Do oil blotting papers work? Top Singaporean dermatologists spill on the necessity of these super absorbent sheets
If lipsticks serve as the gateway product into the big, wide world of makeup, then oil blotting papers are the skincare equivalent. At least, it was, in a time where retinol, AHAs, and antioxidants were still absent in many a skincare savant's lexicon, and lip glosses were sticky, gloopy configurations that made your hair stick to your pout.
As the beauty industry advances on all things complexion, we can't help but wonder: are oil blotting papers still relevant? Do they actually eradicate all manner of shine and grease from your skin, or is it a temporary measure designed to make you generate more oil? We enlist the help of our favourite dermatologists to tackle this slick state of affairs, below.
What are oil blotting papers made of?
"The absorbent material is typically some form of paper which are derived from non-traditional sources," Dr Teo Wan Lin, dermatologist and founder of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, explains. "Normal variants are made from rice paper, wood pulp, and even cotton."
How do oil blotting papers work?
Dr Liew, founder and dermatologist of HM Liew Skin & Laser Clinic, says that they primarily function in a way where they suck up superficial sebum on the face. Dr Teo agrees, and likens it to the simple process of absorption. Grease, water, and grime is essentially wicked away when oil blotting papers are applied to the surface.
Are oil blotting papers effective at getting rid of grease and shine?
In a sense, yes. "I think it's important to understand that people who use oil blotting papers fall into two categories," Dr Teo points out. "The first category is essentially makeup artists who use it to touch up makeup, and that's fine. It fulfils its purpose." She then goes on to add, "The second category, however, is the average person who finds that their skin goes greasy at the end of the day, so they use blotting papers to remove the shine. That's fine too, but it's important for the latter group to understand that this is very much fuelled excessive oil production."
"This is regarded as a medical condition we call seborrhea. Seborrhea itself can be associated with a lot of discomfort, social embarrassment, and even acne. So, this has to be treated typically with either a combination of topical cream that can modulate oil productions, or oral medications and physical treatments such as lasers that help to shrink the oil glands. So, if you're thinking of using oil blotting papers just for the sake of reducing excessive oil production, then I think it's not exactly effective because it doesn't treat the underlying causes."
Does this mean oil blotting papers are bad for the complexion?
The general consensus is that it's not entirely beneficial for the skin. Dr Liew stands firm on her stance that excessive use and rubbing can aggravate skin inflammation, thus clogging pores further. Dr Teo, on the other hand, emphasises that while it helps maintain a matte complexion, it can also lead to a condition called reactive seborrhea where the skin feels incredibly dehydrated. Which, paradoxically, produces more oil.
But that's not to say you should ditch these sheets entirely. "To counteract this, I've developed these oil blotting papers that are made from the hemp plant, also known as the cannabis sativa plant," Dr Teo elaborates. "So, what happens is that it is also able to stabilize skin oils through its natural plant extract content, breaking the vicious cycle by moisturising and hydrating your complexion."
What can you do to prevent boosted oil production after blotting?
"If you do struggle with having oily, shiny skin, it's best to blot to remove it." Dr Teo assures. "However, you need to send a message to your skin after. What I do is I tell my patients to use a moisturising mist and a mineral booster. That's essentially glycerin that can go over your makeup, that can help your touch-ups... After that, they can finish with a dusting of loose powder that is infused with a mattifying substance, like zinc oxide. This effectively breaks the vicious cycle, where you remove the oil, cause the skin to become dehydrated to produce even more oil. This means we are instituting some form of remedy to the situation.
Dr Liew, conversely, recommends skipping blotting papers all together. "You can use a retinoid cream of different potency to help control the greasiness," she advises. "Be sure to seek a dermatologist to assist in choosing the right medical grade of retinoid, though."