Treating your oily summer skin without it drying out. (Photo: Christian Kettiger/Trunk Archive)
Attention oily skin types: Summer is coming and it’s time to get downright combative when it comes to your skin care. Fight oil. Control shine. Mattify at all costs—or the impending acne wins.
It’s true that sweatier conditions can cause zits to fester once dirt becomes trapped in pores, but here’s the rub: Adopting an aggressive battle plan to thwart increased oil production can cause oily skin types to actually go dry in the summertime (yes, even if your complexion becomes super shiny). This process disrupts the path to glowing, healthy skin just as much as any bout with blemishes.
“The periphery of the face has a lower density of oil glands and will be more prone to drying and wrinkling,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, a New York-based dermatologic surgeon and director of dermatologic surgery at New York Medical College. “If you see fine, superficial wrinkling of the skin, there is a good chance that it’s dehydrated and could use moisturizing. Of course, scaling or flaking is an extreme manifestation of dehydration and need for moisturization.”
Our fun-in-the-sun lifestyles also contribute to skin turning dry despite increased oil production. “Even though we are producing more sweat and having more sebaceous activity, we’re also drying skin out,” says Susan McCarthy, lead aesthetician at Auberge Spa at Calistoga Ranch resort in Calistoga, California. “We are washing our faces more, wearing more sunscreen, and if out in the sun all day, drying out the inner workings of the dermal layer, so skin is really getting more dehydrated.”
In short, your so-called oily skin is likely to turn into combination skin—with an oily T-zone and dry patches found along the perimeter that need major hydration. To avoid unwittingly falling into the dry-skin trap that befalls so many oily skin types this time of year, McCarthy suggests trying a more gentle regimen of skin care than the hardcore, oil-stripping products that many oily types gravitate toward in efforts to control greasiness.
“Use a mild cleanser instead of those made with alcohol and surfactants, which can strip the skin of its natural oils,” she says. For oily skin types in the summer, McCarthy also favors gentle exfoliators to those made with glycolic acid and retinol. To restore hydration, Engelman suggests hydrating twice a day to help repair your skin’s natural barrier. “I would not advise someone with oily skin to use ointments on their face, because they may risk causing acne,” she says. “Creams, emulsions, oils, or lotions should be enough to hydrate the skin and still keep it blemish-free.”
Try spot-treating dry patches of skin with a rich moisturizer that doesn’t feel heavy, like KINDri Los Angeles Orange Smoothie ($65). Hydrating oil-free serums like Antipodes Hosanna H2O Intensive Skin-Plumping Serum ($50) can provide another way to moisturize without the greasy look or feel.
Applying these skin quenchers directly after a hydrating toner, like belif Hungarian Water Essence ($42) offers another way to maximize hydration without leaving skin feeling sticky. “This can help moisturizer absorb more completely, instead of leaving skin tacky to the touch,” says McCarthy.
Finally, while it may feel instinctive to reach for whipped gel formulations when treating oily skin, both skin pros provide this caveat: “Gels actually tend to dry the skin more than hydrate it,” says Engelman. Indeed, many gel products contain drying alcohols, so McCarthy prefers those that are aloe-based.
As our skin’s oil production rises along with temperatures this summer, don’t declare war on your complexion—no matter how oily it gets. Instead, gently cleanse and exfoliate, then nurture it with inventive hydrators that diminish dry patches without making skin feel weighed down or slick. You may find that the path to radiant skin this summer is not only paved with the least resistance, but with skin aids you’ve been woefully avoiding all along.