Fifty Shades of Grey of Oils in Skin Care!
Most of us would wish to have everything well-organized. Life as an either-or concept. Either it’s black or it’s white. Either to use a product or not to use it at all. For many years this used to be my way of thinking, too. However, life itself has verified my views. There are thousands shades of grey between black and white. The same thing is with applying oils to skin care. I had this feeling that after the initial wow effect a retreat would soon begin. Those who once kept repeating „Oils only” would now claim: „But no! Oils in skin care are bad!” Either black or white. What if applying oils to skin care requires familiarity with all the oily shades of grey?
At first, everyone was delighted with the idea of oils in skin care and they were applied extensively; nowadays, there has been a massive retreat. Which standpoint is right, then?
What does our skin need oils for?
It all much depends on skin type and beauty regimen. We are often prone to follow certain trends on full time basis – and then we apply nothing else but oils. In this case, especially with the coconut oil trend, after long-term application the final effect will, surprisingly, prove counterproductive.
Oils are essential in restoring the hydrolipidic barrier. It results from the skin barrier structure. One of its vital ingredients are unsaturated fatty acids – omega 3-6-9 for short. They are not internally delivered to skin because our body does not produce them. Sebum does not contain them either and so, our skin is in constant shortfall. While experiencing constant lipidic deficiency, our skin is prone to irritation, dryness, scalying, oilness or even acne symptoms, depending on its type.
What kinds of oils do we have and which ones are the best for our skin?
If we analyze the the EFAs content, oils can be divided into 3 categories:
- Category 1: oils containing over 50% of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), which is a large amount. They are, for instance: sea buckthorn oil, borage oil, primrose oil, wild rose oil, nigella oil, linen oil or safflower oil.
- Category 2: oils containing an average amount of PUFAs, that is, between 20-50%, such as: argan oil, apricot oil, almond oil or sesame oil.
- Category 3: oils containing less than 20% of PUFAs. They have long expiry dates but the amount of the ingredients vital to our skin is the lowest. A good example is coconut oil.
How important is this knowledge for us? Well, it all means that the choice of the oil type is truly essential. But why?
The answer depends on our skin care goal. If we want to restore the skin barrier, we should choose oils rich in omega 3-6-9 acids. However, we must keep in mind that they don’t form occlusion coating on our skin surface (and I will explain this term to you in a moment). They penetrate intercellular cement and renew the lipid layer. Saturated fatty acids provide an occlusive film but they do not rebuild the hydrolipidic barrier.
So, what does the term „occlusion” mean?
Occlusion is a protective coating on the skin surface so as to prevent the loss of water. Healthy skin loses around 300 grammes of water a day. If its hydrolipidic barrier is disrupted, our skin may lose a lot more water and develop problems with elasticity, dryness, scalying, redness or sensitiveness and lack of glow.
In short, while applying non-occlusive oils (such as borage oil, wild rose oil or primrose oil) that penetrate skin well and restores lipids, we should provide additional occlusion.
By applying saturated fatty acids, like jojoba oil, avocado oil, apricot oil or olive oil, we provide occlusive coating but we do not restore skin lipids, keeping our skin still over-dry. Do you know that feeling? Have you experienced it on your skin? Now you know how to overcome it.
You should start your adventure with oils from night skin care. What is important, oil coating must be covered with an additional layer of rich regenerating creme. This often becomes a bone of contention with ardent oil followers who apply it occlusively – that is, on top of the creme coat. Jojoba oil, avocado oil or macadamia oil can be applied in this way, as they function then as the creme layer. However, in my original, effective Skin S·E·N·S·E·I care system I have chosen oils rich in EFAs, mainly in omega-3 acids, to provide them the best access to skin. They should be covered with creme, not necessarily containing other oils.
There is one important issue with occlusion: in order to make it beneficial for our skin, it must be discountinuous, that is, it must allow our skin to breathe. Some substances, like pure paraffine, synthetic waxes, triglicerides or coconut oil are continuous occlusive agents. Continuous occlusion is a firm, unbroken layer that does not allow our skin to breathe. This type of occlussion is applied during beauty treatments, such as putting on facial mask, for it temporarily prevents transepidermal water loss (TEWL), giving the sense of well-moisturized and supple skin.
Why am I telling you about it?
Lately, there has appeared some claims that too frequent oil application causes skin loosening: it starts to swell, making the corneocyte layer loosen, thus leading to skin dryness. This may happen while applying oils containing saturated fatty acids that form continuous occlusive layer on the skin surface. When we remove occlusion, this loosening effect may, in fact, occur. Whereas, if we use good quality oils rich in unsaturated essential fatty acids that work as discontinuous occlusive agents, nothing of this sort will happen to us.
Oh, and there is one more important thing – there is no need to leave oil coating overnight every night! Are you surprised? Oils largely improve functioning of the hydrolipidic skin barrier but they aren’t a panacea to all problems. Your skin needs other substances, too. However, without proper hydrolipidic ballance you will not solve other troubling issues. Once you tackle with the root cause, you can apply oils once or twice a week, when there is a current need for skin regeneration, for example, after mountain holidays.
Can oils clog our skin?
The question of the comedogenic effect, that is, clogging skin pores with oil, is always critical while applying oils for the first time, much like potential skin irritation if it is over-reactive. Indeed, oils are, to an extent, comedogenic (pore clogging). This is only a possible occurrence, not something that should be taken for granted. In such a situaion, it is good to choose the least comedogenic oil, limit its application dose and include pore unclogging products in your skin care routine.
So, what to do? Should we start applying or avoiding oils?
Naturally, we should keep applying the beneficial oils that I have mentioned, such as argan oil, sea buckthorn oil, nigella oil or linen oil. They should be covered with a discontinuous occlusive layer that will protect our skin. Only then will our skin get to know what to do and how to benefit the most and nothing harmful will happen to it. Keep in mind that you don’t need to make oiling a regular part of your daily skin care. You can first apply oils to reach the improvement phase. Then switch to other products that help guarding the hydrolipidic ballance. And, at last, come back to oils every now and then. Oiling is a matter of relative needs of our skin, not a must routine that you are obliged to follow every single day.
Our skin needs a number of vital substances and nutrients so as to regenerate. Oil is simply one of these. It is a truly beneficial solution and I want to state it loud and clear. If applied in a proper way, oil does no harm to our skin and it should be cleared of any misconceptions and false accusations. All we need is to get familiar with shades of grey both of oils and of our skin.