Why Is My Skin Always Oily Halfway Through the Day No Matter What?

Welcome to Ask A Beauty Editor, our new column in which Sarah Jacoby, SELF’s senior health and beauty editor, goes on the hunt to find the science-backed answers to all of your skin-care questions. You can ask Sarah a question at askabeautyeditor@self.com.

Hey, Sarah!

OK so I don’t consider myself to have super oily skin, but I’ve noticed that no matter what foundation/primer/setting powder I use, it ends up breaking up around my nose by the end of the day. In high school, I swore by those little blue blotting papers, and I’m sure they would still be helpful, but I figure there must be a better way to deal with this.

I’m assuming this means that I have a good amount of oil production around my nose, so are there any ingredients I should look for in a skin-care product or makeup product to help makeup in this area stay put throughout the day? I don’t want to use anything too harsh all over my face since I do have sensitive skin and rosacea. Is there anything I could use to combat oil specifically in this area?

—Casey G.

Ah yes, the nearly universal scourge of nose oil. Even when everything else is perfectly matte—or, at most, delightfully dewy—that little area around the nose glistens with defiance. It’s annoying, to say the absolute least.

First off, know that you are not imagining things—the area around your nose is home to a high concentration of sebaceous glands, Shari Lipner, M.D., Ph.D., dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, tells SELF. These are responsible for secreting sebum (oil) and the area is prime real estate for a buildup of sweat. So, it’s not uncommon for your nose to be an oil hot spot, even on an otherwise non-oily face.

So, what’s the best way to combat that stuff? It starts with the way you wash your face and how often you do it. “A common misconception is that, by washing the face more often or with harsher soaps, we will decrease oil at that time or later in the day,” Dr. Lipner says. But overwashing your face (especially with harsh acne cleansers) strips the skin of natural oils, which it then replaces with even more oil and sweat later on.

Basically, the body will always want to have a (thin, not visible) film of oil on the skin, Dr. Lipner says, and it will do whatever it takes to keep that there. That’s why Dr. Lipner recommends sticking with very gentle cleansers and only washing your face once or twice a day, depending on sweating and how much makeup you’re wearing.

The next factor is the amount of moisturizer you’re using. People with oily skin may not think they need to use moisturizer, but the opposite is true: “As long as you use a light moisturizer, it will hydrate and actually decrease oil production,” Dr. Lipner says. So, if you’re not already using a moisturizer every morning (ideally with at least 30 SPF), now is the time to start.

That said, those who are struggling with excess oil should not be using toner, which will only further dry out your skin leading to more oiliness, Dr. Lipner says.

Then, of course there’s the makeup you’re wearing. If you have oily skin, you should be paying special attention to only using oil-free or non-comedogenic products, which won’t clog your pores and will be less likely to contribute to oil, Dr. Lipner says.

And yes, in a pinch, those blotting papers are totally fine to use every so often, she says.

If you try and stick with all of this for a few weeks and still find that your skin always feels oily midday, that’s when it’s time to call in a board-certified dermatologist. They may prescribe you medication that can exfoliate and reduce the oil, like a retinoid, Dr. Lipner says. (And yes, you might be able to use them even if you have sensitive skin!).

Although there are a million over-the-counter exfoliating products, Dr. Lipner doesn’t suggest trying to go the DIY route on this one. At the point where you’re considering that, it’s time to see a derm instead.

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