Skip to main content

Here’s How I Combat my Oily and Acne Prone Skin

As a former personal trainer, Sarah is passionate about all things health, beauty, and self care.


My oily skin

Depending on the time of year (or month), the quality and texture of my skin changes with the weather and climate, my moods, and hormones. While it typically tends to be on the dryer side, my skin does go through oily and acne prone phases from time to time, which can be difficult to handle. This is particularly common during menstruation, in the summertime, or throughout longer periods of stressful events or heavy work loads.

Though it can be frustrating, I have found a few strategies to battle these unsolicited oily breakouts, from addressing the oiliness itself, to reducing the severity of my breakouts and camouflaging the discolored spots that are sometimes left behind once the breakouts have passed. Let’s get into them!

Reducing the oiliness of my skin

Since my skin is usually on the dryer side, I need to switch up my routine once it starts getting oily. Here’s what I do:

  1. Wash the face more frequently
  2. Use a salicylic acid based cleanser
  3. Carbon laser
  4. Wear lighter moisturizer and less makeup

1. On an average day, I wash my face with water in the morning and a cleanser at night to get rid of my makeup and go to bed with a clean face. For oily skin, I’ve learned that it’s better to give yourself a few rinses a day (if possible) to get rid of excess oil. Your body naturally produces oil, or sebum, through its sebaceous glands. Sebum production can be triggered by a variety of factors and sometimes your sebaceous glands become overprotective, leaving you with oilier skin and enlarged pores. During the times that my body is producing excess sebaceous gland lipids, I simply rinse my face with water 3 to 4 times a day, allowing it to breathe and appear less oily. I acknowledge that this isn’t possible for everyone, given that many of us wear makeup throughout the day, but for those of you who can afford to splash some water on your face a few times a day, I highly recommend it!

2. My favorite type of cleanser to use is salicylic acid based cleanser, especially when my skin gets oily, I am breaking out, my pores look enlarged, and everything feels a little bit “loose”. Salicylic acid has a lot of benefits as long as it is used properly. As a keratolytic compound, it can be used for various purposes including drying out excess sebum (oil), unclogging pores, and reducing swelling and redness. Because Keratolytic compounds break down the outer layers of the skin, you do have to be careful not to use too much and apply them sparingly. However, since I primarily use salicylic acid when my skin is extra oily, I can go a little heavier with it leaving me with a tighter glow. Other keratolytic compounds that I use in combination with or interchangeably with salicylic acid include urea and alpha hydroxy acids.

Scroll to Continue

3. There is a huge variety of facials and skin treatments at spas, dermatology clinics, and medical spas. I’ve tried many of them and have found a carbon based laser facial to be the most beneficial treatment for my skin when it gets oily and breaks out. The way that the carbon laser treatment works is quite simple (and doesn’t hurt at all, which is a huge plus, especially when it comes to laser treatments). When I get this facial, my provider applies a very thin layer of carbon cream onto my face, which based on clinical studies absorbs sebum and buildup within my pores. Once it has dried, the cream and all that it has absorbed is zapped off and away using a Q-switched Nd:Yag laser. The entire process takes no longer than 15 minutes and always leaves my skin far less oily and my acne less inflamed. I can’t speak for everyone, but I highly recommend anyone with oily skin to look into this as an option at Skinly.

4. Believe it or not, even oily skin needs to be moisturized from time to time, especially if you’re using any of the above mentioned methods to reduce the excess sebum levels. However, rather than going for my usual thick creams and lotions, I opt for a lighter moisturizer to provide my skin with the moisture and hydration it needs, without adding on to the thick oiliness that it doesn’t.

I have also found that makeup tends to enhance my breakouts more than disguise them. Even though it has almost become second nature to cake on as much concealer as I can to cover up blemishes since I was 13 years old, research confirms that makeup really isn’t all that helpful if you’re trying to actually get rid of your pimples in the first place. Instead, I go for a light powder and try to stay away from heavy concealers and foundation until my skin returns back to its normal state.

Reducing the actual breakouts and inflammation

Addressing the oiliness of my skin is step number one, and while all of the above does help reduce the acne spots, I like to add a few extra steps to focus on those specific points of inflammation.

One of my go-to acne treatments are medicated correction pads containing salicylic acid, glycolic acid, arginine, allantoin, aloe vera, chamomile, and green tea. These ingredients are very much like the salicylic acid cleanser that I use, but at a more concentrated level, which is why they are specifically designed to apply only to distinct areas of inflammation, namely, the pimples. Tea tree oil is also known to reduce inflammation in breakouts, though it tends to irritate my skin. If you’re looking into any of these ingredients, it is best to get a tester first to see how your skin responds to it to avoid irritation.

Covering the tracks, traces, and spots left behind

In some cases, once my skin has healed there are no signs of impurity or discoloration. Inevitably, there are the occasional discolored traces left behind far beyond the point at which the actual breakouts have subsided. Fortunately, there are a few ways to treat these lingering spots using both makeup and medicinal agencies that can reduce or eliminate them.

  • One of the most obvious tools to cover up post inflammatory hyperpigmentation is a quality concealer. While there isn't much to be said about using makeup to cover spots on your skin, I always make sure that my skin is truly fully healed to avoid triggering another breakout. It has also been helpful to invest in a quality concealer that allows me to use less product for more coverage.
  • While residual redness from a pimple typically fades over time, I’m not a particularly patient person, which is why I have a prescription pigmentation cream to speed up the process. I will say, however, that this kind of product is best selected by a medical professional or dermatologist to avoid worsening the discoloration or irritating your skin.
  • Clinical studies provide evidence that UV radiation can cause pigment darkening. Naturally, this also applies to the leftover pigmentation from your acne spots. With that in mind, one of my top priorities is sun protection. I apply sunscreen daily, whether I’m on a beachy vacation or walking to work on a rainy day. Experts advise using a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30, though I typically go higher depending on the severity of my pigmentation. If you’re into hats, it can’t hurt to wear your favorite cap on a sunny day for extra protection. Personally, I’m more of a sunglasses girl, but to each his own.
  • Post inflammatory hyperpigmentation typically goes away on its own, though it may take a few months. Sometimes all it really takes is patience, which I am not particularly known for. Fortunately the above steps will help speed up the process, regardless of the severity of my pigmentation.

Final thoughts and takeaway

Having oily skin and occasional breakouts isn’t the worst thing in the world. However, it can be frustrating and definitely takes a toll on my confidence when it does occur. After a lot of trial and error, I’m glad to have found a routine that works for me when these things happen, that I can even incorporate into my regular skin care regimen to keep my skin healthy with a youthful glow. I hope that these steps can benefit you as well, though I do want you to keep in mind that the skin is a complex organ that is unique to every individual. What works for me may not work for you, so seeking professional advice is always the best way to go.

Related Articles