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On Your Health

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Natural Oils for Skin Care

The skin is one of the most important organs in the body. It’s responsible for preventing water loss, stopping bacteria from entering the body, regulating body temperature and storing fat and water.

Many times, the skin works in perfect harmony and handles these duties simultaneously. Other times, it needs assistance to replenish what is lost. This is where skin care comes into play. While some view cosmetics as primarily a means to enhance appearance, they also serve a functional purpose. 

With consumers moving away from processed skin care products with dozens of ingredients to try natural skin care products, natural oils have grown in popularity. We’re covering some of the best natural oils for your skin, what you should look for and how you can avoid suffering from adverse or allergic reactions.

Which layer of skin is responsible for water retention?

There are three layers to your skin: a thin top layer (epidermis), a thick middle layer (dermis) and a bottom layer (subcutaneous fat). Each layer has a distinct role. The middle skin layer contains hair follicles, sweat glands and blood vessels. It’s also home to sebaceous glands that are responsible for making oil and keeping your skin soft, hydrated and waterproof.

This oily substance, called sebum, is a mixture of triglycerides, fatty acids, waxes and other components that lubricate the skin and help it retain moisture. Whether due to environmental factors, behavioral factors or certain medical conditions, too much water can evaporate from your skin to cause dry skin.

By introducing oils to your skin, you add a layer of protection that locks in moisture. As an added bonus, certain types of natural oils are rich in antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

Which oils are good for your skin?

All oils aren’t made equal. Below, we analyze more than a dozen different types of natural oils that may benefit your skin. Talk to your doctor or dermatologist before using any of these products as part of your skin care routine as natural products can still cause allergic reactions.

Many of the oils listed are the same types found in kitchen cabinets. Cooking oils tend to be refined, so opt for cold-pressed or unrefined oils if you plan to use them on your skin. This ensures you receive the maximum benefits.

When researching these various oils, you’ll see words like linoleic acid and oleic acid. These are the main two types of fatty acids in oils. Oils high in linoleic acid tend to be less comedogenic, meaning they’re less likely to clog pores. Oils high in oleic acid tend to be more comedogenic, meaning they’re more likely to clog pores, especially for people with oily skin types.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, which keeps it in a solid state at room temperature. The high fat content, combined with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, make it ideal for preventing moisture from leaving the skin. Coconut oil is comedogenic, so it can cause breakouts on your face. However, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil is safe to use on other parts of your body. 

Olive oil

Rich in vitamins A, D, E and K, olive oil also acts as a moisturizer and can help keep your skin hydrated. Many types of olive oil are refined or a blend of several types of oils. You’ll receive the most benefits from extra virgin olive oil that is unrefined and cold pressed.

Avocado oil

Avocados are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate. Although they have more fat than most fruits, avocados boast the good kind of fat — they’re high in linoleic acid and oleic acid. The oils extracted from this fruit contain those same nutrients, making it a useful skin care remedy for dry skin. 

Jojoba oil

Take a look at your sunscreen bottle the next time you use it and you’ll likely see jojoba oil on the ingredient list. When combined with other ingredients, this oil helps enhance their absorption. Jojoba oil is high in wax esters, which help prevent water loss. It can help treat various kinds of dermatitis and has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Shea butter

Shea butter is extracted from the nuts of a shea tree, which are native to West Africa. The final product is similar to cocoa butter in that it remains solid at room temperature before melting once it hits warm skin. Shea butter is high in phenols and plant sterols, which contain anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Tea tree oil

Many natural oils can actually make acne worse, but not tea tree oil. The antimicrobial properties in tea tree oil help disinfect your pores while also reducing swelling and inflammation. A little goes a long way, though. Dab any area with a cotton swab dipped in a bit of tea tree oil.

Peppermint oil

This herb is a mix between watermint and spearmint. The oils from peppermint leaves can have anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties, making it a good topical oil to alleviate skin conditions that produce itching.

