Oily skin can seem almost impossible to battle. All those blotting papers, mattifying powders, primers, clay masks, oil-free moisturizers, none of them actually reduces the oiliness of your skin.
They can just make it look temporarily less oily. Trust me, I know.
For over a decade, I used to wipe off the oil from my skin literally every 10 minutes. I dreaded even looking at myself in the mirror! I wanted a dewy looking skin, not a greasy look I couldn’t control!
The before picture below doesn’t do it justice really (it was taken when I nearly cleared up my acne), but that’s all I could find.
It took me a long time to really figure out how to manage my oily skin. In fact, my skin is actually normal now (oh, the endless joy!).
The secret is to combine multiple scientifically-proven strategies and treatments, all of which I am about to share with you in this post.
Specifically, we will cover:
- Which hormone causes oily skin, and how to regulate it
- Which dietary rules you must follow to reduce the oiliness from the inside
- Which skincare to use to reduce the oiliness & mistakes to avoid
- Scientifically proven natural supplements that help to reduce the hormone responsible for oily skin
5 ACTION STEPS FOR GETTING RID OF OILY SKIN NATURALLY
Oily skin is caused by hormones and genetics. Yup, some of us are more prone to it than others! Androgen hormones (the testosterone group), which are also found in women, are the main reason for oily skin.
When testosterone from the blood comes over to the skin, it gets converted to a much more potent form, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is the hormone that forces the sebum-producing glands in your skin to make more sebum.
More DHT -> More sebum production -> oily skin!
To reduce oily skin, we have to try to reduce the amount of DHT, which is exactly what the next sections will show you how to do.
1. LIMIT THE SUGAR
The most important thing to remember diet wise is to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
When the blood sugar goes up (as after eating carbs), the pancreas pumps insulin into the blood, which signals to the cells to take up that sugar and store it. This increase in insulin causes insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) to increase as well.
Both hormones raise testosterone, which then converts to DHT in your skin, making it oily.
High insulin -> high IGF-1 -> high testosterone -> high DHT -> oily skin.
In addition, they make your skin more sensitive to that testosterone.
The first course of action is to cut out all refined sugars, which raise your blood sugar quickly, causing insulin spikes, and making your skin oily as a result.
When we think of sugar, many of us think of candy or donuts, but to really cut out all the refined sugar, you also have to cut out all the following foods (still not a complete list, but you get the idea):
- Agave syrup
- Corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates (bad due to the lack of fiber, eat whole fruit instead)
- Pancakes (due to the flour, ‘paleo pancakes’ might be ok)
- Chocolate (dark chocolate might be ok if you are not sensitive to caffeine and theobromine in it, both of which can trigger acne).
- All types of dough
- Most bought cereals except for unsweetened, 100% whole grain, gluten-free cereals (like gluten-free oats)
- Pasta & noodles
- Pizza (because of the flour in the dough)
- Corn & potato chips (this is bad on several levels!)
- Most granola bars, power bars, energy bars, etc (Even healthy bars can contain too much healthy sugar, like that from dates, honey, maple syrup, etc.)
- Rice cakes and corn cakes
- Honey mustard
As you can see, sugar is almost everywhere!
A special note about honey: Even though the real, raw honey isn’t refined, it is still a pure sugar and affects our health and insulin levels in exactly the same way that other sugars do, so you might want to limit it.
If you have oily skin, you need to work on decreasing the refined sugars and carbs in your diet.
Loading up on healthy fats and high-quality protein at each meal will help you curb the cravings and keep stable insulin levels.
CHOOSE COMPLEX AND FIBER-RICH CARBS TO KEEP YOUR INSULIN LEVELS STABLE
Complex carbs, including brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc, provide a slowly releasing sugar and won’t cause insulin spikes.
Also, when the carbs are bound up by lots of fiber, as in vegetables and certain fruits, the sugar gets slowly released into your blood, and you avoid insulin spikes.
However, high GI fruit like mangoes, pineapple, bananas, dates, and juices from the fruit, such as orange juice (that don’t contain the fiber to slow down the sugar release), all raise insulin too much and too quickly.
Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly the certain food causes blood sugar to rise. I would go for those under 50.
MANAGE INSULIN RESISTANCE TO REDUCE THE OILINESS FROM THE INSIDE
When your blood is flooded with a lot of sugar for prolonged periods of time, the cells are not sensitive to the incoming insulin anymore, simply because there is so much of it present all the time. This is called insulin resistance.
The problem is, if your cells are not sensitive to insulin, more and more insulin gets pumped into the blood to make these cells finally take up glucose (blood sugar).
What’s worse, this high level of insulin is making the cells even more desensitized, creating a vicious cycle.
