Oily skin, love it or hate it, once you understand what influences oil production, you can take charge with the correct skincare and diet. Oily skin can also be a blessing in disguise as it provides so many benefits to the skin, keeping it healthy and youthful!
Before we deep dive into what you need to know about managing an oily skin, we first need to distinguish the difference between sebaceous lipids (these are what causes skin to appear oily) and skin barrier lipids. This is an important distinction to be made, as overzealous removal of skin surface lipids can damage or deplete epidermal lipids, and then you have a case of a compromised skin barrier.
Sebaceous oils are what you see and feel on the surface of your skin, also known as the “acid mantle”. Excessive oiliness is a direct result of over active oil glands. Epidermal barrier lipids remain bound within the top layers of the skin to form a semi-waterproof barrier that allows some water loss known as trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) in order to maintain balanced moisture within the skin.
The composition of lipids in the “acid mantle” (from sebaceous glands) and skin barrier lipids are quite different.
Skin surface sebaceous lipids contain roughly 25-30% wax and cholesterol esters, 12% squalene, and the rest is made up of free fatty acids and triglycerides, these lipids are all fluid at room temperature. Epidermal (skin barrier) lipids are predominately 50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and15% free fatty acids (predominately high in linoleic acid). Epidermal lipids are solid at room temperature.
The number of sebaceous glands remains the same throughout life, however, sebum secretion rates can vary, and are highest in the 15–35-year-olds and decline continuously as we grow older.
Interestingly, although surface lipid levels fall with age, paradoxically, the sebaceous glands become larger, rather than smaller, as a result of decreased cellular turnover
Ever wonder why your skin is so oily?
You are born with a set number of sebaceous glands, which will influence how oily your skin is, however, there are still several factors that will increase sebum or oil input from these glands.
Hormones such as Insulin, Testosterone, and many stress related hormones and peptides will increase sebum production.
Insulin and Insulin growth factor (IGF-1) have a direct impact on oil glands and increase oil output. These two factors are triggered by high glycaemic load foods, and sugars, as well as cheeses, milk and all dairy products.
Low glycaemic load diets have shown to correct increased sebum production which indicates the need to adjust dietary habits to modify overly oily skin, while also reducing factors contributing to acne and comedones.
Higher sebum production, as well as skin related disorders, seem to be associated with an increase in dietary monounsaturated fatty acids suggesting a possible role in increases sebaceous gland oil production and acne onset.
High consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids can induce hyperkeratinisation and epidermal hyperplasia similar to that seen in comedone (blackhead) formation.
Monounsaturated fats = Olive, peanut, and canola oils, avocados. almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans, pumpkin and sesame seeds.
Just one more interesting connection on skin oiliness is that Insulin Growth factor (IGF-1) production is greatly increased in times of stress and anxiety – so stress can make your skin produce more oil.
Stress hormones also directly increase oil production via receptor sites within the sebaceous gland.
So, if you are born with an oily skin type or notice more oiliness to your skin you can modify your diet to reduce the oil output by sticking to a low GI diet, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins, and don’t forget to manage your stress levels!
Why you should love your oily skin?
- Sebum lubricates the skin and protects against friction.
- Sebaceous glands provide antioxidants in and on the skin as well as protecting the skin from damage associated with UV light exposure.
- Sebum also possesses antibacterial activity and can also have an anti-inflammatory function.
- Sebum prevents water loss through the skin, locking in moisture and is actively involved in the wound healing process.
- Sebum protects your skin from ageing
Caring for an oily skin type:
The dilemma for someone with an oily skin type is the desire to remove excess oils from the skin surface, as mentioned earlier, without harming the skin barrier. This mainly occurs from over washing with stripping surfactants, and astringent based toners and mists.
The acid mantle or surface sebaceous lipids perform the vital function of providing an anti-microbial skin barrier as well as antioxidant protection for the skin.
Yes, you want to remove excess oil from the skin surface when cleansing but cleaning the skin with a mild cleanser will not affect the oil flow, or leave your skin feeling oily if the cleanser is balanced.
By resorting to harsh cleansers the skin barrier can be affected by disturbing the epidermal barrier lipids (which are quite different to the sebaceous gland lipids that make up the "acid mantle"), resulting in increased water loss and dehydration, which causes a dehydrated oily skin type.
Stripping the skin with harsh cleansers not only can damage the skin barrier but also alter the skin’s natural protective microbiome, leaving it more susceptible to acne development due to bacterial growth (in particular cutibacterium – formerly known as propioni bacterium)
Replacing or reinforcing epidermal lipids such as linoleic acid, sterols, and ceramides will not make your skin less or more oily, but it will nourish your skins barrier preserving the skin's water content, so these are key lipids to look for in your skincare products.
One thing to note is that oily skin isn’t always a sentence for acne development. Acne prone skins can have altered lipid ratios and be deficient in linoleic acid (which is why Linoleic acid is added to our Bio-Rejuvenation Intensive Oil), as well deficiencies in skin derived antioxidants – so antioxidants in your skincare are key for those with oily sin.
Oily skin can greatly benefit from replacing natural moisturising factors as well as high antioxidants that protect the skin's sebum (mainly squalene) from oxidising on the skin surface.
Antioxidant compounds can also inhibit sebaceous lipid production by suppressing growth of oil glands (sebocytes). Skincare for oily skin should always include strong antioxidants such as Vitamin E, and plant based antioxidants.
If you have very oily skin a great product for a lightweight daily moisturiser is the Hydro-therapy Line Filling Serum. It contains a triple lipid complex bio-identical to skin barrier lipids as well as all your natural moisturising factors. This beautiful product will not leave any oily residual film on the skin surface, but it will sink into the upper most layers of the skin to nourish and hydrate the skin.
The Physio-Logic Fortifying Moisturiser would make an ideal night cream for an oily skin type as it will replenish the skin barrier lipids and is rich in Niacinamide, and antioxidants.
Bio-Rejuvenation Intensive Oil is high in antioxidants and linoleic acid to maintain healthy skin lipids.
So be kind to your skin if it is oily and remember these oils are ultimately protecting your skin!