Let us admit something: nobody likes oily skin. A skincare routine often consists of measures and precautions that help a person eliminate the extra oil on the skin's surface. However, it is critical to understand that the overproduction of sebum, which eventually results in oily skin, is a natural process, and depending on an area's climate and an individual's genetics, this production could be extremely high at times. In this article, we hope to demystify one of the most critical issues faced in a skincare routine: managing oily skin.
What is meant by oily skin?There are different categories and types of skins depending on individual genes and the climate of a region. Among the different types, 'oily' is mentioned with a tone of mild dismay. Oily skin is often considered a challenge in the skincare routine but has its own benefits.
The skin naturally produces an oil termed sebum. It is critical to maintaining overall skin health, provides a natural barrier against external elements, and keeps you hydrated. However, when there is overproduction of sebum, it could be termed as 'oily' skin. In the Indian climate, which is characterized by high humidity and extreme summers, overproduction of sebum is quite common. Additionally, certain genetic factors prevalent in the Indian subcontinent might make many predisposed to having oily skin.
What is sebum and its role in skincare and health?
Sebum is called 'skin oil' due to its natural sticky characteristics. The body naturally produces and secretes the waxy and oily substance through skin pores. The primary role of sebum is to protect the skin against external elements such as dust, pollens, etc. It's an intricate blend of lipids that is the front line of our skin's defence.
Sebum comprises triglycerides, free fatty acids, wax esters, squalene, and smaller amounts of cholesterol. The first natural function of sebum is to moisturise the skin by preventing excessive water loss. It eventually ensures that the skin remains supple and hydrated. In addition, sebum creates an acidic environment on the skin's surface, preventing potentially dangerous bacteria and fungi from entering the system.
However, sebum's functions are not just protective. For instance, a critical sebum function is to transport antioxidants such as Vitamin E to the skin's surface. This ensures that environmental damage and natural ageing are avoided due to sebum production. These are a few of the benefits that the natural production of sebum has on skincare and an individual's health. However, it is the overproduction that causes real challenges. There are many issues, such as commonplace skin shine and acne, which could be caused due to sebum overproduction.
What causes oily skin and sebum overproduction: The Real Science
Various myths are associated with sebum overproduction that eventually results in oily skin. Irrespective of the region in which you live, Indian cuisine is full of greasy, oily, and spicy food. There would often be suggestions to go easy on such food items as it could cause acne or oily skin. However, there are various researches that have debunked this myth. The reason for sebum overproduction could be attributed to the dynamic interplay of various factors, both internal and external.
The sebaceous glands are on the face and the entire body except for the palms and soles. These glands are responsible for the production (and overproduction) of sebum. It is important to understand that these glands are particularly dense on the face, chest, and back, which logically explains why these areas see the most oil and breakouts.
Keeping all myths aside, here are the proven factors that result in the overproduction of sebum:
- Individual hormones have an important role to play in sebum overproduction. It is particularly common to see hormonal spikes during puberty and menstrual cycles, thereby causing an increase in skin oil and acne resulting from sebum overproduction.
- Environmental factors such as harsh heat and humidity could be critical factors in stimulating the sebum mechanism, eventually resulting in overproduction in a few circumstances.
- Improper skincare routine, such as over-washing the face or using harsh skincare products, can strip the skin of its natural oils, prompting it to produce even more sebum in compensation.
Besides all the above controllable (to an extent) factors, genetic factors are responsible for sebum production in an individual.
Recognising the signs of oily skin
Each skin type has its characteristics. Oily skin is not just about the midday shine or acne marks. There are various other factors through which you need to know and act on your skincare routine as soon as possible.
Let's decode some of the signs that your skin might have demonstrated already, but you have not acknowledged that it refers to sebum overproduction:
A shiny and greasy layer on the face is one of the most common features of sebum overproduction. Individuals with oily skin might notice a distinct shine as the day progresses, especially on the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin). This is due to the overproduction of sebum, which accumulates on the skin's surface.
