How to Take Care of Your Oily Skin

Oily skin may seem like a drag, but treat it right and you’ll shine in the best way possible.

Chase Pellerin

If your forehead always bounces camera flashes like a bike reflector, you might have oily skin. You’re the guy who carries a handkerchief, not necessarily because you’re sweaty, but because you’re glowing—in the negative sense. Your skin is a veritable sebum factory, your pores clog often, and you’d do anything for a solution to the perpetual greasy film across your face.

Which is exactly what we’ve assembled in this guide to caring for oily skin, with an assist from board-certified dermatologist Dr. Avnee Shah of Rutherford, NJ.

How to Know if You Have Oily Skin

One of the great things about oily skin is that it’s easy to tell if you have it: If there’s often a thick layer of grease on your entire face, congratulations: you have oily skin. But if your mug has some oily patches and some dry patches, you may have what’s called “combination skin” (more on that next week).

“Combination skin typically refers to people who have an oilier T-zone, which is the area including the forehead, nose and chin,” says Shah. “But they are drier on the rest of the face, like cheeks, temples, and around the eyes.”

Shah notes that guys with oily skin will have greasy skin all over the face, including the cheeks and temples, and eyes.

Common Problems With Oily Skin

You might consider “being excessively oily” a problem in and of itself. But there are other frustrating things that accompany oily skin. “You’re more likely to see enlarged pores as well as acne, ranging from blackheads and whiteheads to inflammatory red pimples,” Shah says.

She adds that if you wash your face too often — more than twice daily — it strips away the oils altogether, which confuses your skin and aggravates the problem: “This can signal to your body that it needs to replenish oil reserves, creating an overproduction of sebum and oil,” Shah says. So, you have to manage the oiliness with the best products that won’t dry the sebum outright, but that will help manage how the production manifests itself onto your mug. The same goes with overusing toner, exfoliants, and moisturizers, Shah adds. “Moisturizer helps your skin from thinking it’s ever drying out, and halts the feedback that could create even more oil.”

The Best Morning Skincare Regimen for Oily Skin

Start with a cleanser. The best ones won’t deplete your skin’s sebum supply: Shah most highly recommends a foaming cleanser for the job, since they tend to be gentler and less drying. “Going for harsher washes with an aim to dry out the skin can actually backfire by causing irritation,” she says. Secondly, look for cleansers with ingredients like lactic acid or salicylic acid, since they’ll help keep pores from clogging.

If you’re going to use a toner, now’s the time. “Toners help prep the skin for what’s coming next, be it your serum, moisturizer, or sunscreen,” Shah says. “They get rid of that excess dirt and oil we sometimes miss with washing.” She recommends toners with lactic and hydroxy acids (such as glycolic acid) to rid of any excess without drying you out too much. Don’t use anything too drying, like an astringent toner. You should tone in moderation — even once a day may be too much. Try it every other day to start, and see if your oil levels stay better in check before upping the frequency.

Going for harsher washes with an aim to dry out the skin can actually backfire by causing irritation.

Lastly, Shah says to apply a lightweight sunscreen as a moisturizer — something with a mix of physical blockers (with ingredients like zinc and titanium), and with chemical UV-ray blockers. For oily skin, Shah prefers this double-duty hydrator and sunblock, because it prevents you from having to apply two dense creams to your face. This will make you sweat and could clog pores. Try to find a hydrator that is non-comedogenic (meaning it won’t clog pores) and one that is oil-free.

The Best Nighttime Skincare Regimen for Oily Skin

While it seems counterintuitive to having oily skin, Shah stresses that you must moisturize your skin at bedtime. “Hydration is not equivalent to oil,” she says. “So our goal here is to keep skin moisturized with a non-comedogenic product, evading the extra sebum and shine.” Apply it after cleansing, of course. (This should only be the second and last time you cleanse in a day.) Shah recommends gel- and spray-based lotion moisturizers for bedtime, and any with hyaluronic acid as one of the main ingredients.

One thing to apply before bed is retinol — either mixed in with your moisturizer, or prior to it. Not only do they smooth and prevent signs of aging, but retinols also unclog pores and prevent clogging. You can get retinol in many nighttime skincare products (it’s the ingredient that will be advertised on the packaging), or your dermatologist can prescribe a heavy-grade one. “These can be drying at times, but oilier skin types tend to handle retinols best,” Shah says. For a prescription-strength retinol, Shah suggests starting with just two to three applications weekly, using a pea-sized amount across the face. “If you experience no irritation or drying, increase by adding one more day every few weeks,” she says. “Use it as frequently as every night, but only use four nights a week if you notice that it’s making your skin too dry.”

Don’t know where to turn next?? Stay tuned this week for product recommendations that’ll help your oily skin shine — in the best way possible.

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