Right now, skin care oils are all the rage. You will hear even very esteemed skin care experts who work for brands now claiming that “everyone” can benefit from a skin care oil, despite decades of research demonstrating that skin care oils can be pore-clogging, acne-causing, and even inflammatory to susceptible individuals.
New skin care oils are actually not that different from old skin care oils, meaning a product with 100% jojoba oil had the same chemical composition in 1974 as it does today. That’s a rumor somebody put out there. You can’t change the chemical composition of an oil, and most companies do not dilute oils down well, either. All skin care oils are naturally comprised of a blend of mostly fatty acids and some squalane.
However, that’s not to say all oils are bad for your skin. Some skin care oils are more beneficial for your skin than others. It is the length of the carbon chain and the composition of the fatty acids — saturated (contains only single-bonded carbon atoms) or unsaturated (contains double-bonded carbon atoms) — that makes them have entirely different chemical properties. For example, olive oil is made up of about 15% saturated and 85% unsaturated fatty acids. Coconut oil, on the other hand, is made up of the inverse: about 85% saturated and 15% unsaturated fatty acids. Understanding this, know that there are certain oils better for dry skin than others:
- Those with dry skin will not benefit much, if at all, from oils like almond, apricot, avocado, castor, and olive. These are best for those with normal skin types. This is because these oils are occlusive agents that trap only existing moisture into the skin. If you don’t have much moisture in your skin to begin with, these won’t help much.
- Those with dry skin are better suited to oils like palm, coconut, pequi, and argan. These oils contain fatty acids with more medium-to-long chain hydrocarbons. As a result, they function as emollients, which increase the amount of moisture skin is capable of holding while binding to water and oils within the skin.
Here’s a summary of four of the most popular oils out there today: Coconut, jojoba, argan, and pequi.
Coconut Oil: Best for Young, Dry, Non-Acne-Prone Skin
Let’s get one thing straight: Coconut oil is great for just about everyone — to eat. Unless you are trying to watch calories, coconut oil is an amazing source of healthy saturated fat, polyunsaturated oils, and thyroid function-supporting lauric acid. To ingest the stuff is, well, like digestive gold.
But putting coconut oil on your skin is, well, another story. Most of the studies showing a benefit have been done on babies and small children. As an emollient, coconut oil is gentle enough to use in baby formulas on infants’ thinner, more delicate skin (Indian Pediatrics). Another study found that virgin coconut oil could be used for its antibacterial and emollient qualities to treat contact dermatitis (Dermatitis). It can also help to heal burn wounds, though the researchers did not uncover why exactly, hypothesizing that it is because coconut has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties (Indian Journal of Pharmacology).
But coconut oil also has occlusive properties and can clog pores, to the point where I’m baffled when people who will not use petrolatum and mineral oil say they swear by coconut oil. It is ultra important to use coconut products on clean skin.
After about a month of using coconut oil, if you have dry skin, you should notice an improvement. But don’t be surprised if you use 100% coconut oil on normal to oily skin and end up with more clogged pores and breakouts.
Jojoba Oil: Best for Normal and Acne-Prone Skin (if you MUST try an oil)
In addition to having a funny name, jojoba oil (pronounced “ho-ho-bah”) is pretty awesome. Unlike other exotic oils like argan, coconut, and olive, jojoba oil is actually a wax with a chemical composition mimics your skin’s sebum more closely than any other oil.
Because jojoba is so similar to our skin’s natural oil, it is thought that jojoba oil can “trick” the skin into thinking it’s producing enough oil, which helps balance oil production [Source: Acne.org]. “Jojoba oil is rich in natural fats that mimic those in the outer layer of the skin,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “This means it can help the skin retain moisture and heal itself.” (source)
Scientific research confirms this. One study shows that use of jojoba oil shows modest swelling, indicative of moisture retention, in the stratum corneum (uppermost layer of skin) after use (Journal of Dermatological Science, 2008). Jojoba oil is also great for skincare fanatics because it can help to increase the penetration of other ingredients into the skin, something that may be useful for anti-acne treatments, such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or retinoids (Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, 1984).
This means that jojoba oil is good for those with normal to oily/acne-prone skin in small amounts. Just remember: Applying too much of any oil is not a good thing. Think a dime-size amount for the entire face.
Argan Oil: Best for Normal Skin Showing Signs of Aging
Let’s get one thing straight: A lot of the time, products with argan oil aren’t what they seem. Since pure argan oil is time-consuming and quite expensive to produce, many sellers mix it with other oil (like olive oil). And that’s a shame, since pure argan oil has wonderful skincare benefits. For instance, argan oil has three times the amount of the powerful antioxidant Vitamin E than is found in olive oil.
So, if you’re interested in using argan oil, the first step is to make sure that the ingredient list includes ONLY argan oil or Argania Spinosa Kernel oil. Some companies may also include the minerals and vitamins found in the oil. Just so it doesn’t say, like, “Argan oil” closely followed by, like, “Macademia nut oil.” You’re not getting all of the benefits.
According to Aveda’s in-house clinical tests, subjects showed a 38 percent improvement in lines after eight weeks of using their argan-rich firming face cream. The reason? Likely, a high natural concentration of vitamin E, as well as linoleic and oleic fatty acids, which help protect and maintain skin elasticity, smoothness, and radiance.
Linoleic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid. It is an essential fatty acid, meaning that it is not naturally produced by the body, and needs to be supplemented through the diet for normal bodily function. When applied topically on the skin, linoleic acid has been shown in several research studies (cited here) to be capable of reducing inflammation and acne and increasing skin’s moisturization levels.
On the other hand, oleic acid is a omega-9 fatty acid. Unlike omega-6 fatty acids, omega-9 fatty acids are nonessential, meaning that they do not need to be supplemented by the diet. Further, while linoleic acid helps to take down inflammation, oleic acid will simply help maintain a smoother skin appearance. Interestingly enough, linoleic acid comprises 55-60% of olive oil and 56% of açai berry, two other powerful ingredients in skin care today.
According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, argan oil also has significant UV-protective properties. So you may be preventing future signs of aging while you’re treating existing fine lines and wrinkles. The only real detriment to argan oil is the fact that I think it’s too heavy of an oil for those with oily or acne-prone skin. I think oily and acne-prone skin is much better off with a lighter-weight jojoba oil.
If you want to use a skincare oil, follow this guide:
- Coconut oil is best for young, normal to dry skin.
- Jojoba oil is best for normal to oily skin of all ages.
- Argan oil is best for older, normal to dry skin.
Looking for the best skin care? FutureDerm is committed to having its customers find — and create — the best skin care for their individual skin type, concern, and based on your ingredient preferences. Learn more by visiting the FutureDerm shop!