I was inspired to write this blog post by an article I saw on how to care for oily skin. The article contained multiple "skin tips" that would end up making things worse in the long run. And it was written in what would appear to be a "reliable source," nonetheless.
Excess oil production can be caused by a number of different things, including hormones, diet, wrong skincare products, and is typically a side effect of dehydrated skin.
I dealt with overly oily skin for years. And I can thank apricot scrub, drying products, and bad advice in my teenage years for making it worse. But after hours of research, and experimenting with different remedies, I now have a normal skin type. It did not happen over night, as most things do not, but it is possible! Not only is my skin type normal, but since my pores are not always filling up with excess oil, they actually appear smaller.
Here I've summed up everything that I believe actually worked, and what will make your oily skin worse.
CLEAN UP YOUR DIET
While cleaning up your diet is beneficial for your overall health, it also majorly impacts the appearance of your skin.
- Avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. Insulin creates the hormone IGF-1, which can ramp up your skin's oil production. Limit items with added sugars, and foods high on the glycemic index. Eating whole fruits are typically fine as they are full of fiber - but stay away from store bought fruit juices.
- Dairy is often a major contributor to oily skin and acne. Even if you buy organic, dairy still contains hormones (cow's milk is intended to grow a baby cow into an adult, after all - which requires hormones). I recommend cutting it out completely to start, and after you notice a decrease in oil production, you may introduce small amounts to see how your skin reacts. My favorite milk replacements are almond, hemp, and oat milks.
- Limit fast foods and fried foods as much as possible. These are often full of rancid, inflammatory oils high in omega-6. Many studies have found that a diet too high in omega-6 leads to excess oil production, clogged pores, and acne.
- Be sure you're eating healthy fats such as avocado, fresh fish, hemp seeds, chia seeds, olive oil (best served cold over salads as it is not meant to be heated), and raw nuts.
- Replace inflammatory cooking oils with coconut oil, avocado oil, or grass-fed ghee. These are all heat-stable and healthier options than the typical vegetable/soybean, canola, sunflower, and corn oils, which cause oxidative damage.
- Eat salt in moderation. A diet high in salt can dehydrate your skin, and your skin combats dehydration by producing more oil.
- Excess alcohol consumption is another contributor to dehydrated skin and should be enjoyed in moderation.
- Stay hydrated! Drink plenty of water, herbal teas, and water rich fruits throughout the day.
ADD IN SOME SUPPLEMENTS
- Saw Palmetto: Slows down your body's production of DHT - the hormone responsible for oil production.
- Zinc: Also slows the production of DHT.
- Vitamin D: Improves insulin sensitivity. I like to get my vitamin D naturally from the sun. Just be sure to protect your face and neck with a sunscreen.
TOPICAL USE OF GREEN TEA EXTRACT AND NIACINAMIDE
In a small clinical study, topical green tea extract was shown to reduce oil production by up to 50% - and acne by up to 70%.
Niacinamide has also been shown to have oil reducing benefits. Just don't mix this ingredient with acidic products such as chemical exfoliants or ascorbic acid, as this may cause irritation. You'll want to wait about 30 minutes between the application of these products if using them together. (I did not try niacinamide personally, but the information looks promising).
USE THE RIGHT FACE OILS
Every plant oil has it's own unique fatty acid profile. In most seed oils, the two most abundant fatty acids are Oleic acid (an omega-9), and Linoleic acid (an omega-6). Oils higher in Linoleic acid have been shown to balance the skin's oil production (steer clear of high oleic oils, unless they are diluted with high linoleic oils). You should notice a decrease in oil production after a couple of weeks of daily use. While your skin is transitioning, apply your oils only at night; once you notice your oil production has decreased, you may apply them during the day. Our best selling C+E Oil is formulated to contain the ideal ratio of fatty acids, and is an excellent choice.
