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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
“Shine on, you crazy diamond,” sang Pink Floyd in a song that was probably not about having oily skin, but sums up the predicament of every person with excess sebum.
Having oily skin can lead to breakouts, screw with makeup application, and make you shiny as a diamond. Luckily, there are many natural ways to keep your abundance of oil at bay.
1. A proper skin care routine
With oily skin, it’s all about achieving balance. If you don’t wash your face, the excess sebum can trap dirt or dead skin in your pores, causing a breakout.
If you wash your face too much (or too harshly), then your skin will produce even more oil to compensate for your dried out face. So, it’s good to establish a face washing routine that finds a happy medium.
The best way to do this is to chat with your dermatologist. They can help you find a routine that works for your skin’s specific needs.
In the meantime, wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser and be sure to use a moisturizer. Ditch any harsh soaps or products that make your skin feel dry. You can also experiment with toners and oils (which we’ll get to later).
One more hard rule: Don’t sleep with your makeup on!
A face full of makeup overnight is practically asking your pores to get clogged. Even if you’re the sleepiest person on earth, take five minutes to wash your face before bed. Your not-broken-out skin will thank you in the morning.
2. Cleansing cloths
Though it’s best to not wash your face more than twice a day, sometimes you need a boost to really cleanse the skin. If it’s extremely hot out and you’ve been sweating, feel free to use a cleansing cloth to get rid of excess oil.
These are also great for post-workout skin care. The extra sweat and oil from a workout can clog your pores, so a quick wipe with a cleansing cloth will keep your pores clean and help avoid breakouts. Try cleansing cloths by Cetaphil, which are gentle and don’t dry out skin.
3. Fight oil with oil
Treating oily skin with more oil might sound completely batty, but the right oils can actually make a huge difference. When the skin’s natural oils are balanced, you produce less sebum and have fewer days with excess grease on your gorgeous face.
To keep your skin in balance, it’s best to use non-comedogenic oils (they won’t clog your pores) like argan oil, black raspberry seed oil, or rosehip oil. It might take trying a few different face oils to find the one you love best.
4. Konjac sponges
Oily skin attracts dirt and dead skin, so it’s important to keep pores clean to avoid breakouts. Konjac sponges are made with fibers from the roots of a yam-like vegetable and they’re perfect for gentle exfoliation.
The sponge helps clear pores without damaging the skin, and they’re completely compostable when you’re done with them! Just make sure that you don’t use the sponge every day.
Over exfoliation can cause dryness, which causes sebum production, and the whole oiliness cycle starts again. Exfoliating about twice a week should keep pores clear and sebum production in check.
5. Blotting papers
If you go through 20 blotting papers a day, you’re probably removing too much. However, the occasional blotting paper is a simple way to remove shininess and keep your makeup intact.
Not just for Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore Ghost cosplay, clay is great at absorbing oil. One study found that a clay and jojoba oil mask greatly reduced acne. French green clay is also known to be rich in minerals and especially good for oily skin.
Look for a mask that’s primarily made from natural clay, or make your own mask at home. Powdered cosmetic clays are available online and you can mix them with your own favorite ingredients for a DIY solution.
Activated charcoal is all-natural and draws out any gunk that’s hanging around the pores. Despite its heavy-duty cleaning power, charcoal is gentle on the skin.
For best results, don’t use a charcoal product every day. That might leave your skin a little dry and upset the oil balance. Instead, use it a few times a week to remove excess sebum.
Acne isn’t just caused from too much oil, it can also be caused by bacteria on the skin. To get rid of extra bacteria and oil, try honey.
Honey is naturally antibacterial and helps seal in the skin’s natural moisture. Plus, it’s a treatment that’s probably sitting in your pantry right now. Simply put some honey on your face (raw and organic is preferable), let it sit for a few minutes, then wash off gently with warm water.
When you’re making breakfast, put a little bit of that oatmeal aside for your face. Oatmeal is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps calm the skin. The grain both absorbs oil and gently exfoliates — without the usual danger of drying you out.
Follow instructions to make a normal bowl of oatmeal (sans toppings, of course). Let the oats cool, then slather them on your face and enjoy sitting in your breakfast mask for about 20 minutes. Wash off with warm water and apply a moisturizer to seal in that oaty goodness.
10. Aloe vera
Not just for sunburns, aloe vera is an incredibly soothing ingredient for all types of skin. Aloe helps treat breakouts and generally aids the healing of skin. So, if your face is irritated from an oily/too dry/back to oily cycle, aloe can help calm it all down.
Before bed, massage a layer of aloe into your skin and keep it on overnight. In the morning, wash off as normal. The cooling effect is nice for a nighttime routine and it’s a natural, affordable treatment option.
Tomatoes are filled with B-vitamins, antioxidants, and enzymes that are great for skin. While it might seem a little weird to slice a tomato and rub it on your face, it might be a great idea for people with oily skin.
The enzymes in tomatoes gently remove dead skin cells while the vitamins and antioxidants help reduce inflammation and signs of aging.
