Science & Ingredients

Face Oils for Skin Conditions

by Jenifer Goldsmith, Senior Instructor, The International Dermal Institute & Dermalogica | June 24 2019 | 4 min read
Supple, plump skin is associated with youth and vitality, and one of the best ways to achieve this look is by using facial oils – a practice employed throughout the ages. The Aborigines in Australia have long used emu oil as a moisturizer and to treat skin wounds. Archaeologists believe the Egyptians used plant oils, most notably castor, sesame, and olive, to not only treat the skin, but also as a form of currency. The use of oils can be traced through the ancient Greeks and Romans, and even through the middle ages. However, despite evidence of the use of oils to care for the skin for thousands of years, facial oils have only recently become a staple in modern skincare due to their many benefits, including moisturization, antioxidant protection, supporting barrier function, and imparting a healthy, dewy glow.

With countless oils available, and the many different skin conditions and concerns clients have, it can be difficult to choose the best option. Let’s look at the most common skin conditions and how oils help treat them.

Dry/Alipoid Skin: This skin is lacking crucial lipids, and dehydrated skin is lacking moisture, but they often feel and look the same. Clients will complain of flakiness, tightness, irritation, rough texture, fine lines, and/or sensitivity accompanied by sensations such as itching, burning, or stinging. Applying oils can provide both immediate and long-term relief of dryness, dehydration, and sensitivity by replenishing lipids, sealing in hydration, and soothing irritation. Ideally, oils will be gently pressed directly on clean skin and followed by a moisturizer, but another option is to mix a few drops into a moisturizer and apply together. Top choices include:

         Camellia Japonica, also called Tsubake in Japanese, is a flowering tree in the tea family native to Japan and South Korea. Its oil contains high levels of essential fatty acids, which replenish the skin’s barrier and prevents trans epidermal water loss (TEWL). Camellia Japonica also has high levels of antioxidants to protect the skin from free radicals that deplete barrier lipids, which allows it to simultaneously repair and defend the skin.
Tamanu Oil is extracted from the Calophyllum Inophyllum seeds of the Ati Tree found in the South Pacific, and is known for its healing, antioxidant, antibacterial, and skin soothing properties, as well as its ability to protect the skin’s vital barrier lipids from breakdown, especially when the skin is exposed to free radicals due to UV radiation.
Chia Seed Oil is extracted from the Salvia Hispanica plant, a member of the Mint family, and is rich in antioxidants and omega-3 and -6 fatty acids and has also been shown to renew and fortify barrier lipids, increasing skin moisture content and reducing TEWL, while decreasing inflammation and itching sensations.

Sensitive/Sensitized Skin: This may also present itself with similar characteristics to dry and dehydrated skin because of their interconnected relationship to each other and a compromised barrier. People experiencing sensitivity may also complain of irritation, inflammation, dryness, tightness, itching, burning, stinging, and flushing or redness. Applying oils fortifies barrier lipids, soothes and calms the skin, and reduces redness and uncomfortable sensations. Application techniques are the same as for dry and dehydrated skin. It is best to choose a blend of oils that mimic the skin’s natural ratio of ceramides, essential fatty acids, and cholesterol.

         Sunflower Seed Oil (Helianthus Annuus) comprises ceramides, which play an essential role in maintaining the integrity of the skin by ensuring proper cohesion of skin cells and minimizing skin dehydration. It helps decrease inflammation, and encourages the growth of new cells, which contributes to the physical protective function of the barrier.
Evening Primrose Oil includes gamma linoleic acid, a fatty acid that is also required for intact epidermal lipid bilayers, and has been shown to soothe and heal eczema and other irritated skin conditions. In addition to boosting barrier lipid content, it aids the production of prostaglandins, which support proper cell function.
Avocado Sterols are a rich source of phytosterols, plant-derived cholesterols, which also help maintain the lipid bilayers, soothe and calm the skin, and reduce dryness.

Aging Skin: Unfortunately, the lipid content of the skin naturally declines as we age, which can lead to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, rough texture, and dryness along with dehydration. Combined, these characteristics often contribute to an increased perceived age. It’s important to have an arsenal of ingredient knowledge to customize clients’ treatment plans and homecare regimens, and plant-based oils are an important part of that plan to impart a youthful glow.

         Argan Oil is extracted from the kernels of the argan tree endemic to Morocco, and is a rich source of fatty acids, plant sterols, Vitamin E, antioxidants and flavonoids that inhibit collagen degradation due to enzyme activity, and Ferulic Acid that protects the skin and reinforces the barrier lipids.
Rosehip Seed Oil is extracted from the seeds of the wild rose bush found in the Andes. It is also rich in antioxidants that protect the skin from free radical damage, fatty acids to support healthy barrier formation, and delivers Retinoic Acid to the skin to improve signs of aging, including rough skin texture, lines, wrinkles, and dark spots.
Carrot Seed Oil is a cold-pressed oil from wild carrot seeds and is nourishing and antioxidant-rich. It is a source of beta carotene, which converts to Vitamin A in the skin to help firm and rejuvenate skin and improve elasticity.

Oily/Congested/Breakout Prone Skin: Despite the objections you may hear from your clients with oily, congested, and acneic skin, facial oils can benefit them as well. These clients tend to over-cleanse and strip their skin in the quest for a matte, smooth finish. Little do they know the soaps, alcohols, and scrubs they are using can worsen their condition. Performing a double cleanse with an oil-based cleanser first and a water-based cleanser second will help them achieve decreased oil and breakouts. A blend of plant-based oils will cling to and break down the oil-soluble debris on their skin, including excess sebum. Here are some oils to look for:

         Borage Seed Oil is extracted from the Borage plant, also known as starflower, and is extremely rich in essential fatty acids. It is ideal for oil cleansing because it will boost hydration and smooth the surface of the skin without stripping.
Kukui Nut Oil comes from the nut of the Kukui tree found in Polynesia and Hawaii. Also rich in essential fatty acids, it is ideal for oily skin because it is a noncomedogenic “dry oil”, which feels lightweight and non-greasy.
Apricot Kernel Oil is extracted from the apricot seed, is odorless, and also has a lightweight texture. It has high levels of Vitamin E, Vitamin K, and antioxidants, will moisturize the skin without clogging, and even can reduce inflammation and excess sebum associated with acne lesions, making it ideal for treating both the symptoms and underlying causes of acne.
Rice Bran Oil is extracted from the husk of rice grains. It is abundant with antioxidants, fatty acids, and Vitamin E. It has been used in Japan for centuries to treat the skin because it helps smooth the skin’s surface, provide environmental protection, and brighten skin tone, which can help accomplish the smooth and brightened look oily skin clients search for.

As you can see, plant oils have numerous benefits, including replenishing and fortifying the barrier for added skin protection, providing antioxidant support, increasing firmness and elasticity, soothing and calming, and even deep cleansing. Choosing the right blend is just a matter of determining the skin condition(s) you want to treat.