We’ve all been there. You’re nose to nose with your bathroom mirror, staring at the sheen on your forehead and enlarged pores on your nose. Trust us, we’re right here with you.
Anyone dealing with oily/combination skin knows the woes of sebum, even if you’ve never heard the term “sebum”.
The Bright Side of Sebum
We’re talking about the “oils” on the face, which turns out to be a mix of oils and waxes that are actually good for you. Basically, every hair follicle has a sebaceous gland attached that squirts sebum onto the hair shaft and via your pores, through to your skin.
Sebum is critical to hydrated skin because the oil/wax mixture creates a natural barrier that prevents too much water from escaping and entering. It acts as a carrier for vitamin E, antioxidants, lipids, and pheromones to the upper layers of the skin. There’s also a layer of dead skin cells at the surface of your skin that is held together by sebum to protect the delicate live skin cells underneath.
Image source: xovain.com
The Down Side of Sebum
If sebum is all-that, then why do we try so hard to combat it? Sebum gets a bad reputation because when the skin produces too much of it, that’s when acne flares up and our T-zones get a little (or a lot) too shiny. Excess sebum becomes trapped in dead skin cells, plugging and prepping pores for nasty bacteria to grow and fester.
Our challenge to control oily skin is actually quite simple: be gentle.
We tend to scrub and rub our face until it squeaks, which causes sebaceous glands to rev up production to overcompensate for stripped skin. We talked to a Korean skin care esthetician to figure out how to reign in oily/combo skin, and her recommendations are surprisingly simple.
Aromatica Tea Tree Balancing Foaming Cleanser, $22, peachandlily.com
Choose Gentle Cleansing Products
First off, leave the harsh cleansers and abrasive scrubs out the picture. They damage the skin, and if you’ve been experiencing post-cleansing intense tingling/burning, that’s most likely not the cleanser working and instead your skin screaming, “Be gentler for goodness sake!” As mentioned before, sebum is critical to hydrated skin and when we are too aggressive with cleansing it can actually trigger over-production of sebum and make your hydration levels out of balance. So, bottom line – cleansing too much can actually trigger more breakouts so, again, be gentle.
Cremorlab T.E.N. Cremor Cleansing Gel Oil $32, peachandlily.com
Stick to one or two cleansers. When using two, we recommend using the double cleansing method where you use one oil-based cleanser and then follow up with a foaming cleanser.
The oil-based cleanser gently removes makeup and oil-based impurities without any harshness (and helps remove SPF) and preps your skin for a foaming cleanser, which removes the remaining impurities. Use soft circular motions when washing your face to gently cut through excess oil on your skin. When using one cleanser, make sure it’s not too rough and, if it it’s natural, all the better since it won’t have any harsh chemicals or scents that may actually irritate your skin.
Mizon Apple Smoothie Peeling Gel, $18, peachandlily.com
Exfoliate and Hydrate
Consistent exfoliation is a critical step in your routine to keep skin clear of dead skin cells that sebum so easily traps. It also helps increase cell turnover to help bring new, fresh skin to the surface and helps heal acne scars, as well. Many people love to use their cleansing devices like the Clarisonic, but, according to Korean estheticians, it’s pretty strong for most of the year and is recommended for occasional use during the summer months when you may need a little bit of extra exfoliation. However, we recommend using the lower power settings and being modest about usage frequency (e.g., once a week during the summer). Your skin doesn’t need an invasive scrub everyday. In the summer when skin tends to be a bit more oily, a cleansing brush could come in handy every other cleanse, but cut back to only 1-2 times a week when colder months hit, which dries out the skin.
Caolion Blackhead Steam Pore Pack Premium, $23, peachandlily.com
Cremorlab Herb Tea Blemish Minus Calming Mask, $6, peachandlily.com
Sometimes though, we do crave a deep clean, and luckily, using packs can be a great way to draw out impurities from pores and achieve gentle exfoliation. This helps keep your sebum production in check with gentle cleansing to combat any potential over-production. Mixing in a calming sheet mask to impart hydration and soothe overworked pores can also be a great addition to your skincare routine. Again, it’s all about keeping sebum production balanced so hydration is critical to keeping all that in check.
Mizon All-In-One Snail Repair Cream, $38, peachandlily.com
Most of us continue to make the mistake of bombarding our face with harsh cleansers and acne treatments, which leaves us stuck in a vicious cycle - remove more sebum, produce more sebum.
Regardless of how many cleansers and serums pack your bathroom shelves, the key to conquering oily/combo skin is to treat it gently and strike a balance between removing excess sebum and keeping your face well moisturized.