The more sugar you eat, the less sensitive your cells are to insulin, and you can develop insulin resistance, which means chronically high insulin and testosterone!
If you think this might be your case, try to cut out processed sugar for a couple of weeks or so, and watch how your skin responds. You might also consider berberine supplement, described below in the supplements section.
2. AVOID VEGETABLE OILS AND TRANS FATS
Vegetable oils, especially those widely used for cooking, like sunflower or canola oil, increase the inflammatory response and oxidative stress in the body.
Insulin is highly prone to oxidation, and when it oxidizes, it becomes useless at stimulating insulin receptors on the cells. If a large proportion of your insulin is oxidized, your pancreas will simply pump out more insulin to compensate, causing insulin resistance and making your skin oilier as a result!
To counter this, you must absolutely avoid vegetable cooking oils and trans fats (like margarine), and cook your food only with coconut oil or grass-fed ghee.They are both stable natural fats, so they don’t oxidize under heat and don’t cause inflammation in the body (not to mention their many other health benefits!).
3. NATURAL SKINCARE ROUTINE THAT REDUCES THE OILINESS
The biggest mistake I was doing when trying to control my oily skin was to use too many harsh, overdrying products. Now I see how they only made my skin worse. It may be difficult for you to believe this at first because many such products are labeled to be for oily acne-prone skin.
However, when a product leaves your skin tight and dry, it has stripped the skin of its protective oils. In response, your skin will produce more oil to compensate in the attempt to keep itself moisturized.
You see, your skin needs its precious oils to be hydrated because they slow down the evaporation of water from deep within your skin. This loss of water is called Trans Epidermal Water Loss (TEWL), and is slowed down by your skin’s natural oils, ensuring your skin doesn’t get dehydrated.
In other words, your skin will try to produce more oil the more you dry it out with harsh products!
Dehydrated skin can be (and often is!) oily because the skin is trying to keep the little moisture it has with excess oil.
In conclusion, you want just the right amount of oil to manage the oily skin for good and have beautiful, dewy skin instead!
HOW TO FIX YOUR SKINCARE ROUTINE AND MANAGE OILY SKIN
- Avoid harsh cleansers, especially those that contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES), because they are very drying for the skin. If your skin feels squeaky clean, irritated, dry, tight, or red after cleansing or exfoliating, avoid that product! Your skin should feel soft and supple after cleansing, and you shouldn’t feel a desperate need to use a moisturizer.
- Avoid layering multiple products that contain exfoliating ingredients like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and other AHAs. This leads to overexfoliation, which only irritates your skin, making it produce more oil.
- Wash your skin no more than 2x per day, preferably only 1x per day (in the evening). In the morning, just splash some water on your face, or use a gentle toner like rose water on a cotton pad to wipe off the extra oil. Really, you will be amazed at how well this works!
- Avoid products that contain simple alcohols, labeled as Alcohol or Alcohol Denat., because they dry out the skin. Note that the moisturizing alcohols such as Cetyl or Cetearyl Alcohol are ok to use.
In the next section, I will offer you some natural alternatives to the usual medicated products for oily acne-prone skin, plus why and how they work to reduce the oiliness for good.
NON-COMEDOGENIC OILS HIGH IN LINOLEIC ACID NATURALLY REDUCE SEBUM PRODUCTION
Some of best natural, scientifically proven remedies that can help you manage oily skin are 5-alpha reductase inhibitors (DHT blockers). These substances inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase that converts testosterone to DHT in the skin.
DHT signals to your sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, so producing less DHT will lead to the less oily skin.To reduce oiliness of your skin, keep your blood sugar stable and use DHT blockers.Click To Tweet
Linoleic acid is one those DHT blockers, and is found in abundance in certain plant-based oils such as hemp seed oil or grapeseed oil.
Also, when you start using oils high in linoleic acid, they will not only suppress the sebum production, but you will also naturally cut down on harsh skincare that only makes oily skin worse!
Nutiva Hemp Seed Oil – Organic & Cold-Pressed
Nature Certified Organic, Cold-Pressed, Hexane-free Grapeseed oil
How to use it: Use your chosen oil instead of your moisturizer. Start in the evenings only, applying on a small area of your face (as a patch test). If your skin reacts well, you can start applying it on the entire face. You might also introduce my simple oil cleansing method to your routine for best results.
4. TAKE A DHT BLOCKER
The following supplements are rich in substances that inhibit the 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. Again, reducing the amount of DHT will reduce the oiliness of your skin.
Saw palmetto supplement is the extract of the fruit from the Serenoa repens plant. Being rich in beta-sitosterol and stigmasterol, it is perhaps the most potent DHT blocker out there. I use it personally to help balance my oily T-zone and prevent some hormonal breakouts on my chin.
