My forehead is like the Black Forest.
August 13, 2011 8:41 PM   Subscribe

What daily routines/products can I use to prevent blackheads/oily skin that don't require me to wash or rinse my face?

I'm a 26-year old woman living in a hot, humid climate. My skin is oily and I get a lot of blackheads, particularly on my nose and forehead (not many pimples though).

I hate washing my face in my morning. I usually wash my face in the shower at night, but in the morning, for some reason, I can't stand having to wait for the water to get warm, get my face wet (and consequently the sink/counter area, and some of my hair too), soaping up, rinsing, etc. I have tried to get in the habit several times since my teenage years and it's just never stuck.

My routine right now is using a face pad (like Stridex/Oxy, with salicylic acid) in the morning before makeup. I usually wear concealer on any blemishes, foundation, and powder on my face. I don't put anything but powder on my forehead, and lately I've tried using just concealer and powder to see if the foundation made my skin worse, but there doesn't seem to be any change. In the shower at night, I alternate between the St. Ives apricot scrub, Neutrogena-type face washes that are supposed to clear pores, or just plain soap now and then (glycerin soap feels so good!) Now and then I use those Biore pore strips on my nose.

So in my mind, I wash my face every night and put on anti-acne stuff every morning, but I still have lots of blackheads. My skin used to be better when I lived in a more temperate/dry climate. Once my makeup is on my skin looks nice, but I wish I could go without wearing makeup and I don't like my skin enough right now.

Are there other routines or products [you] have used with more success? Do I need to suck it up and wash my face with something every morning? I like to get ready as quickly as possible, so I've never wanted to do the Proactiv stuff with 3 different things to put on your face, but is that the secret of people with good skin?
posted by nakedmolerats to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
You'll probably have a lot of people telling you that you're out of luck, that a morning face wash is necessary. I'm inclined to agree.

BUT. I noticed the conspicuous absence of benzoyl peroxide in your routine. It's worth a try. I use this in the shower every morning and nothing at night, and I stay mostly acne-free. (No makeup; I'm a dude.)I'd try that unless you have a BP sensitivity or get dry/combination skin. If your BP concentration is high enough, you CAN'T wash your face too much or you'll dry it right out.

Same with Accutane, come to think of it. Have you seen a dermatologist?

Other silly question: have you considered showering in the morning instead/in addition?
posted by supercres at 8:53 PM on August 13, 2011

Are you moisturizing at all? I wonder because I was in my 20s when I found out (during a facial) that my formerly oily skin was actually dry.

Also, during another facial, I was told not to use the St. Ives scrub. Apparently it's too rough for faces. So you might try backing off of that.

Another thing that can help is to get a facial. Because then you can ask these questions and get some advice.

Also, do try BP zit cream, maybe at night.

Finally, make sure you're not touching your face much during the day.
posted by bluedaisy at 9:14 PM on August 13, 2011

What anti-acne stuff are you using? I've only ever heard of prescribed creams being a nighttime routine, partly because some of them can make your skin more sensitive to sun damage and maybe also because you are less likely to sweat/rub them off versus over the course of the day (I'm just speculating on that latter point).
posted by monkeys with typewriters at 9:23 PM on August 13, 2011

How do you feel about cold cream? You just slather it on, then wipe it off with either a damp cloth or a tissue. There are tons of different formulations, some of them geared for oily skin and acne.

(I stick by the original Pond's cold cream, the one with only 6 ingredients, but I'm older and need more moisturizing.)
posted by ErikaB at 9:32 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having had bad, but not horrible, skin for many years, I discovered in my late 20s that the a.m. face wash was no longer necessary in the winter as long as I kept my pillowcases clean, hair back, etc.. My skin is happier overall without the extra interference. In the summer, though, I still need it (mid-30s now).

You could try a once-over with a CLEAN wet washcloth, no soap. I hear you about the wet sink, wet bangs, wet shirt, no coffee aspect of the morning wash. Although refreshing, there's something about it...

