why does my face get oily at night?
Questions And Answers

Why Does My Face Get Oily When I Sleep?

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Louise Carter

Oily skin feels sticky, leading to acne breakouts due to pore blockages. The skin gets oily due to the production of sebum, a waxy substance secreted by the sebaceous glands.

Sebum is released day and night, but hormonal fluctuations affect production. Sweating overnight makes the skin greasier as perspiration mixes with sebum.

Sebum production is also linked to diet, as sugary and dairy-based foods lead to the release of sebum. Also, using makeup during the day can block up the skin pores, which become oily overnight. 

Oily skin isn’t inherently bad. The natural oils on our faces protect the skin from the sun, wind, and rain. Skin oils naturally moisturize and minimize the likelihood of age-related wrinkles.

You can reduce the release of sebum by moderating certain aspects of your diet, washing your face before bed, moisturizing the skin, and minimizing stress levels.

Why Does My Face Get Oily at Night?

Oily skin begins in the sebaceous glands. These tiny glands are found in the hair that covers our skin and release sebum day and night.

Sebum is a waxy substance that looks and feels oily. It offers protection and lubrication to the skin. Sebum is essential, but production must be moderated.

Excessive sebum production can block the skin’s pores and lead to blemishes and imperfections. Most notably, you’ll wake up with oily skin in the morning.

Oily skin is sometimes a consequence of the genetic lottery. If your parents have large sebaceous glands, you’ll likely inherit this characteristic.

According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, black skin usually produces the most sebum.

If this doesn’t apply to you, oily skin will have another explanation. Here are the most common causes:

are there benefits to oily skin?

Heavy Use of Makeup

If you wear a lot of makeup during the day, your skin will struggle to breathe.

A prominent and heavyweight foundation or concealer, in particular, can block your pores and prevent oxygen from reaching the skin.

Sebum accumulates in blocked pores. When you wash off your makeup, it flows more freely.

Hormones

Hormone production fluctuates throughout life, influencing sebum production. Adolescents, who are prone to oily skin and acne, are also affected by androgens, the hormones responsible for reproduction.

Pregnant women experience a rise in progesterone, encouraging the body to produce more sebum. Menopausal women produce less progesterone and estrogen, causing a hormonal imbalance.

Diet

Diet and skin conditions are correlated, so what we eat influences skin oil production.

Dairy and sugar cause inflammation and encourage the body to create more sebum. If you eat these foods at night, you may wake up with oilier skin.

Fruits, vegetables, and fats like Omega-3 and 6 reduce oil production. This keeps the skin hydrated and healthy, especially if you drink enough water.

Consider how much riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and zinc you get from your diet. A deficiency can lead to excessive sebum production and oily skin.

Are There Benefits To Oily Skin?

Oily skin feels unpleasant and looks aesthetically displeasing, as the skin is likely to look shiny. Washing oily skin and restoring a natural pH can be difficult.

Oily skin blocks the pores and leads to acne breakouts. This is especially likely if you forget to remove makeup or sunscreen before bed, as the oil solidifies the foundation and other facial products.

Despite these concerns, there are benefits to oily skin:

Natural Moisture

Dry and flaky skin is just as unpleasant as oily skin, if not more so.

Oil provides a natural layer of moisture and softness, saving you money on beauty products. You’ll still need to moisturize but may not require as many lotions.

If you have oily skin in the morning, use a product that offers hydration. If you focus entirely on removing oil but don’t moisturize the skin, dehydration will follow.

The skin’s sebaceous glands produce more oil, overcompensating for the absence of a skincare regime.

Reduced Appearance of Wrinkles

We’ve discussed how oily skin can cause pimples and breakouts.

It hardly seems fair that we should need to manage wrinkles and spots at the same time. Thankfully, oily skin can reduce the production and appearance of wrinkles.

If the skin has a covering of natural oils, the sebaceous glands increase in density. The skin will become thicker, which contributes to neutralizing the slower production of collagen that comes with age.

Oily skin is less likely to fold or crease while your face is pushed into a pillow at night.

A pillowcase made from satin, bamboo, or silk will reduce friction and minimize the risk of wrinkles.

Environmental Protection

Oils on the skin can provide a natural barrier against the elements when you step outside. Intense sunshine, high winds, and extreme cold can also contribute to damaged skin.

Oils on the skin can encourage the skin to tan instead of directly turning red and burning. Skin oils also provide a natural moisture balance for your face, especially when paired with sunscreen.

Skin oils are handy during the winter. If the temperatures drop sharply, your skin may naturally dry out. Dry skin can result in itching, flaking, and aesthetic imperfections, like patches of redness.

Blustery winds can also damage the skin. The issue lies with the dirt, dust, grit, and grime the breeze carries. Skin oils provide the skin with a natural protective barrier.

How Do I Stop Waking Up with an Oily Face?

The following adjustments can mean your face gets less oily overnight:

Sleep in a Cool Room

If you get hot while you sleep, your body will sweat to cool down. Sebum will also be secreted overnight. If this combines with sweat, an oily film will cover your face.

In addition to looking unappealing, this combination of sweat and sebum can clog your pores. To this end, remaining cool overnight – either by opening a window, sleeping beside a fan, or changing the bedding material to bamboo – can moderate oil production.

Wash Your Face

Washing the face is an essential element of taking care of the skin. Your face should be washed in the morning and again in the evening before bed.

Avoid piping hot water if you have oily skin – run the tap lukewarm at most, as hot water will indiscriminately strip your skin of oil and lead to dryness.

Soap can also be counter-productive. According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, soap with a pH above the skin’s natural range of 5.4 – 5.9 can agitate oily skin and generate more oil.

Instead of a traditional bar of soap, use a liquid cleanser. Look for a product that’s gentle and intended for oily skin. Once washed and cleansed, apply a toner.

After washing your face, use an absorbent sheet or blotting paper to remove any leftover oil. This will also ensure your skin is completely dry, especially before bed.

Sleeping with a damp face may cause moldy pillows or attract ants to your sleep space.

How do I stop waking up with an oily face?

Destress Before Bed

Stress in our everyday lives will influence our hormones, and some hormones can increase sebum production. The more stress you feel at bedtime, the likelier you’ll wake up with oily skin.

Work on reducing your stress in the evening. Techniques include stretches (including yoga), breathing exercises, and writing a journal to banish unwelcome thoughts from your mind.

The sedative effects of alcohol may make you feel calmer in the immediate term, but alcohol is a diuretic. This increases the risk of dehydration, a common precursor to oily skin.

Embrace a Skincare Regime

Water and cleansers are essential for avoiding excessive oil on the face and moisturizing your skin. The more hydrated your skin is, the less oil it’ll produce overnight.

If you fail to moisturize, your skin will overcompensate for the dryness it experiences. This will lead to more sebum creation and, by extension, more oil on your face in the morning.

Any reputable pharmacy or skincare line will have a range of moisturizing products, the higher-end of which will be lightweight and devoid of artificial oils. Some will be marketed as night creams.

Wear a Facemask

Consider sleeping with a facemask to reduce the oil on your face in the morning.

Facemasks can be purchased from a pharmacy or made at home. Charcoal and clay are the best ingredients for oily skin because they absorb additional oil.

Your facemask can be removed using lukewarm water and a gentle sponge or washcloth.

Only sleep in the facemask if it is labeled for overnight use. If not, the mask should be washed off according to instructions, usually after around 20 minutes.  

Apply a facemask after washing, cleansing, and moisturizing your skin, but leave enough time for it to fully harden before going to bed. This will usually take 5 or 10 minutes.

Oil naturally forms on the face while we sleep, but sebum production can be moderated.