Oils Ain't Oils!

Oily skin is probably the top skin concern I get asked on my store. Granted that many of my customers fall into the “hormonal teens” category, but oily skin is not a problem only specific to this age group! So I thought in this blog, I cover all the different types and reasons for excess oil as well as provide tips on how you can balance the skin.


Understanding your Oily Skin

Oils produced by the body help keep skin healthy, but there can be too much of a good thing. Excess oil can lead to blemishes and acne flare-ups. Oily skin is generally characterized with a high production of sebum, which translates as a natural dewiness. There is often a possibility of some tendency toward spots, but this isn’t the case for all. Often oily skin will begin to look shiny shortly after washing, and usually after makeup application.

Although factors such as diet, age, gender, ethnicity and climate play a role, it’s primarily hormones that regulate oil production. The true cause of oily skin lies in one's genetic makeup - an excess of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Too much of a good thing, this metabolite of testosterone, DHT is responsible for triggering sebaceous glands to produce sebum. Higher than normal levels of this androgenic hormone, or an increased sensitivity of the glands to normal levels of DHT can result in a virtual oil slick.

DHT first appears at puberty in both girls and boys. The menstrual cycle affects DHT levels, paralleling the rise of progesterone (post ovulation). Ever speculate why your skin becomes oilier and acne-prone just before menstruation? Blame rising levels of progesterone (and ultimately DHT).

This also explain why for some of us that after the (oily skin) curse and torture in our 20s, eventually become accustomed to in our 30s, still facing the same #@&*% [MA15+ rated] challenge in our 40s, 50s and beyond.


Care for your Oily Skin

The first step in caring for oily skin is to assess your current skincare routine. Using products with drying or harsh ingredients may make your skin feel less oily, at least initially, but in the long run, using such ingredients only makes matters worse. Here’s what you need to kick out of your skincare routine.

Avoid harsh, drying ingredients because they actually trigger more oil! Specially Denatured (SD) alcohol and denatured alcohol are common culprits. Harsh formulas may remove more oil than you need. You don't want excess oil on your skin because that can feed bacteria, but you don't want to strip your skin of all its fatty acids either.

Products that make your skin tingle (such as menthol, mint, and eucalyptus) actually upset skin. Tingling is just one way your skin is telling you it is hurting, and that cumulative damage will end up causing more problems.

Products that contain pore-clogging or emollient ingredients can exacerbate oiliness. As a general rule, ingredients that keep bar products in solid form (such as bar 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 formulas, consider using only liquids, weightless serums, fluid lotions, or feather light gels.


Routine for Oily Skin

The following essential skincare guidelines will help you take control of your skin so you'll see less oil, pores that appear minimized, and fewer bumps.



Use a gentle, water-soluble cleanser twice daily. Ideally, the cleanser should rinse without leaving a hint of residue, be fragrance free (fragrance is always a problem) and not contain drying cleansing ingredients. Drying up skin doesn't help anything. For extra cleansing, please avoid skin-aggravating scrubs or cleansing brushes with stiff bristles. A soft washcloth or cleansing brush with ultra-soft bristles can be helpful - being rough on your skin is not! Also, beware of the buff. Some washcloth or buff puff can actually stimulate more oil secretion.

Ideally, choose a gentle cleanser and use it at least twice a day to normalize oil levels. If a basic facial cleanser doesn’t cut oiliness, try a product that includes an acid such as benzoyl peroxide (BPO), salicylic acid (BHA), glycolic acid, or beta-hydroxy acid. Many products containing these acids are marketed as acne facial care products. They’re great for people with acne, but they’re also fine for people whose problem is just oily skin. Since some of these ingredients can be irritating, buy a small size to see how your skin responds. People often have to try several products before they find the one that works best for them. Wash with warm water, not hot, because temperature extremes can also irritate skin.



An alcohol-free toner loaded with antioxidants and skin-replenishing ingredients is an incredibly important step for oily skin. Toners that contain these ingredients help skin renew and recharge, minimize the appearance of enlarged pores, and remove the last traces of makeup that can lead to clogged pores. For some this can be the only "moisturizer" they need for daytime.

Beware that overusing toner can lead to overly sensitive - skin so sensitive it may not be able to tolerate an acne regime - so opt for a cream low in benzoyl peroxide (BPO) or salicylic acid (BHA).



