Five Ways To Reduce Oil Production In Skin

Updated 9/7/14: As someone with oily skin, I’m always trying to reduce oil production to keep the shine under control. While you can never make the skin stop producing oil altogether, there are definitely things you can do to slow the flow.

What I’ve discovered through my own experiences with my skin as well as working with clients hands-on for 25+ years as a celebrity esthetician is that the amount of oil your skin produces is directly tied to the hydration levels in your skin. Oily skins don’t need additional oil (which is why oil-free lotions are suggested) but you still need water in the skin. When the skin doesn’t have the water it needs, the skin attempts to balance itself by producing more oil (by stimulating the nerve endings) to compensate for the lack of water. Simply put, skin cells are like fish, they need water to live and without it, the skin doesn’t respond well.

Here are several examples to explain this concept further:

-Several years ago, a colleague sent me a sample of a gel cleanser to try. She didn’t include the ingredients of the cleanser so I didn’t know exactly what was in it, but I went ahead and tried it anyway. The next day, my skin was SO oily. I couldn’t figure out why my skin was so oily until I remembered the only thing I had done differently was to use this cleanser the night before. I contacted my friend and sure enough, it contained one ingredient that is an absolute no-no to use on all skin types—Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Yuck! This ingredient is a strong cleansing detergent and very dehydrating, which caused my skin to produce more oil. (All of the Renée Rouleau gel cleansers are sulfate-free.)

-Last year I flew to France to visit my husband’s family and to research French skin care. Because the cabin of an airplane has very little moisture, my skin gets extremely oily when I fly. On the flight over, I used six oil-blotting papers over the course of the eleven-hour flight to control the shine.  Two weeks later on the flight back, I only had to use two oil-blotting papers! Why was I less oily on the flight back to the U.S.? Well, I realized the day before we left, I went and had a facial.  My skin was extremely hydrated, so it wasn’t as affected by the dry cabin air, resulting in less oil being produced! (Read about my French skin care investigation.)

When it comes to skin care products for oily skin, most skin care companies focus on products that simply remove the oil by using strong, harsh and dehydrating ingredients. While it will give you an immediate ‘tight’ feeling and temporarily remove the oil, it then creates a backlash hours later with an increase in oil production.

I have heard some dermatologists say that it is untrue that using products for oily skin can increase oil production, but as you can see from my personal experience above, I disagree strongly.  In addition, I’ve had hundreds of oily skin clients through the years who were not using moisturizer and only using harsh cleansers find that using gentler products and using oil-free lotion does in fact make them less oily. So for all of you oily skin people reading this, wearing moisturizer (oil-free) will actually make you produce less oil! Shocking, I know!

Here’s six expert tips to reduce oil production in skin:

1. Always use a gentle cleanser to wash your skin. Avoid the ingredients Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Ammonium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate in your cleaners. (See the collection of Renée Rouleau sulfate-free gel cleansers.) I personally use Luxe Mint Cleansing Gel since I’m a skin type #2 in my nine skin types. Which skin type are you?

2. Use an alcohol-free toner left damp on the skin before applying oil-free lotion. (See the entire collection of Renée Rouleau alcohol-free toners.)

3. Use lightweight, oil-free moisturizer like Renée Rouleau Skin Recovery Lotion—a moisturizer to reduce oil production. Avoid the ingredients Mineral Oil, Petroleum and Petrolatum in your moisturizer as these may suffocate the skin and clog the pores.

4. Blot your skin throughout the day with blotting papers or tissue paper. Truly, it’s the fastest and easiest way to get rid of oil.

5. Never leave your skin bare for longer than 60 seconds after washing, otherwise necessary water will evaporate out of the skin. (Read more about why you should never leave your skin naked.) Follow immediately with alcohol-free toner and moisturizer.

6. Use a well-formulated salicylic acid serum like BHA Clarifying Serum to remove surface dry skin cells that can keep the skin more balanced and less oily. Since salicylic acid has the capability of getting into the pore lining to remove clogged pores, it will reveal a newly refined smoothness and clarity in the skin. (It’s a celebrity favorite!)

Bottom line: If you’re someone who cleanses skin in the morning only to find an oil slick by noon, it’s definitely a dehydration issue, and don’t let anyone tell you anything different. Lastly, it’s proven that drinking water is the least efficient way to hydrate the skin so drinking water is definitely not a cure, no matter what you have been previously told.

Read: Blemish Tips You Need To Know

Which skin care products are best for you? See our nine skin types or take the Skin Type Quiz and get products recommended.

Need expert advice from a licensed esthetician? Schedule a virtual consultation to get customized advice in person, over the phone or online via Skype or FaceTime.

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Content found on, including: text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.