Adult, Oily, Acne-Prone Skin In Summer. Part II: Skincare

Reactive skin is a PITA once you’re not in your teenage or twen years anymore. Throw in the summer heat, and you’re facing a drama. Or are you not?

Now if you think “Ha, it took her MORE THAN A WEEK to write about getting hold of oily, breakout-prone skin?” – you’re as wrong as could be.
It took me a godawful…
…20 years.

And it will take you quite a few minutes to get through this post, too – just because all I’ve got to say, knowledge earned by reading, talking, asking questions and suffering through all kinds of poor “expert advice” simply can’t be packed into one funny hipster listicle (though I’ve tried, you guys! I’ve tried!).

Step 1: Cleaning the Augean stables of BS or:
Reality Check

Now beauty editors and beauty bloggers alike churn out post after post, article after article and, let’s be open here, advertorial after advertorial on the topic of oily adult skin that’s either prone to acne or suffers “stress-induced” breakouts. Plus: about the same skin in the circumstances of summer heat, office a/c and beach holidays.
Usually their skincare tips come with a shipload of product placements, or sometimes the whole “skincare special” is “brought to you by” a beloved ad customer. That’s a nice system, albeit long past its glossy print glory, and not my topic today. My point is: selling their stuff is their #1 priority. Your skin problems are not the main focus of a system designed to make money.

After all, if all the patented, fancy-named creams and lotions worked, we’d all look 22 without a single shot of Botox, and I’m yet to see a non-photoshopped beauty advert.advertisement

The somewhat blurred and too easily ‘forgotten’ truth is – our skin is an Organ, and as such, it has Only Two Natural Conditions:
Healthy and out of balance.

Like all other organs, our liver, our eyes, our hearts, our lungs…, or skin, too, is designed to work perfectly on its own, given that you provide it with enough water and nutrients from inside out. Or, to quote a renowned expert:

Healthy skin doesn’t need moisturisers.”
– Professor Uwe Trefzer, MD (Dermatologikum)

NB: Male vs. female skin is questionnable:
Some dermatologists tend to believe that “skin is skin as bones are bones”, others argue that ”hormones, dear sirs!” and others again say that we’re all perfectly individual. Pick one please, and what would you like for topping?

So. Back to the topic.

Now whatever “out of balance” or “unhealthy” skin means, it is just that in the first place: sick.

What do we do with a sick organ?

In terms of school medicine, we go and see a doctor.
In terms of holistic medicine (my favourite), we go and see a doctor aaaaaand an apt nutritionist.

Step 2: Breakout Treat, Summer Heat, Oily Skin or:
Get Help

Oily skin or breakout-prone skin is reactive skin. Or: reacting skin.
Excess sebum is a reaction as are breakouts. In fact, dry skin is a reaction as well.
Bacteria and face mite (“Whaaaaat?” – Yes), stress-induced inflammations, enviromentally infuenced autoimmune reactions, food intolerances and allergies to cosmetics or personal care products or anything that had contact with you skin (fashion jewellery, accessories, oh and that scarf you just picked from the dry cleaners!), there are so many, many things to pick from that can get our skin out of balance.

And it’s your job alone to find out what makes your skin react.

Now don’t get me wrong, when I say it’s your job alone. You should rely on the knowledge of doctors and nutritionists. If you’re lucky enough to find good professionals, they are your best partners.
You need them.
But only you live 24/7 in your skin. Only you can feel from your experience if things work or don’t work. Don’t be a piece of vegetable once you’re seeing a doctor.
Be active, be informed, ask questions, briefly: help the professionals help you.

Here are a few ideas what you and your doctor together with your nutritionist could want to look into:
1. Vitamin and micronutrient levels – are there deficiencies?
2. Hormonal balance & blood screen – something wrong there? Inflammations? What are the reasons?
3. Allergies and food intolerances – now don’t be fooled, symptoms can vary dramatically from skin reactions to gastrointestinal to mental reactions. In fact, my own wheat allergy symptoms included a depressive mood, headache, fatigue and concentration difficulties!
4. + Whatever your doc thinks might be a good idea to look at.
5. Are you well hydrated? Do you maintain a healthy lifestyle? – Dehydrated skin that lacks nutrients tends to get dry or oily in order to protect itself. Heavy smokers rarely have dewy-fresh skin. Alcohol destroys your face contour faster than you think.
6. Are you using cosmetics with harsh, drying or irritating ingredients? Do you use cosmetics that contain allergens (view #3)?

Step 3: Simplify Your Skincare

black-cumin-seed-aleppo-soap-konjac-spongeThere are three key ingredients to getting your skin back into balance:
1. Avoiding crap. As you’ve seen above, docs and nutritionists will help you understand what’s bad for you personally.
Plus you’d want to check out the basic, yet sometimes forgotten hygiene topics I’ve discussed in the post 5 Beauty Resolutions for Overcoming Breakouts.

Consider checking your hair care routine for skincare mistakes:
your shampoo, your conditioner as well as your styling products can be a poor choice for your skin condition.

As an example: I avoid not only all animal products, palm-oil based and harsh synthetic ingredients, but also seemingly safe and natural oils such as coconut oil (read on to find out more about oils) that are comedogenic, and all wheat-based products to which I am allergic.

2. Loading up on the good stuff inside and out!
This means: find a fuss-free, simple skincare routine (read on) and eat Ze Good Stuff (more in Part III of this series).

3. Being consistent.
That’s really the one and only, dull, old and boring, yet super effficient key to any success.

Efficient skincare for oily adult skin that’s also prone to breakouts should be Drastic:

Ditch everything, don’t wear makeup
and wash your face with water.
Calm your mind.
Follow a healthy lifestyle custom-made for you, eat healthy,
drink enough water;
Work out, get enough sleep, get your medical problems “fixed”
if you have found any,
and your skin will heal itself from inside out.

