What is the Best Way To Get Rid of Oily Skin?

These suggestions might help.
Michelle Villett
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These suggestions might help.
Naomi Watts, Calvin Klein party, Cannes 2014

There's a fine line between "dewy" and "greasy."

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Q: How do I get rid of my oily face? — Sandra

A: Sandra, I feel you.

Sure, the dewy look may be on trend right now, and oily skin also comes with the consolation prize of getting fewer wrinkles later on in life. But those are hardly assuring when you're dealing with makeup melting off and bangs clumping together on your forehead (as we discussed last week).

So here's what I suggest for oily skin, both topically and internally:

1. Lighten Up Your Moisturizer

The first thing I recommend doing is lightening up your skincare products, if you haven't already. As any dermatologist will tell you (but skincare companies love to protest), moisturizer is optional. You don't need some rich cream if your skin is already producing plenty oil of its own.

The product I recommend time and time again as a light-as-air moisturizer is Consonant HydrExtreme, a clear liquid serum containing just two ingredients: vegetable glycerine and Cassia angustifolia seed extract. It's become a year-round staple for me, and in the summer months, is usually all I wear for moisturizer. Guaranteed NOT to make you greasier:

But really, you could use any hydrating liquid serum that you like—or even no moisturizer at all, if your skin feels fine. If you choose a hyaluronic acid-based product, just note that sometimes they make skin feel tight.

2. Try Jojoba Oil

If you're looking for a natural topical remedy to control oil, then consider jojoba oil. Yes, an oil. On oily skin.

The reason is because jojoba (technically a plant wax) is known to help regulate sebum production. It's the closest thing to the sebum we produce naturally, and when you apply it, the skin registers that sufficient oil is present—therefore it doesn't have to release as much.

I've experienced that to be true. Odacité Jojoba Lavender Serum Concentrate is the product I've been using; it contains cold-pressed certified virgin organic jojoba oil, certified organic lavender essential oil and certified GMO-free vitamin E oil. That's it!

You just want to use the tiniest amount (one or two drops), and see how it works for you. As with any oil (or skincare product in general), there's still the small chance that it may break you out, if you're sensitive... but definitely worth a shot!

3. Avoid Hot Water and Drying Skincare Products

As important as what you use is what you don't use. And in this case, I will caution you against washing with hot water (too drying) and using harsh, drying skincare products that include sulfates. They might seem like a good idea at first, but over time can cause rebound oil production as your skin tries to compensate! 

It's better to stick with a gentle skincare routine, and just concentrate on keeping pores clean so they don't get clogged with oil and give you breakouts. I love a gentle acid toner for that job, such as SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense (reviewed here) or NeoStrata Toning Solution Level 1:

To control oil during the daytime, consider blotting papers and/or a mattifying primer like the industrial BECCA Ever-Matte Poreless Priming Perfector.

4. Consider a Prescription Retinoid

If you're REALLY serious and want to call in the big guns, then there is a topical option at the prescription level: Retin-A. 

Although retinoids are technically prescribed as a treatment for acne, they usually have some effect on oil production as well. (Some people report that Retin-A gives them more oiliness, not less, but I think that has to do with using too high of a strength.) 

Talk to your physician about whether this treatment could be appropriate.  You can read more about Retin-A benefits here, and my application here.

Retin-A 0.025

Retin-A might help decrease your oil production.

Also at the prescription level, there are oral medications that can help with oil production: the birth control pill, spironolactone (an anti-androgen prescribed off-label for acne) and antibiotics. But I'm reluctant to suggest those as they usually provide just a temporary fix and come with side effects.

If you really want to get at the root causes, consider that your oily skin may be connected to low thyroid, a vitamin A deficiency or both...

5. Boost Your Thyroid Function

As I mentioned when I wrote about the cause of "hormonal" acne, hypothyroidism is extremely common and may not show up on blood tests. As this MD points out, oily skin is just one of the possible symptoms.

Low thyroid could be a factor in oily skin.

Low thyroid could be a factor in oily skin.

I suggest monitoring your pulse and temperature to get an idea of your thyroid status (see here for directions). If you suspect your thyroid is low, you can try boosting its function by following some of these common-sense nutritional suggestions. (My nutritionist friend Emma Sgourakis also has some great ideas.)

6. Get More Vitamin A

But what if your thyroid is fine? Oily skin can also indicate that you simply aren't meeting your body's vitamin A requirements. 

In this interview, Ray Peat, PhD, talks about how the skin produces more moisture and oil as thyroid function improves. However, "an increasingly warm, moist, functioning skin needs more vitamin A."

The best source of vitamin A is liver. Yep, the animal kind. To put it into context, liver has got 22,175 IU of vitamin A per serving compared to 260 IU in one egg. One serving once a week is usually enough meet vitamin A needs, but you may need to do some self-experimentation to find the right level.

An alternative to liver is the supplement Nutrisorb A—it's water, glycerin and retinol palmitate in the form of liquid drops. Each drop contains 2,500 IU. 

You can find more information about Nutrisorb A and the connection between vitamin A and skin here. Hope this helps!