Five years ago, if you had asked me to rub olive oil on my face and leave it on I would have been horrified. As someone who possessed freakishly sensitive skin – for example, after plucking my eyebrows, I would develop whiteheads the next day – the thought of applying oil directly to it was simply incomprehensible. Wouldn’t my skin freak out? Wouldn’t I break out more? Olive oil was for salads, not my face, dammit!
Boy, was I wrong. Now that I’m older and wiser (and, incidentally, clearer-skinned), I’ve come to understand that oils are amazing for your skin. Aside from the fact that they are crazy hydrating, they’re loaded in antioxidants and nutrients, plus possess an array of neat properties that can actually help prevent and treat skin ailments like acne.
Before I dive into why oils are fantastic, let’s first address the phrase “oil-free.” Once heralded by marketers, “oil-free” is a designation that was born from the use of mineral oil in skincare products. Created from petroleum (aka the byproduct of gasoline), mineral oil is an inexpensive, totally nutrient-devoid ingredient that helps the skin retain moisture. In doing so, however, it can clog your pores and, subsequently, cause breakouts. Once beauty marketers realized this, they began creating “oil-free” products, thus assuaging the concerns of consumers over the shitty oil they were using. Enlightening information, right?
So, when I say oils, I mean 100% natural (preferably organic) plant-based oils. These guys are your friends for a multitude of reasons. For one, they’re incredibly hydrating thanks to the fact that they’re rich in essential fatty acids. These substances are incredible emollients, moisturizing the skin unlike any skincare ingredient I’ve ever used before, plus – unlike mineral oil – are loaded with antioxidants. This is good news because they can help do things like accelerate cell turnover, fight free radicals, reduce inflammation, and heal scars. In short, they’re skin wunderkinds.
What’s more, oils can actually help treat acne. Here’s why: Breakouts are often the result of an overproduction of oil, which then leads to clogged pores. Given that many carrier oils – particularly jojoba oil – have a strikingly similar chemical composition to the skin’s natural oil barrier, the sebum, they can help balance out oil production by “tricking” the skin into thinking it has produced a sufficient amount of oil. Moreover, studies have shown that skin that’s acneic is often deficient in linoleic acid, a fatty acid found in high percentages in oils like grape seed oil, rosehip seed oil, and safflower oil.
In short, oils are amazing. Fear not dear friend and proceed boldly… with these two tips in mind: One, look for products made with pure, 100% organic plant oils. No fragrance and no strange, illegible ingredients. Two, if your skin is dry and/or mature, go for thicker oils; if it’s more breakout-prone, select thinner, faster absorbing oils. Ready, set – go!