One of the biggest questions skin questions people ask me is how to help their oily/combination or acne prone skin. There are so many different ways to answer this, so I’m going to address the most common concerns I’m asked.
1. Are You Oily?
Most people have a little oil in their t-zone by the end of the day. This is normal; it doesn’t mean you have oily skin. Truly oily skin will be shiny on the t-zone (forehead, nose, chin) and cheeks within a few hours of waking up. Combination skin will be shiny in the t-zone by mid-day, but shouldn’t be too shiny on the cheeks, or may even be dry there. Normal skin will have a slight shine to the nose maybe forehead by early evening. Dry skin will look like the Sahara from the moment they wake up. Your skin type probably changes based on where you live, visit, and time of the year. I’m Oily on the East coast 8 months out of the year and on the West coast I’m Combination with a little dehydration all year. Ugh the struggle.
Oh you wash your face with your shampoo and wondering why you have clogged pores? Well no shit brah, shampoo may get the beard nice and shiny but it isn’t going to help get your skin glowing. Cleansing may be the most important part of an oily skins routine. You need to find a perfect balance between detoxifying and exfoliating without stripping your skin completely. Your skin should feel smooth and slightly tight after it has dried off, not dry and patchy (sometimes you’ll see white flaking, no bueno). If you strip your skin of all its natural oils, it may over compensate by creating even more oil. I’ve used about 1,000 different cleansers, it definitely takes some experimenting to find which one works best for your skin, here are a few of my favorite oily/combination skin cleansers (some are good for all skin types as well)
Erno Laszlo Deep Sea Mud Soap $45 – Legit one of my all time favorite cleansers. I started getting acne for the first time when I was 26, and my pores were massive. A girlfriend told me to get this, and it changed my skin almost instantly. Mr. Laszlo creating an special cleansing method: Fill your sink with warm water, dip soap in water, massage soap on face, rinse soap back in water and set aside, lather face, splash face 20 times with water in the sink, then 10 more times with clean running water. I still do this cleansing method with most every cleanser I’ve used. Great for Normal-Oily Skin
Sunday Riley Ceramic Slip $45– I hated this the first time I tried it as I was so use to a lather. After tossing it aside for a few months, I revisited and fell in love. You have to get use to a very mild cleansing feeling, but trust that your skin is clean and balanced. It tightens pores, boosts radiance, stimulates circulation, and helps with irritation. Great for Normal-Combination Skin
Milk Makeup Charcoal Cleanser $28 – Yeah I work for them now, so I gotta do a plug, but I have been using this for 2 weeks now and I’m liking it more than I thought I would. This sulfate free cleansing contains charcoal from the Japanese Ubame oak tree + vitamin E, cleanses the skin gently without over drying. Great for All Skin Types.
I’ve used toner since I was 12, so I’ve always felt it a very necessary step in my skincare routine. Oh your cleanser has a built in toner? How? That’s never made sense to me. I apply my toner to a cotton square (Shiseido makes the best, you use less and makes your bottle last forever) and sweep it all over my face, excess cleanser and any remaining debris is seen on the square. So how exactly is your cleanser doing that? Yeah… I have a very hard time finding a toner I like, there haven’t been many, these are the exceptions.
Erno Laszlo Light Controlling Lotion $55 – I grabbed this after I fell in love with the soap. When my skin is on the oilier side I love a little alcohol in my toner. This one tightens pores, exfoliates, controls shine, and also has added humectants to bring hydration to the skin. Great for Combo-Oily skin.
Belif Eucalyptus Herbal Extract Toner $28 – More recently I discovered this guy on a hunt for a less expensive toner. Fell in love, even purchased a second time (which never happens). This toner contains a blend of herbal extracts to control sebum and shine without stripping. Great for Combo-Oily skin.
4. Targeted Concerns
These are those black dots you seen on your nose, forehead, and chin. What causes them is excess sebum and bacteria; these can turn into blemishes, so its good to take care of them. I usually steam my face and squeeze my skin (works great on the sides of the nose) to get the blackheads out. If done wrong though, it can leave some redness and scarring, so best to get a professional to do this. Pore Strips are a great quick fix (I love the ones from SkinFood), but it’s best to maintain by cleansing and masking regularly.
Pores are where these black heads are chilling out. Oily skin will have larger more visible pores, this is how the oil gets to the surface of your skin. You can’t make pores smaller, you just can’t, sorry. You can keep them clean though, which makes them look smaller. Keeping good about your skincare routine helps, so cleanse, exfoliate, and mask regularly. Now I have heard there are certain lasers that can help make pores smaller, but I’ve yet to experiment with them, have you?
These will be those pesky bumps on your skin that you want to pop, don’t, that’s how acne scars are formed. For emergencies I like to use a Benzoyl Peroxide based spot treatment (Murad Acne Spot Fast Fix works great) but using them too frequently causes irritation, sun sensitivity, and your skin can build up a tolerance. Stick to using it directly on blemishes and not on large areas. Salicylic Acid is milder and great for more regular use to control blemishes and is usually in a gel texture that’s easy to smooth over acne prone areas and large pores (Clinique Acne Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel). If you have an event tomorrow and need that mammoth zit to shrink overnight, Sulfur (Mario Badescu Drying Lotion) is the way to go. If you had chicken pox as a kid, this clearing method won’t look so strange to you. Dip a cotton swab in the formula and apply the pink stuff directly to blemishes before bed. This will shrink blemishes overnight allowing you to cover them more easily with makeup.
