It’s an annual ritual. As soon as we’re on the other side of Easter, and as plans for summer vacation looms, I break out the big guns. No, not the ice cooler and sun umbrella and picnic basket. No, I have a different type of summertime arsenal at the ready: my oil-control skin care.
You see, I have a complexion sweet spot — when the winter tightness on my cheeks melts away like a late season frost and before the torrential downpour of oiliness down my T-zone kicks into full gear. It’s a moment when I can relish in having almost normal-type skin, when I get a glimpse — the faintest of glimpses — of what it’s like to have a complexion that’s nonreactive and perfectly content.
Of course, like most spring seasons around the world, this sweet spot lasts all of two seconds.
So with the unofficial start of summer just around the corner, I’m once again stocking up on products that will tackle excess sebum, clogged pores, and mid-morning oiliness that melts away the hardiest of foundations like it’s my job. (And technically, it is.) That means ingredients like tea tree oil, witch hazel, salicylic acid and clay will once again enter my skin care lexicon. And since I’ve learned that it takes a village of skin care — from cleansing to sleep mask — to tackle overly oily skin all summer long, I look for products that are lightweight, soothing and eminently layerable.
Yes, the battle against a greasy T-zone starts with a good old fashioned cleanse. But not just any cleanse. Use too harsh or stripping of a cleanser and my skin will punish me by overproducing oil. As a teen, I used to think drying out my skin was combatting oiliness, but that’s a skin myth. Skin hydration deals with the amount of water in your skin, which is different from the amount of oil produced by your skin.
So I’ll start with something gentle and SLS-free, like ClarityMD Deep Pore Cleanser, which has 1% salicylic acid — key in penetrating clogged pores — as well as the antioxidant bakuchiol and skin-soothing chamomile. Murad Time Release Acne Cleanser features encapsulated salicylic acid, which continues working even after you rinse it off and slowly releases the oil-penetrating ingredient for up to eight hours, while amino acids and hyaluronic acid keep skin hydrated.
I like to follow up my cleanse with a hydrating toner with witch hazel to calm inflammation. Primary Raw DoYou Soy Milk Ferment Cleanse Toner does just that, and also hydrates with a base of aloe vera, instead of water. The Cleanse Toner also adds another layer of oil control with tea tree oil and salicylic acid, while hydrating with hyaluronic acid and snail secretion filtrate.
The serum or essence step is the most important in my skin care regimen, so I multi-treat, loading up and layering on different treatments, depending on my skin care needs. I’ll start with LJH Vita Propolis Ampoule, which contains 50% propolis extract. Propolis is one of my go-to ways to fight acne — the powerhouse ingredient is an antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. I’ll then layer on a serum with salicylic acid or tea tree extract, like CosRx BHA Blackhead Power Liquid, to my T-zone regimen. It’s got a double dose of salicylic acid in the form of willow bark water and betaine salicylate (no water in this formula, so no dilution). Its short ingredient list also features niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, so it’s not too harsh on my aging skin. It’s a simple, clean, liquid treatment that I pat onto my T-zone — no harsh smell (no smell of any kind, actually), no stinging, no fuss. While I can’t say that my blackheads have been eliminated completely, they do look smaller, so that’s already a plus.
One essence I’m eager to try is LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence, which contains 90% tea tree extract, as well as moisture-binding trehalose, because, again, you want to ensure that your skin is properly hydrated while you combat oiliness. I’ve heard great things about it in the blogosphere, and while I don’t know that it will necessarily eradicate my oil issues, it does seem like it will help minimize the length and severity of my oily T-zone’s BFF, hormonal cystic acne.
Which brings me to hydration. I’ve always had difficulty finding the right moisturizer for my oily T-zone. I want to make sure I’m not dehydrating my skin, but I don’t want to add to the greasy mess I’ll inevitably have by mid-morning, either. Enter Murad Anti-Aging Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30. This lightweight moisturizer is made for people like me who have the misfortune of suffering from wrinkles and acne. It’s got an “oil control complex,” including tea tree oil, to minimize oil and help prevent acne, while anti-aging ingredients like kombucha and humectants trehalose and hyaluronic acid help hydrate and neutralize free radicals. The best part of this lotion is its semi-mattifying finish, which is a huge plus when your mul-gwang starts to look more like mul-grease.
Another genius product is Paula’s Choice Shine Stopper Instant Matte. It’s not a hydrator but a treatment you dab onto your oily spots as the last step in your skin care regimen. (I use it after sunscreen.) Now, I’ve tried a ton of purported oil control primers and mattifiers, and most of the time, I find them to be merely silicone-heavy agents (think of the recent slew of “blur” products on the market) that not only make my foundation pill but only provide a momentary matte “look” without really controlling the oil. The Shine Stopper is different. It’s only got a little bit of dimethicone in its ingredient list, and it doesn’t have that icky, overly-slippery feel. My foundation doesn’t pill over this and while I’ve accepted that nothing is going to completely eradicated my hyperactive T-zone oil glands, this is the best I’ve found so far to keeping the oil to a palatable level.
In addition to daily maintenance, I’ll up my mask game in the summertime to at least once a week. A clay mask is a must, which does an excellent job of clearing out my pores and balancing sebum production — I’m noticeably less oily for at least a couple days after I mask. Clinique Pore Refining Solutions Charcoal Mask, with charcoal powder and mineral clay, does a great job of sopping up oil and tightening pores, and I love Estée Lauder Clear Difference Purifying Exfoliating Mask, which has soft clay and salicylic acid to fight oil and blemishes.
And because I’m a multi-masker as well as a multi-treater, I’ll bolster my weekly clay mask with the exfoliating Blithe Patting Splash Mask in the shower. The Soothing Green Tea version has — you guessed it — salicylic acid and tea tree oil to penetrate pores and exfoliate my T-zone.
Of course, just because I’m off in dreamland doesn’t mean the battle for my T-zone stops. Right before my head hits the pillow, I’ll apply a generous layer of the super lightweight LJH Probiotics Sleeping Cream. The sleeping cream contains Seamat extract to sop up excess sebum as my oil glands run amok for eight hours. So by the time my alarm goes off, instead of blinding like a disco ball, I like to think I’m more dewy, perhaps even glowing. As an added bonus, the cream has 50% probiotic extract, which works to restore my skin and fight free radical damage incurred during the day.
Because while the battle against my overactive oil glands will continue for another five months before I hit that complexion sweet spot again, the war against aging free radicals never ends.
Adapted from a story originally published on Glow Recipe.