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How to Manage Oily Skin

Get more glow and less shine with skin-clearing solutions from leading dermatologists.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD

Oils produced by the body help keep skin healthy, but there can be too much of a good thing. Excess oil can lead to blemishes and acne flare-ups. "Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to cut down on oiliness," Andrea Cambio, MD, medical director of Cambio Dermatology in Cape Coral, Florida, says. Clear complexion strategies range from over-the-counter cleansers to prescription lotions and cosmetic treatments.

Cleansers

Dermatologists agree that the most effective way to manage oily skin is to cleanse your face both morning and night. "Always use a gentle cleanser since harsh soaps can trigger the skin to increase oil production," April Armstrong, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, says. Also, beware of the buff. A washcloth or buff puff can actually stimulate more oil secretion.

If a basic facial cleanser doesn’t cut oiliness, try a product that includes an acid such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or beta-hydroxy acid.  "Many products containing these acids are marketed as acne facial care products. They’re great for people with acne, but they’re also fine for people whose problem is just oily skin," Armstrong says. "Since some of these ingredients can be irritating, buy a small size to see how your skin responds. People often have to try several products before they find the one that works best for them." Wash with warm water, not hot, because temperature extremes can irritate skin.

 

Toners

Dermatologists are divided on whether the oil-reducing properties of toner are legitimate. "I’m not a big fan of astringent toners because they tend to irritate the skin and can lead to more oil production," Cambio says. "Still, if people like using them, I recommend applying toners only on oily areas of the skin, such as the forehead, nose, and chin. Avoid using them on areas that tend to be dry or you’re likely to create dry patches on your skin."

That’s advice worth remembering for all your skin care regimens. "There’s a myth that some people have dry skin, some people have oily skin. In fact, most people have combination skin, oily in some places, dry in others," Ellen Marmur, MD, associate professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, says.

 

Medicated Pads

Pads medicated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or other oil-cutting acid ingredients are another beauty routine option. "Medicated pads are a favorite among my patients with oily skin," Marmur says. "You can carry them in your purse and use them on the run to freshen up your skin and remove excess oil."  

Blotting Paper

Cosmetic blotting papers offer a great option for removing oil because they don’t dry out your skin. "Patients with oily skin really love blotting paper because it’s convenient and easy to use," Armstrong says. Apply it to oily areas, such as forehead, nose, and chin. Don’t scrub your skin with the sheet of blotting paper. Instead, simply press it against the oily area long enough to absorb oil, usually 15 to 20 seconds.  Some blotting papers are lightly powdered, which further reduces shine.  

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