How I Finally Found the Perfect Routine for My Oily Skin
by Faith Choi
I’m haunted. Wherever I go, in all the pictures I’m in, there is a familiar, unwanted glow, like a halo that rests on my cheeks and forehead. And while my mom and my friends try to console me by saying that my oily skin just means that I’ll have fewer wrinkles in the future, that doesn’t change the fact that having oily skin is bothersome on a day-to-day basis — and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
So to all of my Oily Friends™ out there, I’ve compiled a list of tried and true tips to help make your days a little matte-er, along with a few tricks from Dr. Karen Hammerman of New York’s Schweiger Dermatology Group, and our very own Sara Wren, Milk Makeup’s talented studio artist.
Oils are actually your best friend.
I know. It’s the exact opposite of what you thought you’d hear, right? The natural instinct many people (including myself) with oily skin types have is to constantly strip our faces of any and all traces of oil. While it might look good for a hot second, in the long run, it could end up making your skin freak out, leading it to produce even more oil to compensate for the lost moisture. So, try integrating various oils into your skincare routine instead (especially for my fellow oily, acne-prone friends!). It will benefit your skin in the long run, and certain oils like jojoba help dissolve makeup (!!), excess sebum, and grease. It might feel strange at first, but trust me, your skin’s going to thank you for it.
New York-based dermatologist Dr. Karen Hammerman recommends geranium oil, which can help control your skin’s oil production. “Tea tree oil (which is antibacterial) and argan oil (which reduces oil production over time) are also good bets,” she says. “Other oils for lightweight hydration are jojoba and squalene.”
“I love oils and I think everyone can benefit from incorporating them into their skincare/beauty routine,” says Studio Artist Sara Wren. Her favorite is grapeseed oil; it’s rich in vitamin E and linoleic acid to prevent clogged pores, while the light consistency makes it friendly for those with both oily and dry skin. “My holy grail all-purpose oil is Milk Makeup Sunshine Oil… not only does it contain grapeseed oil but it has avocado, grapefruit, lemon, and mandarin peel oils to brighten skin tone and reduce oil production.”
I personally opted for rosehip oil in hopes of getting rid of some acne scars, and jojoba oil to control sebum production and acne. With nightly application, my acne scars faded a lot more rapidly, and I always woke up in the morning with hydrated, supple skin.
Essential oils and carrier oils (plant-derived vegetable oils) such as jojoba, avocado, lavender, rosehip, and hemp seed oils are some crowd favorites, each with their own benefits. All-purpose oils, like the Sunshine Oil that Sara mentioned, are great options, too, if you want your favorite compatible oils in one bottle. Ultimately, however, it’s all about finding the right oil for your skin type.
For most oils, apply 2-3 drops after cleansing and toning your face, and gently pat it into your skin. Do you hear that? It’s your skin singing hallelujah.
Moisturizer is friend, not foe.
There was a point in my life where I would sometimes wash my face and skip the moisturizer step entirely. My theory was that I would let the oil my face produced be the natural moisturizer (I know. I’m cringing too.) And while putting any kind of lotion or moisturizer on, especially during summertime, may feel like too much, it’s a necessary step in anyone’s routine, especially if your skin feels tight or dry in any areas. “The reality is that there are a host of benefits to using a daily moisturizer if your skin is oily or pimple-prone,” advises Dr. Hammerman. “Many people confuse oil with hydration, but the role of moisturizer is to improve skin’s hydration by adding water to it.”
For the summer, ditch the heavy cream you were using for the colder seasons and opt for light, water-based moisturizers. Anything lightweight but hydrating will be ideal. My personal favorite are the non-comedogenic gel-types — they feel light, but really sink into your skin, making it feel ~supremely hydrated~.
Antioxidants and hyaluronic acid are also great ingredients to look for in a moisturizer. According to Dr. Hammerman, “Antioxidants protect skin by limiting the production of free radicals, which can damage skin cells.” As for hyaluronic acid, Dr. Hammerman explained that “The moisture-retaining properties of hyaluronic acid, along with its powerful antioxidant effects, can help to clear up any irritation, dry skin, or inflammation you may be experiencing.”
