I grew up with oily skin at a time when a matte look was all the rage. Despite the fact that people would tell me my skin was “glowing,” I spent my teenage years furiously powdering my t-zone to bring down the shine. (There was no such thing as glass skin or glazed donut skin, I can tell you that much.) Fast forward a couple decades and dewy skin is all the rage. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve definitely come to appreciate my natural skin type more and have been able to see it for its advantages.
Regardless of where oily skin has stood in relation to the trend cycle, one thing has remained constant. Throughout my career, I’ve noticed that people tend to believe having oily skin helps prevent wrinkles and other signs of aging. But is it true?
I’ll say upfront, I don’t believe one skin type ages “better” than another. When it comes to aging, each skin type has its own advantages (and disadvantages). Skin fads may come and go, but at the end of the day, your skin type isn’t a trend. It’s something that dictates how your skin should be cared for and what its unique needs are.
Understanding your skin’s strengths and weaknesses is the best way to create a game plan that allows it to age in a healthy, graceful way. If you have oily skin, this post will teach you how to do just that.
The Advantages of Oily Skin and How It Can Help Prevent Wrinkles
What does it actually mean to have “oily” skin? People with oily skin types (like Skin Types 1-4) have a higher density of sebaceous glands. These are the glands that produce oil, and this oil is responsible for providing moisture and shielding our skin from environmental aggressors, bacteria, and more.
Those of us with oily skin are quick to see the downsides, but let’s take a step back and look at some benefits you might not have considered!
Higher Concentrations of Oil Glands May Mean Thicker Skin
One possible benefit of oily skin is that the high density of sebaceous glands means having thicker skin overall. This provides a natural cushion that makes the skin less prone to creasing or folding, which can help slow or prevent the formation of wrinkles and fine lines.
Dr. Sam Lam, a board-certified plastic surgeon who sees a wide range of skin types in his practice every day, echoes this belief: “The best way to understand the supposed bias toward oily skin is to understand how the skin repairs damage, which is the sebaceous (or oil) gland as the main source of regeneration. People with oily skin may have more active oil glands and thereby have more protection. There could be an association of oil glands with thicker skin, which is less prone to collagen breakdown.”
He notes that this isn’t something that’s been scientifically proven, it’s more of a theory based on a combination of existing research and his own observations. After 30 years of working with skin hands-on, I tend to agree with these observations.
While oily skin types may have a leg up when it comes to wrinkle prevention, it’s important to remember that lines and wrinkles aren’t the only components of facial aging. Facial sagging and skin laxity are a natural part of the aging process, and having oily skin doesn’t prevent this.
Sebum Provides Natural Moisture and Protection
Having dry or dehydrated skin can contribute to the development of fine lines, so this is another instance when having oily skin may pay off. Our skin has a harder time holding onto moisture as we age, and having your own built-in moisture from oil production can certainly be beneficial.
Sebum also acts as a shield for our skin, so oilier skin types may have a bit more natural protection against aging triggers like pollution, free radicals, and UV damage (but not enough to skip sunscreen, of course!). This extra bit of protection means it might be easier to maintain bright, even-toned skin, another characteristic of youthful-looking complexions.
All great news for oily skin types, right? Before getting too carried away though, remember that being less prone to wrinkles isn’t the same as being immune. The best way to capitalize on your natural advantages is properly caring for your skin with a consistent routine (and yes, oily skin still needs moisturizer).
Common Aging Concerns for Oily Skin (and What to Do About Them)
Regardless of skin type, we’re all more prone to certain aspects of skin aging than others. The key is understanding which aspects we’re prone to and addressing them early on. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Below, the most common aging concerns for oily skin types and how to get ahead of them.
Speaking from experience, those of us with oilier skin can struggle with pore size as we age. When you have excess sebum flowing through your pores it can stretch them out, making them appear bigger over time. This might not be super noticeable when you’re younger, but as we age we start to lose cushion and volume in our skin. This cushion helps “plump out” enlarged pores, but as the skin becomes more lax, large pores become more obvious.
A smooth, even skin texture is one key feature of youthful-looking skin and it can be difficult to make pores appear smaller once this starts to happen, so this is definitely a great thing to start addressing early on!
How to Prevent Enlarged Pores
- Manage oil production by using the right ingredients for oily skin
- Keep pores clean by getting regular extractions and exfoliating at home
- Use retinol to help preserve your skin’s natural “cushion”
Learn all about the best strategy for minimizing large pores.
While not everyone with oily skin experiences acne, many do—especially in their younger years (I know this was the case for me). Breakouts can vary in severity, but if you’re someone who’s dealt with deep nodular or cystic acne, you know all too well it can leave behind indented scarring. This is by far the most difficult form of acne scarring to deal with, and just like enlarged pores, it can become more prominent as we age.
You can manage the effects of acne scarring over time by sticking to a diligent skincare routine that includes collagen-stimulating ingredients. Use a vitamin C serum in the morning to help build collagen and prevent further damage. Use retinol in the evenings and consider consulting with a dermatologist to work your way up to a prescription strength since this will give the most dramatic results. Most importantly, wear sun protection every single day, rain or shine (this sunscreen is perfect for oily skin). While both vitamin C and retinol can help build collagen, protecting against sun damage is key to preventing collagen breakdown in the first place.
If your scarring is severe, professional treatments such as radiofrequency microneedling can be a game-changer.
Last (but not least), having oily skin makes you more prone to sebaceous hyperplasia as you age. Sebaceous hyperplasias are benign skin growths that appear as flat, slightly raised bumps. As I said, they’re completely harmless, but they can be a nuisance. I go to my dermatologist once a year to have these types of growths removed via electric cauterization.
The Takeaway—Does Oily Skin Age Better?
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits to having an oily skin type. If you’re someone who hasn’t always felt good about having oily skin, I hope learning about these benefits can help you embrace it! To recap, a higher concentration of oil glands leads to thicker skin, which is more resilient against fine lines and wrinkles. Higher sebum production also means more natural moisture and built-in protection from the elements, which can be helpful for maintaining bright, even-toned skin.
With that said, having oily skin doesn’t make you totally immune to wrinkles, especially deep expression lines. It also doesn’t protect against facial sagging, which involves deeper components of our anatomy like fat and muscle. Oily skin types may also struggle with skin texture and large pores as they get older, more so than dry skin types.
At the end of the day, the best way to maintain healthy skin and prevent signs of aging is a well-rounded skincare routine built for your unique skin type. A skincare routine should address ALL of your skin concerns—not just a few (and oily or dry is only one part of the equation). Not sure what your routine should look like? Take this quiz to get started!
Finally, remember that aging is a multifaceted process affected by so many factors such as lifestyle, environment, and genetics. The way I see it, do what you can to take care of your skin, your health, and your happiness, then enjoy the ride 🙂 I believe balance is key and I try to incorporate it into my everyday life.
Up next, learn why you should actually consider yourself lucky if you have acne!
Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Her hands-on experience as an esthetician and trusted skin care expert has created a real-world solution — products that are formulated for nine different types of skin so your face will get exactly what it needs to look and feel its best. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”