If you have oily skin you probably don’t need anyone to tell you that your odds of having acne are a lot higher. Chances are, that’s a reality you live with almost every day. But in case you aren’t clear on how oily skin contributes to breakouts, here’ s a quick primer: The oilier your skin, the more sebum it produces. Sebum, a type of oil, helps keep skin from becoming too dry. Sebum has the downside, though, of making dead skin cells stick together, which can clog pores. When bacteria get into the pore too, that’s the start of a pimple. Simply put, extra oil makes it harder to slough off dead skin cells — and that shedding process is important to keeping skin looking clear and healthy.
(On the topic of oil, it’s worth mentioning that eating greasy or oily foods doesn’t contribute to bad skin; this is a common myth. That said, oily hair might be making your acne worse, so be sure to shampoo regularly — daily if needed — to keep hair clean; this is especially important if hair touches your face or other areas where you’re experiencing breakouts. )
Since we’re all pretty much stuck with the skin we’re born with, the most important question people with oily skin want an answer for is: What’s the best acne treatment for oily skin? There are more options than ever for keeping oil in check. Because a breakout begins with oily skin’s inability to get rid of dead skin cells (the top 18 to 23 layers of your skin are made of these cells, in fact), start by making sure that your oily skin care regimen includes a product(s) that exfoliates.
That means finding an acne face wash for oily skin (or a cream or scrub) that contains salicylic acid (sometimes called beta hydroxy acid). According to the American Academy of Dermatology, salicylic acid works by exfoliating those layers of dead skin cells, reducing the risk for clogged pores. You can add in a product with benzoyl peroxide, which kills the bacteria that cause acne, and works in tandem with salicylic acid (alpha hydroxy acids work similarly too); many people with oily skin find this double-team approach effective for minimizing and treating breakouts.
If you’re like of lot of people with oily skin, it’s tempting to go to practically any lengths to dry out your skin. Resist the urge. It won’t keep grease at bay and chances are good you’ll simply end up with dry skin that may even turn red, irritated and peeling — and your breakouts won’t be any better. In fact, over-drying skin makes pimples more likely, not less. Instead, simply wash your face twice a day (more if you exercise or sweat a lot), using a gentle cleanser and avoiding over-scrubbing, which will likely only irritate skin. (Acne isn’t caused by dirt, so there’s no need to scrub hard.) Remember that the oil on your skin is there for a reason: to keep your skin from drying out and to help protect it. So while you do want to keep your skin’s surface from getting too shiny, some oil is actually a good thing.
No matter what your skin type, you’ll probably need to experiment a bit to find the combination of acne-fighting products that work best for you. That’s likely to include a mix of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid and perhaps products that contain sulfur (which also fights bacteria) or retinol (another pore-unclogger). Your dermatologist may also prescribe medication, and some people find that natural products like tea tree oil and zinc are useful; these tend to be more mild and gentle. And while oily skin doesn’t mean you can’t ever use skin products that contain oil, do look for those that are labeled “non-comedogenic” or “non-acnegenic,” which means they’re formulated specifically to help avoid breakouts. Common ingredients in skincare products that are likely to clog pores include isopropyl isostearate, myristyl myristate, laureth-4, cocoa butter, and coconut butter, so check product labels and avoid these at all costs.