Oily skin - a blessing in disguise?
Sebum, the specific oil that our skin produces, takes a lot of blame for issues such as acne and is generally something people try to actively rid themselves of.
What if your oily skin is not actually to blame for your breakouts and that the “oil free” moisturisers and foaming cleansers that are specifically marketed oily skin types may be causing your skin to be extra oily? And are actually contributing to any breakouts you are experiencing?
To understand this complex and confusing skin type that is oily skin, we need to understand a few basics such as overall skin health which starts with the health of the skin barrier. Our bodies are made up of 60% water. Our skin is actually a very effective barrier and we only lose 300 - 400ml of this water per day; that’s just over a cup of water lost through our skin per day.
In addition to retaining this water to store up hydration so that all of our organs (including our skin) can function properly, our skin barrier also acts to keep external aggressors out. Now it’s obvious that our skin itself is a very large, very effective barrier, but the epidermis or the outermost layer of our skin has its own thin barrier made up of lipids or fats that are also very effective at locking in hydration.Think about a jar of water that you have added oil to.
The oil all settles on top of the water, essentially protecting it and preventing it from evaporating, almost as if you had put a lid on the jar. Remove the oil and the water quickly evaporates into the atmosphere.
This is exactly what happens with your skin. Now apply this to using a foaming cleanser with a harsh surfactant to effectively remove all of the oil from your skin the same way you would remove oil or grease from a dirty pot or pan. Those soapy bubbles work incredibly well to get rid of all of your oil, but that includes this protective barrier and any moisture that it was keeping locked in.
Our cells need moisture to properly and effectively function. Without sufficient moisture the skin will experience obvious dryness which can lead to accelerated ageing, and also conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
If acne is present, because wounds heal best in a moist environment, acne will be slow to heal and leave behind scarring or dark marks and an uneven skin tone.
Many people who claim to have oily skin often report that this oil worsens over the course of the day. Women, particularly those who wear makeup, are conscious of it appearing to “melt” off of their skin as the day progresses regardless of using products that claim to specifically dry up this oil.
The truth of the matter is that the more “drying up” of your natural oil you do and the more you wind up compromising your skins' natural barrier, the more moisture will inevitably be lost through the skin.
Quite often, this loss of water is confused with oil which then perpetuates a cycle of dryness and abuse as far as basic skin health is concerned. In fact, most people with “oily” skin complain of being “oily, yet dry” which makes sense considering how much moisture is lost combating “oily” skin.
So what can you do about this?
- Supporting the skin barrier is a must and often in doing so we end up fixing any issue with excessive oil we may have.
- While the obvious answer might seem to be to “dry up that oil” this is actually going to make matters worse. Dry skin doesn’t function as well as hydrated skin so you will start to see other issues arise such as sensitivities, accelerated ageing, and even more oil production.
- Eating a diet rich in omegas and anti-inflammatory foods while also limiting your intake of inflammatory foods can help immensely not only with excessive oil production but with your overall skin health.
- Look for ‘non-comedogenic’ skincare products to prevent clogging of your pores. This is essential to care for oily skin because keeping your pores free from clogging is at the forefront of keeping your skin clear.
- Using ingredients that help regulate oil production can also be beneficial if excessive oil is a problem for you.
Your step by step routine for oily skin
Step 1: Use a gentle cleanser twice daily to remove excess oil without stripping or dehydrating your skin. Try Embalm Skincare's Uplifting Cleanser to rebalance your skin, regulate oil production and minimise pores.
Step 2: Exfoliation is probably the most important skincare step for oily skin. This skin type requires a little more TLC so daily exfoliation is key. We recommend using a konjac sponge for daily exfoliation combined with your favourite cleanser.
Step 3: Use a calming toner that balances oil production to help your skin renew and recharge, minimise the appearance of enlarged pores, and remove the last traces of makeup that can lead to clogged pores. Step 4: A lot of women with oily skin make the mistake of thinking they don't need to apply moisturiser. Be sure to apply a light weight moisturiser every day.
About the author:
Dru Pattan is a licensed Esthetician and passionate about helping people who are struggling with their skin. Over a decade ago Dru developed severe cystic acne and hunted around for answers and solutions when she developed a passion for skin.
Dru lives in Denver, Colorado and operates Skin & Bare It, a home based skincare studio that specialises in the comprehensive management of acne, rosacea, ageing, hormonal and postpartum skin.