I knew I’d found a great gel moisturizer when, after application, my skin felt deeply hydrated without feeling like anything was sitting on my face. This makes gel moisturizers an especially good candidate for the summer months, and for anyone who doesn’t like the sticky sensation of putting on a face lotion. Sheet masks also work wonders on summer skin in need of extra hydration. I like to do at least one sheet mask every week, but you can do as many as one every night if you really wanna live your hydration dreams to the fullest.
Don’t skip out on sunscreen!
If I had a dime for every time my dermatologist and my mother told me off for not putting on sunscreen, I’d be as rich and “self-made” as Kylie Jenner. Dr. Hammerman also warned against going without SPF: “We all know that too much sun is dangerous, but it can also be bad for your skin’s appearance, drying it out and damaging cells.” I know many sunscreens get a bad rap as being thick, greasy, and weird-smelling, but it truly is a necessary step that you need to integrate into your skincare right now. A 2016 study of 32 participants by dermatologists showed that, in a span of 52 weeks, daily use of sunscreen improved overall skin tone, crow’s feet, fine lines, mottled pigmentation, discrete pigmentation, evenness of skin tone, clarity, and texture. Woah.
Plus, there are some pretty good options out there. “So many brands are making great sunscreens that are mattifying and meant to last during these hot summer days,” Sara pointed out. With myriad options, ranging from drugstore to high-end, none of us really have an excuse not to wear it.
When asked about how she incorporates sunscreen into her makeup routine, Sara told me that she applies it “before a mattifying primer to lock everything in and make sure makeup doesn’t move.” Her favorite sunscreen? “Supergoop sunscreen because of how light it is, and Skinceuticals makes an excellent mattifying SPF 50.”
Blot all you damn want.
One day after class, I casually pulled out an oil blotting sheet and dabbed it all over my face. A friend looked over in part fascination, part curiosity, and part disgust to ask me, “What the hell is that? What did you just do?” To be fair, I had just conjured, seemingly out of nowhere, a questionably thin sheet of paper that I proceeded to rub all over my face, (#JustOilyPeopleThings) so I understood where the question came from. But ever since this incident, I’ve always felt extra self-conscious about using blotting sheets in public.
Well, I’m here to say, no more blot shaming! Blot all you want, my friends. Blot before class, after class, during class, in the morning, at night, waiting in line for coffee, on the train — wherever you want to, and however many times your skin needs it. I always keep blotting sheets within arm’s reach, and Sara agrees: “I have them in my glove box, purse, everywhere to remove shine throughout the day.”
And, for that extra-preventative measure in your makeup routine, you can also blot your face right after you put on foundation, and before setting powder. Sara also pointed out how applying setting powder in general can be helpful for oily skin types: “It’s an important step to keep my concealer in place and shine at bay.”
Oily skin + makeup = ?
Now that we’ve covered skincare, you’re probably wondering, “Cool… But what about my makeup?” Fear not. We’ve thought of everything.
“Keep it light! Use concealer selectively instead of full coverage foundation.” Sara advises. She recommends the Blur family for those seeking mattifying product.
“Use a mattifying primer always. Blur Stick is a savior to oily skin, especially in the summer months… I am a huge fan of Blur Stick (Luminous and OG) for keeping the oil down and locking makeup in place. I like to use Blur Liquid Matte Foundation as a concealer by using my fingers to blend away darkness or imperfections. Lastly, I set it all with Blur Spray to lock everything in place and keep me matte. Throughout the day I will do an extra spritz or two to refresh and mattify my skin midday.”
Need the mattifying products for your oily skin, but still want your skin to look dewy? I asked Sara for some tips, and she emphasized that finding “the right balance” between the two is the crucial part:
“I prefer keeping the center of my face matte while leaving my cheeks dewy for the perfect balance. With our Highlighter in Lit makes it so easy to add dew on top of a mattified skin. My favorite trick to make a SUPER dewy and hydrated base is to mix Sunshine Oil with Lit. Since I have a drier skin type, this gives me a super-luminous base and a warm golden tone that makes a great base under powders or a more matte foundation.”