As anyone who knows me is aware, I have loved removing blackheads and milia since I was old enough to know what they were. I can be having a terrible day and a new client with blackheads puts a smile on my face and I do thank them so as not only to put them at ease, but because I will get to show them that they don’t have to live with clogged pores. However, what I find frustrating is the fact that they have them in the first place because the products they are using are usually too strong or not enough to clean the skin properly. By properly, I mean using cleansers that will remove dirt, but not strip the skin of its essential oils.
One of the biggest misconceptions, we have of oily skin is that it needs a cleanser that will dry it out and that moisturizer shouldn’t be used because the skin has enough oil to keep it hydrated. These two myths alone add to more unwanted acne than is necessary because both will add to dehydrating skin which will clog the pores with unnecessary dead skin which causes surface oil to sit on the skin and the pores won’t be able to breathe. The reality is that an oily skin needs to be balanced which can be done easily by using cleansers that will leave moisture in the skin because our bodies produce sebum which is pore clogging and very little actual moisture. This starts as early as nine or ten as children start to enter puberty.
As we start to notice tweens and teenagers getting blackheads or mild acne, the tendency is to get blackhead removing pads or Stridex pads to clear the skin. While these pads can be a go to in an emergency, they are drying and definitely the start to stripping essential oils. Most often, dry and flaky skin will appear and the pores will start to clog at a quicker rate. This is because the surface of the skin is not actually being cleaned and dead skin has nowhere to go but into the pores. Eventually, acne may start to develop because the skin actually has dirt built up to a level that the surface and pores have no moisture which will cause the pores to expand because they are blocked. This is not a concept just for young adults; any person with oily skin will have the same problems.
With the emergence of multi-purpose cleansers, blackheads, milia and acne have increased because the skin is too delicate to handle a cleanser that exfoliates it daily, has acids that will turn the skin over too often and is either stripped by gels that have too many drying agents or too many moisturizing ingredients that won’t clean it will enough. The best example that I use is too think of the beautiful new car that you have just purchased. Would you use something on it that would strip the finish on a daily basis? Why do we do the same to our faces. Unfortunately, cleansing the skin often ranks on the lower end of what we are told we need to do to avoid aging when it is the most important thing we can do to leave our skins feeling clean without feeling tight and parched.
One of the benefits of having oily skin is that when treated properly, it will tend to show the effects of aging later rather than sooner. Often women with oily skin think that as they age that their skin type changes and becomes dryer. Our skin types never change, but the conditions that affect the skin can. Sun damage, medications, hormone inbalances, incorrect cleaning products, pollution and stress will take a toll on any skin type and the key to treating it is understanding that your skin is still oily, but that you may become dehydrated. Dryness is a lack of oil in the skin and dehydration is a lack of moisture which will affect all skin types, but often affects oily skin because of efforts to dry out oil.
Whether you are fifteen, fifty or seventy, the best way to care for your oily skin is to remember that you still need moisture on the surface and locked into the pores. As a person who dealt with cystic acne in my teen years, I can attest that having a proper moisture level in my oily skin always benefitted my acne over making it worse. For daytime cleansing as long as you have cleansed the night before, starting with a soap free gel cleanser or a soap free foaming cream cleanser that will take off overnight build up is a good base to work with. Toners are important, but I find that using them at night to get any remain makeup or dirt is often enough. Using alcohol free toners assure that your skin will continue to stay soft. For oily skin that is thicker, you may need a toner with a mild astringent to get into deeper pores that can occur on thick skin. If you are using a serum, apply that next followed by a moisturizer with an SPF and an eye cream.
Nightly cleaning takes a little bit more because you will be removing makeup or if you don’t wear makeup, the dirt and oil that will build up on your skin during the day will need an extra cleanser to break up the residue. Although cleansing oil seems like it would be contradictory to oily skin, it is the best way to work through makeup, remove mascara and prepare your skin for your cleanser. Although cleansing wipes have become a fan favorite, they often contain alcohol which is drying along with the fact that the fibers they are made of will be scratchy to the skin, not remove all dirt and makeup and can cause unnecessary irritation and dead skin build up. If a cleansing oil is not your choice, a cleansing cream will also break up makeup before you use your cleanser. After removing your oil or cream, you will find that when you use your nightly cleanser, not only will your skin feel amazingly soft, your serum, moisturizers and eye cream will soak into your pores and leave them softer and smaller in appearance.
Exfolitation for oily skin is another essential step that when done properly, will reduce oily shine on the face, reduce the appearance of pore size and your makeup will lay like silk. For years, physical exfoliators have been ill advised in favor of chemical exfoliators because chemical exfoliators don’t have any grit and can be wiped off easily in lieu of rinsing. While in concept this seems like a great way to care for the skin, I find that it is the other way around when the right exfoliator is used. Because our pores work inward on our skin, chemical exfoliators can get surface dead skin, but they can’t get deep enough to get the dirt that builds up in the pores and the pores start to get a build up. A physical exfoliator can get into the pores without damaging them and leave the surface of the skin cleaner. As I don’t like exfoliating at the sink because it is messy, I suggest taking your exfoliator into the shower with you and using it after you wash your face. Cleansing and exfoliating are two different steps as cleanser removes dirt and residue and exfoliator removes dead skin. The other reason I like the shower is because the steam is opening up the pores making it easier to remove dirt and to rinse if off after you are finished. You will then finish with your final products for either daytime or nighttime.
If you are using retinols, Retin A or anything other prescriptions to clear acne, it is essential to not over use them and to make sure you are following a cleansing routine that does not dry your skin even further. One of my biggest issues that I see today is when someone on Accutane or topical solutions is told not to use moisturizer. These prescriptions thin the skin making it more susceptible to drying which again works on the idea of leaving dead skin to clog the pores. Drying the skin out more will not help acne and it often will cause it too become worse. For topical solutions, the best use is to put it where cysts or actual acne occurs versus all over the face. The results you will see with proper skin care and the prescriptions together will be much more rewarding and often results will be seen sooner.