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If you have oily skin, can you still use an oil-based cleanser?

There are lots of choices when it comes to skin care. Have you chosen wisely?
There are lots of choices when it comes to skin care. Have you chosen wisely?

Nickelodeon's Inside-Out Boy, from the eponymously-titled, short cartoon series, led a pretty improbable life. After his daredevil spin over the top of the swing set, his major organs ended up on the outside of his body. Classic cautionary shtick geared toward children, sure, but in real life the results wouldn't have been comical at all. It might be easy to take skin for granted; it's not as though it has some kind of super-obvious role like holding the body upright or pumping blood through miles of blood vessels. Instead, skin appears to just rest inertly on the surface as the world drifts by.

But despite its seemingly passive demeanor, skin actually performs some pretty critical roles on a constant basis. It keeps moisture inside the body -- you wouldn't want those eight glasses of water a day evaporating the minute you drank them, after all. It also protects your internal organs by keeping foreign particles like dirt and bacteria from finding a way inside.

To do this, skin produces an oily substance called sebum, which is a cocktail of materials including fats, proteins, inorganic salts and dead gland cells. A protective coating of sebum, courtesy the sebaceous glands, is perfect for helping prevent stuff from passing through. Unfortunately however, sometimes sebum levels fall out of balance. A dry winter day, a long, hot shower, a vigorous exfoliating facial -- these sorts of things are all capable of stripping sebum away. On the other hand, some people have sebaceous glands that are more energetic than average, which is largely the fault of genetic inheritance and overzealous hormone production. This causes them to have an oilier complexion, often accompanied by an acute case of acne.

Whether your skin is too dry or too oily, there's a veritable army of skin care products on the market all touting their ability to make skin zesty and fresh. An ideal cleanser removes junk like dirt, dead skin cells and excessive oil while preserving the protective barrier and keeping the pH level undisturbed. While they generally share these common goals, the formulas for different cleansers vary greatly. Common descriptions you might see on the side of a bottle include oil-based, water-based and oil-free. The first two both contain oil and water but in opposing amounts, while the third contains no oil at all.

Someone with oily skin might be shaking their head in disbelief at the thought of adding more oil into the mix, but the idea has been tossed around. On the next page we'll get the dirt on whether people with oily skin should use oil-based cleansers and fight fire with fire.