Glowing and dewy – these are both positive ways to describe your skin, until it goes just a little too far into oily-greasy territory. If your skin has always been oily, you are surely familiar with the worst days that come with it – specifically the daily nuisance of your face resembling an oil slick. Your T-zone turns into a shiny mess that can make you feel super uncomfortable, ruin your confidence and trigger a breakout. We know how you hated it – but unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to oily. With proper skin care routine, though, you can manage oily skin and reverse the negative impact it has on your skin and your life.
What is Oily Skin?
The skin has natural oils (called sebum), which are produced by the sebaceous glands. These oils help keep your skin healthy, but overproduction can occur and eventually cause breakouts and blemishes. Your sebaceous glands can malfunction and produce too much oil due to several possible reasons, especially on your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin).
When excess sebum is produced, your pores can get clogged up and when this is added to the build-up of dead skin cells on your skin’s outer layer, blackheads and whiteheads can develop. When you have oily skin, the excessive oil usually becomes noticeable at midday. This problem usually affects younger individuals, but the skin tends to become drier as you get older.
Oily skin is characterized by a shiny look, greasy to the touch (particularly in the T-zone), frequent breakouts, and enlarged pores. Fortunately, it can be managed with the right approach. Celebrity aesthetician Kate Somerville believes that the first step on the road to recovery is finding out if you truly have a problem. This article will focus on the causes of oily skin, its symptoms, treatment and prevention.
What Causes Excess Oil in Your Skin?
There are many possible reasons that the sebaceous glands go into overdrive; here are the most common ones:
- Hormonal Changes. Teenagers have fluctuating hormone levels, which is the reason this is usually the time when people get acne. Women who are going through menopause also have changing hormone levels, which can cause breakouts.
- Stress. Androgen levels rise during stressful situations, and this results in increased sebum production.
- Heredity. If your parents or siblings have oily skin, changes are that you do too.
- Unprotected Exposure To Ultraviolet Rays. Too much sun exposure without using protection (sunblock, clothes and antioxidant serums) – beware of tanning beds and lamps as well. Initially, the skin dries out, but the body responds by significantly increasing sebum production to enhance the healing process.
- Medications. There are certain drugs that can cause oily skin – often due to androgenic effects. The most common culprit is birth control pills, which are known to cause acne as a side effect.
- Improper Skincare. Take a closer look at your skincare regimen if you suddenly have oily skin. Be careful with cleanser, moisturizers, exfoliators and other formulations that can stimulate your sebaceous glands. Avoid rough skin cleaning tools, such as bath sponges and scrubs, as they can damage or dry out your skin and eventually cause sebum production to increase.
- Changes In Weather. During warmer months, oil production typically increases; however, your glands may also try to compensate during dry, winter months by increasing sebum production.
Signs and Symptoms of Oily Skin
Oily skin is more common in teenagers and young adults, but it happens more often in males due to male hormones (androgens). The symptoms of one individual with oily skin may differ from someone else with the condition. In many cases, the telltale signs that you have oily skin are pretty universal. These may include an onslaught of afternoon shine or an all-day dewiness because of the increased sebum on the skin’s surface. Again, the pores may also become bigger, and blackheads, whiteheads and other blemishes typically become visible.
Let’s dig in deeper.
- Oil-Slick, Greasy Skin By Afternoon – No matter how frequent or how long you cleanse your face in the morning, your skin’s sebum seems to crop up out of nowhere by afternoon – which can be really frustrating. If your excessive sebum production is making your life tough, carrying some blotting sheets can come in handy. It can help make your skin looking as matte as your oil-free foundation originally intended. Avoid using a blotting powder, especially if you have a make-up on so you don’t end up with off-putting “cakey” make-up disaster.
