I used to think oily skin was a curse, though the older I get, the more I realize it has its benefits: Oily skin tends to look younger longer, a fact I’ve had confirmed to me twice by doctors, one of whom also told me the oiliness of my skin made it stronger and far more elastic than normal.
Great! I’m determined to focus on the positives.
Because oily skin has also meant I’ve dealt with acne issues and unsightly shine for most of my life. The problems began in my pre-teens, but I fully expected them to be gone by my 20s. It didn’t happen. Well then surely by my 30s. But wrong again! Now, even as 40 draws ever-closer I still struggle with some of the same skin problems I was dealing with 20 years ago.
But you can’t deal with a skin issue for this long without learning a thing or two about it! In fact, I wish so much I had known 20 years ago what I know now about dealing with oily skin. And that’s not to say I have completely conquered my skin problems! I certainly have not, but the flare-ups are definitely far less frequent and they are almost always the result of me letting up in one of the areas I have listed here.
Now let me make it plain I am not a dermatologist and I can’t begin to diagnose or suggest treatment for persistent skin problems or severe acne. If you’re suffering from either of these, I recommend seeing a doctor.
But I do want to share with you a few of the simple things I’ve learned to help me cope with oily skin and control breakouts. The information might be a welcome help to your teen. Or to YOU, if you’re like me and all grown up, but still battling a problem most of your friends left behind 20 years ago. I think we all wish we could stay young forever, but I must confess this is hardly the way I wanted to do it!
Regardless, in dealing with oily skin, it’s important to…
1. Wash your face regularly. But don’t overwash!
A regular regimen of gently exfoliating and washing your face to remove dirt, dead skin cells, and excess oil is important. I recommend an oil-free cleanser, a whole host of which are available at your local drug or discount store. I don’t spend a lot on my cleansers, (the more expensive ones have never seemed to work any better for me than the cheap ones,) but I am adamant about using them consistently. I don’t go to bed at night or begin my day in the morning without first washing my face.
But be cautious about washing more often than once in the morning and once at night. I used to think washing multiple times per day was helping to bring the oil in my skin under control, but what I was actually doing was stripping my skin of natural oils, which only prompted my body to produce excess oil to make up for it, thus worsening my problems.
2. Be cautious in your use of all skin care products, including those that are labeled gentle, all-natural, or organic.
Sometimes the products we use to help control the oil in our skin actually contribute to excessive oil-production and acne. Products containing a high percentage of alcohol can dry out your skin, which, again, prompts your body to over-produce oil. Ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can do the same and are too harsh for some skin types. Oils and other ingredients in some products can clog pores, leading to acne issues.
And remember that what works for one won’t necessarily work for all. I’ve used products with benzoyl peroxide for most of my life with no problem, but we quickly discovered that my daughter’s skin is far too sensitive for it. And just last year I decided to try a special skin-cleanse using organic coconut oil. (I mean, it was organic. And it was coconut oil! Naturally that meant it would be great for my skin, right?) Well I ended up having a horrible reaction that I could only get under control after a trip to the doctor and a round of antibiotics. Obviously we won’t be trying that again.
Just don’t assume that any and all products designed for skin will be right for your skin. And any time you try a new product, use it sparingly and in a small area first, just until you’re sure it isn’t going to further your problems.
3. Change your pillowcase often.
This is one of those simple things I desperately wish I had thought of as a teenager!
Most people change pillowcases whenever they change their sheets, which is maybe once every week or two. If you have oily skin, however, you should be changing your pillowcase far more often than that!
Personally, I never sleep on the same side of a pillowcase twice. Never. Maybe that sounds obsessive, but think about all the oil, sweat, dead skin cells, hair care products, and saliva that wind up on a pillow during one night of sleep. Multiply that and all the bacteria in it over several nights and suddenly you have a legion of acne-causing microorganisms where you lay your head and face every night.
Sleep on one side of your pillow one night and the other side the next. After that your pillowcase should be washed. If you’re one of those nighttime pillow-flipper-squeezer-scrunchers, (I just made that up, but I know these people exist: I’m married to one of them,) then you need to change your pillowcase every night. Yes, I said every night.
But, Tanya! Don’t you go through a lot of pillowcases doing that?
Yep. But I’ve picked them up off clearance racks and at yard sales until I have a pretty good supply for myself and my daughters.
