Maybe you’re born with oily skin — or maybe it’s the weather. That’s because there are a lot of factors that can influence how shiny your skin gets, which can in turn contribute to blackheads, breakouts, and other kinds of clogged pores. And, in most cases, there’s a physiological explanation for why, exactly, your skin is pumping out excess oil.
Speaking of that excess oil: It’s a good thing! Technically, it’s sebum, a waxy substance that’s essential for your overall skin health. “Think of sebum as naturally occurring oil that protects and moisturizes our skin to keep our skin barrier intact,” says David Kim, MD, a dermatologist at Idriss Dermatology in New York City. Research has even found that sebum may play a role in skin immunity.
To release this built-in moisturizer, skin has pores, which are the small openings at the base of each hair follicle on your face. The amount of sebum your skin naturally produces can dictate your skin type; while there’s an average rate of sebum production, going above or below that can contribute to naturally oily or naturally dry skin. It can also influence the size of your pores; if you’re prone to producing lots of oil, your pores might be larger in order to accommodate it — making them more visible.
All this to say: Your sebum can determine a lot about how your skin looks, functions, and thrives. Ideally, “you don’t want too little or too much sebum,” says Dr. Kim. “You want just the right amount to keep your skin hydrated, moisturized, and protected.” With that in mind, if you’re looking to get to a Goldilocks point of sebum production, here’s what might be getting in the way — and what you can do about it.
Your family history
Not-so-fun fact: Oily skin might just run in your family. “It’s not anything you’re doing, eating, or putting on their skin,” says Dr. Kim. “You’re genetically predisposed to producing excess oil.” If one or both of your parents dealt with oiliness, visible pores, and even acne, then you may just have inherited it.
Diarra (left) wears Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops, Maddie (right) wears Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops
If that’s the case, long-term maintenance with a face serum, such as Strawberry Smooth BHA+AHA Salicylic Serum, might be your best bet; it contains not only a gentle blend of alpha hydroxy acids to smooth and decongest skin, but also beta hydroxy acid, or salicylic acid. This oil-soluble super-star can actually absorb into pores, where it offsets excess oil production. During the day, follow up with Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops, a silicone-free formula that reduces shine and refines pores, for 24/7 coverage.
There’s a reason that your skin tends to get oily during the teenage years or develops a new breakout at the same time each month: your hormones. “Testosterone is one of the main drivers for oil production,” says Dr. Kim. Its levels fluctuate alongside those of your other hormones, like estrogen and progesterone, which can contribute to varying levels of oiliness.
Not only that, but as we’ve covered in the past, the body churns out progesterone after ovulation, which leads to a spike in sebum production and, of course, hormonal acne. While the Strawberry Smooth Serum will help, so too can the Guava Vitamin C Dark Spot Serum, which can tackle the stubborn dark spots that often appear post-breakout.
A fast-food diet
Is burger night to blame? Maybe — research has found that the Western diet, a.k.a. one packed with meat, dairy, and alcohol, is linked to higher sebum production. The probable link? The simple sugars and milk proteins within them can stimulate insulin and a related growth factor, which signals oil glands to create more sebum. (Why, exactly, this happens, however, is still TBD.)
So, the morning after a particularly indulgent meal, hit reset on skin with a five-minute facial like Watermelon Glow Hyaluronic Clay Pore-Tight Facial. Our hyaluronic acid-infused clay clears out congestion without the usual tightness post-rinse, while micronized blueberry seed powder gently exfoliates. Then, after your skincare routine, apply Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops as your makeup primer; not only will it keep shine at bay throughout the day, but the formula also creates a smooth canvas for seamless makeup application.
High stress levels
Whatever the cause, be it emails from your boss all night or a sick friend, stress triggers a cascade throughout the body that eventually reaches your skin. “Stress increases cortisol levels, which in turn increases testosterone levels,” says Dr. Kim. “The increased testosterone leads to increased sebum production and inflammation.”
With that in mind, if you’ve had a long, tough day, try using the Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops as a pore treatment in the evening, before applying a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer like the Watermelon Glow Pink Juice Moisturizer. (Yes, you need to moisturize oily skin.) If your skin has more active breakouts, however, consider using Strawberry Smooth BHA+AHA Salicylic Serum in the evening and following up with Blur Drops in the A.M.Our hyaluronic acid-infused clay clears out congestion without leaving skin tight or dry.
Your overall environment
For starters, an uptick in oil production could be blamed on the weather; studies have found that spring and summer tend to bring higher levels of sebum on the skin. (So, if you used Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops to give skin a glow all winter, warmer temps might be your cue to swap them out for Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops.) But the influence of the environment may actually go beyond that, too. Research has found that people in areas with high levels of ambient air pollution tend to have more sebum, possibly the results of more free radicals on the skin.
In the A.M., give your skin a defensive advantage with the Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Sunscreen SPF 50, which offers sun protection with chemical and mineral filters, as well as a combo as antioxidant-rich niacinamide and watermelon extract to defend skin against pollutants. If you know you’ll be out and about during the daytime, keep the Strawberry BHA Pore-Smooth Blur Drops on hand to blot excess oil — leaving skin with a satiny, soft-focus finish.
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