- Enlarged Pores In The T-Zone – The T-zone is the first thing to notice on your face, so it’s reasonable that an extremely oily T-zone can make you feel anxious. Remember the classic they-can-fry-an-egg-on-your-forehead joke? Yeah, it’s not funny. Unfortunately, excessive amounts of sebum production on your face doesn’t only make your skin greasy, but it can also make your pores appear larger due to clogged pores. You can minimize your pore size, though, with a clarifying toner like Maxatone, a daily clarifying facial toner by Solvaderm. It removes skin-dulling, deep-seated oil and dirt, while tightening and shrinking enlarged pores for clearer, smoother skin. It is also non-drying and gentle, which is ideal for oily, and acne-prone skin.
- A Skin That Rarely Feels Dry – When you have had oily skin all your life, you probably can’t remember the last time your skin felt tight and dry. Abnormal sebum production makes your skin feel greasy and congested, and blotting a shiny T-zone has always been a struggle (especially during social events when you need to run to the bathroom every thirty minutes!) Also, leaving a trail of oil and make up on your phone, clotting and almost everywhere you go is a normal thing.
- Nasty Breakouts – Overproduction of sebum will eventually result in clogged pores, and clogged pores can definetly break you out. A gentle cleanser with salicylic acid can help clear out your pores and thwart future breakouts.
- Blackheads – Oily skin can make your T-zone a blackhead city, especially on your nose. Excess oil (sebum) that accumulates at the base of hair follicles is the primary culprit for blackheads. When the excess sebum clumps together with dead skin cells, it plugs the hair follicle. The open comedone exposes this plug and once the sebum touches the air, it’s dark pigment (melanin) oxidizes and turns black. A facial cleanser or a chemical exfoliator with benzoyl peroxide can help breakdown the oil.
- Your Makeup Doesn’t Always Last – When an ad swears your makeup can last for 12 to 24 hours, you instantly know that doesn’t apply to you. However, there’s a trick to prevent your makeup from sliding off your face. Using a mattifying primer and setting powder, you can lock in your base for long-lasting finish.
- Almost Everyone In Your Family Has Oily Skin – As previously mentioned, oily skin runs in families. No wonder why your genetic makeup has a lot to do with your skin type.
How To Diagnose Oily Skin
When the tell-tale signs are there, but you still want professional advice, diagnosing oily skin is a good first step. In reality, though, anyone with at least one of the signs and symptoms mentioned is considered to have oily skin. Skin care professionals can usually diagnose this condition just by visual observance and asking questions, rather than a common misconception that an elaborate procedure has to be done. There are cases wherein it is just considered combination skin (a combination of dry and oily skin that affects certain areas only). Take note: people with combination skin usually have oily T-zones and dry or normal skin in other areas.
It is possible that an underlying issue, such as a hormonal problem, is causing the skin’s overproduction of sebum. For severe symptoms like oversensitive or tender skin, you should seek professional help immediately.
Dermatologist-Approved Routine For Oily Skin
A lot of people think oily skin is very difficult to treat, but it really isn’t. Most of the time, you just need to adjust your skin care regimen and find new products that are formulated for this problematic skin type. Here are options you can try if you want to say goodbye to oily skin:
- Cleansers. For people with oily and acne-prone skin, it is recommended to use clarifying cleansers, which are formulated to address the skin’s production of excess sebum. However, you must be cautions in choosing a product; avoid those that use harsh ingredients since they can result in skin problems. Remember to use lukewarm or cool water to avoid stimulating your skin’s production of oil.
Look for products with proven skin clarifying ingredients, such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid. There are spot on treatments if you already have acne – a common problem that people with oily skin get. You may need to test a few products in order to find the one that best suits your skin type.
- Toners. You’ve probably heard of reports that toners tend to irritate the skin; however, this is only the case when products with harsh ingredients are used. First of all, the right formulation will have a drastic effect in eliminating oiliness of your skin. Secondly, you need to learn how to use it correctly and follow the product directions carefully. Make sure to research very carefully to find the best toner for treating oily skin.
