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We’ve all been there – soaked blotting papers and unintentionally shiny makeup. It’s hard to avoid oil especially in the hot and humid climate here in Singapore, but getting oily doesn’t necessarily mean you have oily skin. Knowing your skin type and getting suitable products for yourself could be that thin line between a holy grail product and one that breaks you out. Do you know whether you have combination or oily skin, and do you know the differences in skincare for each? Read on to find out!

Why does oil happen to me?

The main function of facial sebum (also known as facial oil) is to keep your skin well-hydrated by providing a layer of oil on top of the skin to lock in the moisture (water can’t evaporate through oil). Underneath your skin surface, there are tiny pockets of cells known as the sebaceous glands that produce this oil. Sebum production could be affected by a variety of reasons, such as climate, certain medications, stress, and – most notably – hormones. That’s why teenagers going through puberty or women during the start of their menstrual cycles tend to have more problems with excessive sebum production.

Genetics play a part as well – if your parents had had oily skin as teenagers, the chances are high that you would too. Sebum production tends to decrease with age, so no matter what your skin type, you would most probably notice your skin getting drier as the years go by.

Signs of Oily Skin

  • You start to see shine on your face within a couple of hours after cleansing, and will look greasy by the middle or the end of the day.
  • Makeup tends to be shorter-lasting on your skin, and you feel the need to blot or powder more often.
  • You find yourself gravitating towards oil control products.
  • You feel like you can’t leave your fringe down because it becomes greasy from the oil on your forehead.
  • Your entire face produces oil, but your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) is the oiliest part.
  • You get frequent breakouts throughout the month.
  • You have visibly enlarged pores, blackheads and whiteheads.

Signs of Combination Skin

  • Your T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) is the oiliest part of your face, but your cheeks are much less oily, or not oily at all, sometimes even dry or flaky.
  • Choosing makeup and skincare is a confusing affair, as you swing between oil control and moisturising products.
  • You get breakouts around the time of your period, but once your period is over, the breakouts clear up.
  • You have visibly enlarged pores, blackheads and whiteheads.

squeezing pimple

How do I take care of oily skin?

When there’s a layer of grease on your skin, it may be tempting to keep washing your face over and over again to maintain that dry, matte texture. However, it is generally agreed that this isn’t healthy for the skin, and may in fact cause your skin to produce even more oil as a result. The jury is still out as to whether this is due to your skin over-compensating for the stripping of oil, or the skin is irritated and produces more oil to try as a healing mechanism, but one thing is certain: using an overly drying facial wash, or over-washing your face would make things worse. As far as possible, avoid products with too many harsh chemicals like fragrances, alcohol, and a lot of oils.

Use a facial wash specially formulated for oily skin, and make sure you find one that doesn’t cause your skin to feel tight and parched after washing – that’s a sure sign of skin dehydration. As tempting as it is, don’t wash your face more than twice a day; wash only in the morning when you wake up, and at night before you go to bed. Instead, reduce the sheen on your face by using blotting paper (powdered ones are available in drugstores, that not only absorb oil but also has a mattifying effect to your makeup). Tissue paper is a good alternative if blotting paper is not available.

There are many schools of thought as to whether toners are necessary in your skincare regime, especially if you have oily skin, but if you want to use one, be sure to go for one that is alcohol-free. Alcohol is a dehydrating agent that may irritate your skin further and cause more oil production. If you want to use a moisturiser, go for one that states “non-comodogenic” on the bottle – that means it will not clog pores and aggravate acne. You should also use a gentle facial scrub or a chemical exfoliant on your skin not more than twice a week.

With oily skin, it is advisable to go for makeup products that are in powder form as far as possible, or are meant to stay matte. It’d be even better if they claim to provide oil control! It would also help to incorporate a good quality setting powder at the end of your make-up routine, which will help reduce sheen and delay the oil-slick effect at the end of the day. Avoid cream or liquid makeup, which would exaggerate the oil on your face. Also avoid make-up with “dewy” formulations, since they are formulated to be shiny to provide a healthy hydrated look for those with dry skin or in dry climates –completely opposite from the needs of oily skin types.

apply moisturiser

There is unfortunately no way to reduce sebum production short of taking prescriptive medicine from the doctor, and those with oily skin can only find ways to work around their skin type. But there’s a silver lining here: sebum production keeps the skin looking plump and moisturised, which means you won’t be as prone to wrinkles and fine line as someone with dry skin or who live in cold, dry climates.

How do I take care of combination skin?

Combination skin may seem like the trickiest skin type to handle, but all it really comes down to is finding the right product for your skin. Since having a combination skin type is essentially like having oily and dry skin at the same time, most of the skincare and makeup tips for oily skin types remain the same for the oily part of your face. As with oily skin, over-washing or using harsh facial cleansers will only make the oily parts of your face produce more oil, and further dehydrate the dry spots, making them look dull and flaky. Use a facial cleanser that is gentle on the skin, and wash your face with lukewarm water (make sure it’s not too hot, as hot water will further dry your skin out).

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Again, go with alcohol-free toners should you want to use one, as you want to avoid the drying effects of alcohol, which may increase sebum production in the oily parts of your face, or dehydrate the dry parts of your face. Non-comodogenic moisturisers are still recommended, but you may consider adding on a thicker layer or even using a heavier moisturiser, on the drier parts of your face, depending on the extent of the dryness. Exfoliation can be done on the oily parts of your face, though you could consider skipping the dry parts every other week, since exfoliation may make dry skin flake.

Those with combination skin types may not necessarily have to spend more on makeup! If you prefer to use powder make-up, consider adding more moisturiser underneath the drier parts of your face before you put on the powder. If you like liquids or creams, ensure that you set your make-up with adequate setting powder on top of the oilier parts, and carry around a compact foundation with you in case you feel the need to touch-up after blotting the oil. Cream blushers, bronzers and highlighters may sit better on the dry cheeks of combination skin types. Matte or dewy, it’s your choice depending on the extent of your oiliness or dryness of the skin.

At the end of the day, there is no hard and fast line separating oily and combination skin types. Everyone’s skin type is unique to themselves, and it is important that you monitor your skin closely in order to tailor your own skincare and make-up routine to what is best for you.