Oily skin can seem almost impossible to battle. As someone who has had oily skin for over a decade, I know the majority of info on how to get rid of oily skin doesn’t really work.
I am sure many of you can agree.
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.
So how to make lasting changes to your skin? How to get rid of oily skin forever?
The secret is to combine multiple scientifically-proven treatments and strategies, 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
- Scientifically proven topical treatments for managing oily skin
- Scientifically proven natural supplements and herbs that help to reduce the hormone responsible for oily skin
Taken together, I have created 5 actionable strategies for you that combine all of the treatments and dietary guidelines necessary to slash oily skin naturally and for good.
Here are the dietary guidelines that will make your skin less oily, and overall more healthy looking and glowing!
5 ACTION STEPS FOR GETTING RID OF OILY SKIN NATURALLY
Oily skin is caused by hormones and genetics. People with acne-prone skin are often particularly sensitive to those hormones, mainly testosterone.
Testosterone from the blood gets converted to a much more potent form, called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), in your skin. DHT is the hormone that forces 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, 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.
When we think of sugar, many of us think of candy, 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, the 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.
Bottom line: Sugar causes insulin spikes, which leads to an increase in testosterone and DHT production in your skin, making your skin produce more oil (sebum). Avoid refined, processed sugars as much as you can by finding alternatives that you enjoy instead. 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
Good carbs, like those from vegetables and certain fruits, are not the enemy, though. Complex carbs are molecules where the simple sugars are bound up in a chain, called starch. Starch needs breaking down before those simple sugars can be released into your blood.
Complex carbs, including brown rice, quinoa, oats, etc, provide a slowly releasing sugar and won’t cause insulin spikes.
Even better are complex, fiber-rich carbs, usually found in vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, eggplant, peppers, etc. When the carbs are bound up by lots of fiber, the sugar gets slowly released into your blood, which means stable insulin levels.
For some people, even cutting out the obvious sugary foods might not be enough if they are getting too much ‘healthy’ sugar, which also causes insulin to rise.
For example, 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.
One indicator you can use is the glycemic index (GI) for each food you eat. GI is a measure of how quickly the certain food causes blood sugar to rise.
The point here is to simply be mindful of the healthy foods, such as the high GI fruit, that raise your blood sugar quickly, and see how well your skin tolerates them.
MANAGE INSULIN RESISTANCE TO REDUCE OILINESS FROM THE INSIDE
When your blood is flooded with a lot of sugar for prolonged periods of time, the pancreas pumps more and more insulin into the blood to regulate the blood sugar levels. Not surprisingly, appropriate blood sugar levels are of life-and-death importance.
What happens next is that 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 consider berberine, mint tea and Ceylon cinnamon, described below in the supplements section.
2. AVOID VEGETABLE OILS AND TRANS FATS COMPLETELY
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!).
Extra virgin olive oil and other healthier oils, like pumpkin seed oil, are ok when unheated.
3. USE TOPICAL TREATMENTS THAT REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF OIL PRODUCED BY THE SKIN
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 in the skin that increases the conversion of testosterone to DHT (which makes your skin oily).To reduce oiliness of your skin, keep your blood sugar stable and use DHT blockers.Click To Tweet
NON-COMEDOGENIC OILS HIGH IN LINOLEIC ACID
Linoleic acid is one of the weaker DHT blockers, but in my experience, it helps oily skin for one more, often overlooked reason.
Many people with acne and oily skin use harsh, over-drying skincare that actually makes the skin produce even more oil!
Skin that is dried out and dehydrated (meaning it lacks water) has seriously impaired skin barrier, so it will produce more and more oil to compensate in the attempt to keep itself moisturized.
I was one of those people who could wipe off the oil of their skin literally every 10 minutes. When I started using hemp seed oil and the oil cleansing method, my skin was finally not oily anymore (mostly on my T-zone), but rather normal.
My advice is to cut down on drying skincare, most commonly cleansers and (foaming) scrubs. This alone might mean a world of difference!
Nutiva Hemp Seed Oil – Organic & Cold-Pressed
Nature Certified Organic, Cold-Pressed, Hexane-free Grapeseed oil
How to use it: Use your chosen oil the same way as described for sea buckthorn oil above, or combine the two. Plus, you might also introduce my simple oil cleansing method to your routine for best results.
GAMMA-LINOLENIC ACID (FOUND IN EVENING PRIMROSE AND BORAGE OIL)
Among the 11 known types of omega 6, gamma-linolenic is one of the least common in nature.