Chamomile oil

When used in teas and herbal drinks, chamomile can help your body and mind relax. Chamomile oil works in the same way to calm your skin, and it can be used to soothe red, itchy skin.

Marula oil

This oil, which is high in antioxidants, comes from the marula tree native to Africa. Marula oil is considered a lighter oil, so you can use it on oily skin without running the risk of worsening acne. This is due to its non-comedogenic properties that won’t clog pores. Marula oil also helps retain moisture.

Argan oil

A popular addition to shampoos and other bath products, argan oil helps moisturize skin and also boasts antioxidant properties thanks to vitamin E and omega fatty acids.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil is another popular cooking oil that also doubles as a product you can use for your skin. Rich in omega fatty acids, it has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. You can also use it as a moisturizer. When shopping, choose cold pressed or unrefined grapeseed oil.

Rosehip oil

Extracted from the seeds of wild rose bushes, rosehip oil can be used as a moisturizer due to its ability to hydrate the skin. It also contains beta carotene and vitamins C and E. Rosehip’s anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial for people with skin conditions such as eczema.

Rosemary oil

Another herb known more for its culinary uses, rosemary is used to treat acne and to promote healthy hair and skin.

Oregano

This popular cooking herb contains oils that may be beneficial in healing wounds on your skin.

Best Skin Care Oils

Best natural oils for dry skin

Most oils work well with dry skin, as their primary goal is to seal in moisture. There are a few that standout, though. In general, coconut, rosehip, olive and argan oils help treat dry skin. Extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil and marula can help treat extremely dry skin that is prone to cracking, bleeding and flaking.

Coconut oil, marula oil and avocado oil are especially useful since they contain high levels of oleic acid, which makes oils thicker and richer to trap moisture. Oleic acid, which is also found in argan oil, can help balance out sebum production to ensure moisture doesn’t leave the skin too quickly. Argan oil is also rich in vitamin E to repair any damage caused by dry skin.

If you have oily skin that becomes dry, you may want to shy away from a comedogenic oil such as coconut oil. These types of oil can clog pores, especially on the face, and cause acne breakouts. Instead, opt for lighter oils such as argan, jojoba or grapeseed oil. These oils absorb more quickly into the skin and can also help soothe dry areas zapped of moisture.

Can you put essential oils on your skin?

Between diffusers and placing drops in cleaning products, essential oils continue to be all the rage these days. 

That’s just the beginning, though. These powerful extracts are also being used on body parts to help anything from scrapes and cuts to acne and sore muscles. But, are they safe to use?

Avoid using pure essential oils directly on your skin. Why? Essential oils are potent because it takes a large quantity of the plant they are derived from to produce a small amount of oil, making them highly-concentrated products. For example, it can take hundreds of lemongrass plants to make one pound of oil.

Instead of placing these oils directly on your skin and risking an adverse reaction, dilute the oils in a carrier oil or water so they aren't as potent. Carrier oils are usually neutral plant-based oils that act as a way to “carry” the essential oils to your skin cells. Examples include grapeseed oil, jojoba oil or avocado oil.

Essential oils can still cause an allergic reaction, regardless of how much you dilute them, if you have sensitive skin or a history of skin reactions (bad rash or hives). Oregano oil, lemongrass oil, chamomile oil and cinnamon bark oil tend to cause more allergic reactions than other essential oils.

While citrus oils are safe to use when diluted, they may cause a sunburn if applied before going outside. Use these oils either first thing in the morning or before bed to avoid sunburn.

Oils such as bitter almond, inhula, khella, pennyroyal, sage, sassafras, turmeric and wintergreen are potentially toxic and shouldn’t be used on your skin.

 

If you’re using essential oils — or any natural oil — for the first time, use a small amount on your arm as a trial run to check for adverse reactions. Consult an INTEGRIS Health dermatologist with any questions you have on natural oils or skin care in general.

 

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