Wanting a natural, radiant complexion while keeping yourself from looking like a greaseball is like walking a tightrope in Singapore. The humidity and heat in our tropical weather is a big factor in stimulating sebum production and causing our oil glands to go into overdrive. It’s the bane of people who have oily skin, even though it happens to people with all skin types. But it is possible to keep shine at bay – you just have to be diligent in keeping to a good skincare routine that keeps your skin hydrated and soothed, so it doesn’t feel the need to overproduce sebum. Here are four steps that you should take.
Most people with oily skin types tend to over-wash their skin with harsh cleansers because they like that squeaky clean and tight feeling and the fact that their skin doesn’t feel as oily afterwards. Let us put this on record for the final time: This is one of the biggest skincare mistakes that they make. Because when you strip your skin of oil, including natural oils that help keep your skin’s oil-water ratio balanced, it will cause your skin barrier functions to weaken, and lead to a host of other skincare problems like even oilier skin, sensitised skin, breakouts and premature skin ageing.
What you need to do (besides trashing that over-harsh cleanser) is to choose a good cleanser that removes dirt, including any traces of pollutants, yet doesn’t strip your skin dry. Soap-free cleansers are a good bet, since these are generally free of oil-stripping alkaline ingredients such as sodium hydroxide. Go for gentle acid cleansers to get a thorough wash, like the Dr Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Pore Perfecting Cleansing Gel ($57 for 225ml) and Rooki Beauty Honey Matcha Cleansing Drops ($59 for 120ml). These lather well so your skin feels clean, but not tight after use.
Astringent toners and alcohol-based toners may be too harsh on sensitive skin types, so a pore-minimising serum that nourishes skin while combating and controlling sebum production is one of the best ways to keep skin from turning shiny by midday. Ingredients to look out for include tea tree oil, that has been proven to have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and is great for soothing acne-prone skin, witch hazel that has astringent and soothing properties that is good for all skin types, and salicylic acid, which penetrates deeper into pores to clean out the gunk, unclog pores, and make them appear smaller.
IDS Skincare Pore Formula ($80.25 for 30ml) has clover flower extract that helps rebalance skin and lilac extract that controls sebum production and inflammation, as well as tea tree oil, so pores appear smaller with frequent use. And Medicube Zero Pore Serum 2.0 ($44.20 for 35ml) has a blend of plant extracts that help control sebum production and balance skin’s oil-water ratio so it doesn’t dry out skin too.
Look for ingredients such as clay and charcoal, which are proven to draw out impurities and excess sebum. Clean pores are unstimulated pores, because the oil glands don’t feel the need to over-react to stimuli (i.e., dirt and pollutants), which then results in shine-free skin, or at the very least, skin that stays shine-free for longer. Try to go for rinse-off or gentle peel-off masks, so you don’t tug at skin, and remember not to leave on the mask for longer than the recommended duration, otherwise you run the risk of drying out your skin.
Try the Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque ($54 for 125ml) which draws out pore-clogging dirt and oil with Amazonian white clay while soothing, hydrating and protecting skin with aloe vera.
Because prevention is key, and we know that sebum production goes into overdrive when the oil-water ratio is unbalanced, everyone needs to learn how to hydrate and moisturise skin. Step one is to use an appropriate moisturiser that locks in the moisture in skin for the entire day. Ingredients such as hyaluronic acid which helps draw and retain water is a must. Step two is to remember to always keep a face mist handy to soothe and cool down the skin whenever it feels warm or tight and itchy.
Try the reformulated Dermalogica Intensive Moisture Balance ($92 for 50ml), which has a complex that supports skin barrier so it doesn’t lose moisture to the environment so easily. It also has hyaluronic acid (of course) and echinacea, centella asiatica and aloe vera which helps keep skin moisturised and soothed the entire day. If you have really oily skin, try the Origins Clear Improvement Oil-Free Moisturizer with Bamboo Charcoal ($66 for 50ml). It is an oil-free moisturiser that has sodium hyaluronate, glycerin and squalane to help deliver all-day hydration, and it also has salicylic acid to refine skin texture, bamboo charcoal to keep impurities at bay and witch hazel to soothe skin too.
This article was first published in Harper’s Bazaar.