In an article about making a new body scrub out of an old body wash or lotion, I mentioned in passing that you could always add some essential oils for scent. Eve asked if I knew of a list of oils that worked for various skin types and so on. I decided to compile some links and some of my own experience about using oils for skin care.
Yes, really: mineral oil in skin care
Oil has a generally bad reputation in skin care because people think oil – particularly mineral oil – encourages acne and clogged pores. But it’s not quite that simple: for example, many cleansers (cold cream, Shu Uemura’s cleansing oil, etc.) actually contain mineral oil because it can pull dirt out of your pores like nobody’s business. In fact, despite all the hype from so-called “natural” cosmetics companies, mineral oil is generally good for you. In fact, while anyone can be sensitive to any ingredient, mineral oil is one of the less likely ones to cause any sort of reaction.
Dermatologists frequently recommend mineral oil or petrolatum (a related ingredient) based products for dry skin: Vaseline, Eucerin, baby oil, etc. That’s because it’s extremely rare for people with dry skin to have bad reactions to mineral oil.
When my skin gets extremely dry in the wintertime – and it’s usually my face that gets so dry – I do the following:
- Right after showering or bathing, before I even start to towel off, I apply mineral oil (you can use baby oil – it’s just mineral oil with fragrance). With the skin still wet, you only need a few drops of oil, and it spreads very easily.
- Once my skin has air dried for a minute or so, I put Aquaphor (by Eucerin) or Vaseline (my dermatologist recommends them both equally) on my skin.
Over a few days, this routine helps tremendously. I slowly go back to my normal routine of gently toweling dry after showering or bathing, and then applying a good moisturizer (my dermatologist recommends Cerave for my sensitive skin).
“Carrier” oils for skin
Carrier oils are the main oils you use – like the mineral oil I recommended using above, they can be applied straight to the skin. You can add essential oils to them, but in much smaller quantities. Believe it or not, you want your essential oils to make up no more than 1.5% of any skin care application you use daily. Just a drop or two to an eight ounce container is often enough.
Please keep in mind that one person’s skin can be very different from another, and even skin that’s not particularly sensitive is surprisingly responsive to everything you put on it and everything you eat. There is always a chance you’ll experience a reaction, so use common sense: try one oil at a time, watch carefully for trouble, and contact a dermatologist if you want to play it really safe.
Jojoba is one of the safest oils to use anywhere on your body, if you’re concerned about breakouts. It’s chemically very similar to sebum, the oil our skin produces, so the body tends to accept it without reacting badly. There are so many uses for jojoba, ranging from cleaning off eye makeup to conditioning your hair. It actually cleans pores, so no worries about clogging. But it’s a powerful, highly penetrative moisturizer, too. I’ve used a lot of products with jojoba over the years and always had good results.
I’ve used sesame oil in place of moisturizer before – all over my face and body. It’s naturally antioxidant, anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral. It’s the main ingredient in most commercially sold body oils (like Neutrogena’s Body Oil). It’s a lightweight oil that absorbs quickly, doesn’t clog pores, etc. By using pure sesame oil (the very same thing you would cook with), you cut out the preservatives and additives commercial formulas have and get all the benefits. Note: it’s usually much cheaper to buy sesame oil marketed for cooking rather than skin, and it’s exactly the same stuff. If it’s safe to eat, it’s definitely safe to put on your skin.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is drying. It can be a great spot treatment for acne, and forms the basis of some commercial anti-acne products. I have combination skin and have found tea tree oil can be too drying, but many people with oily skin find it invaluable.
Now this is what I use to dry up pimples. It’s drying but soothing and healing, all at the same time. You can dab lavender right onto a spot and it will not only dry up but heal rapidly and leave less scarring. I recommend this one if you have dry or combination skin with occasional pimples, but it can also be good for oily or acne-prone skin.
Chamomile is a skin soother. It speeds healing time and softens the skin. For sensitive or stressed skin, chamomile renews tired cells.
Olive oil is extremely deep-down moisturizing. Some people use olive oil directly on their skin as a moisturizer, but I’m surprised because a dermatologist once recommended I take baths with olive oil every night for a few weeks, and stop when I started getting pimples. I did so, and it worked just as he suggested. Once I quit the baths, the pimples went away but my skin retained that moisture for months, maybe even years. It could be I had the pimple reaction because of specific skin issues that I have. I recommend olive oil, one way or another, but watch carefully for signs of irritation. If you can’t use it directly on your skin, it makes a terrific ingredient or base for a product – particularly a cleansing agent. Many Kiss My Face products have an olive oil base.
Emu oil comes from the refined fat of the emu bird, so it’s not suitable if you’re avoiding animal products. I haven’t personally tried it, but it’s known for having a high concentration of Omega 3 oils (the essential fats your skin needs) and penetrating the skin deeply.
If you don’t want to use an animal product (or are put off by the high prices of Emu Oil), flaxseed oil has nearly as high a concentration of Omega 3 oils. It soothes inflammation and has healing properties. It helps prevent the clogging of pores. It’s a good moisturizer, but it stands out even more on problem skin – eczema, psoriasis or other inflammatory conditions.
Leah R. Patterson of BellaOnline has an article listing her favorite skin care oils for dealing with acne. She tells you all about Sandalwood, Clary-Sage, Geranium, Tea Tree and Lavender and how she uses them.
Nature’s Gift has a long list of skin care issues and the oils that might help. A World of Aromatherapy has an even bigger list which includes more than just skin care issues (I’m having a little trouble buying that rubbing any oil on your stomach will fix your constipation, but who knows).
Got some other oils?
If you’ve found other oils that are great for skin care, add your recommendations by leaving a comment.