Notice that your skin emits a little extra shine? Fact is, everyone has oil in their skin. Under each of your pores is a sebaceous gland that produces natural oils called sebum. Sebum makes its way the the surface which keep your skin hydrated and healthy. Our skin produces a very specific type of oil- or Sebum as it is technically referred to which has proven to be a fairly misunderstood and somewhat mysterious substance. What if I told you that your oily skin is not solely to blame for your breakouts and that the “oil free” moisturisers and foaming cleansers that are specifically marketed to your oily skin may be causing your skin to be extra oily and contributing to any breakouts you are experiencing?
In some people, though, the sebaceous glands can produce too much oil. You know you have oily skin if your skin constantly looks shiny, and you go through several blotting sheets a day. Oily skin can even feel greasy within hours of cleansing. Many people who claim to have oily skin often report that this oil worsens over the course of the day. Particularly women who wear makeup are conscious of it appearing to “melt” off of their skin as the day progresses regardless of using products that are specifically formulated and marketed to dry up this oil. The truth of the matter is that the more “drying up” of your natural oil you do and the more you wind up compromising your skin’s natural barrier and the more moisture that will inevitably be lost through the skin.
But is it Oil?
To understand this overall confusing situation, we need to understand a few basics about our skin; such as overall skin health which starts with the health of our skin barrier.
Our bodies are made up of 60% water but our skin is actually a very effective barrier and we only lose 300 – 400 mL of that water per day; that’s just over a cup of water lost through our skin per day. In addition to retaining this water to store up hydration so that all of our organs (including our skin) can function properly, our skin barrier also acts to keep external aggressors out. Now it’s obvious at this point that our skin itself is a very large and very effective barrier, but part of what makes it a successful barrier is a separate thin barrier on the outermost part of our skin itself made up of lipids or fats, that essentially lock in hydration.
Think about a glass of water that you have added oil to.
That oil settles on top of the water, protecting it and preventing the water from evaporating, almost as if you had put a lid on the jar. Remove that oil and the water more rapidly evaporates into the atmosphere. This is similar to what happens with your skin.
Now think about what happens when you use a foaming cleanser with a harsh surfactant (the ingredient that makes it bubble or foam) to effectively remove all of the oil from your skin, the same way you would remove oil or grease from a dirty pot or pan. Those soapy bubbles work well and as intended to get rid of all of your oil, but that includes this protective barrier and any moisture that it was keeping locked in. Our cells need moisture in order to function, without moisture the skin will experience obvious dryness which leads to things like accelerated aging, conditions like eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. If acne is present, because wounds heal best in a moist environment, that acne will be slow to heal and sure to leave behind scarring or dark mark and an uneven skin tone. In fact, in recent studies our oil levels and even our hydration levels have been shown to directly affect the diversity of our skin’s microbiome! Something we are slowly discovering is paramount to healthy skin.
Doing your skin care routine.
Washing your face or exfoliating too often can also make your skin oily. This can seem like an oxymoron, since the purpose of washing and exfoliating is to get rid of oil. Now think about what happens when you use a foaming cleanser with a harsh surfactant (the ingredient that makes it bubble or foam) to effectively remove all of the oil from your skin, the same way you would remove oil or grease from a dirty pot or pan. Those soapy bubbles work well and as intended to get rid of all of your oil, but that includes this protective barrier and any moisture that it was keeping locked in. Our cells need moisture in order to function, without moisture the skin will experience obvious dryness which leads to things like accelerated aging, conditions like eczema, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis. If acne is present, because wounds heal best in a moist environment, that acne will be slow to heal and sure to leave behind scarring or dark mark and an uneven skin tone. In fact, in recent studies our oil levels and even our hydration levels have been shown to directly affect the diversity of our skin’s microbiome! Something we are slowly discovering is paramount to healthy skin.
But if you do this too often, you strip away too much of the oil from your skin. This can cause your sebaceous glands to go into emergency mode, where they produce even more oil to make up for the loss.
You only need to wash your skin twice a day to keep excess oil at bay.
Failing to wear sunscreen can also dry out your skin, leading to more sebum production. Make sure you wear sunscreen every single day. Moisturisers and foundations with sunscreen tend to be less oily, but you may still need to reapply throughout the day.
Skipping your moisturiser.
It’s a myth that moisturiser causes oily skin. In fact, if you’re using acne treatments such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, you definitely need a good moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. Without moisturiser, any skin type will dry out.
So instead of skipping moisturiser, the key is to find the right kind of moisturizer. Lightweight, water-based moisturizers work well for oily skin. Always make this your last step after cleansing and toning.
What causes Oily Skin
Seborrhoea (or seborrhea) is the name given to excessively oily skin. It is due to overactive sebaceous glands and can affect both males and females. The oil produced by the skin is called sebum. The scalp and face are most commonly affected by seborrhoea, but other affected body sites may include the chest and folds of skin such as the underarms and under the breasts.
Skin affected by seborrhoea feels unpleasant, and seems to get dirty quickly. The face appears shiny. Make-up may run off or cake and is difficult to apply. The affected area is often red, and greasy and scaly patches may develop; this is known as seborrhoeic dermatitis.
What can be done?
By now you have hopefully realised that ingredients which dry up or absorb existing oil are not ideal. On the other hand, certain ingredients can help regulate oil production, if even with a healthy barrier you still find yourself glistening by the end of the day. Ingredients like Saliclyic Acid, which is lipophilic which means oil loving. It gets deep into pores and sucks out oil. Mandelic Acid and Retinol ( will resuface the skin and penetrate to the asal cell layer. are all great ingredients to be on the lookout for if excessive oil is a problem for you. My absolute favorite products for truly oily skin are the Cosmedix Purity Clean , Cosmedix Clarity Serum, Cosmedix Define and Cosmedix Shineless Moisturiser. While many of Cosmedix products help to regulate oil while still maintaining overall skin barrier health and simultaneously addressing signs of aging and hydration levels, these three are the top contenders for specifically targeting oil.
Consider an oil cleanser. It might sound counterintuitive, but like attracts like, so when excessive oil is a problem an oil cleanser can do wonders. Excessive oil can also dilute the linoleic acid levels on our skin so using a product rich in linoleic acid can help to restore skin barrier health while also regulating your oil and removing existing oil. Cosmedix Purity Solutions contains Argan and Olive Oils which naturally soothe and condition skin for a dewy soft texture. Moringa Oil which nourishes with radiance-boosting vitamins and fatty acids. Melia Azadirachta Extract which purifies and soothes skin. Cosmedix Surge which contains Niacinamide which will help improve skin texture, tone and barrier function. Three variations of hyaluronic acid work to hydrate, plump and form an invisible shield to lock in moisture. Kiwi Fruit Water rich in Vitamin C to help moisturize and brighten the skin’s appearance. Niacinamide and Hylaronic Acid to help regulate oil production, make to perfect pair to address oily skin.