How Can My Skin Be Oily And Dry?

This is a great question!  The answer has multiple layers.  The skin's oil, also called sebum, comes from the sebaceous glands which reside down within the pores.  Each person's skin produces different amounts of oil.  If you notice throughout the day that your skin has a shiny or greasy appearance, chances are you may have oily skin.  This is typically inherited through our genes.  However, hormones play a major role in the skin's oil production.

Here's a little experiment you can try at home to confirm what skin type you actually have.  Start by washing your face, rinse, then don't apply anything to the skin.  Wait 2-3 hours, then use a few pieces of tissue paper and blot each section of your face with a separate piece of tissue paper.  Start with the forehead, then the nose, the chin, the left cheek, and, finally, the right cheek.  If all 5 areas have oil stains, then you, most likely, have oily skin.  The benefits are fewer chances of fine lines and wrinkles.  But the drawbacks include clogged pores.  Nevertheless, there are ways to manage oily skin, which we can discuss during another Q & A Wednesday blog post.

If you notice that only certain areas of your skin have oil spots on the tissue paper, it sounds like you may have combination skin, which is very common.  The center of the face tends to have more oil production.  For all skin types, the pores typically get larger toward the center of the face.  For those with an oily t-zone or overall oily skin, the pores in the middle of the face are larger, hence creating a greater propensity for clogged pores, such as blackheads, also called comedones.  

Now, when it comes to skin dryness, there are two types of dry skin.  There is skin that lacks oil.  Then, there is skin that lacks water.  So, if you have oily areas on your face, and not so oily areas, then you probably have combination skin.  Combination skin can also lack water, meaning it is dehydrated.  If you have oily skin and your skin is lacking water, then you simply have oily, dehydrated skin.  Dehydrated skin takes a trained and keen eye to distinguish.  Up close, the very top layer of the skin looks crinkly and has a dry, shiny, tight appearance.  Drinking lots of water doesn't usually completely resolve dehydrated skin, especially when the air in our environment is dry, and sucks the moisture from our skin.  A more efficient solution, in addition to drinking plenty of water, is using a skin-type/condition-specific topical moisturizer with humectants, like hyaluronic acid, sodium pca, and glycerin, which draw moisture to the skin.

Some professionals theorize that the skin has a feedback loop, which increases oil production in order to balance the water hydration levels in the skin, which does not resolve the dehydration, but instead makes the skin more oily.  Using an oil-control treatment product on oily areas, then following with a hydrating, oil-free moisturizer should bring more balance to the skin.  If you need suggestions on the best products to use to address these concerns, feel free to call (202) 642-9414, or send emails to  I'm always happy to help!