You can use evening primrose oil (EPO) or borage oil on the skin to reduce oiliness, due to their high amount of GLA. Evening primrose contains 9% of the GLA, whereas borage oil contains about 23%, making it a better choice for oily skin. However, depending on how oily your skin actually is, any of them might be a good choice.
Barlean’s Evening Primrose Oil
Barlean’s Borage Oil
How to use it: Take one capsule of either EPO or borage oil, then massage it gently into the cleansed skin. Note that this might be too strong or irritating for certain people.
Even better, take a small tsp of the high-linoleic acid oil (such as hemp seed oil or grapeseed oil), then dilute the capsule of GLA supplement in it. Apply immediately to clean skin. Best done at night.
If you prefer not to make your own mix, this is a great organic, non-toxic and non-comedogenic serum perfect for oily skin that contains EPO: Pure & Radiant serum for oily skin.
GREEN TEA EXTRACT
If you have oily skin, and I gather you do since you are reading this article?:), let at least one of your skin care products have green tea extract in it!
Green tea makes the skin less oily by reducing the conversion to DHT with a substance called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a DHT blocker (evidence here, here and here).
Green tea extract can be found in moisturizers, serums, or daily SPF formulations.
Marie Veronique Everyday Coverage Tinted Sunscreen SPF 30 (this product is simply amazing, plus it mattifies SO well!)
Bottom line: Switch to using either non-comedogenic oils high in linoleic acid in your skin care (like grapeseed or hemp seed oil) and/or sea buckthorn oil. Alternatively, you can use some evening primrose oil diluted in the high-linoleic acid oils. Furthermore, use products with green tea extract, which is a powerful DHT blocker, helping to reduce the oiliness of your skin, especially after 4 weeks of usage.
In my FREE ebook, I break down the exact steps you need to balance the oil production of your skin naturally, plus some awesome and affordable DIY recipes! Download your copy here:
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. 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.
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: The usual starting dosage is 160-320mg of a standardized saw palmetto extract, or more if it is not standardized.
Nature’s Way Saw Palmetto Standardized, 160mg
It is a safe natural supplement, but it can cause some side effects like dizziness, especially when you first start taking it, so always 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. Choose zinc picolinate or zinc glycinate.
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.
However, there is a catch if you decide to take GLA supplements like EPO or borage oil.
Since GLA is omega 6, it can turn into 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. The point is to take it with some good quality omega-3 source.
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 is very strong, don’t take it for more than 3 months in a row, and only 6 days per week (1-day break).
Furthermore, berberine is known to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates in the gut, thus slowing down the blood sugar and insulin spikes. Additionally, it also helps with the gut repair.
How to use it: A typical dose is 500-1000mg daily. Take as directed.
My choice: Thorne Research Berberine-500
SPEARMINT TEA OR MINT INFUSED WATER
Spearmint tea has been clinically shown to act as a powerful anti-androgen when consumed daily.
It can be very beneficial for reducing oily skin if you have high free testosterone in your blood, which is the case with PCOS women.
The studies have shown that consuming spearmint tea daily, over several weeks, significantly reduced the free testosterone. The significance of this for oily skin is that less testosterone means less DHT to drive sebum production, leaving you with less oily and a more beautiful skin.
How to use it:
1. Boil 1L of fresh water
2. Pour it over 1 heaping tbsp of dried mint leaves
3. Leave for 10-15 min, then strain with a colander
I usually just let it cool down a bit, then pour into my 1L water bottle and drink it throughout the day.
If I have fresh mint (I just started growing some in a pot!), I will drink water infused with 2-3 sprigs of fresh mint (about 1L a day).
Ceylon cinnamon helps tremendously with controlling the blood sugar and insulin levels, the main offenders when it comes to managing oily skin.
If you have been guilty of eating too much sugar in the last months, it will help lower your fasting insulin levels.
There are even some preliminary indications that cinnamon can help regulate the monthly cycles of women, especially those with PCOS.
How to use it: Take up to 1 tsp of real Ceylon cinnamon daily with your meals or beverages.
5. GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D3 DAILY
If you are not feeling overwhelmed by now, I have a final bonus for you!:)
Vitamin D clears oily skin by reducing 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)
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 good natural supplement and topical treatment, in combination with the right diet, can really result in a much less oily skin over a month or so.
Time for questions! How are you battling your oily skin? Let me know in the comments!
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