How can you treat oily skin on your face?


It's perfectly normal for your body to produce natural oils, also known as sebum. Made by the sebaceous glands, which are found everywhere but the palms and soles, it keeps your skin looking hydrated and healthy while guarding against infection [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society]. But if you struggle with a greasy, shiny complexion, you know there can be too much of a good thing.

When hormonal changes and overstimulation send the sebaceous glands into overdrive, excess sebum can lead to shine, clogged pores and breakouts. How can you cope with a persistent or passing oil slick on your face? First, you'll want to keep your skin clean -- just not too clean. If you wash with an extremely harsh soap, you'll overstrip the skin and potentially trigger yet more oil production [source: Jaret]. Choose an oil-free, noncomedogenic foaming cleanser that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, which exfoliate and help fight breakouts [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

Most dermatologists don't consider a toner or astringent necessary for oily skin, but it's safe to use one if you enjoy the refreshing tingling feeling. Try a formula with glycolic acid, and use it only on the T-zone, the area of your face including your forehead, nose and chin, which contains more sebaceous glands, to avoid causing dry patches or irritation [source: Lamont-Djite].

As for whether oily complexions need moisturizing, experts are divided on the question. Try striking a balance by only applying moisturizer to any dry areas, avoiding the T-zone. Opt for an oil-free, water-based lotion or gel over heavy creams with pore-clogging vegetable and mineral oils. If you don't moisturize, be sure to treat the delicate eye area with a rich eye cream [source: Denese]. And remember that oily skin still needs sun protection, so if you don't use a moisturizer or foundation with SPF 15 or higher, you'll need to wear oil-free sunscreen on a daily basis [source: Begoun].

Many people with oily skin swear by blotting papers, which can soak up extra shine throughout the day without requiring you to wash up and reapply products. Easy to tuck into a bag or pocket and use on the go, these absorbent sheets are made from materials ranging from rice bran to plastic [source: Russell].

There are other treatments you can try for oily skin, including mattifying lotions, masks, chemical peels and prescription creams or gels containing tretinoic acid, which regulates the sebaceous glands [source: Denese]. If your shine is extreme or accompanied by stubborn acne, talk to a dermatologist. He or she may recommend a prescription-only topical treatment or an oral medication that keeps the sebaceous glands in check by controlling hormone levels [source: James].

For more information on treating oily skin, check out the links below.

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  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Saving face 101: How to customize your skin care routine with your skin type." November 10, 2009. (October 10, 2013)
  • Begoun, Paula. "The Complete Beauty Bible: The Ultimate Guide to Smart Beauty." Rodale. January 1, 2004.
  • Denese, Adrienne. "Dr. Denese's Secrets for Ageless Skin." Penguin. 2006.
  • James, Susan Donaldson. "Adult Acne on Rise as Women Age and Hormones Kick In." ABC News. March 16, 2012. (July 10, 2013)
  • Jaret, Peter. "How to Manage Oily Skin." WebMD. (October 10, 2013)
  • Lamont-Djite, Tara. "Oily Skin Myths Solved!" Beautylish. June 21, 2012. (October 10, 2013)
  • New Zealand Dermatological Society. "Sebum." (October 9, 2013)
  • Russell, Jill. "How to: Blotting Papers." Beautylish. (October 10, 2013)