Some people are into these facial wipe things, but they never appealed to me and are expensive.

Blackheads, unlike pimples, seem in my case to have little to do with hormones or overall skin regimen. This freaky-seeming item, available near the nail files, etc., at a regular chain drugstore, is very helpful and not scary in practice. It is for the nighttime, I'd say.
posted by skbw at 10:06 PM on August 13, 2011

Response by poster: To follow up some questions:

I think I tried benzoyl peroxide products as a teenager but haven't in awhile, so I might give that a try.

I take showers at night because I like my morning routine to be as fast as possible, and because I have very thick hair so if I wash it in the morning it stays damp most of the day, and I don't like to blow dry. I suppose I could shower without getting my hair wet (but in the time that would take me, I might as well just learn to like washing my face!)

The only anti-acne stuff I use is salicylic acid, in the face pads in the morning, and sometimes in the stuff I use in the shower.

I've never thought to use cold cream but I can give it a try!

I've never used moisturizer because I thought it wouldn't help to put more gunk on my already-oily face, but maybe that's worth thinking about too.

Considering that I already use an anti-acne face wipe in the morning, what is the benefit of actually washing my face instead, when I just put on makeup right afterwards either way? (Not snarky, actually curious). I guess part of my annoyance with morning face-washing comes from the fact that I just put stuff on my face right after I've cleaned it.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:09 PM on August 13, 2011

If you are in the U.S., Cetaphil is cheap, easy to find, and does not require any water to use. You just apply it to your skin and wipe it off with a cotton pad. It's a godsend for those of us who hate the slow-hot-water/wet-shirt-and-hair routine.

The St. Ives' scrub is said to be too rough on your skin, but this scrub from Lush is one of the best skincare products I've ever used. (Don't be put off by the price--you can order in smaller quantities and a little goes a long way.) That might help your night time routine, at least.

If you can see a dermatologist, they will have prescription products that can help, but I realize that that's not always an option.
posted by corey flood at 10:38 PM on August 13, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When I wash my hair at night, I can guarantee getting blackheads and pimples if I use conditioner. Maybe eliminate that element of your shower routine and reshower in the morning/use spray conditioner and you might find some relief from your acne.

You also may not be scrubbing your face as effectively as you think you are. Do you use a washcloth and gently scrub your face a few times, or do you just use your hands + soap? The former is sometimes more effective for folks who get blackheads.

Washing your face before you put makeup on helps your makeup adhere to your skin and lay more evenly. If your face is super oily or super dry, foundation will look awkward and inconsistent. I'd recommend getting a makeup from Neutrogena and a moisturizer with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide in them (respectively) so that your face is just always one step ahead of your acne.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:09 PM on August 13, 2011

Best answer: I only ever wash my face at night, and in the morning I use what I think is a gentle toner applied with a cotton ball. I used to break out a lot, but I have this routine now that works for me. I'm in my late 20s and also live in a hot/humid climate.

It may be that the products you're using are too harsh and may be causing your skin to produce more oil. Exfoliating my face made my skin worse when I tried it, and Oxy pads never did much for me. I am also not convinced those Biore pads actually do anything helpful, though they are fun to use. I think they have caused more blackheads on me, since they open up the pores so much, so I stopped using them.

Except when my face feels filthy, I generally wash at night with Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser (NOT the Daily Facial Cleanser - that stuff parched my skin) and rinse it off using a wash cloth and cool water. I take my showers in the morning but don't wash my face in the shower. After the shower, I use Kiehl's Cucumber Alcohol Free Toner. I don't actually know if this specific toner is anything special, but since I've had this routine I rarely get pimples or blackheads and I do tend to get a pimple or two when I go on vacation and I bring different products along to use, so I will keep using exactly what I've been using.

