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skin tends to develop wrinkles less readily than all other skin types, this
may not compensate for the downside of a prone-to-shine complexion. Oily
skin often looks greasy and feels dirty, no matter what you do, and
sufferers sometimes find that make-up simply won't stay put and disappears
or slides off by the end of the day. Fortunately, thanks to modern beauty
products and the latest scientific information, there is plenty you can do
to help keep oily skin under control.
What is oily skin?
Sebum, which is produced by the sebaceous glands situated below the surface of the skin, is the skin's natural oil. Sebum production varies from person to person. Oily skin is characterised by excessive sebum production, especially at puberty and during the premenstrual phase, which makes the skin shiny. The oiliest area, and the one often prone to acne and blackheads, is the central panel, which runs from the forehead down to the chin. This area has a high concentration of sebaceous glands and the complexion may have a coarsely grained texture and be open-pored and sallow. It can sometimes be sensitive and susceptible to allergies, too.
How you know if you have oily skin?
A simple test will show you if your skin type is oily: wash your face, wait an hour, then press a tissue to your forehead, nose, chin and cheeks. If an oily residue appears in all these areas, you have oily skin. Another giveaway: if you see large, visible pores on any area of your face, it's oily. Oily skin will also seem to soak up make-up. However, oily skin is not necessarily prone to spots or acne.
What causes oily skin?
Your oily complexion may not be permanent. The hormonal changes that occur during puberty or pregnancy can result in temporarily oilier skin. As you get older, sebum production often decreases and you may find your skin starts to become dry. Climate can also be a factor - humidity makes the skin oilier, so the summer months or a holiday in the sun can exacerbate the problem. Prolonged stress and anger can also trigger oily skin. Both emotions cause an adrenaline rush that leads to a surge in androgen, the group of hormones that sends the oil glands into overdrive.
Balance skin from within
Eating a balanced diet and, if necessary, taking appropriate supplements, is a vital part of creating a healthy complexion. Bear in mind that it takes a good three weeks for newly formed cells to reach the skin's surface, so it takes time for lasting results to show. Vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc are essential antioxidants that help to enhance collagen repair and generally promote skin healing. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) can also have a positive effect on skin as they form a barrier that prevents moisture loss that helps combat dryness, fine lines and wrinkles.
What to avoid if you have oily skin?
Contrary to what you might think, oily skin benefits from a light touch rather than aggressive treatment. Avoid:
Harsh scrubs These will stimulate the skin to produce even more oil.
Overwashing Twice a day is plenty. More frequent washing can leave you with dry skin.
Creamy cleansers Lightweight, wash-off formulations are more appropriate.
Astringent toners Any skincare product with alcohol can dry the surface of the skin, trapping impurities beneath the surface.
Heavy make-up Cream-based foundations and blushers are unsuitable for oily skin. Look for oil-free formulas instead.
The best skincare routine for oily skin
Follow a simple and gentle routine:
Maintain the skin's natural balance with a gel cleanser that uses synthetic detergents to create a lather that breaks down surface oils, or a foaming cleanser that combines lathering detergents and conditioners.
If you like the temporary tightening of a toner, use a low-alcohol formula.
Although a teenager with oily skin may be better off without a moisturiser, most people need one by their mid-20s, whatever their skin type. Look for water-soluble, lightweight lotions - many have a mattifying effect as an added bonus.
Exfoliate once a week with a grainy scrub, or every day with gentle alpha or beta hydroxy acid (AHA or BHA) products (unless you've had breakouts - then avoid exfoliants until the skin has healed).
For larger pores, spend 10 minutes steaming your face and then follow with toner.
Use a pore-minimising mud or clay mask once a week to remove surface sebum.
Pore strips help remove superficial clogging and are especially good if you have large pores on your nose. Use products only as often as the manufacturer suggests as more frequent application may irritate your skin.
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