Problems of an oily skin

Oily skin conditions have trademark symptoms large pores, blackheads and dullness.
Healthy eating habits and cleansing can give softness to your skin, says Sita Mehta

THE largest organ in the body our skin is not only the shield that protects the inside of us from the outside, but also creates the visual aspects of any human being. Of all skin types, an oily skin condition has poured billions of dollars into the cosmetic industry and is one of its primary monetary contributors. Every pimple-faced teenager is a source of income to the industry that promises all sorts of miracles.

Contrary to popular notion, oily skin reacts differently, depending on the sort of climatic conditions the person is influenced by. The basis behind the workings of oily skin is always the same, but how oily skin reacts in a drier or colder climate versus humid places or even manmade ones as in an aircraft or air-conditioned office is essentially varied in intensity.

Most soaps and cleansers tend to be alkaline, which can over-stimulate oily skin
Most soaps and cleansers tend to be alkaline, which can over-stimulate oily skin

For the most part oily skin conditions have trademark symptoms oily surface, leading to thick skin texture, large pores, blackheads or pimples in some cases and dullness. These conditions come about because the sebaceous glands under the skin surface are overactive in producing sebum, a naturally healthy skin lubricant. Excess sebum can be an outcome of not only hereditary but also hormonal changes during puberty or pregnancy. When the surface of the skin gets excessively oily, dead cells collect around the pores, making for the pores to open up and stretch more. This in turn makes the skin susceptible to getting blocked not only from the dead cells but also sweat, grim, dust and various air pollutants that settle on the skin. Anyone or all of these factors can react along with the oxidising oil on the skin and create a sort of plug for the pores, stretching it even further and making a prime source for bacteria to infect the pore.

Infected pores turn into pimples or in severe cases, acne.

There is not much we can do when any of these invisible (and some visible like dirt) factors happen but there are definitely ways to keep the health of our skin in spite of them. Healthy eating habits, cleansing and exfoliating are three of the main staples for this, but before that, it is important to understand how our skin works so that we can buy skin care products that work in synergy with oily skin types.

Our skin pores were designed by nature to be a conduit for the inner "pharmacopia" already present within our body to help regulate body temperature, skin health, removal of internal body toxins, absorption of oxygen and nutrients and hair growth. The PH balance of the skin is naturally slightly acidic between 4 and 6.5. What is PH, you may ask? It is the measure of acidity and alkalinity of our skin that directly affects its health and quality.

A combination of lactic acid, amino acids and free fatty acids protect our skin surface. This gives our skin the slightly acidic PH, which in turn stops our skin and body from absorbing bacteria. In oily skin conditions, this balance gets tipped, causing for disruptions to its health. The aim in treating oily skin is to remove excess oil (sebum) without complete removal of skin lipids.

Most soaps and cleansers tend to be alkaline, which can over stimulate oily skin.

For example, there is a tendency for people to use soaps or cleansers that dry out the skin in an attempt to control oiliness. This works counter intuitively because the skin produces more oil to help keep moisture on the skin surface from evaporating. A soap or cleanser that dries may work well for oily skin only in highly humid climatic conditions, and that too mostly when the skin is pimple or acne-prone and the soap is medicated.

It is vital, therefore, to look into products that aid the PH level of the skin and not disturb it. Products that labels within the range of 4 to 5.5 PH is best, and if the product contains alpha hydroxy acids (AHA), it is going to assist your skin in maintaining a healthy PH. However, those who are sensitive to AHA, should either choose a plant-based AHA or go for a very low potency AHA.

Starting in our 30s, skin can look dull and ashen because skin cells renew themselves more slowly than they did when younger. New skin cells are constantly created in the skin's lower layer, the dermis. These cells migrate to the surface of the skin and become more acidic. During their 30-day journey, they die and become saturated with keratin. Keratin is important because it protects the skin from outside elements. Eventually, these dead cell fall away or get washed off.

However, people with oily skin should exfoliate more often than their dry-skinned counterparts because oily skin makes it hard for dead cells to exit. Exfoliation removes the outer layer to reveal the newer skin beneath. This shedding of the outer layer simultaneously unclogs pores, keeps skin clean, and tremendously helps reduce acne breakouts. It is important to note that exfoliation should always be done after cleansing the skin.

Just as our body works hard to be healthy internally and externally, it is important that we assist it by eating a healthy diet rich in fiber and greens so that toxins that can reside for long in our gut and blood stream can also easily be removed. When our internal health stays in balance, it gives an extra boost to our body in countering any hormonal imbalance or hereditary influences. MF