- Masks and Clays. These skin care products have become popular since they help draw out oils while at the same time cleaning pores. Just be careful with masks and clays because they can dry out your skin. Additionally, these should not be used daily; check the instructions of the product carefully before use.
- Moisturizers. Moderate to severe dry skin can cause the overproduction of sebum, so using a hydrating product can help treat oily skin. Just make sure to use an oil-free formula and focus on areas of your skin that tend to be dry.
- Oil-free Sunscreen. As mentioned previously, sun damage can stimulate your skin’s production of sebum. Therefore, you can prevent this skin issue by using sunscreen daily; just avoid lotions and creams, which can add to the oiliness of your skin. Other skin protective products like antioxidant serums can also help protect against sun damage.
- Blotting Papers. You’ve probably tried this product to control excessively oily skin, but remember that this doesn’t really do anything to address the cause of the problem.
Effective Ingredients for Oil Control
The foundation of any skin care regimen for optimum oil control is a cleanser. Again, it should be formulated especially for oily skin. If you’re in the market for such a product, these are the active ingredients you should look for:
- Glycolic Acid. This is a powerhouse ingredient for controlling excess oil production and it is among the top anti-acne compounds. Studies have shown that this alpha hydroxy acid removes excess oil and prevents the clogging of pores. It is definitely a potent exfoliating compound that helps you have smooth and balanced skin.
- Salicylic Acid. Classified as a beta hydroxyl acid, it is a remarkable cleanser that delivers amazing results in treating oily and acne prone skin. This ingredient is oil-soluble, which means it can target deep in the pores to address the primary cause of blackheads and whiteheads. It offers exfoliating benefits as well, gently removing dead skin cells from the surface to help brighten your complexion.
- Dimethicone. The top skin care experts recommend using an oil-free moisturizer to avoid contributing to the skin’s oiliness. Dimethicone acts like oil, hydrating the skin and giving a smoothening effect.
- Lavender Oil. Although you should avoid oils, this is an exception because of its soothing and nourishing effect that balance other exfoliating and deep cleansing ingredients in cleansers. It is absorbed quickly by your skin to help achieve optimal hydration and give a velvety smooth texture.
- Hyaluronic Acid. Just because you have A powerful moisturizer, this ingredient prevents dryness and it is actually among the most effective ingredients for preventing dehydration of your skin. Its main advantage is the fact that it doesn’t feel heavy and there’s minimal risk of pores clogging up.
- Niacinamide. There is evidence that this ingredient absorbs sebum. Also known as Vitamin Vitamin B3, it strengthens the barrier of your skin and stimulates its natural collagen production. Experts say it also has the ability to enhance the skin’s outer layer and boost the renewal rate, which reverses the appearance minor aging signs.
- Retinol. A derivative of Vitamin A, this is a well-known anti-aging compound that can be used to reduce wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. It is also effective for oily skin since Vitamin A helps build collagen and reduces pore size (less oil is produced).
Preventing Oily Skin
Managing oily skin is a non-stop battle because once you stop treatment, the problem usually returns. These tips will help ensure that you’re always on top of the situation and your skin won’t turn oily.
1. Wash Your Face at Least 2X a Day
The foundation of any skincare regimen for controlling oily skin is cleansing. It gets rid of excess oil and prevents clogging of pores as well. You may need to wash more often if you have very oily skin, but for most people it only needs to be done in the morning and before going to bed.
2. Tone Your Skin
Although many people think toning is not necessary after cleansing, it can be very useful for controlling excess oil production. Think of it as finishing the job of your cleanser, but it actually gets deeper into your pores. Make sure to get a cleanser with gentle, natural ingredients to prevent irritating your skin.
3. Moisturize Properly
Even though it sounds wrong, you still need a moisturizer for oily skin. In fact, it is a necessary step in your regimen to control oil production. However, it is crucial to find a lightweight, non-comedogenic and water-based moisturizer so that acne risk is minimized.
