For those of us whose skin is on the oilier side, it can be an extra challenge to wash regularly without over-drying and to keep acne under control. Knowing more about how the body produces and uses oil can help you know what can be done to keep it looking fresh and healthy.
Everyone’s skin is unique, a combination of genetics, environment, care routine, and diet, among other factors that affect our bodies throughout our lives. Overproductive sebaceous glands can become a nuisance when they lead to hair or skin that is just too oily, making us look worn out and potentially blocking our pores.
The skin produces natural oil in the sebaceous glands called sebum. This oil helps keep moisture in, hydrates our hair, and helps keep dirt and some microbes on the outside of the body. The sebaceous glands are all over the body, but are most highly concentrated in the face and on the scalp. The constant movement of our face and the large amount of hair on the head requires more oil than other parts of our body, and these glands might overproduce in certain individuals.
When excess oil isn’t managed well, acne can develop from the dirt and dead skin cells that build up and sit in the pores. Severe acne develops when smaller outbreaks aren’t contained because bacteria that thrive in acne can lead to inflammation in the area, which both looks worse and can be uncomfortable. When it gets too troublesome, acne scars can remain even after the skin clears up.
Clogged pores are also a long-term risk for wrinkles later in life when oil production slows down, since new skin will grow over the filled pores and create visible creases in areas like around our eyes, at the corners of the mouth, and on the forehead. When sebum isn’t cleared from the pores properly, it may also block the follicles and lead to hair loss.
While one of the upsides to active sebaceous glands is well-hydrated skin, the excess moisture needs to be managed for it not to become a problem. Genetic factors are usually the main cause of oily skin, but your skincare routine, the products you use, and your diet can all influence the amount of sebum being produced at different times of the year. In the summer, we’re outside a lot and may be sweating more. When sweat is mixing with sebum and dirt, it can cause more problems than, say, excess oil in the winter, which might help protect you from the drier conditions. Year-round, a good skincare routine will help keep the oil under control, and you can adjust it based on the needs of the season.
Washing, exfoliating, and moisturizing properly can make a difference in your skin’s own perceived need to produce sebum. That is, if you’re over-washing, it might produce more to make up for lost oils. If you’re not washing enough, your skin becomes used to the abundance. Sometimes the skin can be trained not to overproduce, or at least to produce less.
When we eat foods with high glycemic (sugar) levels, blood insulin is raised and contributes to the production of excess sebum. Monitor your intake of sugar, dairy, carbohydrates, and alcohol because these can make the oil worse from the inside out. Drinking lots of water and eating vitamin- and mineral-rich foods help our cells stay healthy and hydrated, which supports keeping oil production in check.
Using products that are appropriate for your skin’s needs can make a difference. Try an oil-based cleanser that will lift built up oils while not stripping them completely. Usually, less is more with oily skin, because you don’t want to put too much oil on when more will come naturally within hours. You may need to add in an extra wash in the middle of the day or keep extra blotting sheets nearby. Finding the balance between well-hydrated and too oily can be difficult at first, but the more you actively manage your skin’s oil production, the easier it will be.
To learn more about your skin type and the products that are best for you, schedule an appointment today with one of our dermatologists.