Saw palmetto is widely used by doctors as a treatment for an enlarged prostate, which is believed to be due to too much DHT. However, it is not reserved just for men, and it can be great for women, too!
Here are some studies confirming the DHT blocking effect of saw palmetto:
This study found that saw palmetto (Serenoa repens extract) caused a statistically significant drop in DHT after three months in volunteers.
This study found that saw palmetto inhibits the 5-alpha reductase enzyme, which is responsible for the creation of DHT. The scientists said that there was a significant “therapeutic advantage of Serenoa repens (saw palmetto) over other 5-reductase inhibitors”.
How to use it: It’s a safe natural supplement, but it can cause some side effects like dizziness, especially when you first start taking it, so take it with meals.
Many acne sufferers are deficient in zinc, and it might help oily skin too, as it is a relatively weak DHT blocker.
It is amazing for the skin and skin repair, so you can’t go wrong with this one, although it might not reduce oily skin very much by itself. Zinc picolinate and zinc glycinate are good choices.
My choice: Garden of Life Raw Zinc
GAMMA-LINOLENIC ACID (FOUND IN EVENING PRIMROSE AND BORAGE OIL)
GLA is a moderately strong DHT inhibitor, but can, in addition, have great positive impacts on the skin health, especially if you have dehydrated, weakened, and dull skin that lacks elasticity.
Since GLA is omega-6, it can turn into the acne-aggravating type 2 prostaglandins. Taking it with plenty of omega-3s makes GLA turn into the beneficial, type 1 prostaglandins.
How to use it: Take one capsule of either evening primrose oil or borage oil with a tbsp of flaxseed oil or 1 tbsp of freshly ground flaxseed (I grind mine in a coffee grinder) or cod liver oil (best one available here).
Barlean’s Evening Primrose Oil
Barlean’s Borage Oil
Note that the above two choices have quite a lot of GLA, approx. 200mg each. Always check the labels how much GLA you get.
Berberine is not really a herb, but an alkaloid derived from plants in the Berberis family. It is also not a DHT blocker, but because it helps with the insulin sensitivity, hence lowering the androgens that make your skin oily, it is definitely worth mentioning.
Especially if you suspect the sweet tooth might be behind your oily skin!
Berberine acts as a natural antibiotic, which is perhaps why it can be so helpful with acne, too. Since it’s very strong, don’t take it for more than 3 months in a row, and only 6 days per week.
Furthermore, berberine is known to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates in the gut, thus reducing the insulin spikes.
How to use it: A typical dose is 500-1000mg daily. Take as directed.
My choice: Thorne Research Berberine-500
5. GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D3 DAILY
If you are not feeling overwhelmed by now, I have a final bonus for you!:)
Vitamin D helps oily skin by reducing the insulin levels and by improving your insulin sensitivity.
Improved insulin sensitivity = less oily skin. Insulin resistance = very oily skin.
Your body makes all the Vitamin D it needs for a few days in just 10-15 minutes of full-body sun exposure, depending on your latitude and skin pigmentation.
The darker your skin, and further away from the equator you live, the longer you’ll need to stay in the sun.
Vitamins A and D work together in the body and need to be in balance, which is why I recommend taking cod liver oil, and have taken it myself for over 7 years now. It is not only rich in natural vitamin D but also vitamin A and beneficial omega-3s (EPA and DHA).
Check out this blog post for my recommendations and how to select a good omega-3 supplement:
Related: Omega-3 – The Best Supplement For Clear Skin (But Don’t Make These Mistakes)
However, even the amounts of vitamin D3 present in the cod liver oil might not be enough, especially during wintertime and dark winter months. We may need up to 5000IU daily to maintain healthy vitamin D3 levels in our blood.
My choice: Doctor’s Best Vitamin D3 2000IU
When trying to get rid of oily skin, there is no doubt that the diet has to be in place first. Only then you can fix the poor genetics by the right supplements that slow down the conversion to DHT and make your skin less oily.
If you just take supplements, without working on your diet, you might not notice much difference.
However, I must admit that even if you do virtually everything right diet-wise, your androgen receptors in the skin might still react to any DHT it comes over to the sebocytes (sebum producing glands in your skin), resulting in oily skin.
This is why a good natural supplement and suitable topical treatment, in combination with the right diet, can really result in a much less oily skin over a month or so.
In radiant skin health,
Time for questions! How are you battling your oily skin? Let me know in the comments!
*Some of the above links are affiliate links. Thank you for your support!
P.S. Do you want even more tips for reducing oily skin and transforming it into a beautiful dewy skin? I’ve got a FREE Guide for you with my best 15 tips! Fill in your details in the form below, and I will send it over to you straight away!