4. Be Careful with Skincare Products
There are many ingredients that can clog your pores and dry out your skin so watch out for harsh chemicals. For instance, most formulations use alcohol, which dehydrates the skin and boost oil production significantly; mineral oil is a popular ingredient that tends to clog pores.
5. Exfoliate Occasionally
You should add exfoliating to your routine – this will slough away dead skin cells and clear your pores of pollutants. Just be careful in buying a product and make sure it only uses gentle, natural ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids. Many formulas use harsh ingredients that can cause irritation or other skin problems.
6. Keep Skin Care Simple
Skin care can get confusing so a lot of people end up with complicated regimens that do more harm than good. You don’t need a dozen products to deal with too much oil; you just need the basics that are previously mentioned. Moreover, it is essential to be careful with topical products because there are many potentially harmful ingredients that can worsen oily skin or even lead to more serious skin problems.
7. Consult Your Physician
Some instances require professional help, such as when there is an underlying medical condition (e.g., thyroid disorders that cause abnormal hormone levels) that should be treated. If you continue to suffer from oily skin even after trying different measures, contact your physician or skin care specialist.
8. Liver a Healthy Lifestyle
One considerable lifestyle change that can help a lot in treating oily skin is to stop smoking. This is because it can increase the size of your pores and at the same time decrease circulation, which has a negative effect on skin health. Exercising regularly and getting enough sleep can also boost your skin health and help prevent hormonal issues that contribute to excess oil production.
How to Layer Your Skin Care Products
While skin care products play a big role in managing oily skin, it’s not enough to use them all at random. Proper layering should be done to make each skin care product more potent, which in turn, gives you more effective and noticeable difference in your skin in the quickest time possible.
“In general, you are going to want to pile on products from thinnest to thickest,” says Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch. Here is a great layering trick to follow if you have oily skin.
- Start With a Toner – According to cosmetic chemist Ni’Kita Wilson, opt for a toner with salicylic acid to dissolve dead skin cells gently, unclog pores and thwart future skin damage. A formulation that contains willow bark extract is a natural way to cleanse your skin, while managing inflammation.
- Next, Spot Treatment – If you want to spot treat an acne breakout or just a couple of zits on your face, glop an acne cream right after toning. Always go with the lowest dose possible of benzoyl peroxide first, and then increase it gradually as you continue with spot treatment. Remember, going crazy on spot treatment can damage your skin, causing flaking and peeling.
- Soothe – Heavy-duty treatments can put your skin into overdrive, which is why a soothing cream that helps quell inflammation and brighten up your skin is a must-have in your beauty kit.
- Seal Them All In – Enter your trusty moisturizer. Remember, your skin is oily enough as it is so you don’t want a moisturizer that is too heavy and feels greasy. Rather, keep an eye out for oil-busting, skin pampering ingredients like Vitamin C, willow bark extract, aloe vera and lemon grass. Vitamin C is a great antioxidant, aloevera is soothing and lemon grass is a natural antiseptic that helps heal skin and clear up acne, while improving the skin’s elasticity.
A moisturizer’s primary job is to hydrate your skin, but it can also mattify, cool or calm your skin – you just need to apply the right product. Generally, you’ll never go wrong with water-based lotion if you have oily skin as its refreshing and balances the oiliness. And to top it off, your moisturizer locks in all the skin care products on your skin, making them more effective.
- Finish With Sunscreen – Ah yes, sunscreen. It should ALWAYS be a part of your skin care routine all-year-round regardless of your skin type. And it should ALWAYS be the last step. That’s because when your skin says “hey!” to Mr. Sun, it’s vicious UV rays immediately attack your skin and you’d want sun protection to the first thing they go head to head with. Opt for non-chemical blockers rather than physical exfoliants, so it would be less irritating for your skin.
Stop shininess in its tracks through proper layering of your skin care products.
Oily Skin Dos and Don’ts
To sum everything up, here are essential tips for managing oily skin.
- Do wash your face with a gentle, clarifying cleanser at least two times a day (morning and evening). You may need to wash more often if you have severely oily skin.
