I will never forget the first time I purchased a bottle of oil for my face. It was about 6 years ago, and having finished reading Stacey Malkan’s book, Not Just A Pretty Face, I promptly drove to the nearest Whole Foods to find replacements for all the skin care I had just tossed in the dumpster. I came home with Dr. Hauschka’s Normalizing Day Oil…and spent the next 3 weeks working up the courage to try it. You see, for over 20 years I had been led to believe oil – any oil – was the root of all evil when it came to acne. And for over 20 years, I had struggled to keep acne from occupying my entire face, so the very notion of intentionally rubbing oil all over it…well, you might as well have told me to apply bacon grease directly to my pimples, perhaps mixing in a bit of dirt and a few dust bunnies for good measure.
Fast forward to 2013, and I can’t imagine life without my beloved collection of facial serums. For starters, I haven’t experienced a breakout in about 6 years. What’s more, my skin has never looked brighter, clearer, or healthier than it does now. Considering I’m ringing 40’s doorbell, to say my skin looks better now than it ever has before is, I think, a true testament to the power of these amazing oils.
Over the next several weeks, I’m going to discuss the myriad reasons you should incorporate at least one high-quality facial serum into your daily beauty regimen. Whether your skin is dry, oily, sensitive, inflamed, aging, or all of the above, there is a facial oil blend perfect for you.
Part I: Why your skin loves, and needs, plant-based oils
It wasn’t very long ago that doctors and dieticians were advising patients to eat margarine instead of butter. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil was in everything, and no one really talked about good fats vs. bad fats. Now, of course, it’s widely accepted that all oils are not created equal; moreover, we know that consuming certain oils is actually essential for good health, while other types of oils can lead to all sorts of problems.
The same is true when it comes to oils in skin care. After all, your skin is an organ of the body – the largest, in fact – and its needs are very similar to those of your other organs. Julie Longyear, owner and formulator for Blissoma natural skin care, has been creating plant oil-based skin care products for over ten years. “Natural plant oils,” she explains, “and in particular, highly mobile oils from seeds like hemp, cranberry, pomegranate, evening primrose, and rosehip, mesh with the skin thoroughly and really absorb into cells because they are composed of substances similar to skin cells and skin sebum.” Petroleum oils, on the other hand, “act as an occlusive film that sits on the skin to hold moisture in. Because petroleum oils block the skin from evaporating moisture, the skin may feel more hydrated, but it is because of retention and not because these oils actually work with the skin.” . In other words, comparing the benefits of, say, argan oil to mineral oil in your skin care, is somewhat like comparing the benefits of consuming extra virgin olive oil to eating Vaseline.
You can also think of plant-based oils as nutritional supplements for the skin. Just as you might drink a vitamin-packed green smoothie in the morning to ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to protect itself from the rigors of the day, so, too, does your skin benefit from concentrated doses of topical nutrients (side note: your skin will also benefit from the green smoothie, but that’s perhaps a topic for another day). Suzanne LeRoux, founder of One Love Organics and plant oil evangelist, explains it this way: “Plant oils help fortify and strengthen the skin’s own natural protective barrier, which is vital to overall skin health. [That barrier] is our first line of defense against germs and is also essential to maintaining moisture. The first step to radiant, glowing skin is the support and maintenance of the skin’s own natural protective barrier.” The best way to do this? “By massaging the skin with pure plant oils.”
So which oils should you look for in your facial serum? As it just so happens, I will be answering that very question over the next 3 weeks as I explore ways in which plant based oils address three specific issues: aging skin, acneic skin, and inflamed and/or irritated skin. In the meantime, I personally recommend, use, love, and – full disclosure – sell Blissoma’s ultra-nourishing Restore Deep Moisture Serum ($29.99) and One Love Organics’ lightweight yet potently anti-aging Love Spring Eternal Youth Preservation Serum ($59).
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