The humid summer months often bring on a host of changes to our skin—namely, it feels sweatier and oilier. In addition to warranting some slight alterations to your skin care routine, this changing of the seasons can also make it difficult to distinguish between the two skin issues; sweating and oily skin.
“When the weather is warmer, our bodies produce more sweat to help cool the skin down,” explains Marisa Garshick, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. What’s more: “Heat and humidity can trigger our sebaceous glands to produce more oil,” Garshick says.
In other words, summertime is like a one-two punch of both increased oil and sweat production in the skin, which can make it difficult to figure out which issue you’re dealing with. So, do you have oily skin, or is it just summer? Below, a top dermatologist helps break down the key differences between sweaty vs. oily skin.
If you have an oily skin type, then this is something you’ll likely experience year-round, though oil-production tends to ramp up in the warmer months. Both oil and sweat are expelled via our pores, though they each take slightly different routes to make it to the skin’s surface; oil is released via the sebaceous glands, and sweat is released from the eccrine glands.
“Since our face has a high concentration of sebaceous glands, our facial skin can appear oilier in the summertime,” Garshick explains. However, you’ll be able to tell if you have an oily skin type if your complexion is generally on the oilier end of the spectrum even during the colder months of the year.
Another identifying factor is the consistency of what your pores are producing. Sebum, the technical term for oil, is a “thicker, oily substance made up of fatty acids,” Garshick explains. If it feels greasy or heavier than a water-like consistency, then chances are you are dealing with oily skin or an increase in oil production.
Lastly, increased oil production may have underlying causes that aren’t directly related to climate (though climate can still exacerbate them). “Some people are more predisposed to oily skin than others, and factors such as hormones and stress levels can also influence sebum production,” Garshick says.
Unlike oil, sweat is not greasy but rather, a “watery liquid that is released from the eccrine glands as a way to help regulate body temperature,” Garshick says.
Some other more obvious telltale signs of sweaty skin include small droplets of moisture, AKA perspiration, that tend to bead up on areas of the skin that are prone to sweating. If you’re exerting yourself physically, or it’s just a very hot and muggy day outside, both of those things also contribute to perspiration.
How to deal with oily and sweaty summertime skin
If you’re sweating, that’s a clear indicator that your body is trying to cool itself down. Also, sweat is laden with bacteria—which is why you should always cleanse your skin as soon as possible after exercising in order to prevent breakouts.
If you have oily skin all year-round, especially during the summer months, try following a skincare routine that is formulated specifically to help regulate the skin’s oil production (such as YTTP’s Your Youth Regimen Kit, Oily).
Written by Rebecca Dancer for Youth To The People