Oil Blotting Sheets May Not Be The Perfect Shine Reducer We All Thought

Everyone has oil on their skin. As pesky as it can be, oil protects the skin and keeps it hydrated, according to Healthline. However, some of us were blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with more oil than others. Having a naturally oily skin type can lead to issues like enlarged pores and acne breakouts (via Radiance by WebMD). Many people with higher levels of skin oil production also notice a persistent shine, even after cleansing or applying mattifying makeup.

That's where oil blotting sheets swoop in, promising to save the day. These simple sheets, often sold in compact packages that easily fit in your pocket or purse, can be used whenever you notice your forehead becoming as reflective as a disco ball. Using materials like rice and willow bark, these papers absorb grease when blotted onto the skin. And as long as you avoid rubbing, you can even use them while wearing makeup to de-shine your face throughout the day.

Though oil blotting sheets are easy to use, they may not be the best way to cope with an oily complexion, and in some cases, they could even worsen skin woes.

Blotting papers don't actually control oil

Oil blotting sheets may seem like a must-have in any oily skin arsenal, but they're only a temporary, band-aid solution to a bigger problem. "Oil blotting papers — at least the ones sold in the USA — aren't necessarily bad for the skin, but they can offer you a sense of false hope," Dr. Kim Nichols, a dermatologist, revealed to Well+Good. "The appeal of an oil-blot sheet is seeing oil reflect onto the sheet. It's a visual that feels validating." In other words, even if it looks like you're removing excess oil, you'll be right back where you started in no time.

Dermatologist Dr. Rita Linkner echoes this, telling Into The Gloss, "I don't think oil blotting papers do much at all. In my opinion, the appeal is in the satisfaction that you can visually see the oil that was once on your skin." She suggests turning to topical medications and skincare products containing retinoids to keep oil production in check from the inside out.

Oil blotting sheets could make skin problems worse

Removing grease with oil blotting papers may reduce shine in an emergency, but don't be surprised if you're left with more oil and blemishes later on. Bioelements, a skincare brand used in spas and clinics, suggests that blotting sheets force dirt, makeup, and oil deeper into the pores, making congestion and breakouts more likely than if you didn't blot in the first place.

Moreover, removing the top layer of sebum from the skin may trigger reactive seborrhea, a condition where the skin produces more oil to compensate for the oil lost (per Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals). When oil production kicks into overdrive, you may notice your glistening complexion is back — along with a few new blackheads and pustules too.

On top of that, many commercial oil blotting papers contain mineral oil, meaning you're fighting oil with oil. And while mineral oil itself is considered non-comedogenic (translation: doesn't clog pores), dermatologist Dr. Sandy Skotnicki explained to Shape that, when used with other products such as makeup, "it may trap those other products in the skin...and that's what potentially causes blackheads and whiteheads."

Is it ever okay to blot oil off your face?

Even if oil blotting sheets might not be the perfect solution for oil and acne-prone skin, you don't have to throw out your packs of these little papers just yet. The experts at Healthline say it's fine to use blotting sheets throughout the day as needed, noting how cheap and accessible they are. And looking at the alternatives, blotting papers may not be the worst option when in a pinch.

Take powder makeup: Using setting powder or powder foundation is one way to sop up oil by swiping the product over shiny skin. However, sheets and powders work in different ways. "Papers absorb oil and get thrown away so you're actually removing it, [while] blotting powder covers up excess sebum but leaves it on the skin," Andrew Sotomayor, a celebrity makeup artist, shared with Shop TODAY. Applying powder over oil (and repeating the process whenever you notice out-of-control shine popping up again) can result in a cakey texture, and depending on its ingredients, powder makeup may block pores when combined with sebum on the skin. If you really want a matte finish and are in a bind (like right before a presentation or important date), oil blotting sheets are generally a better fix than reapplying powder.

Other ways to keep oil at bay

If you regularly find yourself dabbing the oil away from your face, it might be time to swap your oil blotting sheets for something more effective. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, controlling excess oil begins with your skincare routine. It recommends washing at least twice a day, and working in an extra cleanse if you exercise or sweat a lot. Your go-to face wash should be mild and free of oil and other pore-clogging ingredients (look for "non-comedogenic" on the label). Even if you think you don't need to moisturize oily skin, it's important to always follow up with a light moisturizer to seal in hydration.

Though genetics can play a role in oil production, other factors — like stress and hormones — can cause the skin to release more sebum than usual, according to Medical News Today. If your oily complexion seemed to appear out of nowhere, look at your lifestyle, and consider talking to a dermatologist about your concerns. They may prescribe hormonal medications, isotretinoin, or topical treatments to minimize oil.