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. A reader 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.
Oils for Skin Care
Yes, really: mineral oil in skin care
Before I get to the plant oils, let’s start with a surprise. Mineral oil has a generally bad reputation in skin care because people have been told it encourages acne and clogged pores. But the truth is not quite that simple: for example, many cleansers (like most of Shu Uemura’s cleansing oils) actually contain mineral oil because it can pull dirt out of your pores like nobody’s business. 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. (Check out the Vaseline and aloe lip balm recipe that saved me from the damage done by a “natural” lip balm.)
A winter routine
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 containing mineral oil, like Clinique’s Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion.
“Carrier” oils for skin care
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. 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 oil 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. You’ll also find it as 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 care, 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. You should never use it undiluted. If you dilute it on a 1:1 ratio of oil to water, it can be a great spot treatment for acne and ingrown hairs. But don’t use it at that strength for many days in a row, or on large areas of skin. I have combination skin and have found tea tree oil drying, no matter how I dilure it, but many people with oily skin find it invaluable. Try adding just a few drops of it into a bottle of lotion.
Now, lavender oil 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 if you mix it into lotions.
Chamomile oil 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. For skin, you want a cheap extra virgin olive oil.But look for some kind of “certification” from an olive council on the bottle. Many producers have been caught cutting olive oil with cheap soy oil for sale in the US.
Some people use olive oil directly on their skin as a daily moisturizer, but I’m surprised by that. It’s an amazing moisturizer, but I find if I use it daily on my dry skin, I get pimples. For me, a couple of times a week works well. It can also be great in soaps, making them more gentle yet still cleansing, like Kiss My Face’s Olive Oil Soap.
Flaxseed oil has a high concentration of Omega 3 oils. Once again, you want to buy the food version, not the skin care version. 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.
Got some other oils?
If you’ve found other oils that are great for skin care, add your recommendations by leaving a comment.