Find the Right Cleanser
"Many people think that washing your face or using acne products makes your skin produce more oil, so they avoid it," says Jessica Wu, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Medical School. "Your oil glands will produce the same amount of oil regardless of how you treat it on the outside," she explains. In other words, getting your skin to produce more oil would require a change on an internal, biological level, like a shift in hormones. Washing your face won't do it.
If you're washing with products that are too harsh, though, you will strip away the oils that make your skin look healthy and dewy. Try not to use a cleanser more than twice a day. One of your visits to the sink should include a wash containing salicylic acid, which helps absorb oil. Try dermatologist favorite Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash ($6.89). Then, for your second wash, use a mild cleanser such as Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($11.99).
Hydrate Your Skin
Jacobs recommends a lightweight moisturizer containing hyaluronic acid and natural remedies such as lemon-peel extract, which have astringent and antibacterial properties. Look for non-comedogenic formulas that won't clog pores â€” a concern for those with overactive sebum glands.
If no amount of persuasion will cure you of your moisturizer-phobia, however, Dr. Wu says just to moisturize where you need it. She recommends oil-free lotions, gels or serums rather than heavy creams. Her pick: Vichy Normaderm Pro Pat Ultra Mattifying Oil-Free Lotion SPF 15 ($22).
Keep Your Hands Off!
Having oily skin does make you more acne-prone, because sebum is a key instigator of breakouts. When blackheads or blemishes mar your complexion, it's easy to unleash your inner teenager, and pick or squeeze out of frustration. This is a bad idea, Jacobs explains: "Touching your face isn't good, because your fingers can carry bacteria that will make your skin break out even more."
She suggests using a toner instead. "In order to prevent oiliness and blemishes," she says, "use a toner after cleansing that has antibacterial and oil-absorbing properties, which remove excess oils and surface impurities." Look for ingredients like lactic, glycolic or salicylic acid to help exfoliate your skin and keep your pores clear. Try DDF Glycolic 10% Toning Complex ($31.95).
Eat the Right Fats
One common myth is that oily food causes oily skin. Not so, according to Dr. Wu. "In fact, certain types of oils, like fish oils [which are high in omega-3 fatty acids] have been shown to help reduce acne, because they have anti-inflammatory properties," she says.
"On the other hand, dairy products, sugary foods and processed carbohydrates like muffins, bread and pasta have been linked to worse acne breakouts." In addition to avoiding these trigger foods, she suggests eating frequent small meals to keep your blood sugar stable, which will help reduce oil production and clogged pores.
Put Down the Powder
Grabbing a compact when you're feeling shiny may offer you a brief respite, but in the long run you're only causing more problems. "Instead of dabbing your nose with powder, which can mix with your skin's oils and turn it into a pasty mess, use blotting papers without powder for best results," Dr. Wu says.
Blotting sheets resemble tissue paper and can absorb oil without disturbing your makeup. Try Boscia Blotting Linens ($10).
Don't Overdo the Products
"I see many people with oily skin who over-indulge in products because they want to dry the skin out, which causes it to become irritated," says Paul Jarrod Frank, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at New York University School of Medicine and GoodSkin Labs' Global Consulting Dermatologist. "Oily skin doesn't mean it's not sensitive skin, and using too many products with multiple ingredients could do more harm than good."
The solution? Simplify. "Introduce one product at a time and allow time â€” a week or two â€” for your skin to become accustomed to the product," Dr. Frank advises. Start with a salicylic-acid product and allow your skin to adjust before adding another ingredient like glycolic acid or a retinoid.
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