The skin of acne sufferers has also been shown to be deficient in linoleic acid. However, this is not to say plant oils will agree with everyone's skin, or every type of acne. If your skin does not tolerate plant oils, squalane is an excellent replacement. It is naturally present in our skin's lipid layers in the form of squalene (notice the 1 letter difference). Squalene, however, oxidizes very easily, and an oxidized oil is pore clogging. Squalane is the hydrogenated and stable form of squalene, it contains mostly Omega-2, and works to prevent moisture loss in the skin, which can be especially beneficial for dehydrated skin.
DON'T OVER CLEANSE
I was guilty of this for years. I would buy any cleanser marketed towards oily skin, and I would use it 3-4 times a day. The only thing this did for me, was make my skin worse. Over cleansing strips the skin of essential moisturizing factors and damages the protective barrier, which ultimately signals your skin to produce more oil, and leads to acne and inflammation.
Keep in mind that every time you cleanse, whether you're using a gentle cleanser or not, you are disrupting the skin's delicate protective barrier.
So with this in mind, it is really only necessary to use a face cleanser before bed, as it is essential to remove all the dirt, oil, and sunscreen that accumulates during the day. But when you wake up in the morning, your skin is not necessarily dirty, and using a cleanser is probably overkill. To remove excess oil in the morning, simply rinsing with water is enough. I also love using pure colloidal oatmeal. It is calming, mildly cleansing, and it may not seem like it, but the tiny, soft granules very gently exfoliate. Lastly, don't forget to always follow up cleansing by applying your serums/moisturizers/face oils/whatever you're currently using. You want to add back in the moisture you just washed away, and skipping this step will only lead to dehydrated skin, and more oil production.
Which type of cleanser is best?
Look for gentle cleansers suitable for sensitive skin types. Typically, foaming and gel cleansers will be the most stripping, while most cream or oil cleansers will be milder. Although this isn't a set in stone rule. Just be sure to read the ingredients lists, as some cleansers marketed as gentle still contain harsh surfactants (such as sodium lauryl sulfate/SLS). If your skin feels tight or dry after you cleanse, it's too harsh. Also avoid abrasive face scrubs, cloths, and cleansing brushes. Abrasive products cause micro tears and damage the skin barrier, leading to inflammation, dehydrated skin, and increased oil production.
WHAT NOT TO DO
- Use drying products. This includes anything with alcohol, harsh astringents (I'm looking at you, witch hazel), harsh surfactants (sulfates!), or typically anything marketed towards oily skin.
- Use abrasive scrubs. This includes, sugar, coffee, and any nut or seed scrubs.
- Skip your moisturizer. As covered above, this can lead to dehydrated skin.
- Load on layers of powder. Powders dry out your skin, causing it to produce more oil. Avoid applying layers of powders throughout the day. Instead, use a small amount, and follow up with blotting your skin with tissues as your skin gets oily.
- Use primers heavy with silicone. While silicone is technically "non-comedogenic," meaning non-pore clogging, primers heavy with silicones suffocate your skin, causing dehydration. They also trap heat and oil - which can lead to inflammation, enlarged pores, and blackheads in oily skin types.
- Use hot water while cleansing. Hot water dries out your skin and allows the surfactants to penetrate deeper, leading to inflammation. I always cleanse with cool water, and I never wash my face in the shower.
WHAT YOU CAN DO WHILE YOUR SKIN IS TRANSITIONING
- Use salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid, and it is the only chemical exfoliant that is oil soluble. This means it is able to get down into pores and mix with your sebum - helping to keep blackheads at bay. Just be sure to use a mild product with a low percentage of no more than 2%. And after your skin regulates it's oil production, I recommend using a lower percentage of 0.5% to avoid irritation.
- Blot excess oil with regular tissues throughout the day. Spending money on special oil blotting sheets is fine, but not really necessary. I've also noticed that some brands of oil blotting sheets left my skin overly dry, as they remove too much oil.
- Don't stress! It will be frustrating at first while you are waiting for your skin to adjust. Just how long it will take will vary for everyone. For me, once I started implementing everything here, it took about 2 months.
If you have oily skin and you try this out, be sure to drop a comment below and share how it worked for you!
Disclaminer: I am not a medical doctor. Please consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplements. Some supplements may interfere with prescription medications.
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