The field of dermatology will always be a busy one, given the simple fact that no two people seem to have exactly the same skin type. The cosmetics industry banks on this, offering skin care products for every skin type imaginable, from excessively dry to oily and everything in between.
Oily skin can strike anyone, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or geographic location. A myriad of factors cause or exacerbate oily skin, including humidity, a poor face cleansing regimen and even exposure to cigarette smoke. Some people are genetically predisposed to oily skin, whereas many others experience a hike in oil production at certain stages in their life, such as during the teenage years. Additionally, women who are pregnant, going through menopause or taking birth control pills are especially susceptible to oily skin.
What are the effects of having oily skin? People who suffer from it might feel greasy a few hours after a shower. Women with oily complexions might find that their makeup wears off more easily, requiring them to reapply it multiple times per day. Oily skin is also a magnet for dirt and dust, which quickly accrue and clog pores. Clogged pores lead to acne, blackheads and other skin imperfections.
Think all hope is lost? HowStuffWorks has put together a list of tips for cleansing oily skin, debunking some well-known skin care myths along the way. And there is some good news for oily skin sufferers. Oil-slicked complexions tend to stand the test of time better than dry ones, resulting in a younger-looking appearance with fewer lines and wrinkles.
Determine Your True Skin Type
One popular skin care myth is that skin type is obvious and easy to pinpoint. Unless your skin is excessively dry or oily, however, it may be hard to determine exactly what you're working with. In order to develop an effective skin cleansing regimen, it might help to recruit a dermatologist to determine your true skin type. If that's not financially feasible, you can make your own assessment of your skin.
For starters, keep track of how many times a day you blot your face. If you've got oily skin, the tissue you use to blot your skin will soak up oil at any given time of day. You've got dry skin if you blot and the tissue comes up clean. (Another hint that you've got dry skin is if you never feel the need to blot). Combination skin types tend to sport dry cheeks and foreheads, with the occasional oil buildup around the nose. The few people lucky enough to have normal skin rarely need to blot and never feel as though skin is dry or tight [source: Langston].
If the blot test has you pretty convinced you've got an oily complexion, here are a few other telltale signs to look for:
- large, visible pores
- a shiny T-zone (the area that spans your forehead and nose)
- frequent blemishes, including blackheads, whiteheads and pimples
Now that you've confirmed your skin type, you're well on your way to designing a skin care routine that will minimize the effects of extra oil.
Cleanse from the Inside Out
A good mechanic never replaces a car's transmission without first running a few diagnostic tests. The same practice can help people with oily skin determine if preventable factors are contributing to their problem. One popular skin care myth (probably spread by frustrated mothers) is that certain foods, such as chocolate, french fries and soda, cause oily skin and acne problems. To date, no credible study has been able to lay the blame on these foods as the culprits of oily skin.
But even if experts don't know what kinds of foods to blame, they know plenty about the kind of diet that makes a positive impact on your skin. Two superstar foods you may wish to add to your diet are lemons and kiwifruits, both of which are credited with contributing to clearer skin [source: Cernek and Unterberger]. Because a possible cause of oily skin is a deficiency of the vitamins B5 and B2, try eating more nuts, beans and whole grains, which are packed with these nutrients.
Aside from diet, other oily skin culprits include certain medications and exposure to smoke and excessive heat and humidity [source: Wellsphere]. Identifying the oily skin triggers that affect you will help you beat skin care woes.
So, now you know your skin type and have identified some factors that may be contributing to an oil-slicked complexion. It's time to find cleansing products that suit your skin and budget. Experts recommend purchasing a mild cleanser and moisturizer that are formulated for your skin. It may take a few tries to make a match, but those in the know insist that skin care doesn't have to break the bank.
Contrary to popular skin care myths, mass-produced discount skin cleansing products are actually considered to be as effective as the more expensive brands. This is usually because most of the active ingredients are similar -- if not identical -- and the difference in price is attributed to packaging, marketing and other extras [source: WebMD]. Dermatologists also recommend using wax- and oil-free cleansing products that won't exacerbate the problem of oily skin. If your skin is both oily and sensitive, you'd be wise to choose fragrance-free products. It's also a good idea to steer clear of scrubbing with any harsh bar soap, which likely contains ingredients that are not ideal for delicate facial skin.
For many, the instinct when washing up is to lather up with hot water to get rid of the day's deposits of dirt and oil. But hot water actually dries out the skin too much, washing away the oil necessary to keep skin supple and soft. While you don't want to cleanse with scalding water, wait for the tap to warm up to a nice, comfortable temperature -- cold water doesn't remove oil and dirt from the skin very well, paving the way for future breakouts.
Another skin care myth is that scrubbing is the best way to rid the skin of excess dirt. In fact, harsh scrubbing can have a very negative effect, stripping the skin of necessary oils and causing burns and rashes [source: WebMD]. Dermatologists also advise cleansing the facial area a maximum of two or three times per day. Overwashing causes the skin to become too dry, signaling the oil glands to produce even more oil to compensate. Instead, gently massage a mild cleanser, such as a foaming gel that contains salicylic acid, into the face for 30 seconds or so, then rinse with warm water [sources: Janes, Todorov].
A lot of people think that toner (also known as astringent) is a necessary component of the skin cleansing process. In fact, this extra skin care step is only recommended for people with especially oily skin. The purpose of toner is to lower the skin's pH and eradicate any dirt and oil that regular cleansing didn't catch. For the vast majority of people, however, certain alcohols in toners can dry the skin out too much, which is why only people with severely oily skin should bother with this treatment -- and just once a week or so. An alcohol-based astringent with salicylic acid is best for people with oily skin. Nonalcoholic toners are available, although they're not as effective as those containing alcohol [source: Todorov].
