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Does Oily Skin Need Moisturizer?

Why you should use moisturizer on your oily skin

If you have oily skin, chances are you aren’t using a moisturizer. Why would you? Your skin doesn’t need it.

Or, does it?

This is a conversation I seem to be having a lot lately. I’m hoping to convince you that sebum production does not equal high moisture content in your skin.

So, that oil on your skin is called sebum. It’s something your skin makes, it has a mixture of various fats and oils and it serves a few purposes. The glycerol in the sebum for example is key in maintain an intact skin barrier, which is how your skin keeps things out rather than absorbing everything. It also helps to prevent water loss from the skin, has Vitamin E to act as an anti-oxidant and even has anti-microbial activity!

Sebum production has a lot of factors such as hormones, age (it is much higher in your teens), and even genetics. Oily skin tends to run in families, and it tends to be more in certain ethnic groups.

In general, your skin’s sebum production goes up and down in response to your skin’s dryness, if your skin is well balanced, aka normal. Meaning, ideally your skin should create more sebum to hold in moisture if it gets too dry, and once you’re well moisturized it should create less sebum. Ideally.

But, there’s ideally and then there’s the real world. Since there are so many other factors are playing in to your skin’s sebum production. So, it isn’t always 100% related to how dry your skin is, and sometimes the 2 things can be completely out of sync. And even if you are oily, that doesn’t mean that the sebum alone is enough to keep your skin hydrated.

And what do many people with oily skin do? We start washing our face with stronger cleansers, at least twice a day (and sometimes more) to get “rid of the shine”. The problem is that stripping off as much of the sebum as possible dries out the face even more, and creates a vicious cycle. Your skin is going to increase sebum production even more.

Long story short
Your oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean that your skin is also hydrated. Your skin might actually be dry, and your skin is in overdrive, trying to create enough sebum to keep any moisture in there. You might be making the problem worse by stripping your face of moisture and not using lotion.

Great gentle cleansers and lightweight moisturizers for teens

What to do about all of this?

If you have oily skin, stop washing it more than twice a day. Once at night and once in the morning is enough. This will help decrease your skin’s sebum production. When you do wash it, make at least one of those washings (likely the one in the morning) with a gentle cleanser. Just take off the excess sebum, don’t strip it all off.

Next, try adding in a little lotion. It doesn’t need to be anything heavy. It can be light. Try it at night first. It isn’t true of everyone with oily skin, but a lot of people I’ve talked to with oily skin (including teens) have noticed that adding in a light moisturizer actually helped to balance their skin and they noticed that it was less oily.

Eve Lom Cleanser (buy it at Sephora or Nordstrom)
Kate Somerville Oil Free Moisturizer (also at Sephora or Nordstrom)

Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser (at Sephora or Nordstrom)
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Moisturizer (at Sephora or Nordstrom)

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (at Amazon or ULTA)
CeraVe Moisturizing Facial Lotion PM (from Amazon or ULTA)

I Bought It, Affiliate Links, PR Sample

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About Me

I’m a doctor, a mommy and a bit of a beauty addict. If you let me, I can take 2 hours to get ready in the morning. Really. I'm on a quest for faster beauty that works!

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