We all know looking after oily skin isn’t easy. It can be difficult to keep it healthy when we’re sold aggressive cleansers and mattifying creams that dry out your skin, so we often hear from people struggling with their oily skin. Remember – the first step to beautiful skin is to accept your skin for what it is ! Imperfections are temporary and they aren’t the end of the world if you stick to a gentle skincare routine and keep away from several common skincare misconceptions.
Features of oily skin
First things first, you need to understand how your oily skin works, and the magic word is… sebum ! Sebum is vital to skin function : it maintains the hydrolipidic film that protects the skin and gives skin its suppleness. It is particularly helpful in keeping the skin hydrated as it works to retain water. Oily skin occurs when there is an issue with the regulation of sebaceous glands, and they produce too much sebum – this is where the notorious “shiny” look comes from. Hair follicles that secrete sebum are concentrated in the T zone, hence why some people have combination skin.
Why is oily skin more prone to imperfections ? The overproduction of sebum clogs up pores, stopping the skin from breathing. It only takes a small blockage to cause imperfections :
- Open microcysts : an open spot that becomes oxidized, making it dark in colour. These are blackheads.
- Closed microcysts : a spot that is covered by a film. These are whiteheads.
- Dilated pores : when the small openings of hair follicles dilate as a result of the overproduction of sebum
- Acne : spots are inflamed and bacteria develops. Appearance of painful red or white pustules.
The different states of oily skin
Oily skin is a skin type, not a temporary state : your skin type never changes. It is therefore important to know the difference between dehydrated oily skin and dry skin, so you can take better care of it. You will never be able to change your skin type, however you can learn about it to put together the best skincare routine for you.
The different states of oily skin :
- “Normal” oily skin : shiny skin that sometimes suffers from imperfections but without particular discomfort.
- Dehydrated oily skin : The hydrolipidic film is damaged and the skin is unable to retain water. There is a feeling of discomfort and dryness.
- Sensitive and reactive oily skin : skin can be this way either naturally or because it has been damaged or irritated by unsuitable skincare products. This type of skin has a tendency to develop acne.
- Combination skin : oily T zone and dry on the rest of the face. Jackpot !
Don’t know what type of skin you have ? We can help you find out with our free skin diagnosis quiz. Find out your skin type and get some useful skincare advice !
Taking care of oily skin
1. A gentle cleanser
Things to avoid : the vicious cycle of aggressive cleansing
When it comes to facial cleansing, those with oily skin generally prefer cleansing gels or foams for their feeling of freshness and cleanliness. But be vigilant : the more it lathers, the more likely it is that the cleanser contains sulphated detergents – highly effective for cleaning floors but not so well adapted for skin. Sulphated detergents contain surfactants that destroy the skin’s hydrolipidic film and so the skin is unable to retain water or self-regulate : hello excess sebum, shiny skin and spots as well as discomfort since the skin is so dry. It’s a vicious cycle and even the best serum in the world couldn’t do anything to help. You will know these detergents as they have received a lot of bad press, particularly the most famous : SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) and SLES (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) for example.
Good to know : just because a product is certified organic does not guarantee the absence of sulfates. The Ecocert label authorizes the use of sodium lauryl sulfate. To find out which label guarantees you the best composition possible, we have put together a comparative table of organic labels.
Want to know more ? Read our article on sulfated detergents and their dangers.
Questioning our habits : the question of exfoliation
If certain women’s magazines are to be believed, oily skin is unclean and needs to be scrubbed with lots of grainy exfoliators with the help of motorized brushes (bravo to the marketing genie who successfully created the need for those). Oily skin is not necessarily synonymous with acne, unless we irritate it with harsh products which cause inflammation. We risk causing so-called mechanical acne. For example, grainy exfoliators irritate the skin, causing inflammation and the eventual appearance of spots and microcysts.
If you really must exfoliate, try a more gentle option : enzymatic (chemical) exfoliation, and use it with the utmost restraint. For fans of bathroom accessories, a konjac sponge (100% natural) will clear away dead skin much more gently than a brush (brushing your face, what a funny idea).
What can you do instead then ? There are a thousand and one ways to gently cleanse your face without abandoning your skincare habits.
If you like cleansers that lather :
Opt for sulfate-free gels with gentle surfactants (simply avoid products with “sulfate” in the INCI list, see our article cited above for more details). For an economical and ecological option, there are excellent ranges of cold process superfatted soaps made from plant-based oils. Cold process is not just an extra detail : it’s the only way to guarantee you a soap that has kept its moisturizing and softening properties.
If you prefer to cleanse your face with a cleansing milk or micellar water :
You will love a hydrolat cleanser : a floral water that soothes the skin as well as the senses. Carrot, lemon, lavender, witch hazel… floral waters are full of useful properties, are not harmful to the skin and there’s one to suit everyone’s fragrance preferences. It’s also possible to use them as a toner. For example, Lavender floral water is an excellent toner for oily skin due to its astringent properties.
An eco-friendly move that will save your skin : if you opt for a cleanser that needs you to use cotton pads, think about using washable and reusable ones. Single-use cotton pads are damaging to the environment as they waste resources and they are often treated with chlorine which is bad for the skin. This causes inflammation and the appearance of microcysts… yet another good way to get acne : chloro-acne.
