What skincare experts want you to know about managing oily skin

Keen to keep excess oil and shine at bay? It starts with the basics, as experts tell Abi Jackson.

Abi Jackson
Friday 05 April 2024 07:30 BST
Yes – you do still need to moisturise! (Alamy/PA)
Yes – you do still need to moisturise! (Alamy/PA)

Oily skin can be extra bothersome in spring and summer, with warmer weather and sunshine in the mix.

But managing excess shine isn’t just about mattifying makeup, topping up your powder and dabbing with oil-absorbing sheets as the day goes on. How you cleanse and hydrate your skin is a big part of the picture. We asked skincare experts to talk us through the key points…

Avoid harsh cleansers

Reaching for heavy-duty cleansing products might seem logical, but this could actually be making things worse.

“With oily skin, the temptation is to use harsh products that are oil-free and strip the skin of natural oils. However, all this leads to is the skin’s moisture barrier becoming damaged, causing the skin to become dehydrated and attempt to make up for the lack of moisture by overproducing sebum to counteract this imbalance. The skin then becomes more oily and it’s a vicious cycle,” explains facialist and TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner Ada Ooi, founder of 001 Skincare.

“My approach takes the science into consideration – to break down excess sebum and relieve congestion, I look at how oil molecules are attracted to other oil molecules – water and oil don’t mix! Therefore, using only oil-free products in an attempt to break down oil is a futile mission. I use an ‘oil attracts oil’ methodology with my clients and in my skincare range, to break down excess sebum and reduce congestion, while keeping the skin hydrated to protect the moisture barrier, which delivers long-term results.”

Izabela Pawlitka, aesthetic therapist and skincare specialist at Dr David Jack, agrees a good cleanser is important – as you want to make sure makeup, sunscreen and accumulated dirt, oils, pollution and dead skin cells are removed – but you don’t want something too harsh.

Avoid stripping your skin of the natural oils...

“The most important element of a cleansing routine for people with oily skin is to avoid stripping your skin of the natural oils that keep it hydrated and healthy. Very tight-feeling skin after using a cleanser is not going to make your skin less oily. If that was the case, no one would have oily skin,” says Pawlitka.

“It doesn’t mean that you can’t use well formulated cleanser that contains some level of gentle exfoliation, like lactic acid, azelaic acid or salicylic acid. They can be very beneficial and effective to support your skin. You also want an element of good hydration in them.”

Prioritise moisture and sun protection

Layering on multiple products might be a trend these days, but if your skin is prone to feeling clogged up and reacting if you pile on too much, this approach might not work for you. So, focus on your skin’s needs – providing you don’t skip the essentials.

“As we all know, trends are not based on science,” says Pawlitka. “The two essential elements of daytime skincare are anti-oxidations and SPF50. Use antioxidant serum as a first layer and follow by moisturiser with built-in SPF50,” she suggests. “The majority of people benefit from fewer layers of skincare routine, as after more than three layers, the penetration and absorption of the products is truly questionable anyway.”

When it comes to your night-time routine, hydration deserves a starring role here too.

“Well-hydrated skin is key, so it’s extremely important to keep hydrating your skin with a light textured moisturiser or lotion, rather than a rich moisturiser. In addition to well-known hyaluronic acid, you will benefit from formulas that have niacinamide, peptides and ceramides as ingredients, to increase skin hydration,” suggests Pawlitka.

And even if you’re trying to avoid looking greasy in the daytime, skipping your moisturiser is not the solution. Julia Vearncombe, founder of skin:genius, notes that as well as oily types making “the mistake of trying to strip their skin of oil with astringent products, often, they also avoid using a moisturiser for fear of making the problem worse”.

She adds: “However, by stripping the skin of oil, it signals to your body to create MORE oil to compensate, which perpetuates the problem. The reverse is also true – at skin:genius, we use macadamia in our Soothe Operator moisturiser, because its profile is similar to sebum, the oil which when produced in excessive quantities can lead to spots. Macadamia signals to the body to slow down sebum production, helping to minimise this key cause of blocked pores.

“Bursting with antioxidants to protect our skin from daily pollutants, macadamia is a superfood for the skin. It’s rich in linoleic and palmitoleic acids that help lock moisture in, boost an even skin tone and bring brightness. To manage oily skin, it’s important to commit to a regular routine and give your products time to work.”

It starts on the inside

Our environments, sleep patterns, diet and even stress levels can all potentially impact our skin too.

“There are lots of lifestyle factors that can contribute to your skin’s production of excess sebum, and it’s important to look at the root cause rather than just applying topical solutions,” says Ooi. “A diet consisting of lots of heavy and greasy foods, refined sugars, processed foods and dairy can all throw your system off-balance, because they require a lot of energy from our body to digest and in Chinese Medicine, this creates excess heat and dampness that stagnate in the body, bubbling outwards as excessive sebum or spots on the skin surface.

“Hormonal imbalances and fluctuations also have a part to play in how much sebum your skin produces. These fluctuations might be especially noticeable during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, but also if you have an increase in stress hormones due to a busy work schedule or hectic home life, these stimulate adrenaline for a prolonged period and increase oil production.”

Oily skin saviours

These are some of our top picks for oily skin types this spring and summer.

skin.genius ‘best cleanse forever’ Cleansing Face Wash, £16.50

Proper deep-cleansing for oily and spot-prone skin, without stripping away skin’s vital hydration. The gentle formula contains calendula, red clover and lemongrass with anti-inflammatory properties to help with redness and irritation, too.

001 Skincare Exfoliating & Conditioning Silk Gel Cleanser, £42

This luxurious feeling cleanser delivers deep exfoliation, dissolving the oxidised sebum (oil) sitting in your pores while gently sloughing away dead cells and makeup, without drying out or irritating your skin.

Guinot Crème Pur Équilibre, £47

This sebum-regulating moisturiser absorbs instantly with a mattifying effect, helping to close pores and keep shine at bay all day. Great as a primer under makeup, too.

skinSense Bi-Phase Cell Renewal Serum 30ml, £30

This hydrating serum feels super lightweight and sinks in like a dream, giving your complexion a subtle glow and smoothness, and helping protect your skin’s natural barrier function.

Ultrasun Face Fluid Anti-Pollution SPF50+, £28

High-SPF formulas can often be greasy and heavy – but this one is lightweight and absorbs fast, while also being packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory active ingredients. Ideal under makeup all summer.

Dr. David Jack Red Peel Breakout Control Mask, £149

Certainly a splurge, but as well as delivering antioxidant goodness, this mask – designed for weekly use – helps tackle inflammation and redness, and reduce congestion and breakouts.

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