I've got uneven skin tone and large pores on my nose, but overall my skin is clear the vast majority of the time now. When my skin is dry, I use the Cetaphil moisturizer that comes in the big plastic pump container, their "Moisturizing Lotion for All skin Types." That makes my skin shiny, but unless I feel like getting super made up I just use L'Oreal True Match powder to cover up the shine and feel pretty good about it.

When my face feels like it needs a deeper cleansing than the Cetaphil provides, I use Biggs & Featherbelle's Handle Bar soap. This soap cleans out the pores pretty well but doesn't parch the skin, though it isn't gentle enough for me to use in the winter when my skin is already very dry.
posted by wondermouse at 11:11 PM on August 13, 2011 [3 favorites]

Using a washcloth has made a huge difference in my skin. It's oily too and I tend to get blackheads and have large pores on my nose and cheeks. Since I started using a washcloth my skin is much smoother and clearer. I also like that it helps me wash my face without getting water all over the bathroom, on my clothes and in my hair. I wash my face at night though.

For you, I think you could just wash your face with a damp washcloth in the morning, without cleanser. I think those oxy pads are really drying and make your skin produce even more oil. Since you wash your face at night I think you could just use water and a washcloth to gently exfoliate and remove any oiliness from the night before. I know you don't want to wait for the water to warm up, but could you run the water so it warms up while you're brushing your teeth? (I know, I know...)

You also might want to try a salicylic acid moisturizer in the evening. Adding a little moisture to oily skin really does help the oiliness, and salicylic acid will clear out your pores.
posted by apricot at 11:34 PM on August 13, 2011

Speaking as a guy with oily skin and a tendency towards blackheads, it's necessary to wash and moisturize my face in the evenings. That's because there's a lot of dirt from the day on my face. Washing my face dries my skin out, and dry skin can cause blemishes - the skin gets cracked allowing bacteria in. So, after washing my face I put on cream.

I don't use soap to wash my face in the morning, just water.

I wonder how much your makeup is contributing to your skin issues?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:03 AM on August 14, 2011

I never got the hang of that 'splash water on your face' concept either. So I use a washcloth. Run it under the tap until the water's hot, wring it out and wash your face (gently, not in a 'thorough scrubbing' kind of way), rinse it and wring it out, hang it somewhere it can dry out a bit not left in a little damp heap in a puddle. Hair stays dry, bathroom stays dry, my face feels a lot cleaner than if I've just splashed stuff on it, win.
posted by Lebannen at 1:46 AM on August 14, 2011

What happens when you don't use makeup?
posted by mareli at 7:00 AM on August 14, 2011

Best answer: Whether you wash once or twice a day may be less important than what you're washing your skin with. I think you may be using skin care products/make-up that are actually bad for your skin, causing your blackheads and oiliness to be worse instead of better. I had this problem for a long time, and found the advice from Beautypedia and Cosmetics Cop really useful. Be aware that the author is selling her own products-- but she also reviews and recommends lots of common brands, evaluating the claims and ingredients based on what is currently known about skin care, and that's what I've found most useful in deciding what to put or not to put on my face.

Check out the article on blackheads for instance. She specifically recommends against a lot of what you've been doing (scrubbing, pore strips, bar soap) on the grounds that it's irritating and stimulates your skin to produce more oil, not less. Also, I don't know specifically which cleansing pads you're using, but pretty much all of the Oxy brand and Stridex brand pads get bad reviews, mostly for containing alcohol and menthol (which are irritating and drying, although in the short term can have a deceptively pleasant tingly feeling).

