The myth that all oil is bad for your skin is simply that – a myth. The truth is, while excess oil production does clog pores, create oily skin, and cause acne breakouts, your skin needs to maintain a healthy layer of oils to keep it moisturized and healthy. In fact, it is oil that helps protect your skin from drying out during severe weather; prolonged exposure to low humidity, chilly winds, central heating, and hot water strips skin of natural oils that keep moisture locked into the body.
Since the body produces its own oils naturally, it is not much of a stretch to imagine that using natural plant and seed-based oils for skin care would deliver the same benefits. Natural oils are amazing full-body moisturizers, and many also contain vitamins, minerals, fatty-acids, and antioxidants that strengthen, smooth, and refresh dry, tired skin. Several oils have anti-inflammatory properties, which can soothe skin irritations and improve the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. Increasingly, people are turning to natural oils as a cheaper and additive-free alternative to commercial skin care products. Because oils can be used by themselves in their organic, unrefined state, they cause fewer allergic reactions than traditional products with added chemicals and ingredients.
Here are some things to keep in mind before adding natural oils to your skin care routine:
- Talk to your dermatologist first, especially if you are acne-prone or have oily skin on your face. In these cases, you may still be able to use a natural oil as a body moisturizer, but you should avoid use on the face to prevent excess oil build-up and acne breakouts.
- Don’t reach for the bottle of olive oil sitting in your kitchen pantry. As with all skin care products, you should read the label first. For skin application, look for cold-pressed and unrefined oils, which retain the most nutrients. Many plant and seed-based oils packaged for cooking purposes have been exposed to heat in order to raise the smoke point and make them safer in the kitchen, but the process leaches essential nutrients from the oils.
- While there are no set guidelines for how much oil to apply at a time, your skin will tell you if it’s too much, too little, or just right. Post application, if your skin feels greasy, then the oil is not being fully absorbed – an indication that you’ve used too much.
- Limit sun exposure after using natural oils on your skin. Plant and seed-based oils can intensify the effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun – in fact, these same natural oils are often used as tanning oils to achieve a bronzed look after a day at the beach. However, keep in mind there is no such thing as a “good” tan – the very presence of a tan indicates the sun has already damaged skin.
- Natural oils are not the same thing as essential oils. While essential oils are extracted from naturally growing plants, fruits and flowers – like lavender, peppermint, and lemon – they are much more highly concentrated than natural oils, which makes only a few drops of essential oil necessary to feel strong medicinal effects. Essential oils are much more likely than natural oils to cause allergic reactions.
Now that you know what to look for, here are a few good natural oil choices to help get you started:
- Coconut oil is easily absorbed, has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and contains Vitamin E, which helps tighten and firm skin, retain moisture under the skin, and decrease signs of aging from sun damage and free radicals. Avoid using coconut oil on the face if you have oily skin or acne – it’s been known to cause skin breakouts.
- Olive oil is another easily absorbed, Vitamin E rich moisturizer. Due to its concentrations of Vitamins A and E, as well as fatty acids, olive oil is a great full-body hydrator for dry skin. Like coconut oil, it is heavy and should not be used on acne-prone faces.
- Avocado oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help retain moisture and give skin a young, healthy glow. Omega-3 fatty acids also have anti-inflammatory properties, making avocado oil a good choice to rub into dry, irritated skin.
- Pomegranate seed oil is full of antioxidants, which fight skin damage from the sun and toxins, and reduce the appearance of physical signs of aging. Pomegranate seed oil also aids in production of the protein keratin, which is responsible for skin’s firm structure and smooth texture.
- Rosehip oil is another super antioxidative natural oil. It too fights free radical skin damage and helps smooth out hyperpigmentation, age spots, old scars, and uneven skin.
The above is only a small sampling of natural oil selections for skin use. Other natural oils, like sunflower seed oil, jojoba oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, argan oil, flaxseed oil, and sesame seed oil, can also be used to moisturize, soothe, and rejuvenate skin. Always perform a sample test on a small patch of skin before advancing to full-body application, to ensure skin doesn’t react. Natural oils are a high-quality, budget-friendly remedy for dry, dull, and tired skin, and you don’t need to break the bank to practice good skin care – sometimes, the best-kept beauty secrets are hiding in plain sight at the grocery store.