This is the third post in my series, “Cure Your Acne Once And For All”. My goal is to educate and support people in their mission to achieve clear skin. A huge part of controlling your acne is understanding why we get acne. One important element to how acne develops is the oils that our body produce naturally.
If you notice that your skin is really greasy throughout the day you likely have overactive sebaceous glands. As I discussed in my first blog post about acne (Step 1, Making A Diagnosis), we have sebaceous glands attached to follicles and when these follicles become obstructed the oil does not have a way to get out and a comedone will develop. Bacteria begin feeding on these oils and skin cells and the body reacts with an inflammatory response creating pustules. In some cases, the sebaceous glands will go into overdrive and create excess oil which leaves your skin looking greasy (and makes you more prone to acne).
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There are a number of things that can cause the sebaceous glands to go into overdrive. For some, oily skin is hereditary or hormonal (or both!). It’s important to have a better understanding of why sebaceous glands go into overdrive, and what you can do to ameliorate this process.
- Teenagers and women who have PMS likely notice extra oil because of a spike in androgens which results in increased sebaceous secretions. Take extra care of your skin during this period to help prevent breakouts. By extra care, I mean make sure you are washing twice a day (no more!) and keeping your skin well hydrated. You may need to switch to a face cleanser that targets acne (see Step 2, The Best Face Wash For Acne Prone Skin for some tips here). Proper nutrition will also help during these times.
- If you suffer from polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS) you will likely notice oily skin because of the extra sebum being produced. PCOS presents extra challenges for many women. When a woman has PCOS her hormones may be out of wack. She may have excess androgen production that leads to oily skin, acne, and even unwanted hair growth. In this instance, hormonal measures such as oral contraceptives and a pill called spironolactone are two medications that can help get hormone levels back to normal. Many women with PCOS also have insulin insensitivity, otherwise known as metabolic syndrome, this can results in weight gain. Eating foods with a low glycemic index (meaning avoiding white, refined starches) can go a long way to controlling the hormonal fluctuations seen in PCOS. When the hormone levels are better regulated, the sebaceous glands chill out and your skin appears less oily.
If your oily skin is not caused by hormones or a specific disorder, it is likely caused by your lifestyle. Even if you identify with some of the things I mentioned above, the tips below may help you too.
- Over washing – Scrubbing your face multiple times (more than twice) every day with a harsh product will strip your skin of its natural oils. Once the oil is stripped away your body will create more oil to replace it. The more you strip, the more you create. Washing twice a day with a gentle facial wash will ensure that your skin is balanced and healthy. It will take some time for the oil production to slow down once you cut back on washing so be patient with this.
- Diet – If you consume a lot of dairy, sugar, refined carbs or hydrogenated oils, you may notice an increase in oil. These foods all increase the amount of androgens in your body so cutting back and eating a cleaner diet will certainly help, as will eating enough essential fatty acids (like salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds). Also, be sure to stay hydrated from the inside (drinking water) and the outside (moisturizing) as your skin will go into overdrive oil production mode when it is dry.
- Stress – An increase in stress will increase the amount of cortisol in your body which will cause an increase in oil production. Be sure to take time for yourself – yoga, meditation, or a regular fitness routine will help keep your stress hormones down.
To achieve clear, healthy skin you will need a skincare regimen that is gentle yet effective and a lifestyle that supports overall health and general well being. Managing your oily skin will help to prevent future breakouts and is an important step in the process of clearing your skin.
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