Oily skin gets a bad rap. From patent leather-y shine to breakouts, it’s the skin type most of us wish we didn’t have. But if you ask many dermatologists, they’ll say that it seems to age the most gracefully.We picked the brains of dermatologists Jeannette Graf, M.D., and Joshua Zeichner, M.D., (both are assistant professors at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City) to find out why.
While the jury is still out on exactly why oily skin seems to age better, we do know that “natural oils help lubricate the skin and may help minimize the effect of environmental stresses,” says Zeichner. Think of it as built-in moisturizer.Graf agrees that natural moisture may be one of the reasons oily skin remains smoother and less wrinkled as it ages. But she offers up a second possible reason, which is that “we produce vitamin E in our sebaceous [oil] glands.” A 1999 study reported in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology found that oil gland secretion delivers vitamin E to the skin.What’s all the fuss about vitamin E? It’s a natural antioxidant, says Graf. It protects skin from environmental damage, and it ups our “NPH—natural protection factor,” she adds.
So the more sebum (er, oil) you produce, the more vitamin E will be delivered to your skin, which gives more protection from things like the sun and air pollution. “More protection means more anti-aging,” says Graf.Does this mean oily skin types can stop wearing SPF? Not quite. But you should do everything you can to avoid stripping this precious, protective oil from your skin, no matter how tempting it is to obliterate grease with a million washes, scrubs and toners.
This means avoiding harsh cleansers, exfoliators and acne products. Instead, opt for gentle, pH-balanced cleansers over traditional bar soap. “In today’s world, most cleansers designated as facial cleansers will be the right pH,” says Graf. No need to spend a ton of money there—drugstore washes such as Olay Sensitive Foaming Face Wash, $5, get the job done. When shopping for acne products, choose ones formulated with salicylic acid, such as Dermalogica Overnight Clearing Gel, $48, which gently unclogs pores.
You’ll also want to steer clear of skin-stripping toners or scrubs that leave your skin pink or flushed. “If you feel irritation or tightness, you’ve overdone it,” says Graf. To minimize shine without compromising your skin’s natural protective barrier (or oils), “primers or mattifiers are great options,” says Zeichner.
A few to try: Avéne Mattifying Fluid, $26, Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets, $5, and Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light, $36.Finally, if you’re still not convinced that having oily skin is actually a stroke of good luck, consider this: Skin naturally gets drier as we age, which is why dewy skin with a natural sheen looks youthful. Oily skin will retain that sheen for longer, thus giving off an aura of youth well into old age.