Science Saturday

Fave Facial Oils

The recent facial oil fad has brought significantly more awareness to the virtues of oils for skin (and hair, cuticles, nails… everything really), and it’s got me giddy. Facial oils in particular were a revelation to me when I finally got on board, and have become a staple in my daily regimen. So, I’m going to digress now and share an overview of the basics, and my reasons for selecting specific oils for specific purposes. If this info is old bag for you, feel free to skip ahead to my recommendations a little farther down.

First things first–the types of oils that we use for topical application will contain a combination of two categories of essential omega fatty acids–Linoleic acids and Oleic acids. A higher concentration of Linoleic acids (omega-6 fatty acids), will cause an oil to be more “dry”, or thinner in consistency. This allows the oil to penetrate more deeply into the pore, helping to loosen up the thick, sticky sebum and pore-clogging dead skin cells etc. which are typical of acne-prone and oily skin. Oleic acids (omega-9 fatty acids) are thicker in consistency. Because of this, they tend to feel more “rich”, and to sit more on the surface of the skin, as opposed to penetrating into the pore. This allows Oleic acids to be more occlusive, helping to seal moisture into dry skin.

Various facial (and body, hair etc.) oils will have different compositions of Linoleic and Oleic fatty acids, which boils down to their comedogenic rating. Comedogenic rating refers to a specific ingredient’s likelihood of causing pore congestion and comedones (blackheads and whiteheads). All skincare ingredients will have their own rating, including various oils. Lucky for us, it’s quite easy to find lists of the comedogenic ratings of common skincare ingredients on the web. An excellent example here.

So when it comes to selecting a specific oil or oil blend, I take into consideration these comedogenic ratings. The drier oils (low comedogenic rating/higher ratio of Linoleic to Oleic acids), can be extremely beneficial for oily and/or acne-prone skin. Although it’s been drilled into our heads since puberty that we should avoid oils in skincare at all costs to prevent acne, the complete opposite happens to be true. Skin deprived of oil is more likely to begin over-producing its own natural oil (sebum) in response, causing the skin to be more acne prone. Instead, if we provide oils that are thinner, we can help the skin to be less congestion-prone by thinning out thick sebum, and it will be less likely to over-produce sebum with a healthy supply of oils already present.

On the other end of the spectrum, if skin is very dry, oils comprised mosltly of Linoleic acid may not be rich or occlusive enough to help the skin retain its moisture or to supplement the natural oils that the skin may be lacking. In this case, oils higher in Oleic acid content can be more appropriate. The heavier oils will aid in water-retention within the dermis by supplementing the skin’s natural lipid-barrier, which provides a type of seal over the skin, preventing the moisture within from evaporating into the air.

On to the favorites…

Drier Oils:

  1. Argan (Moroccan) Oil: With a comedogenic rating (C.R.) of 0, this is at the top of my list of oils that would be well suited for oilier skin types.
  2. Hemp Seed Oil: C.R. = 0, a very beneficial oil when used topically (and supposedly as a dietary supplement), this oil is less shelf-stable than the others on this list, so be sure to store in the refrigerator!
  3. Rosehip Seed Oil: C.R. = 1, known to be a natural source of vitamin A, this oil is said to have wonderful anti-aging benefits.

Richer Oils:

  1. Marula Oil: C.R. = 4, a lovely oil for the face that, I think, strikes the right balance between richness and absorbability.
  2. Coconut Oil: C.R. = 4, less of a favorite for use on the face, due to it’s potentially pore-clogging nature, it is fabulously nourishing on the body and hair and chock-full of antioxidants.

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