Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Good Oil - Facial Oils 2015

Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the media about facial oils. In the last few years I've started using facial oils again, having first been introduced to Clarins' range in the late 90's. I've used Coconut oil as a body oil for ages, and am a recent convert to oil as a cleanser (see my previous post on cleansers for more info) - it's fantastic! I also read recently that my fave Kate Moss is also a facial oil advocate: "At night, I love the ritual of applying a face oil – they make me feel like my skin has been restored and are just so nourishing. You feel like you’re plumping up your skin and putting a bit of life back in it." (Kate is a fan of Sanctuary Spa in Covent Garden's Wonder Oil Serum, which contains Jojoba and Pomegranate Oil.)

I'm a fan of beauty writer Zoë Foster, who always has great skincare advice. I'd read in her book Amazing Face the virtues of Rosehip Oil and using cleansing oils. As my skin is combination and can be very oily, I was pleased to discover that facial oils will not make your skin greasy, or exacerbate the oil (more on this below). Dryness and anti-aging are two major skincare concerns of mine, and Rosehip Oil is heralded as a great solution for both. I picked up a little bottle from Trilogy that I’ve been using at night the last few years, day and night.  Despite having an oily t-zone, my skin is also very prone to dehydration & dryness in the cheeks and round my mouth, especially in Winter or when I get run down.  The Rosehip Oil definitely makes my skin feel less dry, more hydrated, and not over-oily. Being on a budget since having two children, it's an added bonus that Rosehip Oil not only works well, but is more affordable than most expensive moisturizers, night creams and anti-aging serums & creams. 

Rosehip Oil has been working well - but then I found something new. I recently got back from a break in the tropics to Auckland’s coldest day. Having spent two weeks in skin-loving warmth & damp humidity, I was freaking out about the usual effect returning to the cold Winter and heat pumps would have on my skin. Also as I'm now over 40, those fine lines around my mouth, top lip and eyes are definitely creeping in more. Eek! I’d been given a pot of Zoë Foster’s Face Hero from her new Go To range of skincare products – a combination of super oils including nut oils, Jojoba, Rosehip and Buriti Oils, purported to hydrate, smooth and moisturize. I have been smoothing a thin layer of Face Hero oil all over my face day and night. Now a month post-holiday, my skin is as supple and hydrated as it was on hols – no dryness or dehydration to be seen, despite being exposed to this dry cold Winter and hours of dry heat-pump air. Face Hero is fantastic - indeed a skincare hero!  Putting a product to work like this is the best way to be able to see valid results. I know that my skin dries up if I go from warm to cold, and can get dry patches too - so this was a great experiment and testament to the product. I also know that when my skin gets dry, wrinkles and fine lines look a lot more prominent!
Go-To Face Hero "A terrifically powerful, fantastically lightweight face oil that deeply hydrates, 
soothes, revitalizes and completely protects the face against bad guys trying to make it unhappy."
and Go-To Exceptionoil (Zoe's fab oil for your body)

I've also been using an oil cleanser for the last few months and found it excellent, leaving my skin cleansed, yet hydrated and smooth – no tight, squeaky clean feeling or dryness and conversely, not oily. Cleansing Oils suit all skin types and I’ve also found them to be highly effective in removing every skerrick of makeup, including mascara.  Check out my friend's review on this new Lipidol oil cleanser that she put me onto.

As I was extolling the virtues of facial oils to anyone who’d listen, a friend mentioned on her blog that she had read that it was a no-no to put oil on your skin at night, the theory being that it makes your skin "lazy" and not give it a chance to balance and rejuvenate itself naturally.  I'd never heard this. Given my recent positive experience with oils, I went about doing some research on this theory, and the facts about facial oils. Here’s the down low!

The Sciencey bit

The skin has three layers - the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous. Your epidermis has a layer of lipids (sebum and keratinocyte membrane lipids), which protects your skin from the elements and keeps moisture in and dirt and pathogens (bacteria) out.

This fatty lipid layer gets damaged and thinner over time, which is why we need to use moisturizers as a 'barrier' during the day - to protect skin from baddies such as cold, wind, the sun and pollution and free radicals.

n. An atom or group of atoms that has at least one unpaired electron and is therefore unstable and highly reactive. In animal tissues, free radicals can damage cells and are believed to accelerate the progression of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and age-related diseases.
Free radicals are a result of normal body processes, but they can also be created by external elements like exposure to the sun (UVR - ultra violet radiation) and smoking - two of the skin's worst enemies, which'll age you beyond belief.  When sebum, the skin’s natural oil, is mixed with dirt, it gets sticky and can block your pores, causing more baddies - blackheads and spots. This can also happen if a hair follicle becomes blocked.  Your epidermis can be affected by harsh cleansers, removing the natural oils and upsetting their balance - hence the need to not 'strip' your skin (see my previous post on some good cleansing tips).

