acne + breakouts

10 min read

Can oily skin be dehydrated?

the short answer is yes. here’s how to prevent dehydration in oily skin.

can oily skin be dehydrated?

Our skin, especially on the face, is one of the most intricate parts of our body. It can produce sweat when we’re hot, appear red when we’re flustered, become bumpy in texture from a reaction to something, or even peel when we’ve spent a little too much time under the sun.

One of the most essential functions of our skin is producing oil, and it’s a role that shouldn’t ever be underestimated. In fact, it’s super vital for our skin to keep producing sebum in order for it to be as healthy as possible. But did you know that the amount of oil that you produce daily comes down to genetics most of the time, and it’s closely linked to your hormones? This causes some people to have oilier skin than others.

So, when it comes to describing oily skin, we immediately think about skin that looks shiny from excessive oil production. This is definitely true, but the tricky thing is that oily skin can actually be dehydrated too. Confusing, right?! Let's start with the basics.

why does our skin produce oil?

Besides genetics and hormones, the amount of oil your skin produces can also be linked to something as simple as your body from undergoing stress. It is a vicious cycle: stress can cause your adrenal glands to produce more hormones called cortisol, cortisol can lead to your skin producing less hyaluronic acid (which leads to a lack of moisture) and more sebum, dehydration can lead to your skin producing even more sebum, which can then lead to breakouts. Whilst this isn’t the only way your skin becomes oily, it is one of the more common ways, especially for younger skin.

what’s the difference between hydration and oil?

When your skin is dehydrated, it technically means that it’s lacking in hydration or water, which is totally different to oil or sebum. In the same way, oil can’t replenish your skin with hydration; only water can.

Whether we like it or not, our skin produces sebum via our sebaceous glands all over our skin; it’s an essential function in order to keep our skin healthy and protect us from environmental aggressors. To be specific, these oils play an important role in protecting our skin from cracking by lubricating it. This goes for all skin types - we’re talking sensitive, dry, normal, combination and definitely oily.

how does oily skin become dehydrated?

There are so many reasons that can lead to oily skin becoming dehydrated. For starters, extended sun exposure can dry out skin. This can eventually lead to your sebaceous glands producing even more oil to compensate for any moisture lost during your sun-baking session (and we do hope you’re wearing sunscreen!).

Another way oily skin can become dehydrated is exposure to air-conditioning, which is common for people who go to school in a classroom or work in an office that like to pump cold air for circulation. It sure keeps us cool, but it can be detrimental to our skin health, that’s for sure.

And of course, one of the leading perpetrators of oily skin that’s dehydrated is if you’re not drinking enough water everyday. Your skin definitely shows signs of dehydration when your body doesn’t get enough water, so always remember to keep a water bottle by your side whenever you’re on the go.

can my skincare be drying out my oily skin?

If you have oily and acne-prone skin, we have some bad news for you: the products that you’re using to stop little blemishes from popping up can actually be stripping your skin of moisture in the long run.

For instance, the function of topical retinoids increases your skin’s rate cell turnover, which can leave your skin feeling dry and looking flaky as a side effect. Another ingredient commonly found in anti-acne treatments is benzoyl peroxide. The purpose of this ingredient slows down the rate of which your skin produces sebum and can lightly exfoliate it, also leaving your skin dry.

Long story short… oily skin needs balance in order to not produce so much oil. When you use products that are too drying, it triggers a cycle of dehydration that can irritate skin and make chronic oiliness worse. So, pick a cleanser that removes excess oil within stripping skin of essential hydration. This is why it’s extra important to make sure you’re keeping an eye on your skin’s hydration on a daily basis.

what does dehydrated oily skin look and feel like?

Typically for oily skin, dehydration looks totally normal to the naked eye; it’s only when you look at your skin up close with a microscope or via a complimentary Face Mapping appointment at a Dermalogica store that you can tell that your oily skin is dehydrated. Dehydrated oily skin can generally feel tight and look dull, but this isn’t always the case. Your skin might even slightly wrinkle when you pinch it instead of holding its shape or you might find little dry patches around your brows or nose. Or, dehydrated skin can look slightly irritated and show signs of redness, like it’s inflamed. Due to the inconsistency of what dehydrated oily skin can look and feel like, it often goes undiagnosed, and most people don’t even know that they have it!

what are some ways we can treat dehydrated oily skin with skincare?

We get it - dehydrated oily skin can still make you look almost too dewy, especially by midday. That’s why you should reach for these kinds of skincare products:

Soap-free cleansers, like our clear start breakout clearing foaming wash, are a must-have for anyone with oily skin as it can remove grime and makeup and gently degunk your pores without disturbing the pH balance of your skin. Cleansing should also be done when you wake up and before you go to bed - no excuses. Just stick to cleansing twice a day; any more, and you could be stripping your skin of essential oils.

Another thing you should be doing for your skin is exfoliating two to three times a week, unless advised otherwise by your professional skin therapist. Regular exfoliation can actually help your skin control oil production and clear out your pores, as well as improve overall skin texture. Not sure where to start? Go with Clear Start's Breakout Clearing Foam Wash; This breakout-fighting, foaming wash clears away dead skin cells, dirt and excess oils that clog pores and cause breakouts. Gentle, non-stripping formula is safe for use daily am + pm.

An easy way to top up hydration levels through the day is with a toner, such as our Clear Start Micro-Pore Mist. The silky liquid is boosted with ingredients like cucumber extract that can quickly refresh your skin, niacinamide to address the appearance of oversized pores and brighten your complexion, and most importantly, wild rose hips flavonoid complex to reduce shine.

Another way to supercharge your skincare regimen with extra hydration is with a serum. Go with something that’s water based and contains hyaluronic acid or vitamin E; these two ingredients are known to be super nourishing without disturbing your skin’s oil production levels.

Your choice of moisturizer should also be carefully considered when rehydrating parched oily skin. This is where our newly launched Clear Start Cooling Aqua Jelly comes in; the super-lightweight texture melts into skin almost instantly upon application, and it has a cooling effect that will wake your skin up. On top of that, we’re pretty obsessed with how it can curb excess oil, but still make you look really glowy through the day. One of the key ingredients in this must-have moisturizer is hyaluronic acid. Despite having acid in its name, it’s actually a super-hydrator and magnet for moisture found in your skin. Fact: it can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water, plumping up your skin as soon as you apply it. And that’s not all: this new moisturizer also contains blue algae extract to nourish, blue tansy flower oil and blueberry extract to soothe and protect, and bioflavonoid complex to reduce your skin’s production of oil. All you need is a tiny pea-sized amount, and you can use it twice a day (morning and night). Clever stuff.