I recommend trawling the articles and reviews, and finding a good gentle cleanser, a good BHA exfolient, and a good light moisturizer. And it wouldn't hurt to look up some info on the makeup you're using, to make sure it's not irritating your skin either.
posted by bookish at 7:57 AM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

Drink water. A LOT of water. I still break out (at 54!) if I don't drink at least 24 ounces of water every day.
posted by raisingsand at 8:50 AM on August 14, 2011

Go here: and try the regimen. Works for me. You can buy your own products at the drugstore (some of which have already been mentioned here, like Cetaphil's gentle products), or you can buy the bulk/discounted products which he sells (incredibly good price for the benzoyl peroxide). Here you can find personalized advice for your specific skin type: Good luck!
posted by Betty's Table at 9:39 AM on August 14, 2011

Blotting sheets during the day to control the oil. So much more effective than any cleanser since you can apply them as needed. Any brand works, I get whatever is on sale in a big packet.
posted by anaelith at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2011

When my kids were toddlers, I used to wash their faces with a clean, wet-and-wrung-out kitchen dishcloth that I'd warmed a few seconds in the microwave rather than waiting for the water to run warm. Maybe while your coffee is brewing? If you use just a tiny amount of soap you can probably get away with not rinsing.

If you're open to adding an element to your evening routine, I think Differin works well for blackheads.
posted by lakeroon at 9:50 AM on August 14, 2011

Try Mario Badescu Silver Powder. I've been using this on my nose for a couple of months and it's cleared my pores out and made them nearly invisible. You use very little per application, so one $12 jar will last a very long time. I even gave a friend of mine half of what's in the jar and will still probably have enough to last me a year or two.
posted by Fuego at 10:03 AM on August 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

An alternative to blotting sheets is to use toilet paper or tissues - just dab it on the oily spots.

I found that my oily skin put out a lot less oil when I stopped stripping every drop of oil from it while cleaning. If you clean with an oil-based cleanser (like olive oil or cold cream), the oil dissolves the plugs holding the blackhead in to clean off dirt and such while leaving enough oil on your skin so that it stop overproducing.

I take a dab of cold cream or a palm full of olive oil and massage it into my face with my fingertips. Then, depending on how fancy I'm feeling, I'll either run the water hot onto a washcloth and put that on my face to steam open the pores and wipe off the excess, or just wipe the excess off with a dry washcloth.

Since then, my face has been a lot more agreeable and production of oil has actually decreased.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:36 AM on August 14, 2011

I don't wash my face, instead I use jojoba oil to cleanse and moisturize. I used to have terrible skin when I washed all the time with harsh chemicals, but don't anymore and my skin care regimen is much simpler than it used to be. In the morning I massage a couple of drops into my face which supposedly cleanses(because it mimics skin sebum) and moisturizes at the same time.

At night I take off makeup with the jojoba oil and then sometimes will use olive oil soap on a face loofah thing to exfoliate. Moisturizer is also the jojoba oil.

Seriously, it's great stuff and combats oily skin pretty well.

Olive oil is good too but I actually found it to be pretty greasy and doesn't absorb as quickly as the jojoba.
posted by fromageball at 12:04 PM on August 14, 2011

Skip scrubs altogether and use a Vic washcloth a couple of times a week.
posted by jgirl at 12:44 PM on August 14, 2011

Best answer: You need to get Obagi Acne treatment. I've used everything commercially available, as well as accutane and other prescription products, and NOTHING works as well as Obagi.

To make it fit into your routine, use the 1st step as your face wash in the shower. Then use the second and third in place of your strident/whatever brand wipes. It won't change the amount of time you spend, and BONUS! your acne and blackheads will disappear.

Believe me - I've LITERALLY tried everything. This stuff works.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:33 PM on August 14, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone. I'm going to try new things for a few weeks at a time and see if I notice improvements - trial and error, I guess. Today I bought a gentle toner that has benzoyl peroxide in it, so I'm going to try putting that on in the morning instead of using my face pads and see if that does anything. If not, off to the next suggestion!

A few of you mentioned whether my makeup is part of the problem. That could be true; unfortunately, it's one of those catch-22's where I'd have to not wear makeup for a few weeks to see if it helped, and for the time being, I don't like my skin enough to go makeup-free to work and such. I also am on a pretty tight budget so I can't afford too-fancy makeup. I do use oil-free and scent-free foundation and powder, but they're usually Cover Girl or something cheap.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:33 PM on August 14, 2011

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