"Oily skin is complicated because it’s primarily hormonal," says Paula Begoun, skincare expert and founder of Paula's Choice. A result of excess sebum production, oily skin can be exacerbated by many factors including humid weather, your menstrual cycle and even physical and emotional stress. Dr Mieran Sethi, Vichy advising dermatology registrar, mentions that as well as hormones, using the wrong skincare could also result in overly oily skin. "If you’re suffering from really oily skin it could be because you’re washing your skin too much," she says. Harsh products that strip skin and remove the oils could send oil glands into overdrive. "This is because they are trying to moisturise the skin," adds Dr Sethi. "Glands that produce lots of oil may then clog with dirt and form breakouts."
While oily skin is quite difficult to control, Paula mentions you can master the side effects. Along with managing stress and visiting a GP or dermatologist to help get your hormones in check, there are lots of benefits of a consistent and specially tailored skincare routine. In fact, experts would argue that it's the first place to start. Here's what you need to know.
Dr Sethi recommends a salicylic acid-based cleanser, such as Vichy Normaderm Phytosolution Volcanic Mattifying Cleanser, £16.50. Salicylic acid is an exfoliating acid, otherwise known as a BHA or beta hydroxy acid. It exfoliates deep inside the pore, breaking up the paste-like mixture of oil, dead skin cells and dirt before they clog and cause blackheads or spots. Also try The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser, £10.99, which doesn't sting or make skin tight, or Starface Space Wash, £13. This boasts 2% willow bark extract as an alternative to salicylic acid if your skin is quite sensitive.
Simply apply your cleanser to damp skin and work into a lather for around one minute before rinsing off with warm water and patting dry with a clean towel.
The moisturiser or serum
A common misconception about oily skin is that moisturiser isn't necessary but, like all skin types, oily skin still needs moisture and hydration. "It's important to use a moisturiser," says Dr Sethi. "It could be a good idea to use one which contains a high factor SPF, so you aren’t using too many products at once." Try Paula's Choice Clear Moisturiser SPF 30, £34, which is lightweight and minimises shine, or Cetaphil Daily Defence Moisturiser SPF50+, £12.99, which is non-comedogenic so less likely to block pores.
If your skin gets clogged easily and you'd rather use a lightweight serum instead, Paula suggests looking out for something containing 10% niacinamide, an ingredient that minimises the appearance of pores and regulates oil production throughout the day. Pop a couple of drops of 10% Niacinamide Booster, £41, into your moisturiser or use alone. Also try The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, £5, which absorbs fast and keeps oil on lockdown.
If you feel as though moisturiser overloads your skin, you could skip that step entirely and simply use a targeted sunscreen in the morning, as most SPF products are actually suspended in a moisturising base. "The only hard rule when it comes to oily skin is that during the day, the last product you put on must always be a sunscreen," says Paula. "I have oily skin myself and I hate the feel of a sunscreen lotion, so I wear foundation which contains sunscreen." Again, look out for oil-free or non-comedogenic products to avoid clogged pores, such as Avène Cleanance Sunscreen SPF50, £18.50, which is slightly tinted.
"You don’t have to use a different cleanser in the day and night," says Paula. "It can be the exact same cleanser and it doesn't need to be stronger," she adds. "But sometimes it's a good idea to go over your face twice when you're wearing makeup. Using a soft washcloth, sometimes I'll do a double cleansing method. The ultimate cleanser should be gentle."
The night treatment
"There is nothing quite as significant for clogged pores, breakouts and oily skin as salicylic acid-based products," says Paula, who recommends looking for a product with 2% salicylic acid for best results. Dr Sethi says that the mode of exfoliation is different to acids such as glycolic and lactic acids. Instead of working on the surface, salicylic acid "opens" up the pores and works on a deeper level.
A leave-on toner or treatment such as NIP+FAB Salicylic Fix Tonic XXL Extreme 2%, £19.95, Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant, £28, or Alpha-H Clear Skin Tonic with BHA, £35, will work to minimise the appearance of large pores and blemishes. Saturate a cotton pad and swipe the product onto skin after cleansing.
If your skin gets oily fast, you might feel as though you don't need to use a nighttime moisturiser. But if you want to follow your salicylic acid treatment with something simple for boosted hydration, try CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion, £13, or Simple Kind to Skin Hydrating Light Moisturiser, £4.29.