Everything there is to know about oily skin

Skin is usually pretty good in the morning, but as the day advances, it gets shinier and shinier. Often hair is greasy too, which is normal since oily skin and greasy hair share the same cause. There may also be dilated, clearly visible pores, and a dull complexion that always looks like it’s perspiring – without forgetting the risk of having blemishes. Everybody’s nightmare!

The ‘T’ zone is most often concerned: forehead, nose and chin. This is called combination skin. But sometimes the entire face suffers, and even the scalp. This is called oily skin. 


Oily skin and sebum

Sebum is the first problem for oily, acne-prone skin. Skin is a fragile ecosystem whose balance can be upset by different environmental factors. In the skin ecosystem, sebaceous glands are responsible for producing sebum. How they work depends on

  • Internal factors such as hormones (stress, puberty, pregnancy…)
  • External factors such as UV rays, pollution, diet…

In certain circumstances, the sebaceous glands are out of balance: they secrete too much sebum that is also poor in quality and creates irritation. This is known as dyssebohrrea.

A vicious circle forms. Too much thick sebum creates completely unbalanced skin, where bacteria are only too happy. As they arrive, pimples multiply. This is why people with oily skin also tend to have spots.

Aggravating factors in oily skin problems

Too much sebum, stress, diet, pollution… Faced with a net increase in oily skin problems over the past 30 years, new theories have recently emerged to try and explain the increasing number of cases.


Pollution/ heat and oily skin

Pollution may play a role in sebum’s composition and therefore on the skin’s microbiome by creating an imbalance between good and bad bacteria living on the skin’s surface. A simple cleansing with Sebium H2O eliminates 93% of all microparticles coming from pollution*.
The heat also increases sebum production. At the same time, when your skin is exposed to UVs, it thickens to protect itself. More sebum and problems evacuating it: everything you need to guarantee a nice outbreak of spots as soon as the skin thins down again, often at the end of the summer when you no longer spend so much time in the sun. Don’t be taken in by what looks like lovely summer skin, protect oily skin with a suitable sunscreen such as a high protection suncare for oily & combination skin.

*Dermscan study on 33 subjects, 2015

Diet and oily skin

The dietary advice given to people with acne-prone skin is also perfect for anyone with oily skin. Avoid eating too many foods that promote sebum production. Several studies seem to show that sugar and foods with a high glycemic index, as well as dairy produce (apart from cheese), are not good for combination to oily skin and should be avoided when acne flares up. Learn more about the anti-acne diet on our dedicated article


Stress and oily skin

We now know that the skin and nervous system are closely linked and chronic stress takes its toll on biological balance and sebum production. With oily skin, the stress hormone (cortisol) promotes sebum production, which in turn creates more stress and a vicious circle begins… Any strategy that helps you relax and manage your stress better is worth considering, from meditation to relaxation, breathing techniques (cardiac coherence exercises for instance) and those reinvigorating micro-naps…

3 key points to remember when dealing with oily skin

  • It’s possible to have oily skin without having blemishes. Skin is shiny with dilated pores and blackheads…
  • It’s also possible to have pimples without having oily skin all over the face. Combination skin has both oily and dry areas.
  • By adopting good hygiene and care habits for oily skin, the risk of blemishes almost dries up! 

The first good news is that adopting good hygiene and skin care habits can really change things and tone down hyperseborrhea. The second good news is that special make-up tricks for oily skin actually work! 

Oily skin is often mistreated, and combination skin is often misunderstood. In the daily battle to get rid of the slightest trace of oil or shine, the weapons people use can be quite merciless. Yet combination to oily skin also needs a gentle touch.

If you frequently perform abrasive facial scrubs and deep cleansing routines using soap and alcohol-based lotions, your skin may well end up completely unbalanced. Adopt a simple skincare routine that respects your skin, using products that have been specially developed for these specific problems.

This basic advice applies to both men and women: cleaning oily skin is the first step in a good skincare routine. Cleanse your face every morning and evening with micellar water for oily skin or a soap-free foaming gel for oily skin.

If you have combination skin, don’t rinse with tap water, as it is often quite hard and dries out the skin. If you wear make-up, it is important to remove it all if you want to avoid cosmetics clogging the pores and triggering a flare-up of spots.

Woman with acne-prone skin cleaning her face

When you have oily skin, you often think it might not be a good idea to apply any creams, in case they make it shine even more. Wrong! Your oily skin can be dehydrated - but what it needs is water, not oil. It needs a moisturising liquid that exactly meets its requirements in terms of moisturisation, whilst at the same time helping improve its appearance with a mattifying effect. You can also get specific products to reduce the look of open pores.

