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The most frequently asked question I get when I tell people about my switch to using facial oils as a moisturizer is, ‘won’t oil clog your pores causing you to break out?’ The great news is NO! But I don’t blame anyone for asking. Our whole lives we’ve been told that we should use oil-free products and now I’m saying you should put oils all over your face? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. You can wear oils during the day, you can wear oils at night (they won’t get all over your pillow!) and you can wear them under your makeup. You can wash your face with oils, you can take your makeup off with oils. Can you tell I love oils? Let me tell you why.
Here’s the deal— your skin is made up of sebaceous glands that produce a protective oil called sebum. Not surprisingly, you have the most sebaceous glands on your back, forehead and chin and none of these glands on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet. For your skin to be healthy, you need to maintain healthy levels of sebum.
But what’s healthy? We all know that skin types vary between dry, oily and those lucky ones who have normal skin. What we may not know is the reasoning behind this is partly due to acids found in the skin’s oils. Sebum has, among other things, two types of acids; oleic and linoleic acid. Skin’s natural sebum is high in oleic acid. Oily and acne prone skin is shown to have low levels of linoleic acids. The good news is that there are oils out there that can mimic the skin’s natural sebum, and that contain high levels of linoleic or oleic acid depending on what you need for your skin type.
Daily Factors and Skin Care
Besides the fact that your skin is more oily in some areas than others, there are so many daily factors that can make the natural oils of the skin freak out. When you wash your face, you are actually washing away the protective oils from your face. Also, and this is going to get deep, the skin harbors a bacteria that consumes the natural oil found on the skin. This is why some people actually wash their face with oils and why facial oils will restore the skin’s natural oils.
Here’s another untruth we’ve been following our whole lives— alcohol based toners and cleansers are good to dry out oily skin. I bet you can guess from what I’ve been saying that they’re not. We’ve talked a lot about the skin’s natural oil content and how important it is, so can you imagine what putting alcohol on it would do to it? It would cause it to become dry and irritated and in fact, most dry or irritated skin is a result of an oil imbalance. This could be because of a product you are already putting on your face that’s drying it out or could be because your skin can’t absorb the oils it needs properly. A quick fix for that would be to exfoliate daily to slough off the dry skin cells, regenerate new cells and allow the oils to absorb properly. Another bit of advice I have for normal to dry skin is to not wash your face in the mornings. Since you washed your face at night and didn’t do anything but sleep, just wet the area with warm water and use an alcohol free toner in the morning. I use a microfiber cloth like this one to gently exfoliate with warm water in the mornings instead of washing. Not washing your face, exfoliating and using an oil based moisturizer will help your skin retain its natural oil balance.
Oils vs. Moisturizers
Still not convinced you should switch from your tried and true lotion-based moisturizer? Start paying attention to the ingredient list on your moisturizer or on all of the products you use for that matter. You’ll notice that you probably can’t pronounce most of the ingredients and that there are probably a few preservatives, fragrances and other harmful ingredients thrown in there. You can use the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep Database as a great resource for looking up products and deciphering their ingredients.
There are so many different oils, most of which will be common names you may even have in your house, each with different vitamins and minerals that are so beneficial for just about every skin type. Usually, facial oils are a blend of carrier oils and essential oils.
A carrier oil is a very unassuming way of describing a category of fabulously beneficial oils. Carrier oils are derived from the fatty portion of a plant–– usually from the seeds, kernels or the nuts. Carrier oils get their name because they are often used to dilute essential and other oils prior to application to the skin. For example, hazelnut oil is an astringent and has some natural sun protectant. Rosehip seed oil has amazing anti-aging properties and pomegranate seed oil improves skin’s elasticity.
Essential oils are amazingly diverse oils derived from the aromatic portion of plants such as the leaves, bark, and roots, and can be used for medicinal purposes such as skin treatments, aromatherapy, cleaning agents and deodorizers. For example, carrot seed essential oil has been known to revitalize, tone and provide anti-carcinogenic benefits while geranium essential oil is known to facilitate blood circulation just below the surface of skin which helps diminish scars, marks and other fine lines.
There are benefits to using oils that go beyond those your skin will reap and that is the lack of fillers, emulsifiers and preservatives needed to make the product effective. Of course there are some safe, paraben-free lotion based moisturizers out there, don’t get me wrong. It’s just easier to look at the ingredients in oils (usually, just oils) and know exactly what you’re putting on your face.
Overcoming Conditioned Behavior
As long as the oils you are putting on your face are organic, plant-based and well chosen they will be very easily absorbed, not greasy, and noncomedogenic (noncomedogenic is a fancy way of saying it won’t clog pores). By balancing the skin’s natural oil production, the oil actually helps maintain healthy skin.
Our fear of oils may be a case of Pavlov-like behavior with oil-free moisturizers, alcohol based cleansers and shunning oil based moisturizers. Oils have been used for skin ailments since the early Egyptians and allow for lots of flexibility with what benefits you’ll give your skin and are the future of safe cosmetics and skin care products.