- Do not use harsh cleansers and other skin care products that can strip the natural oil of your skin. These products can stimulate sebum production and dramatically increase your skin’s oil production.
- Do use cleansers with proven ingredients, such as salicylic and glycolic acids.
- Do not forget to add a good toner to your regimen to help control oil production.
- Do keep your skin care routine simple.
- Do not use moisturizers that contain oil, especially those with mineral oil because they can cause clogging and eventually lead to breakouts.
- Do protect your skin every time you head outdoors.
- Do not practice an unhealthy lifestyle, as this can contribute to excess oil production of your skin.
- Do use topical formulations that are designed especially for oily skin.
- Don’t hesitate to consult a dermatologist if you don’t find any success in treating oily skin.
Frequently Asked Questions about Oily Skin
Here are other things you should know about this problematic skin type:
1. What Causes Oily Skin?
As previously mentioned, this condition has several causes. However, it is generally due to the overproduction of sebum by the sebaceous glands underneath the skin.
2. Do I Need To Moisturize Oily Skin?
There is a persistent myth that people with oily skin do not need to use a moisturizer. The fact of the matter is that excess sebum can also result from increased water loss or dehydration. Skin care experts recommend using a formulation specifically for oily skin to fight the harsh effects of oil-busting products that usually have a drying effect.
3. Should I Exfoliate?
People with oily skin tend to suffer from large pores, which often cause dirt and sebum to get stuck in them – breakouts or blemishes then develop. Exfoliating minimizes clogging by cleansing pores and at the same time eliminating dead skin cells.
4. Does Diet Play a Role Regarding Oily Skin?
As in most things regarding our bodies, our diet can have a positive or negative impact on our skin. To help reduce overactive sebaceous glands, we can consume the following kinds of foods:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Foods rich in B2 and B5 Vitamins, such as whole grains, wheat germ, nuts, beans, nutritional yeast, and organ meats.
- Cold-pressed oil or olive oil
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
Foods To Avoid Include
- Animal Fat
- Spicy foods
- Fried foods
- Cooking with oil
- Carbonated drinks
- Junk food
5. Can I Wear Makeup If I Have Oily Skin?
Of course you can. You don’t have to forego makeup forever just because it wouldn’t stay on your skin anyway or it can aggravate your already compromised skin. Good thing, there is a work-around to wearing your makeup, keeping it in place and ditching unwanted shine.
- Prep Your Skin Before Applying Makeup. Remember to keep your skin hydrated and use only an oil-control, matte-finish primer. The best moisturizer you can use is something with hyaluronic acid. It is super hydrating for the skin, which balances out the oil so your makeup applies better and lasts longer. Plus, hyaluronic acid is also a miracle worker if you want plump, younger-looking skin.
- Apply An Oil-Free Foundation With Mattifying And Long-Lasting Finish. Always opt for lightweight and quick-absorbing formulation. As for your makeup tool, use a foundation blush or blending sponge when applying a foundation to avoid a cakey look. Do not use cushion compacts and anything that labels itself as “luminous.”
- Do a Touch Up By Bringing With You a Stash Of Blotting Paper Or a Travel-Friendly Compact. Because maintaining an oily skin requires constant maintenance all day long, keeping blotting papers or oil-control compact in your purse makes oiliness under control easily while on-the-go.
Excessively oily skin can be very annoying and worrisome. There’s always a need to check if you’re already looking like a greaseball. And to make it worse, oiliness may result in blemishes too. However, as we learned in this article, there are numerous things we can do to prevent or hinder the sebaceous glands from producing too much sebum.
So take heart, start a wise skin care regime, stay away from things that aggravate your skin, eat a well-rounded diet, and get plenty of exercise and sleep. If doing these things does not take care of your oily skin, consult a certified dermatologist and they will recommend the best treatment for you. Above all, never be overly embarrassed or depressed about your oily skin, it is a very natural, normal condition that many people have.