Just like the color of your eyes or the natural ripple in your hair, in most cases oily skin is something you’re born with, as genetics play a big part in determining how much sebum your skin produces daily. But if you feel like you’ve lived your whole life with “normal” or dry skin and nature is suddenly playing a mean, greasy trick on your T-zone, you are not imagining it. Experts say hormones, stress, weather conditions, and overly drying products can also ramp up the oil-producing factories in our skin.
The upside of oily skin
No matter the underlying cause, it’s important to acknowledge that oil isn’t a bad thing. In fact: “Our natural sebum contains vitamins A, E, & K, which provides anti-inflammatory benefits,” says dermatologist Ava Shamban, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the UCLA-Geffen School of Medicine and founder of Ava MD clinics. Another perk: research shows that someone with oilier skin might also experience fewer fine lines and wrinkles than their drier counterparts. That’s exactly why the goal should be to balance oil —not get rid of it altogether.
5 ways to manage oily skin
Reevaluate your cleanser
“The objective of cleansing should be to remove dirt and oil without compromising the integrity of the skin barrier,” explains dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Unfortunately, many face washes aimed at oily skin can disrupt the barrier with stripping sulfates and scrub particles, which can lead to dehydration and send your oil production into overdrive. The key, says Shamban, is to opt for cleansers that leave your skin feeling soft and hydrated after, not squeaky-clean and tight.
Don’t skip out on moisturizer
It’s a common misstep among oily skin types to think they can forgo any moisturizer because they’ve got plenty of Mother Nature’s help in that department already. But applying the right blend of oils can help you manage sebum levels, soften skin, and treat blemishes in one pat. “Hemp oil can help to reduce acne caused by excess oil pooling in the pores, and sandalwood contains natural astringent properties great for oily types,” says Shamban. Take it one step further by adding a hyaluronic acid-infused serum into your routine—both Zeichner and Shamban agree it’s the perfect hydrating ingredient for oily skin thanks to its ability to feel weightless but draw major water to the skin.
Make simple diet tweaks
We know that this news might be a bit of a downer, but consider it fuel for your willpower to eat clean: research shows insulin spikes from dairy (particularly skim milk) and high glycemic foods might also increase sebum production in skin. “High sugar levels also promote inflammation that can lead to breakouts,” Zeichner adds. Not sure what constitutes a high glycemic food? This handy tool from the University of Sydney can guide you.
Clean up your makeup
By now you should be getting the message that oil can (and should!) flow freely through your skincare routine—but your makeup bag is another story. If you’re dealing with oily skin, oil-based foundation or tinted moisturizer will slip and slide into all the wrong spots as the day goes on. Instead, use water-based formulas and mineral powders, says makeup artist Suzy Gerstein. “And layering products—like a powder over a liquid—will lock it all in place to get extra staying powder,” she adds. If this advice is conjuring up images of dated matte makeup when you want to live in today’s dewy-finish world, fear not. Gerstein says you can rely on cream formulas to bring some luminosity to skin when it comes to products like highlighter and blush. “Look for a drier cream formula to give you the best of both worlds—the blendability and ease of a cream with the longevity and refinement of a powder,” she says. Her favorite: Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks Blush Stick.
Take a pro approach to blotting
And not just at lunchtime to remove midday shine (though, obviously, blot then, too). Gerstein likes to use blotting papers (or in a pinch, 2 plies of a tissue, separated) to absorb excess oil between each step of a makeup routine. “I roll one around a soft velour face puff and fold it like a taco, then press it into hard-to-reach areas like the sides of the nose,” she says, adding that she’ll do this after applying moisturizer, then again after foundation, before she sets the whole thing with powder. “I find I need less powder when I take the time to blot hot spots,” she says. And less powder means more of a fresher, glowier complexion (even for someone with naturally oily skin).