How to care for oily skin

oily skin

Oily skin is a condition characterized by an overproduction of sebum which leads to a shiny appearance, clogged pores, blackheads, acne and large pores. For many people, oily skin begins during their teenagers years and then it goes away, but others struggle with it throughout their life.

What causes oily skin?

We all have sebaceous glands. Their job is to produce sebum, which is the skin’s natural moisturizer: it protects skin, keeps it smooth, hydrated and prevents it from becoming dry. The trouble starts when these glands produce too much sebum, leading to oily skin with all its problems mentioned above. But why does this happen only to some people, when everyone has the same number of sebaceous glands in their skin?

Genetics. Sebum production is stimulated by an hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). When the body produces too much of it, or glands are overly sensitive to normal amounts of DHT, oil production increases. DHT, whose levels are genetic, appears in both girls and boys during puberty but its levels can rise also during the menstrual cycle.

The good thing about it though is that oily skin is well moisturized and because of that it tends to age better. This moisture, in fact, lubricates skin and helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

How to treat oily skin

A good and balanced skincare routine with products designed for oily skin is very important to treat this condition. In fact, while you want to remove excess oil and shine, it is also important not to use products that are too harsh or your skin will become dry. Here are a few tips on how you can keep oily skin under control:

Use a cleanser with Salicylic Acid twice a day. If your cleanser is too harsh or you use it too often, it will strip too much oil. This will just confuse your skin that, thinking it isn’t moisturized enough, will produce even more oil. Products with Salicylic Acid, a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), are good because this ingredient reduces sebum production and treats the causes of blemishes due to its antimicrobial and exfoliating properties. Because it can penetrate inside the pores, Salicylic Acid exfoliates both the pore from within and the surface of the skin, reducing blemishes and blackheads.

Use toners with Salicylic Acid or Silica. They help remove excess oil and are therefore a must for people with oily skin. Alcohol-based toners should be avoided as they dry out the skin which responds by producing more oil. The only exception is if you have super oily skin. In that case, alcohol-based toners may actually help.

Use a light moisturizer. Oily skin already produces too much sebum so a moisturizer isn’t always needed. If you want to use one, choose a light and oil-free moisturizer that doesn’t contain comedogenic ingredients. But if you have seriously oily skin, don’t use a moisturizer at all or you could make things worse.

Wear sunscreen. Those with oily skin can be tempted to skip using a sunscreen but that’s never a good thing to do. Your skin still needs protection from the sun’s rays and a sunscreen should always be applied daily. Just choose a light one that is both oil-free and non-comedogenic.

Exfoliate regularly. This will help remove any clogged pores but don’t overdo it (3 times a week is enough) or you could irritate skin and aggravate the problem.

Use oil blotters to wipe excess shine from your face throughout the day without ruining your makeup.

Apply a primer or a mattifier on your face before putting on your makeup. They can absorb excess shine and help makeup last longer.

When to see a doctor

If your skin is seriously oily and the tips above don’t help much it’s time to consult a dermatologist. You doctor may prescribe you topical prescriptions containing retinoids, sulfur or azelaic acid that can help with oily skin.

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  1. says

    Thanks Gio for this useful post. My skin is oily so it needs extra care :) I always use a tonic 2-3 times a day and exfoliation is really an important step. I want to buy now Clinique Acne Solutions oil control cleansing mask cause I’ve read so many positive reviews about it and it seems that can keep the oil under control.
    .-= Tavia´s last blog ..YSL Paris Passion Collection for Spring 2010 =-.

  2. beautifulwithbrains says

    Dao, I think oily skin can be a real pain sometimes but you’re right, at least it tends to age quite well, which is good :)

  3. beautifulwithbrains says

    Tavia, you’re welcome, i hope they help you :) I think toners are essential for people with oily skin cos, apart from removing any makeup residue and give skin a fresh feeling, they can also remove excess shine. I’ve heard raves about the Clinique mask too and I hope it works well for you too :)

  4. Invie says

    I suffered from oily skin and acne for a long time before i learned how to take care of it my own way. The key for me was NOT to dry my skin out. My problem was that my skin had a lot of trouble exfoliating itself so the pores would get clogged easily. The more i dried my skin out, the more dead skin built up and the more oil my skin produced.

    My key processes to maintenance is to exfoliate with a gentle physical (as opposed to chemical) exfoliator everyday. I exfoliate after i cleanse my skin first so I am not rubbing dirt into my pores. I wouldn’t use salicylic acid unless you are using it as a spot treatment because it will dry out your skin and cause it to produce more oil. Listen to your skin. If it feels dry, thats a bad sign.

    I moisturize with a good moisturizer. It doesnt need to be oil-free. Oil is good for your skin. Your skin produces oil anyway. Well moisturized skin won’t overproduce oil so drink lots of water!

    I use sunscreen everyday. This also prevents scarring if you do break out.

    And I don’t use a toner that stings. I use one that is soothing so i don’t irritate my skin.

    I am making this long post because i feel that ppl with oily acne prone skin are misinformed about how to manage it. Forget about drying your skin out and forget about oil-free products. The key is to get your skin balanced.

    Products I love are:
    Philosophy Purity- A gentle deep cleanser that won’t overdry your skin
    Philosophy the microdelivery exfoliating wash- gentle enough for everyday use but very effective with micro grains.
    Philosophy Hope in a jar – I used to hate it when i tried a sample but i got this as part of a set and it ended up being very easily absorbed by my skin. It has lactic acid in it which helps with a very gentle chemical exfoliation that helps the moisturizer sink in.
    Clinique moisture surge- I used this on top of hope in a jar if my skin is dryer during the winter.

  5. beautifulwithbrains says

    Invie, hi and thanks for your comment. It’s always helpful to hear tips from those who have oily skin and find out how they treat it. I agree with you that it is very important to find the right balance. You need to remove excess oil but if you remove too much, it will just dry skin that, as a result, will produce even more oil.

    As for Salicylic Acid, I think it depends on the product and its formula. If used in a cleanser, then it will be rinsed off so its benefits are limited and shouldn’t dry skin too much. Also, I would use products that list this ingredient a bit down (but not too down or it’ll be useless) the ingredient list so that its concentration is not too high but still beneficial.

    Of course it also depends on the skin. Each one is different and reacts to an ingredient differently so if Salicylic Acid dries your skin, by all means stop using it. Or if a moisturizer that isn’t labelled as oil-free works best for you, use that. These are just general tips, but the most important thing is to listen to your skin and see how it reacts to the different treatments until you find the best skincare regimen for you.

    I also agree that toners should be soothing, if it stings or irritates skin, it’s not good. Still, a good toner would help remove excess oil without drying skin. Alcohol-based toners instead should only be used in extreme cases as they do more harm than good.

    Thanks for the product recommendations too, they’re useful and I hope they’ll help other people with oily skin.

  6. beautifulwithbrains says

    Prettybeautiful, you’re welcome and thanks for sharing your routine too :) I agree about not overcleansing skin or you’d dry and irritate it even more.

  7. Somasam says

    Which toner is better for oily skin? and should it be used once a day? Is it safe to use toner after neutrogena face wash and than put moisturizer before going to bed?
    I have a T ZONE

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Somasam, personally I don’t recommend the use of toners. They usually contain a huge amount of alcohol, which is drying to the skin. And when skin is dry, it produces even more oil. Instead, you should use a moisturiser or serum with salicylic acid, which will help keep oil production under control.


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