I have oily skin, so I don’t need to use moisturizer.
You may have already read that this is soooo NOT the case. Weird, though, I know. While you may have oily skin, trying to eradicate all of that oil can lead to some bad side effects. Harsh products filled with high concentrations of salicylic acid, clay, and/or sulfur will suck up the pore-clogging oil in your skin, but it will also leave your face as dry as the wild west *insert rolling tumbleweed here.* Once you remove all of the “bad” oil, you need to replace tit with “healthy” moisture. See the next question for moisturizing ingredients appropriate for acne-prone skin.
I can’t use moisturizer, because it’ll make me break out.
I do understand this sentiment. Creams and lotions probably made you break out, because you were using a moisturizer with ingredients that were clogging your pores. Not all moisturizers are the same. Stay away from occlusives, which are ingredients like mineral oil and petrolatum. Oils can be hit or miss. Some can promote acne and others can help prevent it (see the next question). To be safe, use oil-free skincare lotions or hydrating gels that are packed with humectants. Humectants draw moisture into the skin without blocking pores. Some great humectants are glycerin and hyaluronic acid. These won’t clog pores and will keep your skin’s moisture levels in check.
Olay Fresh Effects Dew Over Hydrating Gel Moisturizer ($12.99)
Photo courtesy of skincancertkaesfriends.com
I can’t use oils or oil cleanser. Nope, no, no way!
Actually, you can, but you do have to be careful. Oil cleansers are a GREAT idea for those with acne, because they will thoroughly remove water-resistant sunscreen and oil-based makeup. This CANNOT be your only cleanse, though. Those with oily skin have to follow up with a second cleanse to wash away any remaining oil cleanser and traces of dirt and grime. This second cleanse needs to use a water-based face wash. This will help remove the last bits of oil, makeup, and impurities leftover on your skin from your first cleanse. This facewash can be a regular, gentle cleanser, or it can can contain a treatment like salicylic acid.
In addition to cleansing, you can also absolutely use oils as moisturizer! Some oils are not appropriate for oily or acneic skin, however, like coconut or olive oil. They tend to be more occlusive and can potentially lead to more breakouts. No bueno. I recommend Josie Maran’s 100% Pure Argan Oil Light for those with oily skin, because it doesn’t feel thick and heavy. Pat a few drops onto your skin AFTER your moisturizer, and use it at night. You need to use it after moisturizer, because oil creates a “seal” to lock in moisture. Putting oil on before moisturizer will prevent your moisturizer from absorbing. I recommend only using it at night, because it can still make you look and feel a little “slick” if used during the day. Use it at night to balance moisture levels so that, in the morning, you wake up smooth and baby-soft.
If I have whiteheads and blackheads, I should mix and match every ingredient under the sun to get rid of them.
If you have whiteheads and blackheads, I can understand you wanting to load on the benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, retinol etc. This is not going to help you, though. Those afflicted with oily skin and blemishes (aka the pretty word for nasty-ass pimples and blackheads. Ew) have to be very, very cautious. These acne- and oil-fighting ingredients are very harsh and drying, and they can be harmful to the skin when combined.
In fact, you won’t find a product containing both benzoyl peroxide AND salicylic acid, because companies won’t sell that harsh of a product (because it won’t be any good for you!). This doesn’t mean you can’t use these ingredients together, however, but you DO have to be super CAREFUL. Use the LOWEST concentrations and try alternating whenever you use them. If you want to use both, use benzoyl peroxide in the daytime and salicylic acid at nighttime (or vice versa). Better to introduce it slowly, that have red, flaky, painful skin ON TOP of your acne.
Word of caution: Benzoyl peroxide bleaches fabric. if you use it in the day, be careful with your clothes. If you use it at night, sleep with a pillowcase you don’t care about ruining (watch out, cause your hand towels will get bleached too!).
gif courtesy of imgarcade.com
If your acne is really severe (you know who you are), or if you’re suffering from cystic acne (those deep bumps that never come to a whitehead), I HIGHLY recommend seeing a dermatologist. Why? Over-the-counter treatment will probably not work and, more importantly, these cystic pimples could be due to something more serious, such as hormonal issues like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). Hormonal issues or cysts need to be treated differently, such as with oral or topical medications. So save yourself frustration and be safe, rather than sorry. Just see a derm ASAP!