Treatment for Oily Skin

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Is it necessary to find a treatment for oily skin? After all, oily skin is not always a negative thing. For example, oily skin ages at a slower rate than other skin types such as dry skin. Over time, less wrinkles and fine lines develop in the skin. In addition, oil production decreases with age, so why worry about it now when eventually it likely won’t be a problem?

Despite some of the advantages of having oily skin, there are disadvantages as well. Skin with excess oil or sebum on it mixes with dead skin cells, dust, and dirt and then plugs skin pores. If bacteria are also present around the skin pores, they can get trapped in the pores and cause inflammation, redness, and swelling of the affected area. This results in acne – blackheads, whiteheads, and other skin blemishes and possible scarring of the skin. Therefore, it is recommended to take action now and pursue a treatment for oily skin instead of waiting for age to solve this skin care problem.

A suitable treatment for oily skin involves three major steps:

  • properly cleansing the skin to remove the excess oil or sebum as well as dead skin cells and accumulated dirt
  • disinfecting the skin and mopping up any remaining excess oil
  • moisturizing the skin

Cleansing the Skin

In any treatment for oily skin, the most fundamental and key step is to properly cleanse the skin. Proper cleansing involves the removal of excess surface oil from the skin without removal of lipids or oils within the skin. These lipids are necessary for healthy skin and need to be retained. If too much oil is removed out of the skin, then this will simply make the oily skin problem worse because the sebaceous or oil glands get stimulated to overproduce oil. A good cleaning of the skin also prevents pores from getting clogged and kills acne-causing bacteria thus preventing acne blemishes from appearing.

To wash the skin, use a cleanser with a mild synthetic detergent (specially formulated for skin use) that is oil, wax, or lipid free. The cleanser should clean without drying the skin. Some suggest using mild soaps such as Ivory or a pure natural soap with no artificial additives to remove the surface oil on the skin. Whichever substance is used for cleaning, only wash the skin two to three times per day at the most. Too much washing will dry out the skin and stimulate overproduction or oil. Use warm water for washing. Water that is too hot will dry out the skin and cool or cold water is not effective in removing surface oil from the skin. Lightly massaging the cleanser or soap on the skin is best. Do not rub too hard.

Washing the skin with harsh soaps is not an effective treatment for oily skin. These harsh products will not only irritate the skin, but also definitely strip lipids from the skin and stimulate overproduction of oil. Avoid the use of heavy cleansing creams or greasy products as well in a treatment for oily skin.

Some cleansers use low concentrations of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as salicylic acid to remove dead skin cells and retard the production of sebum. Cleansers may also be lightly medicated or contain an antibacterial agent to kill bacteria. Benzoyl peroxide can often be found in these types of facial cleansers.

Exfoliation or the removal of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin is a key factor in the treatment of oily skin. This process prevents pore clogging, helps remove trapped oil within the sebaceous or oil ducts, and makes larger pores that are present with oily skin appear smaller. Exfoliation also acts to unclog pores, which is key in preventing skin problems such as acne. As part of the skin cleansing process, exfoliation should be performed two to three times a week or daily if it is done mildly. Exfoliants can be incorporated into the cleanser itself or can be performed using exfoliating pads such as glycolic pads.

Lathering cloths or pads for the face are becoming popular as a skin cleansing method and as a treatment for oily skin. These cloths can be formulated to meet the specific needs of different skin types and so there are cloths that are available for oily skin. These products provide excellent skin cleansing. They contain a low level of surfactants and therefore are mild for the skin. Often these cloths also contain conditioning agents for the skin to improve overall skin health. The availability of different cloth textures allows for exfoliation of the skin while cleansing. Use of lathering cloths can be very convenient as a treatment for oily skin because they combine many of the key elements necessary for skin cleansing all in one package.

Astringent or Toner

After cleansing, the next step in a successful treatment for oily skin is to use an astringent. An astringent or toner, as it is commonly referred to, is an important part of the cleansing process. The purpose of an astringent is to contract, firm or tighten the skin, strengthen the skin, and all these factors lead to the reduction of oil secretions from the skin. In addition, toners lower the pH of the skin after cleansing and can be used to provide extra cleansing by removing excess oil form the surface of the skin.

An astringent or toner can be used right after the cleansing step or can be used throughout the day (by using astringent pads) to quickly remove excess oil from the skin and help control the oily skin problem. It can be used over the whole facial area, but generally it is recommended that this substance be used on the most oily skin areas only.

Toners for the treatment of oily skin usually contain alcohol, but look for those that contain acetone as well. Rubbing alcohol can also be used, but it may be a little too harsh for individuals with more sensitive skin. Sensitive skin individuals can try witch hazel, which is less harsh on the skin. Alcohol can dry out the skin significantly. For individuals with very oily skin, this is not a problem. However, those people with less oily skin may experience significant dry skin if astringents or toners are used too often. If your skin is getting too dry, then reduce the number of times a toner is used.

Non-alcoholic astringents are not as effective as a treatment for oily skin, but better for individuals with sensitive skin.


The final step to properly finish off the treatment of oily skin is to use a mild oil-free, wax-free, and lipid-free moisturizer. This is necessary to combat the drying effect of the cleanser or toner. Frequency of use depends on the degree of skin oiliness. In general, very oily skin may not need extra moisturizing.

Use of Clay Masks

Another treatment for oily skin is to use a clay mask approximately one time per week. A clay mud mask can be an effective natural way of clearing away excess oil from the skin without excessively drying the skin as occurs with some chemical products. As the clay mask dries after it has been applied, it effectively absorbs the excess oil from the surface of the skin, along with dirt and dead skin cells. In addition, it tightens the skin pores and prevents them from getting blocked.

Some people claim that clay masks are very effective in drawing out impurities resting deep within the skin pores. However, many dermatologists claim that such masks do not extract contaminants and excess oil deep within the skin pores even though they do think that clay masks are a useful treatment for oily skin.

Darker clay or dark brown mud masks are more effective at absorbing oil from the skin. For people with sensitive skin, the white or rose-colored clay masks may be a better choice because they are gentler on the skin.

Treatment for Oily Skin Other Tips

Below are some additional tips that may be helpful in the treatment of oily skin.

  • ensure that the skin care products used are oil-free (water based non-comedogenic) or chose cosmetic and facial care products that are specifically designed for oily skin
  • experiment to find the right oil free skin care products for you because everyone’s skin is different
  • makeup for oily skin is not a treatment for oily skin, but instead is designed to soak up excess oil so that makeup remains unaffected
  • always remove make-up before going to bed as an essential part of any treatment for oily skin
  • avoid rubbing or touching the oily skin when you are not cleaning it; otherwise, you may clog the skin pores and cause acne
  • for those in need of them, dermatologists can prescribe stronger products for oily skin: vitamin A creams, retinoids, sulphur creams, etc.
  • topical vitamin derivatives with tretinoin and isotretinoin can be prescribed by a dermatologist to tackle sensitive oily skin
  • follow a proper diet as a treatment for oily skin: eat plenty of fresh fruits, leafy green vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts in order to prevent a B2 and B5 deficiency that can cause oily skin
  • stop smoking, since smoking enlarges skin pores and allows the secretion of more skin oil to the surface of the skin
  • relax, exercise regularly and get enough sleep, because stress affects hormone levels which in turn stimulates the oil producing sebaceous glands
  • where possible eliminate the causes of oily skin as a treatment for oily skin.

Related oily skin information:

oily skin care | problem skin types | treatment for oily skin | natural treatments

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