Ingredients To Avoid If You Have Oily Combination Skin

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

What Is Oily and Combination Skin?

Firstly let's have a quick run through on what these two skin types are. Oily skin is used to describe a skin type that has heightened sebum production; that is, the glands in you skin produces an excess of oil. This is called seborrhea.

Oily skin is characterised by:

  • enlarged, clearly visible pores

  • a glossy shine

  • thicker, pale skin: blood vessels may not be visible

Oily skin is prone to comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), redness and blemishes and prone to the varying forms of acne.

Combination skin is simply having oily skin in some areas of your face and dry skin in other areas. Typically, there’s a mix of oily and dry areas on dif­ferent parts of your face, with the t-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) being slightly to very oily. Combination skin is characterised by:

  • an oily T-zone (forehead, chin and nose)

  • enlarged pores in this area perhaps with some impurities

  • normal to dry cheeks

Choosing products for oily skin isn't about banning oil entirely from your skincare regimen. On the contrary, research shows that the composition of sebum of oily skin is often lacking in an essential fatty acid called 'linoleic acid' (omega 6). Studies have found that acne patients who applied a natural oil high in linoleic acid for a month saw a 25% decrease the comedone size and it's severity.

Yes, you have read that right: some oils can actually benefit oily skin and help prevent spots and pimples.

Ingredients To Avoid

These are the family of ingredients you should avoid using if you have oily combination skin:

  • Ingredients that strips the skin of its natural oils.

  • Pore-clogging ingredients- synthetic and natural.

  • Harsh scrubs/exfoliants (and over-exfoliating).

  • Fragrance/Parfum.

Let's dive a bit more deeply into the above to understand what they exactly are.

Ingredients that strips the skin of its natural oils

The two main culprits here are alcohol/denat alcohol and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), also known as Sodium dodecyl sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). Denatured Alcohol is used in many personal care product, including makeup, lotions, fragrance, shaving, oral care, skin care (cleansers and toners), and hair care products, where it functions as an antifoaming agent, cosmetic astringent, solvent, and viscosity decreasing agent. SLS and SLES are ingredients used in cleansing products, creams and lotions. This synthetic ingredient helps to create that foaming texture in cleansers. Studies show that within a few hours of using skin-stripping ingredients, oiliness returns to its original level. When your skin's natural oils is stripped, it causes your oil glands to produce more oil to compensate for the dryness. This means harsh, astringent, solvent-based skincare products do not have a long-term effect of drying out your skin by reducing it's oiliness. It may help to remove excess oils from the skin in the short term, but in fact, the effects don't even last until lunchtime. You simply end up with skin producing more oil and with regular use of these two ingredients on a daily basis, your skin becomes a breeding ground for acne, pimples and spots.

Oil stripping ingredients can have a negative long-term effect on the overall health and condition of your skin. With continued use, these skincare ingredients make it harder for your skin to keep itself hydrated. This means skin is not only oily but can also become dehydrated and flaky!

For gentle cleansing, i would highly recommend the oil cleansing method. Oil cleansing works by the chemistry that oil dissolves oil. Gently massaging the skin with a good oil based cleansing product will dissolve excess sebum, make up, dirt and dust from the skin. Depending on the product, it can then be rinsed off or wiped off with a damp cloth. Our 100% natural Strip Back Cleansing Oil with Moringa and organic lavender will gently cleanse your face from all traces of make up and dirt, and then is effectively rinsed off.

Pore Clogging Ingredients.

As oily combination skin is characterised by large pores, it comes to no surprise that when it comes into contact with ingredients that can clog it, it can result in blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. Clogged pores are the result of dead skin cells getting trapped in your skin instead of being shed into the environment. Pores are tiny openings in the skin that release oil and sweat. One 'family' of ingredients that are the main culprits of pore clogging are ingredients known as 'occlusives'. Occlusives are a type of ingredient that forms what i call a second skin on top of your own. Occlusives form a seal to prevent transepidermal water loss (water escaping the skin). Preventing water loss sounds like a good thing right? Absolutely, it is particularly important for dry and dehydrated skin. Sadly, for oily skin, using an occlusive that, as the saying goes 'stops your skin from breathing' will clog pores, creating the environment for breakouts and acne, by trapping bacteria and dirt in the pores. You will be pleased to know though, that not all occlusives are made the same (read on). The two main types of occlusive ingredients fall into the categories- Synthetic and Natural.

Synthetic occlusive ingredients-

  • Mineral oil such as liquid paraffin, liquid petroleum, paraffin oil, paraffinum liquidum, petrolatum liquid, petroleum oil, white mineral oil and white oil are all mineral oils. These are all derived from petroleum and are widely used in skincare products.

  • Silicones- Dimethicone, Methicone, Phenyl trimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Dimethiconol, Dimethicone copolyol.

Mineral oils are the most effective occlusives- AND the worst offenders when it comes to pore clogging. These occlusives will feel heavy, sticky and greasy. Not what you want your oily skin to feel!

Natural Occlusive Ingredients- natural oils high in oleic acid and natural waxes.

Here at J Botanics, we love all things natural! However, we also very much know that just because it's a natural ingredient, it does not mean it should not be avoided for your particular skin type. For the purpose of this article, i will talk about natural oils and waxes which should be avoided if you have oily combination skin. Here at J Botanics, we avoid oils which contain a high level of oleic acid in any of our oily combination products like the plague. Why? Oleic acid, also known as omega 9, is a monounsaturated that is superbly effective as an emollient ingredient to moisturise the skin, and is particularly effective for dry skin. However, high levels of oleic acid can also be pore-clogging, by forming an occlusive layer on the skin. There are some exceptions to this, for example apricot kernel oil, which has an oleic acid content of 60-70%, but because it has a decent amount of linoleic acid, for the majority of people, it does not clog pores. Examples of natural oils to avoid if you have oily combination skin are coconut oil, olive oil, hazelnut oil, camellia oil and avocado oil. Instead, opt for natural oils which are high in linoleic acid, alpha-linoleic acid and linolenic acid- essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6), which play a crucial part in maintaining skin health. Examples of these include thistle, borage, sacha inchi, grapeseed, rosehip and raspberry seed oil. Thistle (Safflower), Borage and Sacha Inchi in particular have been shown to balance the oil production your skin makes, as well as softening and moisturising the skin.

