If you struggle with the daily annoyance of a shiny oily skin that resembles an oil slick, you know how difficult it is to get oily skin under control. Adding to your frustration, whether you know it or not, is the fact that that many of the products claiming to eliminate shine and reduce actually make matters worse because they contain ingredients that irritate your skin and trigger more oil production!
Recognizing and Understanding Oily Skin
Oily skin is hard to control because it’s the result of genetically determined hormonal changes in your body, and you simply cannot control hormones topically. The hormones responsible for oily skin are called androgens—the male hormones—and they are present in both men and women.
Androgens stimulate healthy oil production, and while that truly has benefit for your skin, it is a problem when androgens stimulate too much oil to be produced! When too much oil is produced, the pores become larger to accommodate the excess oil production. Excess androgens can also cause the pore lining to thicken, which blocks oil from getting out of the pore, and that can result in blackheads and white bumps.
Not sure if you have oily skin? It’s recognizable by a few classic characteristics:
- Your face is shiny only an hour or two after cleansing, and usually appears greasy by midday.
- Your makeup seems to “slide,” or disappear right off your face.
- The more oily areas of your face have blackheads, white bumps, or acne.
- The pores are visibly enlarged, especially on your nose, chin, and forehead.
Caring for Oily Skin
The first step in caring for oily skin is to take a critical look at your current skin-care routine. Using products with drying or irritating ingredients may seem like a good idea because they make your skin feel less oily, at least initially, but in the long run using such ingredients is a bad idea.
Irritating or drying ingredients only make matters worse, because they actually trigger more oil to be produced directly in the oil gland! Our advice: Avoid irritating ingredients at all costs!
Products that make your skin tingle (such as menthol, mint, eucalyptus, and lemon) or that contain alcohol may feel like they are helping with your oily skin, but tingling is not helpful for anyone’s skin. When your skin tingles, it means it is being irritated, and irritation is always bad for skin. Tingling is just one way your skin is telling you it is hurting, and the cumulative damage will end up causing more problems.
Also bad for oily skin are products that contain pore-clogging or emollient ingredients, which may make your oily skin worse. As a general rule, ingredients that keep bar products in solid form (such as bar cleansers and soaps or stick foundations), or that are present in emollient lotions and creams are likely to clog pores and look greasy on your skin.
Instead of using creams or thick lotions, consider using only liquid, serum, or gel formulations.
Step-by-Step Routine for Oily Skin
The following essential skin-care guidelines—cleanse, tone, exfoliate, A.M. sun protection, P.M. hydration, and absorbing excess oil—will help you take control of your skin so you’ll see less oil, smaller pores, and fewer breakouts.
Use a gentle, water-soluble cleanser twice daily. Ideally, the cleanser should rinse without leaving a hint of residue, should not contain drying cleansing agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate (drying up skin doesn’t help anything), and should be fragrance-free (fragrance is always irritating)
An alcohol-free toner loaded with antioxidants and cell-communicating ingredients is an important step for oily skin. Toners that contain these ingredients help skin heal, minimize large pores by reducing inflammation, and remove the last traces of dead skin cells or makeup that can lead to clogged pores.
Exfoliation is one of the most important skin-care steps for oily skin. Oily skin tends to have an extra-thick layer of built-up dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, along with a thickened pore lining. Exfoliating is the best way to remove that build up, reduce clogged pores and white bumps, while making skin feel smoother.
The best exfoliating ingredient for oily skin is salicylic acid (BHA). Salicylic acid exfoliates not only the surface of your skin but also inside the pore lining, thus improving pore function and allowing oil to flow easily to the surface, so it doesn’t get backed up and plug the pore. In addition, over time, regular use of a BHA exfoliant will help fade the red marks from past blemishes.
Another benefit of salicylic acid is that it has anti-inflammatory properties, so it reduces irritation, which helps to calm oil production.
- A.M. Sun Protection
Even if you have oily skin, a sunscreen is essential for preventing wrinkles and reducing red marks. If you’ve avoided sunscreens because the ones you’ve tried are too greasy or too occlusive, we have some options that will change your impression of sunscreens for good. Look for weightless protection that helps keep your skin matte. You also can consider applying a matte-finish liquid foundation rated SPF 25 or greater and a pressed powder with SPF 15 or greater.
- P.M. Hydration
At night, choose a lightweight liquid, gel, or serum that contains no pore-clogging ingredients and that can provide hydration while treating your skin to the essential ingredients all skin types need to function in a normal, healthy manner, such as antioxidant, cell-communicating, and skin-repairing ingredients.
- Absorb Excess Oil
As you begin to get your oily skin under control, it’s likely that you still will need to use oil-absorbing products, maybe weekly, biweekly, or even daily. This is an optional step, but many with oily skin find it helpful. Our favorite trick for nixing excess oil is to first blot with oil-blotting papers, and follow it with a light dusting ofpressed powder with SPF 15. (Bonus: You’re adding to your sun protection!)