In seventh grade my science teacher devised an inadvertently cruel experiment for our class. The basic idea was that either you or your partner swabbed your face with a q-tip and then ran it across a prepared petri dish. The “fun” portion of this experiment was getting to watch the bacteria from your face grow and thrive in the petri dish as the weeks passed – aka humiliating torture for a group of newly blemished, self-conscious preteens. You can imagine there was fierce competition to be the partner whose face was not swabbed. My partner declared in no uncertain terms that my face was to be providing the bacteria. Seeing as how she was a foot taller than me it seemed in my best interest to agree. At the time I was twelve and had yet to experience the dubious joys of puberty. Our petri dish remained stubbornly bacteria-free much to the envy of my classmates and my smug pride. Well – karma got me back for that one. BIG time. Two years later I hit puberty head-on and have spent the last eight years learning how to deal with skin that is, joyfully, both extremely oily and acne-prone. While I’m far from a skin-care expert, I’ve managed to pick up some tips and tricks along the way, things I wish I’d know back in high school and I thought I’d share them for anyone with similar skin issues. Here we go!
- Use a proper cleanser. No makeup wipes for you my friend, not unless they’re merely to remove makeup before heading in with a good cleanser. Taking the time to properly cleanse your face twice a day (morning & night) is huge step towards managing problem skin. That being said, don’t cleanse your face more than twice a day as you run the risk of drying out your skin and throwing your skin’s acid balance off-kilter, which will make your skin even MORE prone to spots – bad news bears. Avoid foaming cleansers for the same reason. I know it’s lovely to have a tangible indication that your cleanser is doing something to your face but these are drying to the skin and should be avoided. You should also be careful when it comes to exfoliating cleansers. I used one every day in high school, I was convinced it was the only thing that would really clean my oily face. Bad move, me. Over-exfoliating not only dries the skin, it also leaves your face more vulnerable to UVA/UVB rays and air pollutants – it removes the tougher, outer layer of skin cells, exposing newer, more delicate skin. You should also avoid exfoliating areas of the face that are currently experiencing a breakout. You’ll spread the bacteria and prolong the breakout – no thank you. I’d advise exfoliating a maximum of three times a week (Clarisonic included!).
- Keep bacteria as far from your face as possible. This includes measures such as: avoiding touching your face throughout the day, keeping hair off the face, changing your pillowcase every few days, using a fresh cloth each night to remove cleanser/masks, and washing your makeup brushes every week or after a breakout.
- Remove oil throughout the day. Perhaps the single most useful product for people with oily skin is the blotting sheet. These remove excess oil from the face without disturbing your makeup and leave your skin feeling cleaner and more matte. I use these constantly throughout the day – I have a pack in every bag I own! If, like me, your face produces enough oil that you could potentially be considered a national resource, then you may also consider a mattifying powder. My all time favorite is the Neutrogena Translucent Oil Control Powder. It absorbs any lingering oil without looking cakey. That being said, don’t overuse powder as a means of banishing shine. Layering it up will give you a cakey look and most translucent powders do have a tiny hint of color that will manifest with excessive use. Also, while these powders will neutralize shine, they’re not actually removing the oil. It’s still sitting there on your face and mixing it up with a ton of powder can actually increase the likelihood of breakouts. Blotting sheets all the way – my favorite is the CVS brand – no need to splurge for these babies.
- There’s a difference between high coverage and high quantity. When you have a particularly stubborn breakout that is fighting all attempts at being camouflaged, resist the urge to layer tons of concealer on – if a couple layers isn’t doing the trick then neither will fifteen. Go out and find yourself a full-coverage concealer that’s highly pigmented and will cover spots and acne scarring without needing a ton of product (something like Makeup Forever Full Cover Concealer or MAC Studio Finish). Don’t use these as your overall concealers, however, just where you need them to keep your face looking natural.
- Keeping the makeup on your face. A huge challenge for people with oily skin is keeping your makeup on and in place. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to ensure you’re not rocking the dead panda look by the end of the day.
- Primers – a good, oil-free primer will smooth your face, prep your skin for makeup, and act like a glue to hold it in place (Smashbox make a good oil-free one and Benefit’s “Stay Flawless” primer helps mitigate oil throughout the day). If you have oily eyelids too then invest in an eye primer (my favorite is Nars Pro Prime but Urban Decay and Too Faced both make nice ones).
- Setting spray – these are brilliant for those of you who aren’t so keen on using a primer or powder. These are sprays that seal your makeup and prolong the life of your look. You’re supposed to use these after all your makeup is in place but you can also use them before applying your makeup to act as a primer. I actually use this three times while doing my makeup – before my primer, after my cream products, and finally after my powder products. Urban Decay has teamed up with Skindinavia to carry a whole line of these. “De-Slick” is their setting spray for oily skin and it rocks – smells amazing too!
- Setting powder – this should be the last step of your makeup application. You apply this with either a pouf or a powder brush and push the powder gently over top of your makeup – if you brush it on like bronzer you run the risk of disturbing your carefully applied makeup! I also take a little on an eyeshadow brush and run it under my eyes to keep my concealer from creasing. There are tons of these powders available but my personal favorite is the cult fave Laura Mercier Setting Powder in Translucent. It’s really finely milled so it works right into your makeup and sets it without looking powdery or imparting any additional coverage. You could also use a mattifying powder like Soap & Glory’s One Heck of a Blot or Rimmel London’s Stay Matte Pressed Powder for additional shine-fighting goodness. Finally, you can use a pigmented powder like MAC Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation if you’re looking for that additional boost of coverage for an extra flawless look.
- Blotting sheets – I’ve already expressed my deep love for these but using them after you apply your makeup absorbs any oils inherent in the products themselves which helps with longevity!
- Don’t be afraid of moisture! You don’t need to limit your skincare to products that are specifically formulated for acne prone skin. While it makes sense to tailor your makeup and skin care to your skin type, don’t forget that your skin is more than its problem areas! When you’re constantly bathing your face in serums, face washes, lotions, and spot treatments that contain ingredients like salicylic acid, you run the risk of stripping your skin of its moisture. I can personally attest to the fact that it’s possible to have skin that is both oily and dehydrated. The kicker is that dehydrated skin will often produce even more oil in an attempt to rectify the situation – Lord have mercy. While increasing your daily water intake is a good way to combat this issue, you also need to work from the outside in. Using a night cream (a bedtime moisturizer that’s more intense than your average day cream) is a great way to sooth dehydrated skin and balance out harsher acne products. There are plenty of great ones that are oil free such as Olay Regenerist Deep Hydration Regenerating Cream – it’s super moisturizing, smells amazing, and is completely oil free! I’d also recommend steering clear of any concealers/foundations that are targeted at acne sufferers. Not only do these dry out your skin with continuous exposure to acne-fighting ingredients, but in my experience, they’re also inferior when it comes to coverage and finish.
- See the good! Having extremely oily, acne-prone skin can be incredibly demoralizing at times and a particularly bad breakout can drain your confidence with one look in the mirror. That being said, no breakout (or puberty) lasts forever and if your shiny face is your biggest woe, you’re probably doing all right. But as a final morale boost, here are a couple benefits to having oily skin! 1) It’s suggested that those with oily skin are less inclined to develop fine lines as they age. 2) They also have a built-in radiance that some women spend a fortune trying to imitate! A friend’s mother once asked me how I always achieved such a glowy look to my skin – it’s all about perspective!
If you made it to the end of this marathon post I hope it means you found it somewhat useful! If you have any other tips or tricks I’ve left out, please leave a comment and let me know!
Image credit: DailyGlow.com