Cystic Acne is that crazy painful blemish you get that you can’t pop and hurts like hell when you touch. I get these on my forehead and the tip of my nose a few times and year and I hate them so much. I mean I’ve gone as far and sticking sterilized needles into them to pop them (I DO NOT recommend doing that, lesson learned). Cystic acne comes from an internal bacteria (in most cases). If you have severe Cystic Acne, topical products alone will not help, you need to see a dermatologist. Anyone trying to sell you a topical saying it cures Cystic Acne is just throwing you a sales pitch and doesn’t know what they’re talking about. In mild cases I’ve seen taking probiotics help (I take Natures Sunshine Bacillus Coagulans), but for severe cases a Dermatologist prescribed antibiotic is necessary. They will usually prescribe a retinoid (Like my favorite A313) to apply at night to smooth at the skin and help with the scarring.
So many people with oily skin don’t moisturize because they think it will make them even oilier. Note that I listed this topic as “Hydration”, Hydra=Water, oily skin can also be dehydrated, making it produce even more oil. There are also tons of environmental aggressors and free radicals floating around you need to protect your skin from; this is where a moisturizer comes in. I could list a million different moisturizers here, but unless oil control is your only concern, you should pick a moisturizer based on your skin concern, be it brightening, anti-aging, age prevention… Just look for lighter weight formulas, usually water based formulas or products listed as lotion vs a cream. Below are a few products I’ve used when looking to re-balance my skin and calm down the oil, these I’ve used as incremental treatments, then go back to my normal skin routine.
Clarins Lotus Treatment Oil $54 – I talked about this in a previous post. It was the first all over oil I ever used and its still a favorite of mine. Use every night directly after toning (while skin is still wet) for 3 months at a time to help rebalance. Great to use as your night treatment in the hot summer and underneath clay masks as a booster.
Decleor Aromessence Ylang Ylang Purifying Night Balm $42 – Even when my skin is oily, I love a rich texture on my skin! This night balm is an emollient oil/wax blend that smells like happiness and leaves the skin feeling fresh and brightened in the morning. Cleanses and purifies, re-balances, and reduces imperfections and inflammation. Great for that dry-acne prone skin as well. Also available in a purifying Serum/Oil that can be used during the day.
More than any other skin type, masking is most important for oily and congested skin. Cleansing and toning can only go so far without being to aggressive on the daily, that’s when adding that masking boost comes to play. I love clay based masks and have gone through 100s of them. These are best when trying to combat blackheads, control oil, and maintain clear skin. Sheet masks are great for adding treatment into the skin, but they don’t pull anything out, so when you’re looking for that quick detoxifying fix, reach for the clay masks. Use as needed, but not more than 3 times a week. To add an extra boost to your mask, mix a drop or 2 of Tea Tree Oil with your toner right before masking.
Apivita Face Mask with Green Clay $21.70 - I grabbed one of these at a pharmacy in Spain and instantly fell in love. Its not at all drying, but leave the skin feeling fresh and the pores diminished.
Bliss Steep Clean Pore Purifying Mask $55 - This is one I've used for years! Dispense the dual pump product into your fingers, warm it up, massage it in, and in 15 minutes your skin will look poreless! Definitely must have!
Granular exfoliation stimulated the skin, which can make oily skin produce even more oils. It can also spread bacteria around creating more blemishes. I'm a big fan of chemical and enzyme exfoliants. These work by breaking down the proteins holding dead skin cells to your skin.
Amore Pacific Enzyme Peel $60 - I talk about this one all the time cause its so damn good. The powder foams up and removes all dead skin, leaving your face fresh and glowing. A definite must have, and it last forever.
First Aid Beauty Skin Rescue Blemish Control Pads $30 - These are like your old school Stridex pads, only they won't rip your skin apart. You can use them after each time you cleanse to gently exfoliate while helping control oil and tighten pores.
You have all your skincare on and want to cover up some of your blemishes and/or control oil, but are scared that foundation will clog your skin. There are definitely some foundations that should be avoided for oily/acne prone skin (I won’t name names, but it won’t “Fix” anything), but there are plenty of foundations that are amazing for your skin type. Look for something oil-free, mattifying, liquid or powder based on your preference. Personally, I like the flexibility of a liquid, you can work it into hard to cover blemishes, and adjust the coverage as necessary. My favorite for oily-acne prone skin is the Hourglass Immaculate Liquid to Powder Foundation, yes I use to work for them, and I’ve seen it completely transform people’s skin. I even wore it myself on an occasion as a spot treatment to hide blemishes and pores and my skin looked better when I look it off than before I had applied.
When you do get shiny through out the day, be sure to have some blotting papers handy. Just press onto the areas of concern to absorb oil. I'm loving the Milk Makeup Roll + Blot, they're made out of hemp and double as rolling papers, whats not to love!