First things first: Oil on your face is not a bad thing. In fact, our skin naturally produces the stuff as our body’s way of ensuring that we’re always moisturized. But sometimes we produce too much of it, which leads to shiny and/or acne-prone skin. Much of this is influenced by our genetics, as well as our constantly changing hormone levels, explains Hadley King, MD, a dermatologist at Skinney Med Spa and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University. “Although our hormones are also mostly dictated by our genetics, medications like oral contraceptives and spironolactone consequently affect the oiliness of our skin, too,” she adds.
Glowing is one thing, but shining in every photo taken of you, despite your best efforts to pat your skin dry, is another. The struggle is real for those of us with oily skin, as it seems like no matter what products we use and how many steps we’re willing to add to our skin care routine, we’re just as oily – if not shinier – than before.
So, what’s a shiny gal to do aside from stocking up on oil-blotters and pore strips? It turns out, the list of things you shouldn’t be doing is where you should shift your focus. Here are six things dermatologists say could be making your oily skin worse.
Skimping on moisturizer
We get it, when your skin already feels slick, the last thing you feel inclined to do is add more moisture. But this step is an important one in your skin care routine, even for those with oily skin. “One of the biggest skin mistakes those with oily skin make is neglecting to moisturize,” says Alan J. Parks, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of DermWarehouse. “In fact, if you try to dry out your skin by skipping this step, your body may actually produce even more sebum, causing your skin to become more oily.” Opt for a lightweight cream, like this one, to keep skin fresh.
Relying on aggressive scrubs
Believe it or not, oily skin can be sensitive, too. “Aggressive scrubbing with exfoliating brushes or physical scrubs can lead to skin irritation and inflammation,” says Melissa Piliang, MD, a dermatologist in Cleveland, OH. “It is better to gently cleanse skin with the pads of your fingertips or to gently massage it with a soft wash cloth.” A gentle scrub that can be effective for oily skin is Clean and Clear’s Blackhead Scrub ($5.) Just remember not to use more than once or twice a week.
Over-using drying cleansers or leave-on products
Certain skin care ingredients, such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are known to absorb oil, but they should be used sparingly, even if you’re dealing with super-oily skin, says Dr. Piliang. “Combining these ingredients will only leave you dry, flakey, sore, itchy, and irritated,” she says. “It’s better to limit yourself to one product with drying ingredients – including salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, alpha hydroxy acids, etc. – in the morning and one at night maximum.”
Wearing makeup that clogs pores
Keeping your makeup light means more than just testing the texture of it at Sephora. Check that it has “non-comedogenic” on the label, which is a dermatological term that ensures a product was created with the goal to not clog pores. “Comedones can be blackheads or whiteheads, but are mainly caused by bacteria buildup within the pore,” explains Dr. Parks. He recommends reaching for products that are oil-free and formulated specifically not to clog pores, such as BareMinerals Original SPF Foundation ($29), NARS All Day Luminous Weightless Foundation ($49), and Cover FX Natural Finish Foundation ($42). Also key: Don’t forget to take off your makeup every night before bed!
Shying away from sunscreen
Sure, some sunscreens leave a greasy or sticky film that you think can’t be conducive to your already oily skin, but oily skin is just as prone to sun damage as dry skin. What’s more, experts agree that sunscreen (so long as you’re choosing the right kind) will not exacerbate oiliness or cause breakouts, and when skin is exposed to the infrared heat from UV rays, flare-ups are more common. So, Dr. Piliang recommends looking for sunscreens that are formulated for acne-prone skin. “The gel, or sport gel, formulations, such as Cetaphil UVA/UVB Defense Daytime Moisturizer with SPF 50 tend to cause less oiliness on the skin,” she says. “Additionally, a daily moisturizer with at least SPF 30 is important to prevent skin cancers and protect against the signs of aging.”
Ignore your general health and well-being
Your skin, as well as your hair and nails, responds to stress just as your immune system and other organs in your body do. For this reason, it’s important to manage the stresses of life in a productive way. “If you are someone who has oily skin and a stressful life, consider adding daily exercise, daily meditation, and yoga a few times a week to your routine,” suggest Dr. Piliang. “These things alone, or in combination, can reduce cortisol levels and boost mood.” It’s also crucial that you clock your seven to nine hours of sleep each night, as lack of sleep has been shown to increase incidences of acne.