It’s important to note, though, that there aren’t many studies to prove that topical tomato application is good for your skin, and keep in mind that tomatoes contain acid and caution should be used to avoid irritation.
To make a tomato mask, squash a fresh tomato into some oats (not a great meal, but a good two-for-one mask) and let it set on your skin for 10–20 minutes. Rinse well and moisturize.
12. Witch hazel
After you wash your face, you may want to use a toner to get a slightly deeper clean. Many toners are made from alcohol which is very drying and not great for oily skin. Instead, use all-natural witch hazel. The tannins in witch hazel cause an astringent effect, which means it reduces oiliness and may help shrink pores.
Since witch hazel is alcohol-free, it’s generally safe to use and doesn’t irritate the skin. Bonus point: It’s one of the most affordable toners on the market. Check out any of the alcohol-free toners from Thayers.
Lactic acid is used in all kinds of skin care as it helps improve the texture of your skin. Luckily, you can get a big dose of lactic acid from an ingredient in red velvet cake. No, not chocolate (bummer, we know) — buttermilk!
Buttermilk is naturally high in lactic acid. The high acidity gives the milk its bitter taste, but also skin-smoothing properties. Feel free to simply coat your skin in buttermilk (not the finest smelling mask, for sure) or mix buttermilk with oats for another two-for-one DIY face mask.
14. Egg whites
People have been putting egg whites on their faces for a long time. The high-protein substance seems to be good for tightening skin, though there’s no scientific evidence to back this up.
Still, a study found that egg membrane, applied topically, greatly reduced wrinkles and possibly reversed damage from free radicals. Sadly, egg membrane and egg white aren’t quite the same thing — the membrane is just that tiny layer between the shell and the egg — but if you have an extra egg laying around, it might be worth a try.
Keeping acne-causing bacteria at bay is a great way to avoid breakouts. Lemon juice is full of natural antibiotics, so it can help keep your skin clear. Once again, this could be potentially drying, so it’s best to use only once or twice a week or during acne flare-ups.
Oily skin is a bit of a mystery. The primary cause is basic: skin gets oily when it produces too much sebum, an oily concoction secreted by the sebaceous glands.
But why does it overproduce? Oily skin tends to run in families, so it’s likely that you’ve been blessed with the gift of shiny skin by your parents. Still, an article from The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology said there’s no proven cause of oily skin and it’s not clear why sebum production varies from person to person.
So, there aren’t a lot of good answers on why your skin gets that greasy feeling, but there are a few things that can influence your skin’s sebum output.
That time of the month
Sebum production goes up when women ovulate, most likely because of raised levels of progesterone. So, when you’re about to have your period, you may also have oilier skin. Yep, periods are the gift that keeps on giving.
You can’t really do anything to counteract this oil increase, but you can adjust your skin care routine around the time you ovulate — more on that below.
Time of year
As it gets hotter, your skin is more likely to produce sebum. So, in the summer, especially if you live in a humid climate, get ready to make like Jed Clampett and strike oil!
Over the course of your life, sebum production will rise and fall. Right after you’re born, oil production goes way up. That’s why some very young babies look like they have the skin of an unhappy high schooler.
But that oil production subsides until puberty makes it skyrocket again. After that, sebum production varies, but stays at a high level for women until menopause. So, if you’re between puberty and menopause, you’re in a prime zone for oily skin.
Though the causes of oily skin aren’t terribly clear, there are some things that definitely do not cause your skin to go on sebum overdrive.
Finally, some good news! There is no connection between eating greasy food and having greasy skin. Numerous articles and studies found that junk food and chocolate do not increase oil production or seem to have any effect on skin.
Obviously, an abundance of junk food can cause other health problems, but you don’t have to worry that a slice of pizza will make you break out.
Too much moisturizer
Many people with oily skin think they should skip moisturizer as it might make their skin more oily. That’s totally not true! People with oily skin still need moisturizer to keep their skin hydrated.
If your skin loses hydration, it will produce more oil. But, if you keep your skin moisturized, your skin doesn’t have to work overtime to keep dryness away. So, even if it’s hot outside and you feel a tad greasy, moisturizer will only help quell the oils in the long run.
We’ve come a long way from the violently coconut-scented sunscreens of the 80s and 90s. Those were practically a bottle of grease, so it’s no wonder that some people with oily skin think sunscreen will only make it worse.
Unfortunately, without sunscreen, the UV damage to your skin is far worse than looking a little shiny. Fortunately, there’s a wide array of sunscreens specifically made for daily use on oily skin. That way, you get protection from the sun, moisture, and no extra oils.
- Though oily skin can be inconvenient at times, it’s not all bad. Sebum is produced to keep skin healthy, moisturized, and help create a better barrier for immune function.
- Oil makes the skin look plump, which minimizes the appearance of wrinkles.
- Still, there are times when you’d like your sebum production to be at a minimum, so make an appointment with your dermatologist to come up with the right plan for your skin.