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Get Rid of Oily Skin...Forever

Updated on August 19, 2011

As a person who has always battled oily skin, I can completely sympathize with anyone trying to reduce or get rid of really greasy skin. It's shiny, makes you look and feel unclean, and can lead to zits. Although the luck of the (genetic) draw has a lot to do with it, you do have a degree of control over your skin. And having dealt with this vexing problem for decades, and having been to several dermatologists over the years, I can share what I've learned and what has worked well for me.

Sometimes your face can feel so oily that it can seem you could fry an egg on it! Not cool...
Sometimes your face can feel so oily that it can seem you could fry an egg on it! Not cool...

Causes of oily skin

Let's start by looking at the most important factors that cause oily skin. Some of these you have no control over, and others you do:

  • Genetics - Oily skin tends to run in the family, so while you might want to blame mom or dad, there's not much you can do here
  • Age - While in puberty, your hormone levels increase and can go haywire, so until you get older and your hormones settle down, there's not much you can do about this, either
  • Diet - Your diet has a fairly important impact on the oiliness of your skin, and your likelihood of breaking out, but maybe in a different way that you might have thought. Sugars and simple carbs send your insulin levels skyrocketing, which can boost sebum (oil) production in your skin.
  • Overcleaning - Being too aggressive in your cleaning, including overuse of harsh cleaners like astringents, can irritate your skin and provoke it into creating more oil, even if the cleaner strips away oil at the beginning.
  • Certain medicines - Birth control pills, and other medicines that affect your hormonal balance, can affect the oiliness of your skin.
  • Stress - Stress in your life causes hormonal turbulence, and hormone levels going all over the place and stimulate your oil glands to produce more.

Washing your face with warm (not hot) water and a mild (not harsh) cleanser, followed with a cool water rinse, helps tame oily skin and breakouts.
Washing your face with warm (not hot) water and a mild (not harsh) cleanser, followed with a cool water rinse, helps tame oily skin and breakouts.

What you can do to end oily skin...or at least tame it

There are some things you can do to improve your skin. See which of these are applicable in your case, and try them out!

  1. Clean your face regularly, but not harshly. Using warm (but not hot) water and a mild cleanser, wash your face at least twice daily. After washing and before patting your skin gently with a towel to dry, be sure to splash your face a couple of times with cold water. This will reduce any surface inflammation and close your pores, delaying the recurrence of oil production.
  2. Blot your face regularly throughout the day (gently). Either use blotting papers (available in drugstores) or use a clean napkin to gently press on your skin to transfer oils from your face onto the absorbent paper or napkin. It's important to do so gently and not rub; rubbing will irritate your skin and cause it to become oily again quickly.
  3. Minimize sugar and simple carbohydrates in your diet. When you eat sugary, starchy food, it causes your insulin levels to shoot up, which can wreak havoc on your skin. Insulin spikes can cause your skin to produce more oil, so anything you can do to minimize the consumption of foods high in sugar and simple carbohydrates (i.e. foods high on the Glycemic Index), will help tame your body's tendency to produce too much oil.
  4. Keep your stress levels down. Stress also makes your hormone levels go haywire, so, in addition to negatively affecting your health, stress can give you unnecessarily oily skin, too. To the degree that you can, try to keep yourself calm and steady, and take the time to get out and relax a bit. You'll feel better and your skin will show it, too.
  5. Change your medicines. If you're taking birth control pills, steroids of any kind, or any medicine that affects your hormone levels (including growth hormone, insulin, etc.), talk to your doctor about trying different varieties of the same medicine that might have less of an impact on your skin. Sometimes switching brands or making slight tweaks to your dosage can have noticeable effects on your skin.
  6. Consider Accutane. If you are plagued with extremely oily skin and really bad acne, one prescription you might want to discuss with a dermatologist is a course of Accutane. A high dose of isotretinoin (a chemical relative of Vitamin A) over the course of about 6 months will permanently reduce the size of your sebaceous (oil) glands and reduce both acne outbreaks and oily skin. However, there are side effects, the most obvious being extremely dry skin during treatment. Accutane is not safe for expectant mothers, and might have permanent side effects if you're still growing.
    You'll have to discuss all the pros and cons with a dermatologist, but it really is a permanent solution to oily skin. I went on Accutane when I was 24 years old and despite a very dry 6 months where I was moisturizing constantly, when I finished, my skin was far less oily and far less prone to breakouts than before. I personally don't regret using it.
    Note that while Accutane is a chemical derivative of Vitamin A, it is not the same thing, and high doses of Vitamin A will not only not help your skin, they might be hazardous to your health!

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