How To Survive An Oil Crisis (Part 1)

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Is an oily complexion once again your main skin concern? Leyla Tabaksert investigates what’s making us so shiny, and reveals the new products that can put it right – not a teen range in sight…

Description: Oily skin is down to overactive sebaceous glands secreting too much sebum (natural oil). And, naturally, it’s our busy lifestyles that shoulder much of the blame

Oily skin is down to overactive sebaceous glands secreting too much sebum (natural oil). And, naturally, it’s our busy lifestyles that shoulder much of the blame

Presumed you’d said goodbye to oily skin in your teens – along with Naf Naf sweatshirts, cheap body spray, and a five-man Take That line-up? Well maybe not. For many of us, oily skin –like Gary, Mark and co – is in the middle of a full-on comeback. Forget the fine lines and uneven skin tone we’re supposed to worry about as we age; according to the latest research, it’s actually oily skin that’s the biggest daily concern of 50% of 30-something women. And, while the British summer has been less than scorching, there’s no doubt the problem is worse in the warmer months, when every type of skin secretes more sweat and oil.

Oily skin is down to overactive sebaceous glands secreting too much sebum (natural oil). And, naturally, it’s our busy lifestyles that shoulder much of the blame. ‘Genetics play a part, but anything from hormonal changes, a poor diet and stress to the wrong skincare routine can make those glands overactive,’ says Fiona Brackenbury, head of training and education at Decléor.’And you’re much more likely to have those issues in your 30s than any other age.’

The inside track

With such a range of possible triggers, getting on top of the problem requires a holistic approach, says dermatologist Dr Howard Murad. ‘The most common mistake women make with skincare is not taking into account the impact of their overall lifestyle,’ he explains. He always puts his clients on a clear-skin diet. ‘I simply ask my clients to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, which are packed with hydrating, anti-inflammatory and nutrient-rich agents to help their skin look its best,’ he says. You may think you’re doing the right thing by taking supplements of omega-3 oils, renowned for their skin-nurturing qualities, but Dr Murad warns they can contribute to the amount of oil in your skin if you pop more than one a day.

Description: a major cause of oily skin

A major cause of oily skin?

Both Fiona and Dr Murad stress the importance of ‘emotional self-care’, too, pointing out the direct link between stress and oily skin. How many times have you been anxious about an upcoming event, only to find that – typical!- a spot has popped up to add to your worries? ‘It’s so important to take time for yourself to do the things you enjoy and reduce your overall stress,’ says Dr Murad. ‘It really will affect the condition of your skin.’

Every dermatologist we asked also cited hormonal changes as a major cause of oily skin – so, if your complexion is seemingly greasier since you started taking the contraceptive pill, it might not be a coincidence. ‘Some birth-control pills contain androgens – male hormones – which can be responsible for increased sebum production,’ says consultant dermatologist Dr Penelope Tympanidis. ‘Hormones can also increase just before your period or with some cases of polycystic ovaries.’ And if you’re in your late 30s, the perimenopause – the reproductive stage leading into the menopause – could be a factor. ‘It usually starts in a woman’s 40s but it’s not unheard of for it to kick in as early as your 30s,’ says Dr Murad. ‘And as oestrogen levels drop, it’s really common for women to experience skin changes such as oiliness, as well as blemishes and thinner, duller-looking skin.’ So, if your oily skin is accompanied by these other symptoms, it’s worth speaking to your GP.

Powerful products

While you’re dealing with bigger issues or waiting for those lifestyle changes to have an effect (remember, it can take at least six weeks to see a difference in your skin), there’s a new generation of oil-control products aimed at adult oiliness that can provide much-needed relief. Unlike the drying skincare ranges of your youth, the latest mattifying products – from BB creams to cleansers – are tailored to grown-up tastes and boast a serious shot of breakthrough ingredients and oil-control techniques. ‘Today’s sophisticated skincare brands definitely offer more than temporary benefits,’ says Dr Murad. ‘They treat skin problems, optimmise skin health and can conceal visible flaws, too, offering long-and short-term results.’

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