No doubt, those of us with oily skin have groaned more than once over the slick appearance of our face or the necessity to turn to various treatments to keep excess oil at bay. But the grass is rarely greener on the other side, and as it turns out, there are quite a few benefits to having oily skin. It's not easy feeling greasy, sure, and often, when we look at our normal to dry skinned friends, it's easy to feel a twinge of jealousy. But fear no longer!
When we think about our concerns over oily skin, we don't usually stop to think about the physiology of our pores and how incredible the entire dermal design is. Our sebaceous glands, which produce the sebum we common refer to as oil, are situated right below the skin's surface, surrounding each hair follicle. Located most densely on our face and scalp, these glands have the primary purpose of lubricating and waterproofing our skin and hair, which in and of itself is pretty cool. We're waterproof — and arguably, the more oily we are, the more waterproof we are.
But beyond the casual cool factor that comes along with being a waterproof mammal, having oily skin comes with a few more added benefits:
1. SWAT Team For You Skin
Consider for a moment, the importance of your skin. Doubling as your largest and most exposed organ, your skin is essentially your first line of defense (aided by the millions of beneficial microbes that permeate your personal space). And not surprisingly, the sebum produced by our skin acts as a special forces team to deliver essential nutrients and fight the effects of environmental pollutants.
According to dermatological experts like Dr. Jeannette Graf, sebum contains vitamin E, which is an antioxidant, a key element in "protecting humans from the ravages of oxidative stress and free radicals." These antioxidants may also help prevent blood vessel diseases, which include cancers and Alzheimer's disease. Suddenly, having an extra potent dose of antioxidant rich oil coating your skin doesn't sound so bad, does it? To ensure your excess sebum stays antioxidant rich, be sure to eat plenty of fruit on a daily basis.
2. Sun Damage Resistance
While sunscreen is still our best defense against skin damage caused by UV rays, oily skin tends to actually bolster the effects of SPF, leaving us a bit more protected than our friends without excess oil. Many of us may have noticed over the years that we tend to burn less, and this has to do with the added protection afforded by our oily skin, which can be a big help, especially during the transitional seasons when we might not be as conscious of wearing products with SPF. But that doesn't mean we should go without sunscreen. We simply need to choose sunscreens that are a little lighter weight (not lower SPF) to avoid pore clogging.
3. Vibrant Glow
Yeah, we may see our skin as gross and oily, but the truth is, if properly cared for, most people see our skin as dewy and youthful. So sure, blot that oil away now and then if you must, but remember, your oils are contributing to how often you get carded after turning 30 — which many women will remind us is a great feeling.
4. Slower Aging
While getting older is nothing to shy away from — we all do it, and are inherently wiser and in many ways better for it — having your skin age quicker than you are can be a little daunting. Luckily, if you're blessed with daily oil slicks, you'll have to worry a little less about your skin actually suffering from the likes of environmental pollutants, UV rays, and other stressors. Oily skin tends to be a bit thicker, and has a higher natural protection factor than dry skin. So, you know, all that extra oil is like having your very own Captain Planet for your skin.
5. Less Inflammation = Less Wrinkles
Again, thanks to those sweet antioxidants produced by our over zealous sebaceous glands, it appears our oily skin has less tendency to become over-inflamed. Which, is great, since inflammation is what causes wrinkles, fine lines (from our emotionally rich lives, let's not forget), and pimples to appear more obvious.
However, we still need to be careful. As oily folks, we have a tendency to over-correct by washing our skin too often or using harsh scrubs to try to minimize the feeling of clogged and oily pores. Dr. Graf suggests gentle foaming cleansers that are pH balanced and toners that contain salicylic, which acts as an exfoliating ingredient that will unclog your pores without the added dermal stress of physical exfoliation.
6. Prolonged Hydration
Think your oily skin is extra gross when you work out? Well, it is. But that's a good thing. According to an article written by Alan M. W. Porter, M.D., Ph.D. for the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, "Secretions of the sebaceous and apocrine glands ... emulsify eccrine sweat and thus encourage the formation of a sweat sheet and discourage the formation and loss of sweat drops from the skin." Say what? Essentially, your sebum causes you to loose less moisture through evaporation, keeping you hydrated. And while the process of sweat evaporating from your skin is hugely important for thermoregulation, maintaining hydration during periods of exertion is equally essential. So the next time you're grossed out by your slick skin at the gym, give your sebum a secret little smile and some gratitude.
7. For Science
While we know some of the benefits our sebaceous glands and the sebum they produce have to offer, their role is still regarded as being somewhat uncertain. That being said, they're responsible for a whole bunch of incredible things (as mentioned above), including the special coating we're covered in as babies, called the vernix caseosa.
While the vernix caseosa is arguably pretty disgusting, the waxy, cheese-like mix of sebum and lipids is theorized to facilitate passage through the birth canal, heat and protect newborns, and have an antibacterial effect. Truly, if our sebum is responsible for crazy beautiful natural occurrences like that, it seems having a little extra on hand (or on face, as the case often is), may be an exceptional gift, not a curse.
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