2. Choose a product that is useful and adapted to your skin
Things to avoid : products that are inert, useless and comedogenic.
Ever heard of occlusive ingredients (that block pores and suffocate the skin) ? The most famous are silicones, followed by mineral oils and waxes (parrafinum liquidum, petrolatum; etc.). They are sometimes highlighted as being advantageous for the product (remember how fashionable it was to put silicones in hair products before they were found to be damaging). Ingredients derived from petrol are present in the majority of conventional cosmetics and even in luxury perfumes, so what happens when we put them on our skin ? They form an impermeable and inert layer on top of the skin : meaning they have no beneficial or moisturizing effect. Certainly, the velvety finish of a silicone and the softening effect of a mineral oil create a nice illusion, but once they have been washed off, the skin hasn’t gained anything at all from them. Even worse, day by day these layers build up and become more and more difficult to wash off : pores begin to block and the skin suffers more imperfections.
Of course these ingredients are very useful for manufacturers : they’re cheap, work as skin softeners and.. they fill up the bottle for a very low cost !
An eco-friendly move that will save your skin : bad for your skin, these ingredients are even worse for the environment ! Firstly, there is their damaging extraction process and then their effect on the environment when they are discarded as industrial waste, as they are not biodegradable. Another good reason to go organic ! All organic labels on cosmetics ban the use of silicones and mineral oils.
Be careful : silicones and mineral oils are often found in makeup, particularly in foundations and compact powders. Be sure to choose a makeup with natural origins !
If this insight into the composition of your cosmetics interests you, you can read our complete article on mineral oils in cosmetics or the scandalous aberration.
The right thing to do : high quality plant-based oils
When it comes to moisturizers, there are some that are more effective for combination to oily skin. Which ones should you use ? The ones that mix effective mattifying and moisturizing thanks to the quality of their composition.
Combination to oily skin has the same need for hydration as other skin types. Its lipidic barrier should be protected and reinforced to allow skin to correctly regulate itself. In other words, the skin needs oils, so don’t be scared to choose skincare products that are oil based ! As long as they are chosen correctly, they will help to mattify and regulate the skin :
- Non comedogenic : an oil that effectively resists oxidation. Examples include : sweet almond, sea-buckthorn, nigella, onager and macadamia.
- Sebo-regulating : jojoba oil is a perfect example because it resembles sebum (sebum imitator). Because of this, the skin believes that it has made enough sebum and stops over-producing it. Goodbye shiny skin !
- Oils that are not esterified or hydrogenated : these processes render the oils completely useless as they get rid of all their nutrients (we can tell you everything about esterified oils and hydrogenated oils in our article)
To avoid imperfections, skin must be kept as healthy as possible. Favor active ingredients which soothe the skin and that facilitate gentle healing in case of a microcyst. The composition of your skincare products should contain active ingredients that are :
- anti-inflammatory : to keep skin soothed
- anti-microbial : so the skin can defend itself if faced with a spot.
For example, propolis and hawthorne are good allies.
What to do in the case of imperfections
Always remember : don’t pop your spots ! To isolate the problem and stop inflammation spreading, one drop of antibacterial essential oil (e.g tea tree oil) should be applied to the affected area. You must then be patient, but if you have chosen your skincare product according to our advice, your skin will find it easier to heal.
When it comes to blackheads and microcysts be clear, they can only be removed manually – a cleanser won’t be able to do anything. This is another good reason to throw away that grainy exfoliator… The best thing to do is book an appointment to see a dermatologist equipped with a blackhead remover and some elbow grease. You could also do it yourself, but you will need a little bit of training in order to do it correctly !
There are two golden rules to follow : always cleanse your skin gently, and choose a moisturizer from natural origin and with active ingredients. Don’t be tricked by the promises on the front of the bottle – only a good understanding of your skin and knowing a few key facts about the ingredients will help you make the right choice for you.
What does oOlution propose ?
Now that you know this, give Check Matte, our face cream for combination to oily skin, a look. It mixes effective mattifying with comfort and hydration. It has also been enriched with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to prevent the appearance of spots and their residual marks.
You can see the full list of Check Matte’s ingredients on its product page, but here’s a little glimpse :
Pure and organic plant-based oils : Jojoba, Onager, Kukui nut, Kalahari melon seed, Perilla, Macadamia, Argan, Passionfruit, Green tea, Borage, Andiroba, Flax, Coconut, Sweet almond, Sesame, Grape, Pomegranate, Musk rose, Baobab, Brazil nut, Moringa, Mogongo, Marula…
Organic extract of : Baobab, Immortal blue, Chlorella vulgaris, Spirulina, Horsetail, Marshmallow plant, Olive, Horse chestnut, Burdock, Cornflower, Wild pansy, Alfalfa, Cocoa, Ginseng Panax, Green tea, Prunella vulgaris, Watercress, Sunflower, Calendula, Vine, Carrot, Goji, Echinacea, Berries, Physalis, Purslane, Baobab pulp, Mimosa Tenuiflora, Birch, Yarrow, Alchemilla, Milk thistle, Nasturtium, Juniper, Meadowsweet, Eglantine, Liquorice, Fireweed, Goji, Physalis, Purslane
This post is also available in french.