Cosmetics companies everywhere seem to be obsessed with giving you a matt, shine-free finish to your skin, making those of us with skin that tends to be a little on the shiny side – i.e. those of use with natural human skin – scrambling for products that will help us reach these near-impossible standards, especially if you have naturally oily skin. If your skin has a shine to it, either all the time or towards the end of the day, you are not alone, and should not be pressured into feeling bad about your skin.
In fact, letting your skin have a natural shine is perfectly healthy, as everybody’s skin needs a level of surface oil, or sebum, in order to function properly. This week on #SkinTheKnow, we’re going to be talking about why exactly your skin needs sebum, what a healthy complexion should look like, and how to manage oily skin in a way that is healthy and safe.
What is sebum?
Sebum is the natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands and then flows onto the surface of the skin. These glands are attached to every hair follicle all over the skin and scalp because, whether cosmetics companies want you to know it or not, your skin really needs the oil that it produces.
While being completely shiny all over your body and scalp probably won’t ever be a desirable look, sebum performs many functions that your skin cannot live properly without. One of these functions is to lubricate your skin and keep it soft and supple – skin without any oil would be completely dry and brittle, and wouldn’t be able to stretch and flex as your body moves. Ouch!
One of the most important functions of sebum, however, is that it creates a protective barrier known as the acid mantle, which is an invisible layer on your skin comprised of a mixture of oil and sweat (we know that doesn’t sound too pleasant, but trust us, you don’t want to get rid of it!). The acid mantle has a slightly acidic pH and protects your skin against a portion of the microorganisms that could cause infection, as well as chemical irritants, pollution particles and other ecotoxicants. It acts as your skin’s primary barrier function; its first line of defence to protect and maintain the skin’s integrity – the second part of your skin’s barrier function is lipid bilayers of the epidermis, which hold your skin cells together and prevent moisture from evaporating too quickly.
Stripping away the acid mantle, either by excessive cleansing for example or by using an astringent toner containing a lot of alcohol, is stripping away this natural protective layer, leaving your raw skin exposed to the elements.
This exacerbates existing conditions, such as acne, rosacea or dry skin:
– Acne is made worse as your skin is now more prone to inflammation, or you may even make any underlying inflammation worse, making acne break-outs more likely.
– Rosacea sufferers, or those with particularly sensitive skin, will now be more susceptible to reacting to irritants and external triggers
– Dry skin will become even more dehydrated as, without the acid mantle, moisture in the skin will find it more easy to escape.
How much is too much?
We would ask ‘how much is normal?’, but in our experience, there is no such thing as ‘normal’skin; every individual’s skin is as unique as their fingerprint, and there is no such thing as ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Having said that, those prone to having particularly oily skin will notice a shine first thing in the morning, which will typically cover the majority of the face, if not all of it. Combination oily skin will show this shone mostly in the T-Zone, which is where the concentration and level of activity of the sebaceous glands are higher.
‘Normal’ skin – if we must call it that – will probably not notice any shine in the morning, but will develop a shiny T-Zone by the end of the day; it may not be very obvious, but can show up more clearly when photographed, or under strong lighting.
Dry skin won’t show any kind of shine, as it produces very little oil, and is usually most common in those over the age of 60, as the skin’s natural oil production gradually declines with age. If you are under 60 and find yourself in this group, it’s more likely the result of dehydration, and not to do with having skin that is genetically drier.
What can you do about excess oil?
Oil production is regulated by testosterone, a hormone present in both men and women, which activates the oil-producing sebaceous glands. Testosterone is controlled by the highly complex endocrine system, and the amount of oil you produce is determined by your genetics, so it’s very difficult to control how dry or oily your skin ends up being.
You do, however, have some level of control.
You need to remember that your body is all about balance; if you try stripping away any excess sebum, your body will automatically work to produce more, and usually will try to over-compensate and produce more oil than you had in the first place.
If you suffer from acne as a result of having excessively oily skin, invest in a decent acne treatment that will target both the causes and the symptoms of acne – FYI, we’ve written an article about how to best choose the right products for your skin, but long story short, make sure you pick a brand that specifically states that they treat acne. If it doesn’t actually say the word ‘acne’, chances are it won’t work all that successfully.
With the right treatment, you can tackle your acne troubles without the backlash from your skin, keeping your skin healthy for long-term relief.
Don’t dull your shine!
Forget what beauty and cosmetics companies are telling you; shine is nothing to be ashamed of. Without a counter-top full of mattifying make-up and a professional photoshop artist, there is no one who has natural, healthy, shine-free skin. It just doesn’t exist.
Now, as we well know, excess oil and shine can be problematic, but that doesn’t mean you should try to eradicate it altogether. Remember, oil is healthy, protective, and keeps your skin pliable and wrinkle-free. You may not want oily skin now but trust us, you’ll be glad of it in future when your skin doesn’t dry out!
So keep that natural, healthy glow, and embrace the shine!
SkinMed® provide clinically proven skin solutions, which, unlike cosmetic brands, are medically licensed in the treatment of many skin conditions and suitable for almost all skin types, with thousands of successful users across the UK and Europe.
The products were created through decades of experience, in collaboration with top dermatologists from all around Europe. Professor Tony Chu, President of the Acne and Rosacea Association UK (ARA UK), endorses and prescribes the products for his patients – you can be certain you’re in the right hands.
If you would like to find out where your local SkinMed® accredited clinic near you, all you need to do is get in touch. We have hundreds of clinics country-wide and our dedicated team will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
We are also offering free skin consultations at many of our clinics for all our loyal customers. If this sounds like something you would be interested in, please let us know and we can find the nearest clinic to you offering a consultation free of charge.