Do oil based products cause spots? Let's put this skincare rumour to the test and see what TRUTH there is to oils causing spots.


In Being Savvy at Skincare, Skincare for spot prone skin by Cheryl Woodman MChemLeave a Comment

Do oil based products cause spots? Good question my friend! This is a really common association, is it true? Oily skin types can be more prone to breakouts – so does that mean oil is bad for skin? Wonder no longer lovely – here is the answer!

Do oil based products cause spots? Let's put this skincare rumour to the test and see what TRUTH there is to oils causing spots.


First, what actually causes spots? Those volcano ‘feeling’ but usually small enough that no-one else will realise spots that sneak up on us at the most cunningly planned of times? Spots are like your bathroom plug-holes. Have you ever been stood in the shower before and suddenly realised that you’re about to overflow the shower tray *oops!!*. That plug-hole sometimes holds onto ‘so much hair’ that it couldn’t possibly be ALL mine. That hair gets tangled around, in gymnastic worthy positions which mean it just cannot flow free. That tangle causes a build up of water in the tray and then. BAMN, it starts to overflow.

This is exactly what causes spots. There is too much of something that shouldn’t be there in your skins pores. Skin has pores almost everywhere, tiny little swimming pools that are ready to collect spare change like they were a wishing well! Sometimes it’s as simple as dead skin collecting in them and bacteria having a tasty meal, other-times it’s an ingredient that’s been put on your skin that causes the ‘clog’.

MORE: ‘Is this the NO.1 CAUSE of your spots?


Is your skincare causing your spots? If it is, it will be because there are ingredients in there that are ‘just the right size’. Not too big, so as they can’t get into that cosy little wishing well, and not too small so as they are easily washed out again. #LegoBricks.

So any ingredient that can have that ‘perfect’ glove fit that doesn’t work such wonders for your skins pores, will go on to cause spots. Do oil based products cause spots? Yes some can. Do water based products cause spots? Yes some can! So it’s not a case of oil based products cause spots, it’s really about each ingredient that is used in a skincare product. Ingredients can be rated for their ‘pore-blocking’ abilities, they get graded on a scale of 0-5 (5 is the most pore blocking), here is a trusty pinnable of the most common level 4 and 5 pore blockers to watch out for.



Many people who have skin types prone to spots, also have an oily t-zone. This might be why oily products and spots are thought about as causes of each other.

An oily skin type is actually a great one to have because it means your skin will age REALLY well. It has a lot of natural moisturising that is swinging your skin to oily and a very effective ‘skin’ raincoat that keeps out skin attacking bacteria’s and viruses. #GoYou. Because oily skin is SO good at moisturising itself, skin can have a harder time ‘leaving you’. #AttachmentAnxiety. It just loves you too much because you’re too awesome! Normal to dry skin types, ‘shred’ skin faster than oily skin. That means that oily skin can get a build up of skin that is ‘past its best’ and this can end up being what clogs your pores. The simple fix to this is to exfoliate, use a scrub with a very fine oatmeal or rice powder (2 of my favourite!) OR a skin exfoliating acid like Salicylic which is perfect for an oily skin type.

MORE: ‘6 reasons WHY you should EXFOLIATE your face’


Yes a few do, and also a lot don’t. If something is oil based, it does not mean it will cause spots. #Hooray! Most skincare products stay away from ingredients that are pore blocking as spots are not the effect they are aiming for *wink wink*.

If you have checked out the common level 4 and 5 pore blocking ingredients list, then you’ll see 2 oils to watch out for – cocoa butter and coconut oil. Coconut oil when its solid, can block your pores, so that is definitely one to watch out for if your skin is spot prone. It is actually an ingredient called ‘Lauric acid’ which you’ll also see on the list, that causes coconut oil to be pore-blocking. It doesn’t mean all coconut oil is pore blocking, the liquid version which has the Lauric acid removed is not. If the solid version is used in your skincare you’ll see it called  Cocos Nucifera oil, if it’s the liquid version it will get the name Caprylic / Capric triglyceride.


Skin needs oil and it needs water. Even the driest of skin types has natural skin oils in there, just a few less of them. The very top layer of your skin is made of 3 main ingredients, fatty acids (oil based), Cholesterol (oil based) and Ceramides (oil based). A healthy and glowing skin will have these 3 ingredients in tip-top, ‘premium quality’. As oil doesn’t like water (it’s not personal, they are just like magnets the wrong way around!), it’s other oils which will help this layer of your skin to be its very best version.


If you were having a water fight and you managed to aim and follow-through with the perfect SPLAT, then you’ll know water mostly run’s off skin. #ItWasntMe. This is actually a really good thing because without your skins naturally oil based protection (sebum layer, which I like to call skin’s raincoat), your skin would lose ALL its hydration. Oil helps skin to ‘hold in’ moisture. Without lots of conditioning skin oils, skin would look dull, tired, de-hydrated and ‘older’ than it should. This is also the reason why low-fat diets are not great for skin in the long-term. Skin needs good oils from within as well as in your skincare.

A lot of great skin protecting ingredients are oils. The ‘oldest’ and most well known of them all would have to be Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an oil skin lover, it is also an awesome skin protector as it gets the title of ‘antioxidant’. Retinyl Palmitate, one of the milder skincare forms of vitamin A is an oil. Retinyl palmitate is also an antioxidant, and one that can help ‘heal’ skin too, that also means anti-wrinkle active – phew, these oils right! Ceramides which are a newer addition to the skincare lingo dictionary are oil based. Skin would be nothing without some good skin loving oils.

So lovelies, an oil based product does not cause spots because it is an oil. Some water and some oil based ingredients do have the potential to cause spots, and that depends on the size of those ingredients and whether they ‘fit like a glove’ into your skins pores.

Had you heard the rumour that oil’s cause spots?