Moisturize in Moderation
One of the perks of having oily skin is that you don't have to worry too much about daily moisturizing. If you've got combination skin, with oil concentrated in your T-zone, you'll want to apply moisturizer to keep the balance between oily and dry. Wax-, lipid- and oil-free moisturizers are recommended for oily and combination skin types.
Many people may only need to apply moisturizer on problem dry spots, rather than the entire face. Moisturizers containing dimethicone or glycerin may yield better results than heavier lotions [source: Janes]. It also pays to streamline your skin care regimen during warm weather months when humidity and heat cause oil production to ramp up. Rather than using a moisturizer and a sunscreen, choose a combination product that protects and moisturizes at the same time [source: Tzeses].
Play with Clay
Applying a clay mud mask reduces oil production and removes many impurities. Don't believe the skin care myths claiming that frequent masks are more beneficial, though - one mask a week is all that's recommended to rid the skin of the extra oil, excess dirt and dead skin cells that cause breakouts and over-production of oil. Clay masks are gentler on the skin than products containing chemicals because they have more natural properties. In addition to cleansing the skin more deeply than a daily wash, clay masks also help diminish the appearance of large pores (sadly, they don't actually shrink your pores) that are so common in people with oily skin [source: Todorov].
Avoid Unnecessary and Harsh Treatments
Although a day at the spa may do the trick as far as relaxation goes, it usually falls flat when it comes to resolving skin care woes. Many people flock to day spas to rid their skin of impurities through treatments like facials and microdermabrasion. Although skin may be temporarily softer and the spa-goer may feel more relaxed afterward, the benefits of these treatments end there. Many people buy into the skin care myth that these cleansing treatments penetrate the skin deeply, when in reality, they only clean off the top layer of skin and even result in breakouts for a whopping 80 percent of people [source: WebMD].
Exfoliate in Moderation
Although pricey spa facials and more expensive treatments may be wholly unnecessary, people with oily skin can benefit from a weekly deep-clean to get rid of the dead skin cells that clog pores. A skin cleansing ritual that incorporates simple, inexpensive, at-home exfoliating washes are all that's necessary to clean out the excess gunk and pave the way to healthier, better-balanced skin. Exfoliating washes containing oatmeal have especially soothing effects, although even mild scrubs and microbead cleansers should only be used once a week at most. People who suffer from acne may choose to skip this step altogether because exfoliating, even when done gently, often further irritates breakouts.
Turn to Topical Creams
Even the most diligent skin cleansing routine can fall short of the goal of healthy, balanced skin. A range of topical creams formulated to reduce oily skin is available for use once the standard skin care measures have failed. Retinoid creams, vitamin A creams and sulfur creams are a few of the over-the-counter options for people with excessively oily skin. If these alternatives do little to bring skin into balance, a trip to the dermatologist is probably the next logical step. Dermatologists are specially trained to identify problem areas and prescribe stronger skin care and cleansing measures than are available in stores.
When it comes to exfoliating your face, you need to proceed with caution. The skin on your face is sensitive! Try these tips for exfoliating your face
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Bouchez, Colette. "Oily Skin -- Solutions that Work, No Matter What Your Age." Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/features/oily-skin-solutions-that-work?page=2
- Cernek, Susan and Lindsey Unterberger. "Eat Your Way to Better Skin with 7 Surprising Anti-Aging Foods." Glamour.com. (Sept. 2, 2009).http://www.glamour.com/beauty/2009/01/eat-your-way-to-better-skin#slide=1
- Janes, Beth. "Back to Basics. Self.com. April 2009. (Sept. 2, 2009).http://www.self.com/beauty/2009/04/skin-care-basics
- Janes, Beth. "Skin Care Products That Really Work. Self.com. April 2009. (Sept. 2, 2009). http://www.self.com/beauty/2007/04/great-skin-made-simple
- Janes, Beth. "The Great Skin Diet." Self.com. October 2008. (Sept. 2, 2009). http://www.self.com/beauty/2008/10/clear-skin-diet
- Langston, Eleanor. "Oily? Dry? I couldn't even tell what my own skin type was." March 2009. (Sept. 2, 2009).http://www.self.com/beauty/2009/03/beauty-boot-camp-eleanor
- Matthews, Melissa. "Skin Care Secrets." Woman's Day.com. Feb. 17, 2009. (Sept. 2, 2009). http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Beauty/Skincare/Skin-Care-Secrets.html
- Robertson, Annabelle. "9 Skin Care Myths." WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/skin-beauty/skin-care-advisor-9/skin-care-myths
- Siegenthaler, Danny and Susan. "Prevent Oily Skin by Adopting the Right Skin Care Regime." Stanford Wellsphere. Jan. 26, 2009. (Sept. 2, 2009). http://stanford.wellsphere.com/skin-beauty-article/prevent-oily-skin-by-adopting-the-right-skin-care-regime/581676
- Todorov, G., M.D. "Skin Care Basics: Oily Skin." Smart Skincare.com. (Sept. 2, 2009).http://www.smartskincare.com/skincarebasics/oilyskin.html
- Tzeses, Jennifer. "Solutions for Summer Beauty Bummers." April 15, 2009. (Sept.2, 2009).http://www.womansday.com/style/beauty/tips/g1576/summer-skin-tips/?slide=1