Dermatologists All Agree This Is The First Step To Tackling Oily Skin

Keep the glow, lose the clogged pores.

by Natasha Marsh
Originally Published: 
Oily Face
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Shine on your lips, nails, and hair is desirable. Shine on your face, outside of a glowing cheek highlight, not so much. Because of the numerous reasons that can cause oily skin — genetics, diet, stress, and climate — you might be sitting there wondering why is my face so oily? At its core, excess oil is the result of increased sebum production. “Oily skin occurs when the sebaceous glands produce an excess of sebum, or oil, resulting in skin that is greasy, shiny, and more acne-prone,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologist.

But not all oil is bad for your skin. “The oil on the skin surface, which is mostly made of up sebum, is protective,” says Dr. Alicia Zalka, board certified dermatologist and founder of Surface Deep. “It keeps moisture in and repels irritation and dryness. It also makes the skin softer to touch and enhances the reflectiveness of the skin.”

Regardless if you want to rid your skin of oil because you are sick of having a shiny face, or the oil is clogging your pores and causing pimples, one thing is apparent: it’s challenging. That said, with a change in your daily skin care routine — implementing the right products, and avoiding the wrong ones — you can make skin appear less greasy.

Ahead, six expert dermatologists share simple changes to reduce the amount of oil on your skin and give you a healthier complexion.

What’s The Deal With Sebum?

Sebum — the oily substance released by sebaceous glands under the skin — is made of triglycerides, fatty acids, waxes, squalene, and more, and is associated with hair follicles. The sebaceous glands can change depending on hormones, topical skin care products, and underlying conditions like acne or rosacea. “By definition, if you have more hair follicles than others [people], you make more oil,” Dr. Karan Lal, double board-certified dermatologist, tells TZR.

What Happens When There Is Too Much Oil On The Face?

“Individuals who have an oily skin type tend to have accentuated, larger, and more visible pores,” says board-certified dermatologist and founder of Derma Di Colore, Dr. Carlos Charles. As a result, flakey, dry, and acne-prone skin could result. But not all oil is bad. “Sebum or oil in the skin helps to maintain the skin's protective moisture barrier by creating a positive environment for growth of healthy bacteria and other organisms, known collectively as the microbiome,” Dr. Charles continues. When there is less than adequate oil production, you might experience dryness, itching, and cracking (not to mention conditions like eczema are exacerbated).

According to Dr. Charles, excessive oil production can be associated with an increased frequency of acne, hair follicle infections, and other unwanted skin maladies. So yes, oil is meant to naturally moisturize and protect the barrier of the skin, but too much or too little can be problematic. “We don’t want to get rid of oil completely, but we want to balance it out,” Monica Dawidowicz, esthetician at SHEN Beauty, tells TZR.

What Products Can Contribute To Oily Skin?

When it comes to what to avoid, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara recommends steering clear of products with alcohol-heavy ingredients and mineral oils, both of which can clog your pores. “People also tend to think they need to overcompensate with exfoliating, but harsh scrubs are also a big no-no for oily skin,” she says. “Find an exfoliator that will help balance your skin’s oil production, not scrub yourself into irritation.” Using it sparingly is also key (a few times a week at most).

Dr. Charles agrees. “Typically, those with oily skin may be more likely to over-exfoliate and use a combination of products to minimize oil that may be overly drying,” he shares. “This can lead to sensitive, irritated and dry skin, while not at all addressing the underlying issue of increased oil production, and should be avoided.” Worst of all, it could lead to increased oil production as the body tries to overcompensate for excessively dry skin.

How To Treat Oil Buildup And Minimize Shine

So how do you get rid of oily skin when shine is not on your wishlist? Boosting hydration is priority number one. “Keeping oily skin hydrated will help your skin find a balance without ridding it of all the necessary oils needed to keep your skin glowing,” Dr. Gohara continues.

When your skin isn’t struggling to add moisture (meaning you use hydrating skin care products regularly), your excess oil production should slow down. “Generally, lightweight products are better for those with oily skin, as they are less likely to sit on the skin and trigger more oil production or clog pores,” Dr. Engelman tells TZR. Her favorite: Orpheus Resurrection All-In-One Serum, formulated specifically for those who are prone to breakouts.

In addition, you will want to select oil-free, non-comedogenic products that won’t clog pores, and look for exfoliating ingredients that’ll remove dead skin cells and excess oil. Dr. Engelman enjoys niacinamide-infused skin care products, as the ingredient hydrates skin while minimizing pores, boosting skin elasticity, and regulating oil production. ComedoclastinTM, introduced by Avène, is another one the dermatologist recommends. Made of stabilized extract derived from milk thistle, this serum helps visibly reduce and limit the appearance of blemishes, often a result of oily skin.

For a recommended daily routine, Dr. Zalka encourages cleansing with a 2% salicylic acid (which minimizes clogged pores) in the morning. Next, apply lactic acid glycolic acid toner to the T-zone and apply hyaluronic acid moisturizer all over. In the evening, apply a thin layer of retinol cream or serum and finish with a ceramide or niacinamide-rich moisturizer to lock in hydration.

Ready to rid your skin of oil and excess shine? The experts recommend the below products to get you there.

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