Why not alternate to suit your skin’s needs? People with combination skin would do well to use two different creams, a Sebo-regulating one for the T-zone and a richer one for the rest of the face. The idea is to never over-treat the skin, but rather to meet its needs as precisely as possible by using suitable products.

Whatever the case may be, make sure you choose moisturising products bearing the words “non-comedogenic”, which means that they have been successfully tested to ensure that they do not cause blemishes to appear.

Teenage girl applying moisturizer

Once or twice a week is enough, even for oily skin. Acid or enzymatic exfoliants are gentler and so they are preferable to the mechanical action of scrubs that contain microbeads. Their keratolytic action improves the skin’s appearance and brightens your complexion.

Beware of folk remedies for oily skin - they might make things worse or even attack your skin. If you tend towards combination skin, don’t exfoliate too often or only exfoliate the oily areas. And remember to use a moisturising mask on drier areas.

We would recommend trying our gentle home skin peeling that is as effective as a professional: Sébium Night Peel. It will unveil your skin, reveal your skin’s radiance, reduce marks & blemishes. For a gentle peel at home, we recommend to use it every night as a 4-week treatment – 4 times a year, seasonally. Learn more about it in our dedicated article.

Use everything at your disposal to avoid that shine

The amount of sebum your skin produces is controlled by hormones, but it is also influenced by various aggravating factors. Once you know what they are, try to adapt your lifestyle so that you are impacting all the levers affecting combination to oily skin.

Clean skin doesn’t depend solely on what you do in the bathroom!

With oily skin, make-up is for better or for worse…For better, it's when make-up is chosen carefully, not used in excessive amounts, tones down shine and camouflages pores. For worse, it's when too many layers of make-up are used: primer + base + high coverage foundation + powder and more powder, all in highly compact versions that suffocate the skin. Your face no longer looks remotely natural and as far as radiance is concerned, forget it! People with combination to oily skin tend to rely entirely on foundation and tracking down every last little shiny patch. And if you have combination skin, you also have to deal with different levels of brightness and reaction in the various different areas of your face.

•    A perfect complexion for oily skin
First and foremost, make sure you use a good make-up base. Otherwise, your foundation won’t last all day. Ideally, find a moisturising cream for oily skin that will smooth and mattify your skin. Next, a liquid, oil-free, non-comedogenic foundation, applied in little dabs, just where it's needed, without creating any thick patches. Finish with some light, loose powder just on your nose, leaving the cheeks or the corners of the eyelids natural, for a more radiant effect. This is a great tip for days when your complexion looks dull.

•    A perfect complexion for combination skin
Once again, the base is what counts, so use a transparent, moisturising, unifying product. Next, people with combination skin can choose between a BB Cream - a tinted cream, if there are no very visible blemishes or a mineral foundation. Add an optional touch of loose powder on the nose.

Woman putting make-up

5 make-up hints for combination to oily skin


  1. Choose mineral powder textures rather than creams - they have more staying power on skin that has a tendency to oiliness, even for eye make-up.
  2. Make touching-up your make-up a 2-step process: first, get rid of any shine then add a little more make-up. A little micellar water on some cotton wool is enough before dabbing on a bit of concealer.
  3. Don’t use sponges - they tend to cake your make-up: use a brush or your fingers instead
  4. Don’t be tempted to overload your make-up in an attempt to camouflage your skin - the less make-up you use, the more radiant your complexion will look.
  5. Clean your make-up brushes at least once a week to avoid any risk of spots.

  • BIODERMA product photo, Sebium H2O 500ml, micellar water for acne prone skin
  • Non-rinse daily cleanser

    Combination to oily skin Acne-prone skin

    Micellar technology

    Sébium H2O

    The dermatological micellar water that cleanses, removes make-up & purifies the skin without drying it.

    For whom ?

    Adults, Adolescents

  • BIODERMA product photo, Sebium Gel moussant 500ml, shower foaming gel for oily skin
  • Rinse-off daily cleanser

    Combination to oily skin

    D.A.F. patent

    Sébium Gel moussant

    The purifying gentle cleanser that removes impurities & controls shine.

    For whom ?

    Adults, Adolescents

  • BIODERMA product photo, Sebium Pore refiner 30ml, for acne prone skin
  • Daily care

    Combination to oily skin

    Fluidactiv™ patent

    Sébium Pore refiner

    The dermatological corrector for persistent enlarged pores.

    For whom ?

    Adults, Adolescents