And by the way, a pillow cover is also important because everything that gets on your pillowcase will soak into your pillow as well. I found some waterproof pillow covers for $3 at a local discount store and I wash those every time I change my sheets.
4. Drink water.
Of course I’d heard that drinking water made for clearer skin, but I didn’t want to believe it because I really don’t like drinking water. I just don’t. But there is no question: When I’m drinking water regularly, my skin looks better.
I actually began drinking water more in an effort to be healthier and to save on calories, not to help my skin, but I began to notice a difference almost immediately. The more water I drank, the clearer my skin was.
I still drink coffee, milk, and the occasional Coke, and I can’t say I always manage eight glasses of water per day, but I’ve read that as little as two cups daily can make a significant difference in the health and clarity of your skin and I have absolutely found that to be true with my own skin.
5. Eat your veggies.
There’s no doubt in my mind that adding more fresh vegetables to my diet has helped my skin as well. A quick Google search will turn up at least 1000 websites or blog posts listing out just what vegetables you need to eat for clearer skin, but here’s a quick list of my favorites:
Broccoli. They call this a super food and I believe it. No kidding: I feel better and look better when I’m eating broccoli regularly.
Green leaf lettuce. Green and even red leaf lettuces are packed with Vitamin A, which offers great defense for your skin.
Spinach. Ditto on the Vitamin A, plus K and C which can also be good for your skin.
Beets. Yes, I know beets may be an acquired taste, but I love them and they are packed with vitamins that can contribute to skin health. Some people believe they are blood cleansing as well, which is only even more beneficial to your skin.
Avocado. Okay, I realize avocado is actually a fruit and not a vegetable, but I’ll slip it in here just the same. I won’t even begin listing the skin health-promoting vitamins and minerals in avocado, but, believe me, this oily little fruit can do great things for your oily skin.
6. Use your hair care products wisely.
This should be common sense, but I think sometimes we’re in too much of a hurry to give it much thought. But most of the products we use in our hair will find their way onto our face as well.
Washing meticulously with some expensive cleanser to clear your pores really doesn’t do a lot of good if you’re coating your face in hairspray afterwards! Some will recommend styling your hair before washing your face, but that just doesn’t quite work with every style. Try covering your face with a clean towel or hiding it in your sleeve before using hairspray.
Also be aware that in-your-face styles…(maybe there’s a better way to say that, but you know what I mean; styles that tend to hang around the face more)…may contribute to acne problems, particularly if you use mousses, gels, or other serums in your hair. That stuff will get on your face and potentially clog pores. Really, the fewer products you use in your hair, the better for your skin overall, which may force you to a trade-off: Awesome hair, problem skin or not-as-awesome hair, clear skin. The choice is yours.
7. Hands off!
I think we usually know this, but it’s not always easy to put into practice. We carry more bacteria on our hands than on any other part of our bodies, and yet any time there is a blemish in our skin, our first reaction is to touch it. Or worse, pick at it. And of course all we’re doing is introducing even more bacteria every time we do so.
But keep in mind that other seemingly harmless habits can contribute to skin problems as well. Resting your chin in your hand or leaning a cheek against your palm can lead to acne, too. The same is true of things like massaging your face when you’re tired or frustrated, or even rubbing your nose a lot!
Be aware of these things when you do them and STOP! Train yourself to keep your hands away from your face.
8. Stop looking for a miracle cure for your oily skin.
There are plenty of people out there willing to fork out hundreds and even thousands of dollars for products in the hope they will magically correct their skin problems. Some are even willing to try medications with scary side effects, or undergo procedures that involve risk and offer questionable benefit, all in the hope they might conquer their acne issues.
I don’t fault people for seeking help and hoping to find it. And I’ll even concede that sometimes people do, indeed, find a product or medication that seems to improve things for them.
But I also know that I’ve tried more products myself than I could ever list here, including some of the well-known, (and costly,) products you’ve seen on commercials or read about on websites, and none of them were as effective as making a few minor changes to my lifestyle and habits. Period.
The best remedy for the problems associated with oily skin is not a special cleansing formula or a miracle medication. It’s all about simple change. And patience.
Not to mention focusing on the positive! Like the fact I’m 28 and don’t look a day over 25.
Or am I 29 now? I forget. With skin this youthful-looking, it’s so easy to lose track… 😉