Or, if you, like me, are not living in a social vacuum, try this slower, but more “accepted” or doable approach:

1. If you wear makeup, you’ll need the least pore-clogging makeup and a very good, effective makeup removal product.

My personal solution:
I have sworn by pure oils and liquid soap, but got obsessed with this super-efficient, gentle Pai Skincare cream cleanser lately.
If the musslin cloth feels too harsh on certain days, I use a Konjac sponge instead.
For makeup, I use the Everyday Minerals Jojoba Base in ‘Cream’ that I apply with a wet brush to avoid breathing in the dust.

2. If you don’t wear makeup, use a gentle, safe for You to use (allergies etc.) liquid soap with a slighly acidic pH-value to help rebalance your skin and strengthen its natural protective barrier.

3. Avoid conventional moisturisers, opt for a high quality face oil (hold on for my tips) and… mineral water.
A tip: apply just a few drops of oil to damp skin – oils applied to dry skin can sometimes make it drier.

For sunscreen, check out S.T.A.C.Y., or my personal strategy designed following the recent research, and get inspired.
I will not lie: it’s not exactly a walk in the park to marry sunscreen to skincare for oily and acne-prone skin.

You’ll want to look for non-comedogenic oils that beauty experts like to call “lightweight”. The ratings vary from source to source, but it’s pretty safe to say that most people find coconut oil, olive oil, wheat germ oil, soybean oil, peach and apricot kernel oil, linseed oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, almond oil, sunflower oil, and cacao butter Highly to Moderately Comedogenic, while there’s also a “grey area” of oils that different skins react to in different ways (including such gorgeousness as rosehip oil, avocado oil, safflower oil, castor oil and tocopherol or Vitamin E). Most sources do agree on following Non-Comedogenic Oils:
Argan Oil, Hemp Seed Oil, Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter Broccoli Seed Oil

You could also look into oils rich in linoleic fatty acid – one that helps maintain healthy skin and prevent it from going wild on the sebum:
evening primrose oil, grapeseed oil (can be comedogenic), safflower oil (can be comedogenic), wheat germ oil (can be comedogenic and provoque an allergic reaction), pumpkin seed oil, hemp seed oil, raspberry seed oilblack cumin seed oil.

Acne patients have also been shown to have low levels of linoleic acid in their skin surface lipids. To explain this observation, the hypothesis is advanced that the linoleate concentration in human sebum depends on the quantity of linoleic acid present in each sebaceous cell at the commencement of its differentiation and on the extent to which this initial charge is diluted by subsequent endogenous lipid synthesis in each sebaceous cell. A corollary hypothesis holds that low concentrations of linoleate in sebum impose a state of essential fatty acid deficiency on the cells of the follicular epithelium and induce the characteristic response of hyperkeratosis. Both hypotheses could hold […].”
– A 1986 (!) study on essential fatty acids and acne

My favourite oils or products containing the beneficial oils are:
Black cumin seed oil based Aleppo soap (vegan, palm oil free)
Pai Rosehip Oil
Pure broccoli seed oil
Pure raspberry seed oil (this amazing oil is great natural sunscreen, offering both UVA and UVB protection at a whopping SPF of 25-50!)
Jojoba oil infused with natural essential oils – these are actually designed by Green Love as natural perfumes, but I boldly go where no man has, errr use them as super-efficient face serums: jasmine to kill the wrinkles, citrus to erase tiny sun/scar discolourations and all I can say is: perfume turned serum FTW!

Another favourite of mine is the palm-free Dr. Hauschka Clarifying Toner that works great for men and women, and doubles as a fantastic After-Shave Lotion for guys. The smell reminds of a tisane and evaporates quickly, and the toner really helps maintain the skin fresh and radiant.
It contains organic alcohol, so it’s great after a deep cleanse or a cleansing face mask. clarifying-toner-hauschka-skincare-oily-skinDuring tropically hot and humid nights I use it alone as night care, without any added lotion or cream, and wake up to a very refreshed look. Well, lately I’ve been applying my jojoba wonder serums to parts of my face, but only since I’ve hacked them and since the temperatures here dropped 😉

But hey, with the mercury rising, isn’t reactive skin served even more to react to?
Yes, heat.heat-and-skincareAnd this is where simple, cooling water sprays kick in.
Go to the pharmacy and get a large bottle for your bathroom and a small one to carry with you or to keep in your office.
And thank me later!

Let me finish on this sunny note, Adventurers.
That’s been a lot of stuff in just one post,
and I hope you’ve found your concerns addressed.
Thoughts? Objections? TL;DR?

To remind you, the first part of this series about oily skin and summertime skin care was dedicated to mattifying make-up, and you can find it here.


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

19 Responses

  1. Such an informative post! I’m quite distressed with my acne-prone skin, especially in summer time. I think I will consult some doctors and look into my diet, hopefully my skin condition will be improved.

  2. Wow, thanks for giving this food for thoughts. I have acne prone skin, react in a bad way to a lot of oils and I’m still searching for a routine that keeps my skin happy. You gave me some new ideas about which oils to try and what to look into some more, thanks so much for it.

  3. I did read it all, from top to bottom. My skin has settled down remarkably well in recent years but I do remember days when the water spray and the mineral water were skin savers.

  4. Heather in Arles

    I am still taking in all of this – some of it was surprising to me – and will get back to you but as always say thank you for the fantastic, informed advice on how to take better care of ourselves in these trying times…

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