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Does oily skin cause acne?

Does oily skin cause acne? Maybe.

Oil in the skin, known as sebum, is definitely a contributor to acne. However, not all patients with oily skin break out. Plus, there are some people with dry skin who have acne.

There are a few main factors that cause acne:

  1. sticky skin cells on the surface of the hair follicles
  2. oil production
  3. a bacteria on the skin called P. acnes
  4. inflammation

All of these are involved in causing acne to develop, but we don't know why some people break out and others do not. Reducing oil certainly helps treat acne patients, but there is definitely more to the story.

This is a great question, but there is no clear-cut answer.  Acne and oily skin frequently occur together, in fact, acne is not a problem in young children because their oil glands have not yet been activated.  Here's what activates oil glands: teenage hormones -- but you don't need to be a teenager to have these hormones -- they occur in girls as young as age 8 as well as in adults.

So, yes, there is a connection between acne and oily skin, but the story doesn't end there. Not everyone with oily skin has acne, and drying the skin out doesn't cure acne. The second cause of acne, besides teenage hormones, is heredity. If there is a family history of acne, then you are more likely to have it, even if your skin tends to be dry or a combination of dry and oily. If there is no family history, you might have oily skin and not get acne.

The good news is that there are many effective treatments for acne no matter what type of skin you have. 

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

Acne is not caused by either oily skin or poor hygiene, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. All types of skin can develop whiteheads, blackheads and pimples. Acne tends to develop when an oily substance called sebum produced by sebaceous (oil-making) glands mixes with dead skin cells and other debris to plug pores and cause bacteria to thrive. For best results, wash your face and other affected areas gently with a mild soap twice daily and pat dry. If the acne persists, seek treatment. 

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.