Visible Pores on Face: Oily skin creates large pores on the faces, especially around the nose. The excess oil can cause the skin to swell, making pores appear more prominent. While this is natural, enlarged pores can sometimes trap dirt and become clogged, leading to other skin issues (such as white and blackheads).
Frequent skin breakouts and acne: Another feature of sebum overproduction is skin breakout, which provides the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.
Rough-looking skin: The overall texture of the skin could be affected due to sebum overproduction. The skin could look thicker and rougher than before, resulting in a coarser texture.
Issue in applying makeup: Another important factor generally noticed by makeup users is related to the application and stability of cosmetic products over the skin. For instance, the foundation can slide off, eyeshadows crease, and even skincare products might not get absorbed properly, leaving a residue.
Hence, one of the first steps should be to recognize that there is something wrong with the skin. Once the issue has been acknowledged, a proper skincare routine could be drafted based on environmental factors, lifestyle, and genetic behavior.
How does sebum overproduction affect your skin?
After understanding the reasons and signs of sebum overproduction, it is critical to understand how it affects the skin (and why a skincare routine is needed). The resultant black and white heads and acne issues have been discussed in a couple of instances in the article, so we will not consider that. Besides that, it is also important to understand that sebum overproduction can lead to increased sun damage. An oily surface can act as a magnet for pollutants and even make sunscreens less effective if not formulated for oily skin. This can increase vulnerability to UV rays, an amplified concern given India's predominantly sunny climate.
There are a few advantages of sebum production as well. For instance, the natural glow that many try to achieve with highlighters and serums. Additionally, the natural oils help moisturize the skin, making wrinkles and fine lines appear later than they might for dry skin.
The solution to sebum overproduction and oily skin
There are plenty of modern and traditional remedies that one can use to control sebum overproduction. It is, however, worth noting that various external factors responsible for oily skin might be uncontrollable and hence, stopping overproduction is not possible. However, it is very possible to have a good skincare routine so that the after-effects of sebum overproduction can be addressed.
Let's start with choosing the correct and suitable skincare products. Here is the list:
Gel-based moisturizers:Lightweight and hydrating, these moisturizers don't add to the oiliness but ensure the skin stays moisturized. A misconception is that oily skin doesn't need moisturization, but depriving it can trigger even more oil production.
Non-comedogenic products:These are specifically designed not to block pores. Ideal for oily skin, they prevent breakouts by allowing the skin to breathe freely.
Clay-based face masks:Clays like kaolin and bentonite absorb excess oil and unclog pores. Incorporating them into weekly skincare rituals can help maintain a matte finish.
In addition to the above products, it is also important to maintain proper diet and hydration. Staying hydrated eventually results in less oil production by the body. Drinking plenty of water and a balanced diet rich in antioxidants can work wonders. A gentle cleanser can help remove accumulated oil and impurities without stripping the skin. Following it up with exfoliation once or twice a week ensures that dead skin cells don't mix with the oil, preventing clogged pores and breakouts.
It is also advisable to try home and ayurvedic remedies, which have an excellent track record in addressing sebum overproduction. One could refer to ayurvedic products consisting of Multani mitti, neem, and turmeric. All three products have an excellent impact on skin cleansing. These can be used in isolation or as compounds with other moisturisers. Various Ayurvedic companies manufacture and market such products consisting of the goodness of these products.
Oily skin, often viewed with a hint of concern, is a natural phenomenon resulting from the overproduction of sebum. While it poses certain challenges, especially in the humid and hot Indian climate, it also bestows advantages like a natural radiance and delayed onset of wrinkles. Awareness is key: Understanding the reasons behind sebum overproduction and recognizing its signs can pave the way for effective management. One can strike a harmonious balance by embracing the right skincare routine, products, and traditional remedies. Embracing our skin type, with all its quirks and characteristics, is a journey of self-love and acceptance.