Facial oils……should you be using one?

Hi there, your blog really helped me, so thank you! I'm 22 I have really gotten into facial oils lately, I'm borderline a "collector" of them so to speak haha. I love reading all the different nutritional benefits of what they can do for your skin. However after reading your posts and learning about the skin barrier, I feel a little discouraged as to if they actually do anything for me or, for example, putting mineral oil on my face would do the exact same thing because they're both just emollients. My two favorite oils have been rose hip oil (it's said to be a natural source of a lot of vitamin A, is it actually effective in oil form?) and argan oil. I also read that lavender essential oil is packed with amazing antioxidants so I mix a few drops in with my oils, but are these actually doing anything for my skin? Or do I need "proper" retinoid products and vitamin C serums in order to penetrate and make an actual difference, and do "cheap" emollients do the exact same thing because of our skin barrier? Also I bought glycerin which I like to mix into my own DIY facial sprays/toners. I've been told to put oils onto a slightly damp face to "seal" in water but if I were to put glycerin (or a humectant) on, would it go on before or after an oil? Like before so that the oil could "seal" it in or after so that it could bring in water from the air? These are very lengthy and quite specific so I hope they made sense and thank you in advance for your time and help!

I’m so happy that you are starting with aging and skin cancer prevention at age 22. I’m loving that! Also, with the way you are experimenting, maybe you should think about a chemistry degree focused on skincare formulations.

And I love that you are asking such great questions about facial oils. There are three issues that I’m seeing here.

Emollients & Moisturizing Capability

  • The goal of moisturizers and emollients is mainly to reduce the normal water loss through the skin; to hold in the moisture.  So when you put moisturizer on, it not only adds water back into the skin, but can also keep the water trapped in the skin.
  • It’s nice to do this without clogging the pores.
  • Moisturizers are either water in oil or oil in water ………or just oils like the ones you are describing. If your skin is oily, pick a water based one. The reverse is true if you are dry. If you are very dry, the pure oils might make sense. If they clog your pores, stop using them!
  • Mineral oil can be pore clogging.

Skin Nutrition, Antioxidants and Oils

  • Oils do have a lot of natural antioxidants, and vitamins etc., but that doesn’t mean that your skincare product contains the actives you want.
  • Why? Because oils are a little like juices. The fresher and the more they are kept from air, the better quality they are. This is because exposure to oxygen (air) oxidizes the antioxidants fairly quickly.
  • If you buy oils……who knows how well they were produced, handled and packaged. Sadly, they may contain almost nothing of the original benefits.  One of my patients with beautiful skin, eats an avocado every morning, and rubs the pit all over her skin and leaves it for a few minutes. Think about how fresh that that is.
  • Doterra essential oils are the best quality that I’ve found so far. So try to do a little research on the quality of any oil you are using.
  • I would vote for skincare products with careful manufacturing and verifiable concentrations of antioxidants and retinoids.

Humectants (just means water attracting)

  • Hyaluronic acid is a natural water attractant which can be found in high quality skincare products like SkinCeuticals Vitamin B5 gel.
  • Glycerin is a fairly cheap sugar based ingredient. In my opinion, it’s used a lot now in skincare because it IS a cheap filler agent. Glycerin can also be irritating to skin.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

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Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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