Exfoliation is one of the most important skincare steps for oily skin. Oily skin tends to have an extra-thick coat of built-up dead skin on the surface, along with a thickened pore lining. Gently exfoliating is the only way to remove that build up and diminish clogged pores. It is also the best way to improve the look of stubborn, tiny, hard white bumps that occur primarily on your cheek bones but can show up in other areas too.

The best exfoliating ingredient for oily skin is salicylic acid. Salicylic acid exfoliates not only the surface of your skin but also inside the pore lining, thus allowing oil to flow easily to the surface, so it doesn't get backed up and plug the pore.



Dehydration can stress glands to produce more oil. For daily hydration, use a moisturizer that contains hyaluronic acid rather than ceramides, which can lock in bacteria and lead to pimples.

In general, pick a light but exceptionally effective hydrating and skin-renewing gel or serum that is free of pore-clogging ingredients while giving your skin the essential antioxidants and skin-replenishing ingredients it needs to look as healthy and revived as possible.

In addition, people who have oily skin often steer clear of moisturizers, worrying that they’ll make their skin look even shinier. That’s quite a bad idea. Even oily skin needs to be moisturized to look its best. To avoid an oily sheen, choose an oil-free moisturizer. Vary the amount you apply depending on whether the area tends to be dry or oily.


Masks and Clays

Applying masks and clays to the skin helps draw out oils and cleanses pores, but there is also concern for over drying. It is best to apply them only to problem areas and use them only occasionally or limiting masks and clays to really big events such as a wedding, a birthday dinner, or a big presentation.


Sun Protection

Traditional sunscreens can pose a problem for people with oily skin since they tend to go on pretty thick and can block pores. Even so, protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation is absolutely essential. Sunscreen gels are less likely than creams and lotions to make your skin look oily, and there are a variety of new oil-free products for oily skin. Some of the newest products, including facial powders, offer enough protection to ward off sun damage in most situations.


Absorb Excess Oil

During the day, if you're going through blotting sheets like whoa… you’re probably nodding now! Cosmetic blotting papers offer a great option for removing oil because they don’t dry out your skin. People with oily skin really love blotting paper because it’s convenient and easy to use. Apply it to oily areas, such as forehead, nose, and chin. Don’t scrub your skin with the sheet of blotting paper. Instead, simply press it against the oily area long enough to absorb oil, usually 15 to 20 seconds. Some blotting papers are lightly powdered, which further reduces shine.

Pads medicated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or other oil-cutting acid ingredients are another option. You can easily carry them with you and use them on the run to freshen up your skin and remove excess oil.


Talk to Your Dermatologist

If over-the-counter products aren’t enough to help you manage oily skin, talk to your dermatologist. To make matter worse, certain brands and websites perpetuate unhealthy fads and myths about the number of products and regimen steps required to maintain glowing skin. Rather than play a guessing game, defer to your dermatologist.

In my travel, I have often seen many spa and beauty salons (especially in Asia) that claim they can perform lasers and chemical peels to help reduce oiliness and improve the overall look of your skin, with some outrageous “proof of results”! Only certified dermatologists can perform these specialised treatments. They are also licensed to administer products with specific chemicals (such as Tretinoin, Adapalene, or Tazarotene) that can help by altering pores and reducing oiliness.

It’s worth remembering that oil production is a normal part of healthy skin. People with naturally oily skin tend to have fewer wrinkles and healthier looking skin. So don’t go overboard in your efforts. Remove excess oiliness when you need to look your best, but be careful to preserve your skin’s natural anti-aging mechanism.


Home Remedies

Be wary of home remedies. They can be hit or miss. The popular sugar-lemon scrub some women make at home is a good exfoliator and mildly improves pigmentation, but too much lemon juice can lead to hyperpigmentation. Yogurt masks, which contain lactic acid, can help exfoliate and make skin glow, but they, too, can be overdone. Exfoliating once a week to allow dead skin to slough off is probably about right.

One home remedy dermatologists recommend avoiding is steaming. The high temperature can be dangerous and strip your skin of fatty acids you need. No wonder they (the dermatologists) don’t like to take hot showers or go in Jacuzzis.



This is not my forte but in consultation with people in the field, here’s what they suggest.

When it comes to your skin, avoiding pore-clogging products like liquid foundations or other products that feel heavy. Mousse-based foundations are excellent for their silky layers, but aerosolized foundations work well too. If there's only a little you wish to cover up, choose powder over foundation.

Regardless of your product, they stress the importance of removing makeup before you go to sleep, or even better, right when you come home, so your skin can breathe.


  • August 30, 2017
  • Aphrodite and Hebe

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