Why use facial oils?

Unlike water-based creams and moisturizers, facial oils contain molecules small enough to penetrate the three layers of your skin (the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous). Oils are lipophilic (oil attracts oil), they can penetrate the epidermis quickly and easily to help prevent moisture loss help to stabilize your natural oil production. You can also apply oil before other products like retinol, as these products can “piggy back” onto the oil and it helps them penetrate the skin more effectively too. "Oils act as the skin’s lipid barrier, like Glad Wrap, keeping the moisture in, and protecting against dryness." (Zoë Foster, The Glow)

While we can’t stop the aging process, we can certainly slow it down, as well as protect and improve the quality of our skin. As well as not smoking, staying out of the sun and keeping skin hydrated, wrinkles can be held off by protecting, nourishing, moisturizing and hydrating our skin as effectively as we can with products that work the best. Oils contain fatty acids and antioxidants which combat the two things we want to protect our skin from – damage and aging. Fatty acids and antioxidants in facial oils include anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, healing and moisturizing properties. The more hydration and moisture we can keep in and add into our skin, the better - have you ever noticed how much better your skin looks in a humid environment? Damage such as discoloration, scarring (don't pick those spots!), and wrinkles are mainly encouraged and caused by dryness, dehydration and free radicals.

What is in facial oils?

Fatty acids

These fatty acids found in oils, such as omega oils such as oleic and linoleic acids, moisturize the skin and prevent dryness, reducing the signs of aging and can also keep the natural oil in your skin balanced to avoid break outs. Oils with a higher percentage of oleic acid are thicker so are better for dry or dehydrated skin. Linoleic acid oils are thinner, so better suit oily or sensitive skins and have strong anti-inflammatory properties.


Powerful antioxidants such as Vitamin A, B, C and E are great for anti-aging. They protect and hydrate the skin, and help reduce the appearance of tissue damage such a scarring, dark spots or sun damage. Pro-Vitamin A is beta carotene, which converts into Vitamin A. Vitamin A is a natural retinol and can help with scarring and discoloration. Vitamin B is great for sensitive skin, and can help with eczema and dermatitis. Vitamin E can improve scarring, discoloration and wrinkles. Vitamin C aids our skin’s collagen production. Also contrary popular belief, even small amounts of Vitamin C as low 0.6% can provide anti-aging benefits.

Non-scented fatty oils like Sweet Almond or Grapeseed are good carrier oils – can be used to add essential oils or use before other products to help penetrate the skin. As Coconut oil is quite a good moisturizer but quite light, add it to a carrier oil for a stronger moisturizer.

Can you use oils on oily skin?

Yes! In fact, oils are great for oily skin like mine. They do not sit on the skin's layer, or add grease to your skin. I have been using an oil cleanser and layer of oil on my face day and night for the last few months - no extra spots or grease to be seen. In fact my skin is glowing - and we are in the middle of a very cold, dry Winter. Zoë Foster explains that the theory that oil makes your skin oily is patently untrue.  "The skin needs moisture and oil to function properly. Oils act as the skin’s lipid barrier, like Glad Wrap, keeping the moisture in, and protecting against dryness. People with oily skin are terrified of using face oils, but oily skin is often very dehydrated, and face oils are a terrific way to fix that. Oily skin comes about because the skin overproduces sebum (the “oil” that causes congestion etc) when its oil content is out of whack… usually from over cleansing and exfoliating and stripping away all the skin’s natural oils, making the skin very thirsty… which the body tries to fix by producing more sebum to compensate. Vicious cycle. Because of all this, the right face oil can actually clear up blemished and congested skin." Read more here.

Should you use oils on your face at night?

As I mentioned above, I'd read about this theory that it was not a good idea put oil on your skin at night, as skin has to regenerate without oils. Personally, I have found that adding an oil to my night time routine has improved my skin's hydration, so I wanted to check this theory.
Zoë Foster at her Go-To skincare launch 
(in the fab pink lobster dress!)

I asked Zoë Foster on her thoughts on this. “How odd, I've never read a negative stance against face oils, (everyone is generally very pro face oil, in fact) and especially not one as specific as to highlight the PM as the time not to use them. Anyway, I disagree. The skin needs both oil and moisture to function well and look healthy, and using an oil underneath your face cream is an excellent way to ensure thorough hydration. Also, at night, your skin is in repair mode, which is a great time to use oil since it will help strengthen the moisture barrier and also provide nourishment. And while a face oil like Face Hero is far from greasy and is actually fantastic for oily skin (because oily skin can be dehydrated and need nourishment), using an oil (rather then in the AM) at night prevents the potential risk of of surface level sheen.” Read more Q&A on skincare & check out Zoë's Go To skincare range here

How do cleansing oils work?

