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How to Manage Oily Skin

Get more glow and less shine with skin-clearing solutions from leading dermatologists.

Masks and Clays

Applying masks and clays to the skin helps draw out oils and cleanses pores, but there is also concern for over drying. "My advice is to apply them only to problem areas and use them only occasionally," Rebecca Kazin, MD, director of Johns Hopkins Cosmetic Center, says. She suggests limiting masks and clays to really big events such as a wedding, a birthday dinner, or a big presentation.  

Moisturizers

"People who have oily skin often steer clear of moisturizers, worrying that they’ll make their skin look even shinier," Kazin says. That’s a bad idea. "Even oily skin needs to be moisturized to look its best," she says. To avoid an oily sheen, choose an oil-free moisturizer. Vary the amount you apply depending on whether the area tends to be dry or oily.  

Oil-free Sunscreen

"Traditional sunscreens can pose a problem for people with oily skin since they tend to go on pretty thick and can block pores," Armstrong says. Even so, protecting skin from ultraviolet radiation is absolutely essential. Sunscreen gels are less likely than creams and lotions to make your skin look oily, and there are a variety of new oil-free products for oily skin. Some of the newest products, including facial powders, offer enough protection to ward off sun damage in most situations.  

Adapt Your Facial Regimen

How oily your skin appears can vary season by season, week by week, even day by day. "Oil production is influenced by hormones, by mood, even by the weather," Cambio says. "For example, some people have problems with oily skin only in the summer when they’re sweating." It’s important to be aware of how your skin varies so that you can adjust your regimen accordingly. "You may need cleanser with glycolic acid or beta-hydroxy acid every day during the summer but only now and then during the winter," Kazin says. "That’s important to know since overusing these products can cause skin to dry out."  

Talk to Your Dermatologist

If over-the-counter products aren’t enough to help you manage oily skin, talk to your dermatologist. Lasers and chemical peels can help reduce oiliness and improve the overall look of your skin. Creams laced with tretinoin, adapalene, or tazarotene can also help by altering pores and reducing oiliness. "Since these products can be irritating, it’s best to use them only on oily areas and only as often as you really need it," Kazin says.  

It’s worth remembering that oil production is a normal part of healthy skin. "People with naturally oily skin tend to have fewer wrinkles and healthier looking skin," Marmur says. So don’t go overboard in your efforts. Remove excess oiliness when you need to look your best, but be careful to preserve your skin’s natural anti-aging mechanism.  

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Reviewed on September 28, 2012

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