Oily Skin 101: Hydrating (Part 4 of 4)

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This post concludes my series on caring for oily skin. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Although this is the final post, I may link future posts to this series if I discover new products/techniques that work exceptionally well for oily skin.

Something I’ve noticed about my skin is that even though it’s exceptionally oily, it still occasionally exhibits symptoms of dryness. It’s not uncommon, especially in the cold winter months, to get dry patches around my mouth and nose. How can skin be oily and dry at the same time? Well, it turns out, oily skin can still appear dry and flaky if it’s dehydrated. Dry skin lacks oil; dehydrated skin lacks water. Anyone’s skin can become dehydrated from time to time. For a really good breakdown and explanation of different skin types, check out Sali Hughes’ book Pretty Honest. Her chapter on skin types is one of the better and more informative ones I’ve come across.

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Oily Skin 101: Exfoliating (Part 3 of 4)

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Happy New Year!

This is the third installment in my series on caring for oily skin. If you haven’t already, check out Part 1 and Part 2.

I am a big believer in regular exfoliation as part of an effective skin care routine. My biggest skin care concern, aside from oiliness, is clogged pores and breakouts. What causes this annoying problem? Lazy skin cells that don’t slough off the way they’re supposed to. They get trapped in all the excess oil, cause a backlog inside the pores and ultimately lead to bumps and blemishes.

Fear not! There is something you can do to get rid of those dead skin cells and, thus, greatly reduce bumps and blemishes. Exfoliate! I’m convinced that this is the most important step in my routine and the one that does the most to improve the texture and clarity of my skin.

There are two types of exfoliation: mechanical and chemical. Mechanical exfoliation involves physically buffing away dead skin cells by using something abrasive like a scrub or a washcloth. Chemical exfoliation involves the use of skin care products containing alpha-beta hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid. I do both.

In the morning, after cleansing, I use an acne treatment product containing 2% salicylic acid: Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Stress Control 3-in-1 Hydrating Acne Treatment. I’ve written a full review of this product here.

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Sadly, this product has been discontinued. It truly is a shame, because there aren’t a lot of well-formulated salicylic acid treatments on the market in Canada. Most contain irritating ingredients like alcohol, have a concentration of salicylic acid that is too low to be effective, or the overall formulation of the product results in a pH that is too high for exfoliation to occur. When I use up my stash of this, I’ll be switching to the only suitable alternative I could find: Smashbox Photo Finish More than Primer Blemish Control.

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This product is very similar to the Neutrogena. It also contains 2% salicylic acid and has the correct pH for exfoliation to occur. The only noticeable differences are that it has a slightly thicker consistency and is….ten times the price! It will have to do until I can find a cheaper alternative.

In the evening, after cleansing, I use a treatment that contains 10% glycolic acid: NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Smoothing Lotion.

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This product was the game changer for me. The salicylic acid treatment definitely helped, but it wasn’t until I started using this that I really started to feel like I was getting the upper hand over clogged pores. It took me a long time to figure out that glycolic acid was the missing link in my routine. It’s usually marketed as an anti-aging ingredient rather than an acne treatment. It is an effective treatment against the signs of aging, but it’s also an awesome pore cleaner-outer. It eats away dead skin cells, so there are fewer of them hanging around to clog pores. So simple!

A word of caution: glycolic acid is pretty potent stuff. This NeoStrata product is actually sold in different concentrations (5% and 10%). Go easy until you see how your skin tolerates it. My skin can handle the 10% no problem, but that might be too irritating for some folks.

Now, the chemical exfoliation takes care of bumps and blemishes, but I still get a bit of flakiness and gunky build-up around my mouth and nose. I find mechanical exfoliation is the best way to tackle this problem. About once a week I use an exfoliating mask:

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I’m partial to the Cleanance mask from French brand Avene. It exfoliates without stripping or irritating the skin. This mask offers both chemical and mechanical exfoliation. It has tiny scrubby beads AND alpha-beta hydroxy acids. I like to apply this by massaging it over my skin like you would a scrub. Then, I leave it on for about 15 minutes and then gently remove it with a warm washcloth. I use the washcloth to buff away dead skin around my mouth and nose. I love this stuff. It makes my face feel like a baby’s butt.

In summary, my exfoliation routine involves the following steps:

AM – 2% salicylic acid treatment
PM – 10% glycolic acid treatment
Weekly – Exfoliating scrub/mask

I’ve been doing this for about six months, and my skin is looking the best it has in a long time.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

1) Everyone’s skin is different, and my routine might be too strong/irritating for some people. If you’re going to start experimenting with exfoliating products, add them into your routine one at a time, and give your skin time to adjust. If you experience excessive redness or a burning sensation, then you might not be able to tolerate exfoliating acids. Proceed with caution.

2) Exfoliation leaves your skin more vulnerable to UV damage. Make sure you wear SPF at all times!

Whew! That was a long post! If you’ve read this far, thanks for sticking with me!

Any questions? Ask in the comments.

Oily Skin 101: Cleansing (Part 2 of 4)

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This is the second installment in my series on caring for oily skin. If you haven’t already, you can read the first installment here.

The first major change in my skin care routine that led to significant improvement was changing my cleanser.

