What comes to your mind when you hear the word "oil"?
"Grease", "fat", "cooking oil", "mineral oil", "pore-clogging", "film-forming" - these are just a few things that I used to associate the word "oil" with. When talking about oils in skin care we ultimately assume that they are bad for our skin. We might not know why, but taking into an account all of the marketing hype around oil-free products, we assume that the cosmetic products should be formulated without oils. But is that approach correct? In short - no, it isn't. And here is why.
Not all oils are the same
Of course some oils are very thick and can barely be absorbed by the skin. While those oils are great for cooking they might not be your best choice when it comes to skincare. But there are other oils, that are lights, silky and have fantastic absorption capabilities. These oils can provide with many vitamins and nutrients such as Vitamins A, E, C and Essential Fatty Acids, known as Omega-3 and Omega-6 and many other beneficial components. They don't clog pores, they don't cause inflammation. What they do is nourish and moisturize skin and deliver antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory benefits. These oils are known as exotic oils.
Oils aid in regulation of sebum production
It is not a secret that dehydration is the cause of many problems in the skin. It can obviously cause dryness, but it can also make the skin appear more oily. Lack of moisture in the skin might stimulate sebaceous glands to produce more oil (sebum) and that could lead to clogged pores, breakouts and acne. In the case of dehydration plant oils might actually aid in sebum regulation. While some oils will certainly cause more problems, there are other oils (such as, mentioned above, exotic oils) that can work as humectants to bind moisture to the skin, or be gently occlusive, trapping the moisture within the stratum corneum. This means that contrary to a popular belief people with acne can actually benefit from topical application of certain oils and moisturizers containing these oils.
Certain oils can serve as carriers for active substances
I don't want to dig deep into the skin absorption capabilities, as this complex subject requires it's own personal post. Although I would like to point out the fact that certain oils can serve as great carriers for some cosmeceutical and nutraceutical substances. Stratum Corneum is the top layer of epidermis. One of the main functions of it is to serve as a barrier against of TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss). This layer is relatively water-proof. Some oils have a great ability to penetrate via the lipids on the exterior of the corneocytes (the cells of which stratum corneum is composed of). That is where the water molecules would normally get stuck. This route is called an intercellular route. There is also another way for the lipid ingredients to penetrate the skin - via hair follicles and sweat glands (also known as the shunt route). This is the way that is normally used by jojoba oil due to it's natural affinity with sebum. As mentioned above, not all oils are the same. The penetration level depends greatly on the chemical makeup and quality of the particular oil. While some oils have a very slow absorption rate and can actually prevent active components from reaching their desired destination, others penetrate very quickly and have the ability to deliver the active components deep into the skin layers.
Anti-aging benefits of oils
Oils can be beneficial for skin in many ways. Some provide with anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal properties, while others help nourish the skin and improve it's elasticity, and some even might help with scars or minor hyperpigmentation. But one of the most important benefits that certain oils have in common is their anti-aging properties. Those light, easily absorbed oils that are rich in essential fatty acids, antioxidants and vitamins are highly effective ingredients in the anti-aging formulations.
I personally have discovered the true power of so-called exotic oils not so long ago. After months of research and trial I am stunned by amazing qualities these oils possess and by how beneficial they can be for our skin. Follow my blog to learn more about these individual oils and their benefits. As I will be posting more about it in the near future.
You can also follow my journey in the world of natural skin care here.
Role of oils in the topical treatment of acne by Jennifer Linder, MD. - Cosmetic Dermatology. April 2008. Vol.21 No.4.
Are the exotic oils the next black dress by Rhonda Allison. - Skin Inc. November 2014 issue.
Advanced Diploma in Organic Skincare Science by Formula Botanica, Module 1, unit 2.