Oily skin happens when the sebaceous glands in the skin make too much sebum. Sebum is the waxy, oily substance that protects and hydrates the skin.
Oily skin frequently affects the face. Symptoms of oily skin include:
- a shiny or greasy appearance
- very large or obvious pores on the skin
- skin that looks thick or rough
- occasional or persistent pimples
- clogged pores and blackheads
People with oily skin may have trouble finding makeup to suit their skin, as the makeup can mix with the sebum, giving it a different consistency.
The symptoms of oily skin and their severity vary between people. Genetics may play a role in how oily the skin becomes.
Hormone changes or high-stress levels may also increase the production of oily sebum by the body.
Here, we give six ways in which a person can reduce the symptoms of oily skin if it is problematic for them.
1. Wash regularly
Washing regularly can reduce the amount of oil on the skin. The following methods are recommended for washing oily skin:
- Wash with a gentle soap and warm water.
- Avoid soaps with fragrances, added moisturizers, or harsh chemicals, which can irritate or dry out the skin, making it respond by creating more sebum.
- Avoid loofahs and rough washcloths, as added friction may stimulate the skin to make more oil.
If this is not effective, some medicated acne care products may help. These products contain acids that can tackle oily skin, such as:
- salicylic acid
- glycolic acid
- beta-hydroxy acid
- benzoyl peroxide
These acids may be irritating to some skin types. When starting a new product, use it on a small area of skin first to see how the body reacts.
Choosing the right facial cleansers may work well for some people. A 2015 study found that a mild facial cleanser made with sodium laureth carboxylate and alkyl carboxylates was effective for tackling moderate facial acne, although it increased sebum production in some areas of the face.
For many people who simply have oily skin and not acne vulgaris, fragrance-free glycerin soap and hot water may do the trick.
A range of facial cleansers is available for purchase online.
2. Use a toner
Astringent toners that contain alcohol tend to dry out the skin. However, according to a 2014 study, natural astringents, such as witch hazel, can have skin soothing properties.
Witch hazel has a high tannin content that makes it a natural astringent and anti-inflammatory. Many people with oily skin use witch hazel as their only toner.
In some people, natural astringent toners can make enlarged pores seem smaller and remove small bits of product or makeup that could clog pores.
However, these products may not work for everyone. Some may find that their face tingles or itches when using astringent toners. If this happens, it may be a sign of irritation that could lead to more sebum production.
People should test out any new toner on a small patch of skin to avoid potential irritation.
A range of toners is available for purchase online.
3. Pat the face dry
When drying the face after washing and using toner, people should gently pat their skin dry with a soft towel.
This should be done with care, however. Pulling down on the skin with a towel, or using a rough washcloth, is not advised, as it may stimulate the skin to create more sebum.
4. Use blotting papers and medicated pads
Many companies make blotting papers, which are specially designed absorbent papers that pull oil from the skin.
Blotting papers will not treat the sebum production in the skin, but they can be used to lift excess oil off the skin throughout the day to make it appear less shiny.
A person could also try cloth pads that are medicated with familiar cleansing ingredients, such as salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These may help to remove excess oil through the day, while cleansing the pores and skin.
Blotting papers are available for purchase online.
5. Use a facial mask
Certain facial masks may be beneficial for treating oily skin. These may contain ingredients such as:
- Clay. Masks containing minerals like smectite or bentonite can absorb oils and reduce skin shininess and sebum levels without irritating the skin. Use them only occasionally to prevent the skin drying out, and apply a gentle moisturizer afterward.
- Honey. A 2011 study reports that natural raw honey has antibacterial and antiseptic qualities. A 10-minute honey face mask may reduce acne and oily skin while keeping the skin soft.
- Oatmeal. Masks containing colloidal oatmeal may help to cleanse the skin, as suggested in a 2014 study. Oats contain gentle, cleansing saponins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that could soothe irritated skin.
Facial masks for oily skin are available for purchase online.
6. Apply moisturizers
While many people with oily skin steer clear of moisturizers for fear that their skin will look greasier, using the right moisturizers can benefit this type of skin.
For people with very oily skin, an oil-free moisturizer could help keep the skin moist and protected, without it feeling greasy.
A 2014 study suggests that aloe vera could be a good moisturizer for treating acne and oily skin.
Certain compounds in aloe vera can have a naturally soothing effect on the skin. The study noted that a product should have at least 10 percent aloe in it to be an effective moisturizer.
Some people choose to use pure aloe gel for moisturizing, but they need to be aware of hidden ingredients, especially denatured alcohol, which could dry and irritate the skin.
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