Because we don't want to strip or damage the skin's natural balance of lipids and sebum, but still clean our skin adequately - oil is a great option. Because oils are lipophilic (oil attracts oil), by massaging cleansing oil into your skin you are loosening and attracting excess oil and dirt. Cleansing oils are water soluble, so you rinse your skin and take away the cleansing oil and all the dirt with it. Some cleansing oils use a mild surfactant (this helps the emulsification of the oil with the water). I highly recommend that everyone try a cleansing oil. I love it! Most beauty houses should give you a sample to try, or if you are in NZ or Australia, try Lipidol's economical option here.

Which facial oils should I try?

Different oils have different benefits, but most of them contain fatty acids and antioxidants. Try to buy pure or certified organic oils. Best they are not treated with heat so look for steamed or cold-pressed, CO2 extracted and free of parabens, silicones and artificial fragrance or colours.  They should also be non-comedegenic (i.e. won't block your pores). A good quality facial oil will penetrate the skin and not sit on the top, leaving it greasy.

Pure plant oils should not contain synthetic fragrances.  Be careful of highly scented pure oils like peppermint or lavender  – they can irritate your skin in high concentrations. (I use Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate and Lush Dream Cream, both contain Lavender oil but a small enough amounts to be effective, yet non irritating. However, I once used a Peppermint face scrub which left my skin red for days.) Citrus oils can cause your skin to be photosensitive, so make sure to do a skin patch test if you are using oils including these essential oil additives.

Vitamin C reacts and can lose efficacy when exposed to oxygen and light, so any oils containing Vitamin C should be purchased in light protective containers or vials. See more on Vit C and skincare here.

A good idea is to use a mixture of oils (like Face Hero, and some of the products pictured below). There are many good options on the market, formulated to pay attention to various different skin concerns. Here are a few of the main benefits of a selection of oils which are used in facial oils, either alone, or combined with other oils.

Almond Oil:  Moisturizing and inflammatory.  Rich in Vitamin A, B, E and D. Higher in oleic acids. Said to lighten skin and help reduce dark circles under your eyes caused by dehydration. A good carrier oil.

Argan Oil: Anti aging and moisturizing. Rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin E and essential fatty acids (omegas). Bear in mind that Argan is the latest oil du jour - cheaper options like Olive or Corn Oil have the same properties and are just as good.

Avocado Oil: Healing & Moisturizing. Rich in essential fatty acids including oleic acid, protein and vitamins A, B1, B2, D and E. Can be used as a carrier oil.

Blackcurrant Oil: Reparative anti-inflammatory properties. High in Vit C, B and P and higher in linoleic acid. Can be used as a carrier oil.

Buriti Oil: Moisturizing, nourishing and anti-inflammatory. Contains fatty acids, Vitamin A, C and E.

Calendula Oil: Reparative, calming and healing. Good for eczema. Contains Pro-Vitamin A.

Coconut Oil: A light moisturizer, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. Good to add to a carrier oil like Sweet Almond Oil to penetrate the skin more.

Grapeseed Oil: Moisturizing, reparative. Has Vit C. Naturally regulates oil production so is good for oily skin. 78% linoleic, a good light weight carrier oil.

Jojoba Oil: Not actually an oil, but a wax. Moisturizing and anti-aging. Helps to control the over production of sebum, protective, rich in vitamin E.  A good carrier oil.

Lavender Oil: Has antiseptic properties, healing, anti-inflammatory and circulatory stimulant. Not to be used on skin directly/undiluted.

Marula Oil: Moisturizing. Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids.

Olive Oil: Very moisturizing and high in fatty oleic acids. Can be used as a carrier oil.

Passionfruit Oil: Very moisturizing and anti-inflammatory. Higher in Linoleic acids.

Rosehip Oil: Reparative, anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and anti-aging.  High in vitamin C, Vitamin A which can help with discoloration. High in Linoleic acid. Beware of Rosehip oil going off - check out more info here on Zoë's blog.

Seaberry Oil: Protective, moisturizing,  nourishing and anti-inflammatory.

Sesame Oil: Moisturizing. Includes Vitamin A and E, Also has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. Can be used as a carrier oil.

Tea Tree Oil: Great antiseptic properties, it kills bacteria and helps acne.

How do I introduce oils to my skincare regime?

Try a few drops in your regular day cream and/or night cream to begin with. Oils are to be applied straight after cleansing.  However - bear in mind that oil can dilute your SPF. I add oil directly to dry problem areas at night, especially in Winter when my skin is particularly parched, then often with a night cream on top. I also use oils that are high in Vitamin C around my fine lines and wrinkles, especially the crow’s feet! In addition to Face Hero, ere are a few recommended products on the market right now, and do check out my post on oil cleansers here for more oil cleanser options.

Facial oils

Seaberry Oil Skin Nutrition Booster

Grown Alchemist Anti-Oxidant+ Facial Oil 25mL

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Concentrate 

1 comment:

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