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An oily skin has blackheads all over the face: you’ll find them on your forehead, nose, chin, cheeks and even inside your ears. Blackheads are made up of bacteria, dead cells and sebum. It often also has pimples, both pustules – which have a whitish-yellow head and tend to be more on the surface of the skin – and painful hormonal nodules that can be very deep and affect the pigment cells, often leaving a mark or a scar. Painful pimples are always hormonal and are related to an overabundance of the male hormone. The consistent build-up of oil underneath the skin can often cause congestion as well, particularly on the forehead, cheeks and down around the lower jawline and chin area.
An oily skin will have noticeably larger pores and is often shiny throughout the day, with a more slippery surface caused by excess sebum.
Surface dryness, large pores, congestion, scarring and pitting, sebaceous hyperplasia, milia, excess facial hair, and inflammation and sensitivity caused by acne. Also ruddiness and heat, which can include rosacea. You may also find that the skin doesn’t heal quickly and needs to be extracted regularly and fed nutrients topically.
Foods that can cause additional congestion if you have an oily skin include egg yolks, dairy products such milk, cheese and ice cream, peanuts, oily fish such as salmon and anything fatty, like fried foods. Processed white sugar is also not great for oily skins and citrus can be an issue for teenagers as well, especially orange and other fruit juice.
You should also avoid using comedogenic products – these are more occlusive, with a heavier texture that will suffocate the skin, clogging the pores. But it’s important to remember how comedogenic testing works: each individual ingredient is tested at a 100% concentration, but the combination of every ingredient in the complete product is not generally taken into account. Formulas are key – the magic of chemistry can change the properties of even some naturally comedogenic ingredients like pure coconut or mineral oil so that the finished product won’t necessarily clog your pores. The best thing is to make sure you’re using products that are emollient and lighter in texture as these will help heal and repair the skin’s barrier without forming a congestion-causing occlusive film.
A good non-foaming cleanser that will keep your skin thoroughly cleansed without causing surface dryness, an exfoliant that has a buffing effect on the epidermis and will absorb dead skin cells, and an active product with an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), salicylic acid (BHA) or a retinoid to refine your pores and keep oil activity under control.
Serums are a great delivery method for your active ingredients, which means either a retinoid such as a gentle non-prescription retinol, or an AHA. The AHA family is made up of glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric, mandelic or citric acids. Look for an AHA serum that contains at least two varieties because combining acids of different molecular weights and sizes means the serum will work across the different levels of your skin.
Because an oily skin often has pimples and will mark easily, it’s good to also incorporate a serum that’s very healing. Choose one that contains hyaluronic acid, which keeps oily skin hydrated without over-nourishing it; peptides, because they are great body-builders; or rosa damascena flower oil, because of its powerful hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. You can also look out for palmarosa oil, which helps to balance sebum production and keep the skin soft and supple, or camphor oil, as it helps to soothe even a sensitive skin and prevents irritation.
Because a lot of oily skins tend to have more fine facial hair, working your cleanser in with circular motions is really important. Not only will getting underneath that facial hair keep your skin really clean, circular movements also help with lymphatic drainage, which helps detox your body’s lymphatic system. So make sure to massage the lymph nodes around your ears and then move on to the sides of the neck and keep working down to the large lymph nodes under your armpits.
Most oily skin types have inflammation that can be soothed and calmed by icing the skin. Cryo sticks are good for that, or you can use glass globes or an ice pack from the freezer. Ice each area for three sets of 10 seconds then move on until you’ve covered your whole face.
It’s so important to keep the skin soft, supple and clean. Remember that cleansing is 50% of your regimen – choose the right cleanser so your skin won’t be surface dry and oily underneath, and be thorough and consistent in your cleansing. Cleanse every single day, double cleansing in the evenings, and massage the cleaner into your skin for at least 30 seconds each time.
Next, make sure you’re using actives to keep your pores clean, smaller in size and clear of blackheads. And finally, an oily skin needs to be fed healing nutrients. It doesn’t need thick, overly nourishing products but rather hydrating serums and moisturizers that keep the oil under control so the skin can recover quickly if there’s scarring.
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