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Skin School  >   Acne Basics

Say Goodbye to Grease. 7 Tips for Tackling Oily Skin

Your glasses are always sliding down the bridge of your nose. Foundation cakes and/or runs off your face less than an hour after you’ve applied it. A brand new pack of blotting papers lasts only a few days. If any of these scenarios sound painfully familiar, then you probably have oily, acne prone skin. Here’s what’s causing the wrong sort of shine on your oily forehead and what you can do about it.

Why so slick?

A lot of it comes down to hormones and genetics. On our skin, each hair follicle (or pore) contains one hair and a sebaceous gland. The gland produces sebum (AKA oil), which is a mixture of fatty acids, wax esters and lipids. Sebum itself is a good thing - it helps shed old skin cells, keeps skin moisturized and protects your face.

However, hormonal fluctuations, stress, skincare products, or conditions like acne or rosacea can cause our sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. As a result, sebum production ramps up and the oil produced is often thicker and stickier. Some people are genetically predisposed to have larger oil glands that produce more oil. In either case, there’s simply too much sebum on your skin’s surface and clogging your pores. Warm, humid weather can exacerbate the situation because your skin doesn’t absorb as much natural moisture, so oil tends to sit on the surface.

The oil-acne connection

An overabundance of oil on the skin’s surface can clog pores and ultimately lead to acne. However, it’s not the oil itself that causes breakouts (it’s the oil and dirt trapped in your pores), so you don’t want to overwash your face or use harsh astringents. Attempting to dry out your oily face will actually prompt your sebaceous glands to produce even more oil and further irritate any acne you already have.

RELATED READ: What Causes Hormonal Acne?

How to treat oily, acne prone skin

Luckily, there are many things you can do to help take your oily face from greasy to glowing. Here are seven ways to keep oil under control and your skin healthy.


1. Wash your face twice a day

As we mentioned above, resist the urge to overwash and irritate your skin! Cleanse your skin when you wake up in the morning and before you go to bed. If you feel particularly sweaty after a workout, you’ll want to wash then too. Choose a gel cleanser with salicin or 2% salicylic acid, which is strong enough to break down oil in the pores but won’t dry out your skin. When you have oily skin, salicylic acid is your friend and you can even look for it in toners, moisturizers and other treatments.


2. Keep away from the astringent

Many of us with oily skin grew up all too familiar with the big blue bottle and a cotton pad. But harsh products that contain drying alcohols, menthol or camphor can increase the sensitivity of skin and ultimately cause it to produce more oil. Instead, use a gentle, alcohol-free toner with ingredients like lactic hydroxy acids, at most once a day.


3. Moisturize the right way

One of the biggest misconceptions about oily skin is that it doesn’t need moisturizer. But all skin types need hydration! It keeps the skin’s barrier intact to keep out external intruders, like UV rays and bacteria. That doesn’t mean you should slather on the heavy creams or oils. Lightweight lotions or serums that contain glycerin, hyaluronic acid, willow bark or witch hazel are better options.


4. Choose lighter makeup options

Thick foundations can feel heavy and look cakey on an oily face, especially in the summertime. Plus, heavy makeup can run into and clog your pores, causing breakouts. Check labels for words like oil-control or mattifying and avoid cosmetics with a shimmer finish at all costs. And if you only need minimal coverage, choose powder, BB/CC cream or tinted moisturizer instead of foundation.


5. Don’t skimp on sunscreen.

You need to apply a full teaspoon to your face to reach the labeled SPF. Going without sunscreen exposes your skin to UV light, which actually increases the size of sebaceous glands and the amount of oil production. Sunscreen doesn’t have to look heavy and greasy! Try lightweight formulations that are oil-free with a matte finish.


6. Cut the carbs

While there are certainly junk food lovers who don’t have oily skin, a high-glycemic diet can cause a spike in glucose and insulin that prompts excess oil production. Try swapping refined, processed grains like white bread, pasta and sugary foods for whole grains, fruits and veggies. Foods that are high in vitamin A, such as spinach, carrots and cantaloupe, can actually help to slow oil production.


7. Reach for a retinoid

Speaking of vitamin A, retinoids not only speed up cell turnover, but also help to prevent oil and dirt from getting trapped in your pores. Dermatologists recommend Differin Gel, which is oil- and fragrance-free, so it won’t irritate oily skin.


Do you have oily skin? How do you minimize the shine and fight acne? Share your tips in the comments below!

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