Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Shine Free: How to Deal with Excessively Oily Skin or Shiny Skin July 1, 2010

I know I am not the only person who suffers from the following affliction: the heat and humidity rises and after 5 minutes outside your face is an oil slick.  Or you look at a photo of yourself and it is just shine, shine, and more shine.  Some people have this problem year round, others only during the summer.  It might seem that our faces produce more oil during the summer, but we actually don’t.  The heat and especially the added humidity during the summer just make our faces appear more shiny or feel more oily.

So what’s a lady(or a gent) to do?  Don’t panic – there are plenty of solutions that can work for different types of skin and all kinds of lifestyles.

The Basics


First and foremost be sure to properly cleanse your face every evening in order to remove excess oil.  It is great idea to have a salicylic acid cleanser, toner, or lotion on hand to use when you feel most oily.  Salicylic acid is oil soluble so it penetrates deep into pores and helps to keep them clean of excess oil and debris.  But be sure not to over cleanse.  Look for balance.  That is why I like to have salicylic acid products available for use but don’t always use them everyday.  Be sure to have a gentle cleanser on hand (Cetaphil is fine).  For salicylic acid product recommendations see my post about salicylic acid.

It is fine to use a moisturizer if you feel dry, but it isn’t a necessity.  Only use a moisturizer if you really feel you need one.  Look for lightweight, water based moisturizers that are lotions and gels not creams.   Be sure the product says “will not clog pores” or “oil free” or “noncomedogenic”.


The Retinol Solution


Topical retinoids and retinols, prescription or OTC versions, can help shrink oil glands over time and decrease oil production.  The added bonus of using retinol is that it helps with hyperpigmentation and prevents fine lines in addition to helping control oil production. 

You could use a moisturizer with retinol in it, get a prescription retinoid from your doctor, or use a OTC retinol serum.  For more information about retinol, including product recommendations, see my previous post:  All About Retinol.


Masks:  A Quick Fix


Right before a big event or before being photographed you can use a mask in order to temporarily decrease facial oiliness.  Or use a mask once a week when your skin feels its oiliest.  Look for masks with clay in them since clay absorbs oil.


Suggested productsPaula’s Choice Skin Balancing Carbon Mask , Skinceuticals Clarifying Clay Mask, and Peter Thomas Roth Sulfur Cooling Masque.


Ingredients to Avoid


If you have oily skin or find that your skin gets shiny throughout the day be sure to avoid the following ingredients in your skincare products:

  • Mineral Oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Shea Butter
  • Lanolin
  • Paraffin
  • Beeswax
  • Squalene
  • Borage Seed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil


Choose Your Sunscreen Wisely


Be sure to stay away from cream sunscreens just as you would heavy moisturizers.  Look instead of lightweight and gel sunscreen formulations. 

Recommendation:  La Roche-Posay Anthelios 45 Ultra-Light Fluid for Face


Powder Sunscreen is Your Friend


So you’ve followed my above advice and your face still gets shiny during the day.  I hear you.  That’s what happens to me, especially during the summer.  I think one of the best solutions in that case is to carry powder sunscreen around with you.  Not only will the powder cut down on the shine you’ll get needed sun protection as well.  It’s a win-win situation.

Recommended Products:



The Make-Up Solution:  So Many Products, So Little Time


I’ve actually been thinking about this post for a long time and trying to find the perfect products to recommend to my readers.  It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve tried to do some research about products, and by research I mean looking at the online reviews at  Here’s the problem with the reviews on (or on any website for that matter) – someone always loves the product and someone always hates the product.  In the end you’ve just got to bite the bullet and give a product a try which is what I did in the end (more on that later).

There are so many different ways that your make-up can help you out with your shiny skin issue.

Look for the look “matte” or “mattifying” when buying foundation, powder, primer, etc.  Those words signify that the product is meant to keep shine under control throughout the day.

Use a primer before applying your make-up that says it will control shine and oil.  Try:  Jane Iredale Absence Oil Control Primer – spf 15 or Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer Light.

Set your make-up with loose powder or just dust your face with loose powder if you don’t wear make-up  in order to control shine and oiliness.  Carry a compact with you for touch-ups during the day.  Try:  Urban Decay De-Slick Mattifying Powder.

Carry blotting papers with you.  In a pinch you can use a paper towel, napkin, or even toilet paper.  Try:  e.l.f. Shine Eraser and Sephora Collection Matte Blotting Papers.

Use a mattifying lotion or gel either under, over, and mixed in with your make-up or sunscreen.  Try:


Personal Experience


After viewing a photo of myself where my face looks like I dunked my head in a container of Crisco I decided that I needed more help than just my powder sunscreen in order to control my shiny skin.  I decided to buy Smashbox’s Anti-Shine (I bought the tube but there is a portable version as well)  and was very excited when the product arrived.  I tried using it under my sunscreen, over my sunscreen, and even over my loose powder.  The results were fine but not as spectacular as I had hoped.  Then my July issue of Allure arrived with a fabulous tip (page 39):

Trick:  How to Fight Shine

Powder is a sticky mess in the summer, and blotting papers only work if you remember to tuck them in your purse.  A better idea from makeup artist Dick Page, artistic director for Shiseido:  Mix a drop of mattifying gel into your foundation.  “My favorites are men’s formulas, because they’re made for us greasy bastards,” says Page… .


Since I don’t wear foundation I tried Page’s tip by mixing Anti-Shine with my sunscreen.  I got great results.

Tip:  I’m a big fan of Smashbox make-up.  If you are too and know exactly what product you want to order from them be sure to make your purchase online on Tuesdays between 9 am and 2 pm.  Shipping is always free when you order online (no minimums) and if you order Tuesdays between 9 am and 2 pm you’ll receive a full-size product for free in addition to free samples.  You can’t choose the product, but who cares?   I got a bronzer for free when I ordered my Anti-Shine.


One Last Idea


If none of the above ideas have worked for you consider using Paula Begoun’s idea:

If your oily skin is still driving you nuts, my favorite trick is to use Milk of Magnesia and apply an extremely thin layer of it over the most oily areas. Let it dry, and then apply your foundation over top.

Personally I would try a mattifying gel or lotion (as mentioned above) before the milk of magnesia idea, but to each her own.


Sources and Further Reading



And for tips for men on dealing with shiny skin please see my post:   Shine Free – Part II:  This Is for the Men



4 Responses to “Shine Free: How to Deal with Excessively Oily Skin or Shiny Skin”

  1. Just when I was starting to dread hot summer days you came along and gave me all this amazing advise! Thank you so much, I’m looking forward to trying some of the product you’ve recommended!

  2. zidniikhaira Says:

    interesting article .. I think I’ll try it for treating oily skin 🙂

  3. Petrolatum is considered one of the safest moisturizing agents around, and is fine for oily skin.
    Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found (Sources: Cosmetics & Toiletries, January 2001, page 79; and Cosmetic Dermatology, September 2000, pages 44–46).

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