I will confess, I never used to be very fussy about cleansers. I also never imagined that cleanser could make such a huge difference to the health and condition of my skin. I’ve tried countless different cleansers over the years; most were some form of water soluble foaming facial wash. It wasn’t until about two years ago that I put two and two together and realized that cleanser was at least partly to blame for my clogged pores and breakouts. How can that be? It’s only on your skin for a brief moment. It’s meant to clean and purify. Breakouts are caused by things like makeup and heavy creams that stay on your skin for long periods of time….or so I thought.

How did I come to the realization that cleanser was causing problems? About two years ago, I stopped using it altogether. For about a year, I washed my face with nothing but warm tap water and a washcloth. I still used eye makeup remover, but only warm water on the rest of my face. As time went on, I started to notice fewer blocked pores and blemishes. It wasn’t a miracle cure, but there was definite improvement.

About six months ago, I started to worry that using only water might not be good enough. I just had a feeling that I was probably going to bed with traces of makeup left on my skin, and it ended up being a nagging feeling that I couldn’t shake. So I decided to buy a new cleanser. I went for a different type of cleanser though, one aimed at sensitive skin:

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On a whim, I picked up Marcelle‘s “Ultra Gentle Cleansing Gel” and gave it a try. I’ve been using this cleanser morning and night for about six months, and I love it! Although it’s called a gel, I’d describe it as a gel/cream hybrid. It’s light and glides over the skin like a gel, but it has a creaminess to it as well, and I find it very hydrating. I love how my skin feels after I use this. It feels clean and refreshed, but not dry and tight. Seriously, this is the only cleanser I have ever used that doesn’t leave me with that uncomfortable tightness. It removes excess oil and makeup, but it doesn’t strip your skin of all its natural moisture.

I think the key to this cleanser’s seemingly magical powers is that it does not foam. I’m now beginning to suspect that foaming cleansers are just too harsh. They strip the skin to the point that it freaks out and produces even more oil to compensate for the sudden drought. I am now a firm believer that cleanser should not make your skin feel tight. Tightness is a sign that your cleanser is too harsh and is probably exacerbating any skin issues you may have. In my case, the extra oil my skin was producing to protect itself lead to more blocked pores and breakouts.

And here’s the kicker. Nearly all of the cleansers that are marketed for oily skin, are the foaming variety that strip the skin and lead to a vicious cycle that ultimately makes oily skin even worse. If you have oily skin, ignore cleansers that say they’re for oily or acne-prone skin. Instead, look for ones that are meant for sensitive skin. Also, keep an eye out for sulfates. Sulfates are ingredients that are used to make cleansers foam. (Sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate are really common ones to watch out for.) Sulfates are bad news for oily skin. They’re just too harsh. I’ve also switched to a sulfate-free shampoo and have noticed improvement in the condition of my hair as well.

Since I switched my cleanser, I’ve seen a dramatic reduction in bumps and blemishes.  It’s still oily, of course, but at least now I can rest assured my cleanser isn’t making things worse.

 

Oily Skin 101: Introduction (Part 1 of 4)

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got-oily-skinThis post is an introduction to a series of skin care posts that focus on caring for oily skin. I’ve spent much of my adult life coping with an oily complexion and the frustrating problems that go along with it: excess shine, makeup that slides off, large pores prone to clogging, and breakouts. It’s only been within the last year that I feel like I’ve learned to effectively manage my oily skin, and there are three fundamental changes I’ve made to my skin care routine this year that have made a huge difference. I’ll be dedicating one post to each change in order to give each one the explanation and description that it deserves. My hope is that these posts will be useful to anyone else out there like me that is feeling frustrated by all the misleading information out there.

Before I talk about the specific techniques and products that have helped me, I want to point out a few things:

1) I am not skin care professional of any description. I’m just a beauty enthusiast, and everything I’ll be discussing in these posts is my own opinion based on my own experience and observations about my own skin.

2) Oily skin is not something that can be treated and controlled with topical products. Oily skin is caused by excessive secretions from the sebaceous glands, which are deep in the skin and are regulated by internal processes like hormonal fluctuations. Internal medications, like Accutane or contraceptive pills, can help control oil, but cosmetics that are applied topically cannot. All the primers, moisturizers, cleansers, foundations and powders that claim to control oil may be able to temporarily absorb or remove excess oil and diminish excess shine, but they cannot actually stop your skin from producing too much oil. Period. Don’t believe the lies.

3) Stop making perfection your goal. My skin is not perfect, and will probably never be perfect. There’s always going to be the odd bump and blemish. Such is life with oily skin. So back away from the magnifying mirror, stop picking at things that no one but you will ever notice, and focus instead on making your skin look its best. There are things you can do to greatly improve the overall appearance and condition of your skin, but aiming for perfection will set you up for a world of frustration.

4) The posts in this series are not geared towards anyone suffering with inflammatory acne. The biggest problem I have with my skin is that my pores get clogged by excess oil and dead skin cells, leaving my skin with a very bumpy, uneven texture (blackheads and whiteheads). I do get mild breakouts here and there, but it’s not a full blown case of acne. In other words, I don’t get a lot of inflamed pimples, cysts or nodules. If you suffer from a more severe form of inflammatory acne, check out the information here.

Bear these things in mind as you read through the rest of the posts in this series and hopefully, if your skin is similar to mine, you will find some relief and see some improvement.

Best of luck!