You might be wondering, so, does that mean oily skin can not benefit from Transepidermal Water Loss because they are occlusives? The answer is NO. Squalane is a natural ingredient that is either derived from plants or sharks. Squalene (note the difference, 'ene', not 'ane'), is a compound that is found in skin and it's primary role is to lubricate the skin epidermis and protect it. As we age, the amount of Squalene that we produce unfortunately diminishes. Squalene in skin acts also acts an occlusive to reduce Transepidermal Water Loss. As Squalene is a compound naturally found in skin for the sole purpose of skin health, it is not surprising to know that Squalene, although an occlusive, it does not clog pores (non comedogenic). Squalane, which can be naturally derived from animals or plants has the exact composition to Squalene. Needless to say, here a J Botanics, being a vegan friendly business, we are all about plant derived Squalane- ours is naturally derived from Olives. You will find squalane across our range of Nourish Oils, including oily combination skin. Another example of a natural occlusive oil is Jojoba. Jojoba is similar in composition to the skin's natural sebum, so it comes to no surprise that Jojoba is non-pore clogging. This is why we use Jojoba oil in our Strip Back Cleansing Oil, suitable for oily combination skin, and across our three Nourish Oils for oily-combination, normal-dry and sensitive skin. our Daily Defence Moisturisers for oily combination skin (plus dry-normal and sensitive).

Examples of other natural pore -clogging ingredients are natural waxes such as beeswax, vegetable waxes and lanolin. Beeswax and its vegan alternatives (vegetable waxes) are commonly used in moisturisers to thicken and stabilise a formulation. If you have oily combination skin and your day or night cream contains these natural waxes, i would ditch it!

Harsh Exfoliants and Over-Exfoliating

For any skin type, exfoliating is an important step in your skincare routine. For oily combination skin, it is particularly important, as exfoliating removes dead skin cells that oily skin tend to trap due to their characteristic large pores. The removal of dead skin cells not only makes a huge difference to the health and appearance of your complexion, but it also helps prevent spots and pimples. When you have oily skin, dead cells don't flake off as quickly and is the reason why oily skin can be prone to breakouts: when dead skin cells sit on your your oily skin too long, they end up blocking pores and feeding bacteria causing acne.

However, using harsh exfoliants and over-exfoliation can be just as detrimental. Excessive exfoliation accelerates skin-cell turnover way past the required healthy rate. This leaves skin feeling tight and sensitive whilst also leaving it vulnerable to dehydration. We would therefore not recommend using an exfoliator or scrub more than twice a week.

What harsh exfoliants should i avoid?

For oily combination complexions it is important to use exfoliators that are on the gentler side. If your skin is prone to acne, using harsh and abrasive products on acne-prone skin can actually make matters worse.

Harsh abrasives include sugar (labelled sucrose), salt (labelled sodium chloride) and course hard shells that are not fully ground to a fine powder (eg walnut shells, apricot kernal shells).

Our very own face scrubs uses mild exfoliants crushed quinoa and raspberry seeds, to gently plough away dead skin cells. Our Superfoods Face Scrub with crushed quinoa also contains peppermint, which has natural antiseptic and antibacterial properties. This makes it great for reducing bacteria causing acne.

The alternative to using a physical exfoliant, as above, are chemical exfoliants such as AHAs (glycolic and lactic acids) and BHA (salicylic acid). For oily skin, BHA is the recommended choice, because BHA is lipid soluble. Chemical exfoliation works by loosening the bonds between cells with acids or enzymes. The acids work by breaking down the sugars in the skin, which then causes the cells of the epidermis to loosen and slough off. The downside of using a chemical exfoliant is that some people can be sensitive to it, causing temporary stinging and mild redness. Skin may initially become dry and flaky as the cells begin to shed, but this should clear up within a few weeks.


I would recommend avoiding this ingredient for any skin type! Fragrance/parfum is an umbrella term that cosmetic companies are legally allowed to use so as to not disclose their 'trade secret' fragrance formulation. It is a cocktail of ingredients and unfortunately you will never know what ingredients are contained in the fragrance/parfum of your product. Did you know that there are more than 3000 ingredients listed in the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) database that are currently used in fragrance/parfum formulation? Alcohol/denat alcohol is often used in fragrance formulation to act as a solvent, and this is one of the ingredients on the IFRA database. So, for example, if you are avoiding alcohol in your products because it breaks you out (and one we would recommend avoiding), but it contains fragrance/parfum, do not assume it does not contain alcohol. You will never know because of this legal loophole. Above all, the scariest thought is that, listed on the IFRA database are 30 chemicals that have evidence linking them to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies and sensitivities. Take formaldehyde, for example; an ingredient that is classified and listed as carcinogenic and is banned in the EU in cosmetics. It shocks me to tell you that formaldehyde is one of the ingredients listed on IFRA, as being used in fragrance formulation as a fixative. This is not to say that all products with fragrance/parfum will contain any banned ingredients in cosmetics. However, why take the risk! I would go as far as to say that fragrance/parfum is one of my top evil ingredients in cosmetics.

Thank you for reading. Please do leave a comment if you found this article helpful or not.

My Linh x

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