People with oily skin may see their shiny complexion as a curse, but mother nature actually intended sebum (medical term for oil or lipids) to play a very important role in maintaining the health of your skin. This article is written for you if you have oily skin that is acne-prone, with occasional breakouts. I will write a separate article for those of you who have oily skin with active acne.
Everyone was born with sebaceous glands. The job of a sebaceous gland is to produce sebum, thereby contributing to the health of your skin’s acid mantle, also known as your barrier function. Your acid mantle is essentially an acidic, protective, oil and water balance coating your skin. It keeps moisture in the skin, and bacteria out. This, friends, is a very good thing. When there is balance, skin has a healthy glow, not a greasy shine.
The sebaceous glands find their home deep within the dermis. They resemble partially deflated balloons. They are part of the pilosebaceous unit, imagine a u-shaped crevice underneath each of your pores where both sebum and hair come forth. The pilosebaceous unit has two big jobs to do in a very tiny space. Excess oil can cause a stickiness within the tiny follicle that impedes desquamation. That means your follicle can’t shed its dead cells as quickly and efficiently as it once could. The entire lining of the u-shaped follicle needs to shed cells just like your epidermis, you can imagine how easy it is for that tiny u-shaped crevice to clog up. Add a little bacteria to that mix and, “Houston, we have a problem!”
Your sebum production is essential for your gorgeous, youthful radiance, which is why it is imperative that you do not go after oily skin overzealously. Oily skin is genetic – the result of your sebaceous gland’s sensitivity to normal amounts of a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), or excess production of this same hormone. It can also be caused by using too many anti-aging or acne treatment products that have disrupted the acid mantle forcing your skin to produce more oil in an attempt to repair the damage done. Can’t say I didn’t warn ya!
Ever wonder why you become more breakout prone, and your hair and skin become more oily the week before your period? The reason is because increased production of DHT occurs at the same time your miraculous body increases progesterone production post-ovulation. That’s right, around day 21 of your cycle your progesterone levels peak (and so do DHT levels), and within a short time you’ll likely have a bad hair day, and a zit to show for it. No wonder we’re grouchy…a little empathy please! At Pink Apothecary, we use the Skin Brightening Clay Mask every other day during this time to combat premenstrual breakouts and excess oil. Its oil-drawing capabilities are second to none.
My experience as an esthetician, has forced me to realize that some skin care protocols for oily skin are great in theory, but detrimental in practice. Let me explain. The use of cleansers containing salicylic acid and glycolic acid are often prescribed for those with oily skin. In theory, this is a fantastic idea because both of those ingredients loosen intercellular lipids, dissolve oil and speed up desquamation (exfoliation). Unfortunately, what actually happens in many cases is that the skin becomes stripped and parched. A relatively healthy acid mantle is disturbed, and skin suddenly becomes sensitive and reactive. The following recommendations are going to rub some professionals the wrong way, but having been on Accutane twice, and lived in oily skin for more than 30 years prior to that, I’d say I have some freedom to dispense some real life advice. Here are my tips:
- Don’t over cleanse your skin. Use a gentle cleanser. Cleanse once to remove makeup, and then again to loosen excess oil and dirt. It should actually take you 1-2 minutes to fully cleanse the second time. Most people rush through this important process. Gently, but thoroughly allow your cleanser to do its job. I spend pennies to wash my face. Cleanser need not be expensive. Click here for my favorite recipe.
- I personally don’t believe toners are essential to your skin care routine. I choose to spray rose hydrosol or frankincense hydrosol on my skin after cleansing. I simply spray my face and neck, and then apply my moisturizer before the hydrosol dries. Applying your moisturizer to moist skin will allow you to use less product.
- Moisturize! Moisturize! Moisturize! Your skin might be oily, but remember your acid mantle is made up of both oil and water. You need both, or the balance will be disrupted. La Roche-Posay Toleriane Fluid is a great option for sensitized, oily skin. It is very light, and won’t clog pores. When I worked for a well-known dermatologist, this was a product we could not keep on the shelves. It’s great for oily skin, and great for anyone with ingredient sensitivities. A serum containing hyaluronic acid is another way to bring hydration to oily skin without adding shine. There is nothing worse than have oiliness and dry, dehydrated patches all at the same time. Layer products thinnest to thickest; serum then moisturizer.
- Pamper your skin a few times a week with a clay mask like the Skin Brightening Clay Mask to expedite exfoliation and combat excess oil. If your skin is not sensitive, consider a daily treatment product containing alpha hydroxy acids. Lactic acid is moisture binding, and tends to be a little bit more gentle. If your skin can tolerate Retin-A, awesome – many can’t. The goal here is to respect your complexion, and its innate balance; healthy skin has an inward glow. If you are red, parched and flaky then it’s time to concentrate on the basics; cleanse and moisturize. If you’re suddenly breaking out then use a treatment product. When you get a breakout Tea Tree Essential Oil can be applied directly to the pimple. It works wonders.
- Remember, oily skin is typically caused by hormones. Talk to your dermatologist, or a board certified anti-aging doctor to really get to the root of the problem. They CAN help!
I recently had a professional ask me if the No-Mess No-Guess Roll-On Aromatherapy line will cause an oily skin type to break out. Our base was formulated knowing it would be applied to facial skin. The ingredients are not comedogenic. That said, for an oily skin type, theory is often not reality. If you have oily skin, and are breakout-prone, then avoid using the roll-ons on your face if you use them daily. Example: You might get a headache once in a while, so feel free to use Brain Pain No-Mess No-Guess Roll-On Aromatherapy on your forehead, temples and back of your neck, but if you’re using Brain Buzz No-Mess No-Guess Roll-On Aromatherapy several times each day to increase mental performance then think of alternative applications. Consider generously applying it directly under your nose where you have fewer sebaceous glands. This will immediately stimulate olfactory nerves, and, in the case of Brain Buzz, stimulate your central hippocampus. You can also consider applying the product behind your neck, and directly to your heart area instead of applying it to your forehead and temples if you have concerns. The products will continue to be highly effective, and you will avoid concern about breakouts, which will alleviate stress. By alleviating stress, you prevent a spike in cortisol, and androgens like DHT. Pimple prevention via stress reduction – calm is good!