How Oily is Your Skin?

How To Tell Whether Your Oily Skin is Interfering with your Life!
Anyone who has the misfortune to suffer from it will be able to attest to the fact that having oily skin can cause a substantial psychological drain and have a significant impact on quality of life, happiness, self confidence and general well-being.

Oily skin can range from an irritating inconvenience (causing shiny smeared make-up, or the need to blot skin at mid-day) to a socially limiting condition, leading to decreased social interaction, and loss of opportunities.

It is very clear that how one perceives one’s own physical appearance can have a profound impact on one’s psychological state and on social interactions. Sufferers with poor self image tend to interact less with other people and in extreme cases can isolate themselves from social interactions all together.

But let’s go back to basics for a moment. What is perceived as very oily for one person might be looking pretty good for somebody else with a worse condition... So, the question is how does one judge as objectively as possible what their level of oiliness is?

Dermatologists use a “Sebumeter” to measure the amount of oil produced by skin. This device gives a direct readout  of the amount of oil that has been collected on a special plastic strip (Sebutape), which is placed on the skin for a set amount of time (usually 30 seconds). The tape becomes transparent where it absorbs oil and the Sebumeter measures the variation of light transmission through the strip.

Typically, people don’t have a Sebumeter lying around, so apart from going to the dermatologist, what can be done to get a better idea as to how oily your skin is?

In 2007 Segot-Chicq and coworkers published a paper in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (1) in which they demonstrate that a simple questionnaire with 18 questions was remarkably accurate in distinguishing the oily skin group from the normal skin control group.

They defined the normal skin group as having Sebumeter readings in the range of 70 to 150 micrograms per square centimeter (males tend to have higher numbers as compared to females), whereas the oily skin group was defined as having readings of over 150 micrograms per square centimeter.

The questionnaire is called the OSSIQ which stands for “Oily Skin Self-Image Questionnaire”. The 18 questions are grouped together in the categories of Symptoms, Behavior and Emotional Status.  One additional question is considered Neutral. Each question has five possible answers that are scored as follows:

0 – Never
1 – Rarely
2 – Sometimes
3 – Often
4 – Always

The higher your score, the oilier your skin.

The OSSIQ questions are (freely translated from French):


1. My skin makes me feel uncomfortable
2. I have sensitive skin
3. My skin is irritated


4. My skin condition makes my social life problematic
5. I tend to stay home because of what my skin looks like
6. My skin condition affects my interactions with relatives
7. The appearance of my skin affects my relations with others
8. I try to hide my skin from others

Emotional Status

9. My skin is not pretty
10. I feel depressed about my skin
11. I don’t like to look at my face
12. I don’t like to touch my face
13. I am not happy with the way my skin looks
14. I am frustrated about  the condition of my skin
15. I often obsess about my skin
16. My skin problem is stressful to me
17. I think my skin makes me feel unattractive


18. I feel that taking care of my skin constrains my life

The researchers showed that this combination of questions that address perception, behavioral and emotional consequences that are associated with an oily skin condition clearly distinguished the oily skin from the control group. They also showed that improvements in oily skin condition were accurately reflected by an improved (lower) score in a repeat of the questionnaire.

The OSSIQ is thus a valuable tool that you can use to monitor the improvements of your skin.

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Also, if you would like to read more about the science of oily skin, see the
other posts on this topic.
(Picture courtesy of

Segot-Chicq E, et al (2007) Development and validation of a questionnaire to evaluate how a cosmetic product for oily skin is able to improve well-being in women. JEADV 21: 1181-1186