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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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6 Causes of Dry Oily Skin: Understanding Causes and Solutions

Dry oily skin, a unique skin condition, presents a paradox – oily in some areas and dry in others, making skincare a balancing act. In this article, we'll explore the various reasons behind dry oily skin and offer practical solutions to manage it effectively.


An abstract image depicting dry oily skin

Once you identify the reason for your dry oily skin from the below mentioned causes, you'll be able to conclusively address the specific cause for your condition.


1. Seborrheic Dermatitis: Yeast Overgrowth

Seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin condition characterized by red, scaly, and oily patches, often causing dandruff. It primarily affects areas with higher sebaceous gland activity, leading to an oily appearance in certain skin zones. Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by an overgrowth of a yeast, called Malasezzia, that is normally present on skin. Managing seborrheic conditions involves topical antifungals like clotrimazole and ketoconazole, gentle skincare routine with harsh chemicals, avoiding face scrubs and using medicated shampoos containing ketoconazole.


2. Barrier Disruption: The Chemical Culprit

Overuse of chemicals and alcohol-containing products can disrupt the skin's natural barrier, leading to dryness in some areas while stimulating oil production in others. Barrier dysruption is fairly common in patients with sensitive skin. To counteract this, opt for gentle, alcohol-free cleansers and moisturizers that support the skin's barrier function.


3. Combination Skin

Combination skin, by its nature, presents a mix of oily and dry areas, typically oily in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and dry on the cheeks. While some people inherently have combination skin, in others often the skin type can change from oily to combination due to multiple factors:

  • As people age, their skin tends to produce less oil, leading to dryer areas, which can result in a combination skin type with oily zones (like the T-zone) and dry patches elsewhere.

  • Hormones, especially androgens, play a significant role in oil production, so changes in hormonal levels, such as during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, can alter skin type from oily to combination.

  • Environmental factors like humidity, temperature, and seasonal changes also influence skin's oiliness.

  • Additionally, the use of many skincare products like harsh cleansers and exfoliants can strip natural oils, leading to combination skin. Medications, including hormonal treatments and isotretinoin for acne, can also alter skin's oil production.


Testing for Combination Skin

To determine if you have combination skin, conduct a simple test: cleanse your face and wait for an hour without applying any products. If you notice oiliness in the T-zone and dryness or tightness in other areas, you likely have combination skin.


4. Hormonal Dysfunction and Skin Health

Hormonal imbalances can significantly impact skin health. Fluctuations during puberty, menstrual cycles, or menopause often lead to increased oil production alongside dry patches. Consulting with a healthcare provider can help in addressing the underlying hormonal issues.


5. Puberty: A Time of Skin Evolution

During puberty, hormonal changes often result in increased sebum production, leading to oily skin. Concurrently, these changes can cause dryness in certain areas. Adolescents should adopt a gentle skincare routine that addresses both oiliness and dryness without overstripping the skin.


6. Fungal Infections: An Underlying Cause

Sometimes, dry oily skin can indicate fungal infections like tinea faciei. These infections can cause scaly patches that may appear dry but are often accompanied by an oily surface.


These patches often have a clear center with a slightly raised, redder border, giving them a ring-like appearance, which is characteristic of many tinea infections (hence the common name "ringworm"). The affected areas may also exhibit signs of inflammation, such as swelling and tenderness.


Unlike other facial rashes, tinea faciei might not respond to typical eczema or dermatitis treatments, and it may spread or worsen with the use of topical steroids.


Conclusion

Dry oily skin, while challenging, is manageable with the right approach. Understanding the underlying causes, whether it's seborrheic conditions, barrier disruption, combination skin, hormonal changes, or fungal infections, is key to effective treatment. Always consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice and treatment options.


Recommendations

  • For seborrheic conditions: If you suspect seborrheic dermatitis on the face, always consult a healthcare provider for personalized treatment.use mild cleansers and moisturizers, and consider over-the-counter antifungal creams like ketoconazole. Topical corticosteroids or calcineurin inhibitors might be prescribed by your dermatologist for reducing inflammation. Avoid harsh skincare products and manage stress and exposure to harsh weathers.

  • Barrier disruption: Choose alcohol-free, gentle skincare products.  Ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides, propylene glycol, lipids and fatty acids like gamma linoleic acid can help in repairing the damaged skin barrier.

  • Combination skin: Use a gentle cleanser and a lightweight moisturizer, focusing more on dry areas and less on the oily T-zone. Incorporate a mild exfoliant like BHA or AHA weekly, especially on oily parts. Use a balancing toner and always apply broad-spectrum sunscreen.

  • Hormonal changes: Seek medical advice from a endocrinologist for hormonal management.

  • Fungal infections: Your dermatologist might prescribe oral antifungals like itraconazole, fluconazole, terbinafine and topical antifungals like clotrimazole, ketoconazole or amorolfin for your ring worm. Additionally, maintaining good hygiene is also essential in managing such conditions.


Remember, every skin is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Tailoring your skincare routine to your specific needs is crucial for maintaining healthy, balanced skin.

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