greasy to the touch. Also, if you wear foundation or sunscreen, you might find that these products seemingly roll off your forehead soon after you wash your face.
Once you have identified the possible causes, you can mitigate excess oil by making some changes to your skin care routine and daily habits. Read on to learn more.
Here are some of the most common causes of excess oil on your face that you may want to discuss further with a dermatologist.
If one or both of your parents have oily skin, chances are that you do, too. You might also find that oilier skin in one area of the face, such as your forehead, may run in the family.
Teens and young adults tend to have oilier skin, especially around the forehead, nose, and cheeks. On the flip side, oily skin tends to decrease with age because of decreased sebaceous gland activity.
Hormone fluctuations and increased androgens may cause an oily forehead. Some women also find that their oily skin is worse around menstruation and ovulation. Men may also be more likely to have oily skin than women.
Where you live and time of year
You might notice your forehead is oilier during warm weather months because of increased heat and humidity. For the same reasons, oily skin may be more problematic if you live in tropical areas.
Enlarged pores can be caused by age, sun damage, acne, and hormone fluctuations. These also tend to be more common in oily skin types because of excess sebum production stretching pore walls.
If you have enlarged pores on your forehead, you may be more vulnerable to oily skin in this area, too.
Using the wrong skin care products
It’s important to use skin care products tailored to your skin type. Normal to dry skin types need more cream-based products because they lose moisture quickly. However, if you have combination or oily skin, you need products that remove excess oils.
Oily skin benefits most from water-based products because they don’t add more oil to the skin. Look for “oil-free” and “noncomedogenic” (non-pore-clogging) products.
It may seem counterproductive to add more moisture to oily skin, but skipping out on moisturizer will actually make your skin even oilier.
When you wash your face, you also strip away some of your skin’s natural moisture. If you don’t replace it, your sebaceous glands will release even more oil to make up for the dryness.
Dermatologists recommend applying a non-oil based moisturizer after washing your face.
Drying out your skin
People with oily skin may also have sensitive skin, acne, and seborrheic dermatitis, which can cause rough patches on the skin. Over-washing, not moisturizing, and overusing alcohol-based products such as astringents can actually make your skin oilier and irritate already sensitive skin. This is true even if you try to spot treat your forehead only.
If you have oily skin, chances are that your scalp and hair tend to be more on the oily side, too. Oils from hair products, as well as oils in your hair, can get onto your face, which can also cause acne.
If you have bangs, you may have a greater chance of an oily forehead.
Excess oil on the forehead may be treated with lifestyle and skin care changes, as well as topical medications.
Salicylic acid-based toners or astringents or benzoyl peroxide creams can treat acne and help aid with skin cell turnover. They can also dry out excess sebum.
You can apply these products immediately after cleansing, but just before putting on moisturizer. Apply once per day to start and gradually increase to twice daily, if needed.
Prescription medications may be considered as a last resort if over-the-counter treatments don’t reduce forehead oiliness. These medications include:
- prescription retinoids, such as isotretinoin (Accutane)
- topical retinoids, such as adapalene (Differin)
- oral contraceptives for women to help with hormone imbalances
- anti-androgens, such as spironolactone
- botulinum toxin (Botox) injections
- laser treatments for enlarged pores
If you have oily skin, there are steps you can take to reduce symptoms and leave your skin looking healthy. Here are ways you can help treat and prevent oily facial skin:
Wash your face no more than twice a day
Washing your skin too much can actually make oily skin worse because your sebaceous glands may activate to make up for what’s perceived as a loss of moisture.
You may want to wash your face in the middle of the day after workouts or other activities that make you sweat. You might also consider switching to a foaming face wash designed for oily skin.
Exfoliate up to twice a week
Exfoliating can help get rid of excess dead skin cells on the uppermost layer of skin (your epidermis). Avoid exfoliating more than two times per week, as this can cause irritation and exacerbate conditions like acne and enlarged pores.
Moisturize after every wash
Locking in your skin’s natural hydration is a must every time you cleanse. This will also help prevent sebaceous glands from becoming overactive. The key is to find a moisturizer that’s designed for oily skin: Look for water-based versions labeled “oil-free” and “noncomedogenic.”
Consider a weekly mud or charcoal mask
A charcoal mask or mud mask helps to soften up clog pores while also drying out excess oil.
Use makeup wisely
Like your facial moisturizer, all makeup products should be oil-free and noncomedogenic. Also, be sure to take off your makeup every night before washing your face.
Drinking plenty of water and eating fruits and vegetables can help keep active sebaceous glands at bay.
Use blotting sheets
Press these sheets gently against oily skin throughout the day to absorb excess oil without disturbing your moisturizer or makeup. This approach works especially well for spot areas, such as the forehead.
Wear sunscreen daily
Sunscreen is essential to protect your skin from age spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer. Just be sure your sunscreen is designed for the face and is both noncomedogenic and oil-free.
An oily forehead can be frustrating, but changes in your skin care routine and lifestyle can help minimize such issues.
For persistent facial oiliness, see a dermatologist for further treatment. They may recommend prescription medications or other therapies to be used in conjunction with an oil-free skin care regimen.