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What Is Oil Acne?

C.B. Fox
C.B. Fox

Oil acne is a potentially serious condition caused by frequent exposure to grease and petroleum-based oils. This condition only affects areas of the skin that come into direct contact with oil and usually affects people who work in machining or metalworking. Though many workers suffer from oil acne, this condition is preventable and treatable. Workers who develop this condition should see a doctor, as it can lead to more serious health problems if it is not properly treated. In addition to the development of acne, oil acne also causes the skin to become darker if exposed to ultraviolet radiation.

The main symptom of oil acne is the presence of blackheads and blisters on the skin. Blackheads may occupy many of the pores on the affected skin and may appear more like a series of black spots than traditional pimples. When oil-covered skin is exposed, sunlight can also produce additional melanin, causing the color in the skin to darken significantly. This affect is more noticeable in individuals with naturally light-colored skin.


The initial symptoms of oil acne may not seem particularly severe, but they can worsen over time. Skin that has been exposed to oil frequently can develop sores. Workers may also damage their skin trying to clean out the pores, leading to potentially serious skin infections. Over time, skin cancer can develop from oil acne.

Though oil acne can occur anywhere on the body, it is most often seen on the hands or forearms. Workers who do not wear protective gloves and long sleeves are at a greater risk for developing this condition than workers who are properly covered when working with oil. The condition is also frequently seen on the stomach and legs when a worker’s clothing becomes soaked in oil, leaving oil in direct contact with the skin for an extended period of time.

Workers who have oil acne need to seek the care of a doctor. The condition is treatable but treatment may require the use of special medications or skin cleansers. In many cases, it takes a number of months for this type of acne to completely clear up, even if the affected skin is kept away from hazardous oils for the duration of treatment. Oil acne is also preventable. Workers who come into frequent contact with petroleum products or greases should bathe frequently and wash clothing that has oil on it before wearing it again.

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