The 7 Biggest Mistakes People With Oily Skin Make

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
This post was originally published on November 15, 2014.
Concerns about oily skin are not only reserved for those in their teens and 20s. When estrogen drops, the androgen hormones stimulate sebaceous glands to produce more oil, which results in oily skin also affecting women in their 40s and 50s. Oily skin is characterized by large pores and heavy oil production, which often leaves skin looking shiny and greasy. While you definitely can’t stop oil production permanently, avoiding a few common mistakes can help reduce the amount of oil you see and feel. Read on for the top oily skin mistakes to avoid.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Cleansing With A Drying Cleanser
Many cleansers for oily skin are formulated with sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate. While these surfactants cut oil from the skin, they are often extremely drying and can actually cause the skin to create more oil long-term. The way this works is that because these ingredients have a high pH balance, they strip water out of the skin, creating dead, dry skin cell build-up. This dehydration leads the skin to overcompensate by creating more oil — just the thing you were looking to get rid of.

To help keep oil production at bay, try using a sulfate-free cleanser containing gentle surfactants like sodium olefin sulfonate, disodium cocoamphodiacetate, or sodium lauryl oat amino acids. These ingredients will give you a healthy deep-pore cleansing and not leave your skin feeling tight and dry.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Not Keeping Skin Hydrated Topically
Every year when I fly to France to research skin care, my skin gets extremely oily in-flight due to the lack of moisture in the cabin. (Remember: A lack of moisture causes the skin to over-produce oil). To wit: On my flight to France a few years back, I used six oil-blotting papers over the course of the 11-hour flight to control the shine. Two weeks later on the trip back, I only had to use two oil-blotting papers. I was confused as to why I was so much less oily on the flight back — until I realized the reason was because the day before my flight, I had had a facial. Because my skin was extremely hydrated, it wasn’t as affected by the dry cabin air, which resulted in lower oil production.

Crazy, huh? Now, on every flight, I use a few drops of a skin oil every hour during flights to provide a protective barrier over my skin, which keeps the dry air from drawing out the moisture. Skin cells are like fish and need water to live, so topical hydration with well-formulated alcohol-free toners, serums, gel-based masks, and moisturizers is essential in the air and certainly on land. Don’t neglect a good skin-care routine. Just upping your water intake will not give your skin the hydration it needs; rather, you also need a topical moisturizer.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Skipping Moisturizer
If you think you have your own built-in moisturizer simply because of your skin’s natural oils, you are mistaken. After cleansing, the skin has (temporarily) been wiped of all surface oils, which makes it quite vulnerable to dehydration. There's no way of getting around it: A moisturizer must be applied to keep water within the cells. Of course, you always want to use a lotion formulated for your skin type, and I recommend using one that is oil-free and non-pore clogging. Look for a formula with glycerin and sodium hyaluronate, a water-based hydrator that keeps skin cells plump with water.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Looking For A Magic Cure
It’s normal for those with oily skin to want to use a product to rid skin of oil completely, but unfortunately nothing will permanently reduce oil production. This is your skin, and it does what it wants to do. So, you may find yourself buying product after product in search of something that will genetically change your skin — but know it's not going to happen. For those who produce oil, this is a natural process for the skin. The quickest, simplest and fastest way to create less shine on the skin and combat oil is to blot skin often, with either oil-blotting papers or tissue. In a pinch, you can even use the paper toilet seat covers found in public restrooms, which are similar to oil-blotting papers. Dusting with a mattifying powder is also great for managing shine.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Thinking All Oils Are Bad For Your Skin
If you pick up a skin-care product and see oil listed as one of the ingredients, you may be reluctant to purchase it. I often hear my clients say, “I can only use oil-free products.” While it's a good rule of thumb to look for oil-free formulas if you have oily skin, it's important to understand that virtually all creams and lotions need to use something — often emollients — to make them slippery.

One such emollient is caprylic/capric triglyceride, derived from coconut. Depending on the percentage used, this ingredient may actually clog pores, unlike one containing jojoba oil, which people often shun because of the word "oil." But, jojoba oil can be wonderful for oily skin. So, make sure to keep an open mind when shopping.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Not Being Attentive To Your Skin
A common assumption is that if you have oily skin, you’ll get fewer wrinkles. But, that's not necessarily true. It's the skin's thickness (and not how much oil it produces) that matters — although thickness is often associated with oily skin.

Those with thin skin often have large pores and tend to find wrinkles between the brows and the "parenthesis" lines, which stretch from the corner of the nostril to the corner of the mouth. You don't want to make the mistake of neglecting your skin just because you think the oily factor will prevent wrinkles.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Failing To Relax
You may be reluctant to accept it, but a stressful life can lead to increased oil production. Since stress causes the adrenal glands to overproduce cortisol, which then makes the sebaceous glands produce more oil and appear extra greasy. While avoiding stress at all times is impossible, just be sure to take some time to relax — whether it's grabbing coffee with a friend, taking up meditation, indulging in a manicure, or simply taking a hot bath. Even taking deep breaths can instantly create a sense of calm.

Keeping oily skin under control is definitely possible with a proper skin-care regimen, a little extra care, and acceptance. Love the skin you’re in, beauties!

For information on how to properly and effectively care for sensitive skin, see my post geared toward ladies with easily irritable complexions. If you have dry skin, you can read about how to keep it glowing and healthy right here.