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oily skin and oily hair

Some people have more active oil glands in the skin and notice that their skin and hair take on an oily sheen over the course of just a few minutes to hours after washing.

What is going on in the body? 
Androgens, or male hormones, control the production of oil by the sebaceous glands. Higher relative levels of androgens can make the skin more oily. For example, this can occur during puberty and when taking performance-enhancing steroids. Some people have oilier skin because of larger numbers of oil glands that produce more oil.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
Symptoms of this condition include excessive oil on hair and skin.

What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Having excessive oil on the skin and hair is more of a cosmetic problem than a medical one.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Shampooing hair daily, and avoiding hair brushing which is too vigorous or frequent, may help to prevent oily hair. Consistent washing of skin with soap and water might help to prevent the appearance of oily skin. Dietary changes will probably not have an effect on the condition.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
There are no serious long-term effects, although oily skin may be associated with acne.

What are the risks to others? 
The condition is not contagious; there are no risks to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Frequent washing of the scalp and face with astringents may help to remove excessive oil from the surface of the skin. This does not affect production of oil. Water-based cosmetics, and shampoos and conditioners for "oily hair," may be used.

Oral contraceptives such as ethinyl oestradiol/norgestimate, ethinyl oestradiol/levonorgestrel or ethinyl oestradiol/norgestrel may be helpful for some women in reducing the amount of oil produced.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Oral contraceptives can cause may side effects, including nausea, stomach cramps, vaginal itching and discharge, and breast tenderness.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
For many people who are affected, stopping an effective treatment causes the symptoms to return. Others, such as adolescents, may outgrow the condition. Treatment is not required and can be stopped at any time. Affected people are free to engage in normal activities before, during, and after treatment.

How is the condition monitored? 
Affected people can monitor their skin and hair to assess whether or not it is working. A doctor can also monitor the appearance of the hair and skin if treatment is prescribed.

Author: Lynn West, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 22/02/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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