Oily skin occurs when your skin glands produce too much sebum – the oily material that hydrates and protects the skin.
This excess oil can clog pores, give an unwanted shiny appearance, and lead to acne. Here are four ways you can clear up oily skin.
1. Wash your face
Washing your face often is important because it cleans out any dirt or oil that has built up in your pores. When too much dirt and oil build up in your skin, it can lead to acne.
Experts recommend that you wash your face twice a day, once in the morning and again before going to bed. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) also recommends washing your face after exercising.
"Even if you washed your face at night and removed all your makeup, you should wash your face in the morning," says Debra Jaliman, MD, a board-certified NYC dermatologist. This is because at night, while you sleep, bacteria and unwanted oil can build up on your skin.
If you have oily skin, you may be tempted to use an extra-strong face wash, but using a product that strips too much sebum can actually trigger your skin to produce excess oil. The AAD recommends avoiding any skin cleansers containing alcohol.
Instead, you should use a product labeled as "gentle" and preferably use a foaming cleanser like Cetaphil. Foaming cleansers work well because they get deeper into pores to remove oil than creamy products.
2. Use moisturizer
If you have oily skin, you may not think you need moisturizer, but it is always important to keep your skin hydrated.
"Not using a moisturizer can backfire for those with oily skin," Jaliman says. When you choose to not use a moisturizer, your skin will try to compensate for the missing moisture and produce even more oil.
Therefore, moisturizing every day with the proper type of product will help to keep oily skin in balance. Choose a product that's non-comedogenic, meaning that there are no oils, waxes, or petrolatum that can clog pores and can make oily skin worse.
3. Eat a balanced diet
Skin health is influenced by many factors, including the type of foods you eat.
"Having a poor diet, eating too many sweets and sugary drinks can exacerbate oily skin," Jaliman says.
Eating sugary foods raises your blood sugar levels, which then causes your body to release the hormone insulin. A side effect of this is an increase in oil production on your skin.
For a more skin-friendly diet, experts recommend swapping out white bread for whole-grain and cutting out processed foods like boxed cereal and baked goods.
Studies have also shown that eating dairy can increase your chances of developing acne. Researchers think this is because milk naturally contains growth hormones that are similar to insulin.
In particular, research suggests that avoiding skim milk may be a helpful step toward better skin health, as skim milk contains higher levels of growth hormones than more fatty milk products.
4. Try birth control
Hormonal birth control, like the pill, has been shown to help with acne. Your hormones have a big effect on how your skin looks and feels, including sex hormones like estrogen and androgens.
Birth control pills generally contain estrogen and progestin, hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle and also decrease your body's levels of androgens.
Since androgens contribute to the development of oily skin and acne, doctors will often prescribe birth control to women to help control these conditions.
A 2018 review of several studies on birth control and acne found that around half of all patients who start taking birth control will see an improvement in their acne.
The bottom line
Experts say that since each person's skin is so different, there is no universal solution to oily skin.
To help control it, you should understand the underlying causes, which may require you to do some trial and error with different methods.
If you are having a hard time taking care of your skin, meet with a dermatologist to create an individualized plan that works for you.