Most times, when it comes to skincare, cream-based moisturizers are often the first thing that may come to mind. However, over the years, consumers have been seeking alternatives that are more natural and safe for the skin. This is where plant oils become a priority. Additionally, plant oils are usually easily accessible and relatively inexpensive options for general skincare.
Many natural oils comprise unique compounds such as antimicrobial properties, antioxidant as well as anti-inflammatory properties. These properties have made plant oils even non-based plant oils an attractive alternative as well as a complementary treatment for skincare disorders and overall skincare. However, the unique characteristics of the oil should become an important factor when choosing for topical use. For example, research has shown that oils with higher linoleic acid to oleic acid ratio may be able to offer better barrier repair to the skin while oils with higher oleic acid content may be more detrimental to the barriers of the skin (Vaughn et al. 2018).
Most of the oils that will be explored in this article have been found to possess excellent ratio of fatty acids for skin barrier protection, and thus can help with the general repair of the skin. This includes grape seed oil among others. However, can oils, in general, serve as a moisturizer or an overall alternative to managing skin care needs such as scars, acne, wrinkles, or just one’s overall anti-aging needs? Let’s discuss!
You can read more about the skin as it relates to the epidermis, dermis, and how to treat it in this in-depth article here.
Our skin goes through an onslaught on a daily basis due to external stimuli which oftentimes causes injury to the skin or even infections. These effects can lead to wounds, scars as well as inflammatory dermatoses (Reinke and Song, 2012). Inflammation of the skin can lead to a myriad of skin concerns including the damage of normal skin tissues, acne, and other skin disorders. As such, the modulation of inflammation and other issues that can severely impact the skin becomes paramount in order to maintain the homeostasis of the skin (Reinke and Song, 2012).
While the market for skin care products has become so overpopulated making one’s choice even more difficult, the use of oils is becoming a new phenomenon. However, coupled with the saturation of the market for general skincare products, the selection of oils can compound the situation when it comes to choosing a product for your specific skincare needs. As such, knowing some of the oils that can greatly benefit the skin, can become a most welcoming treat, hence this article.
Plant oils have been used for centuries for a variety of purposes including in food, pharmaceutical products, and the cosmetic industry. In fact, Cleopatra Vii, the Egyptian Queen, was noted to have employed potent natural ingredients in her beauty regimen, and plant oils were top of the list. To this extent, in the cosmetic industry, plant oils are now being increasingly recognized as part of a balanced skincare regimen due to their beneficial effects on the skin. Some of the benefits of using oils for the skin include their anti-inflammatory effects, which can assist with the management of acne and other skin disorders, wound healing, lightening of scars, moisturizing properties, skin tightening, as well as the management of wrinkles and other signs of aging (Lin et. al. 2017).
Therefore, in this article, we will be discussing five (5) natural oils that have been proven to be effective in managing common skincare concerns as outline above as well as comprising of potent properties that can treat or managed particular skin concerns. These include grapeseed oil, sweet almond oil, emu oil, cacay oil, and argan oil. It should be noted, that while most of the oils that will be explored are plant-based, one, emu oil, is not. However, emu oil has been used for years as part of a natural skincare regimen due to its moisturizing capabilities and impact in treating skin scars. All of the oils discussed are high in fatty acids, particularly linoleic acid, and thus considered non-comedogenic, meaning; they are less likely to clog pores.
Five(5) oils to greatly consider as part of your skincare arsenal
- Grapeseed oil
- Sweet Almond oil
- Argan oil
- Emu oil
- Cacay oil
1.Grapeseed oil and the skin
Grapeseed oil comes from the seeds of the common grape vine – Vitis Vinifera, a species of Vitis, which is said to be native to the Mediterranean region, Central Europe, Southern Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia as well as the Caucasus (pfaf.org). As such, grapes have been of great interest worldwide due to its nutritional properties as well as their pharmaceutical properties which are usually derived from its peel and seed extract (Bail et al. 2008).
In vitro studies have shown that some of the benefits of grape seed oil, which include its anti-inflammatory, cardio-protective, and microbial and anticancer properties (Garavaglia et al. 2016). These properties have made the oil a sought-after ingredient in the cosmetic industry. Further, studies have shown that the proanthocyanidin extract, which contains the powerful antioxidant – resveratrol, has been shown in studies with mice to assist in faster wound healing, enhance the synthesis of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as well as enhance connective tissue deposition (Khanna et al. 2002).
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is an essential factor that controls the growth and permeability of blood vessels, ultimately helping to stimulate the growth factor of new blood vessels (Sciencedirect.com). It must be noted that resveratrol has been suggested to have anti-microbial activity against pathogens, for example, Staphylococcal aureus, etc, (Chan, 2002). Staphylococcus aureus is one of the most dangerous of all the common staphylococcal bacteria. These bacteria can cause skin infections, bone infections as well as pneumonia (msdmanuals.com).
Additionally, the topical application of resveratrol has been proven to increase cathelicidin production in persons with normal skin type (Park et. al. 2013). Cathelicidin is antimicrobial peptides that are able to prevent the growth of the pathogen – Staphylococcal aureus (Park et. al. 2013). Grapeseed oil benefits to the skin are also attributed to its high linoleic acid content, vitamin A and vitamin E. These are the ingredients including phenolic compounds that contribute to the oil antioxidant activity. As such, grape seed oil can help to smooth the skin, protect against UV damage as well as smooth the skin. Further, the phytosterols that are found in grape seed oil have been suggested to be able to modulate pro-inflammatory mediators (Shinagawa et. al. 2015).
Can Grape seed oil truly tighten the skin?
According to research – Yes. Grapeseed oil has many purported skincare benefits, one such being its ability to help tighten the skin and thus helps with fighting the signs of premature aging. Its skin tightening ability is due largely to its polyphenols and astringent properties (Martin et. al. 2020). Polyphenols are known to help with slowing down the aging process (Cherniack, 2016) and as such, helping with age spots and wrinkles. The astringent properties are also able to help tighten the skin resulting in the skin looking firmer and more supple (Martin et. al. 2020).
2. Sweet Almond oil and the skin
Almond oil (Oleum Amygdalae) has been used in the medicinal circles for years due to its many health benefits. It is purported to have many properties including anti-inflammatory, anti-hepatotoxicity effects as well as its immune-boosting properties (Ahmad, 2010).
Almond oil is said to be used historically in ancient Chinese Ayurvedic medicine to treat dry skin, and other skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema (Ahmad, 2010). In fact, its emollient and other enriching properties have been used for years in improving one’s complexion and skin tone (Lin et. al. 2017). Additionally, in a study conducted by Sultana et al (2007) with murine models, sweet almond oil was shown to prevent the structural damage incurred due to exposure to UV irradiation. Almond oil is also said to be an excellent makeup remover as well as a popular oil used in oil cleaning methods. Oil cleansing is a popular method of cleaning the skin using just pure oils.
Be sure though to ensure that you are using sweet almond oil and not its toxic variety, bitter almond oil, which is the more volatile version of the forms of oils. While a few research has shown that bitter almond oil was effective in reducing the visibility of current Striae gravidarum as well as the formation of new Striae (Tashan and Kafkasli, 2012), it is usually not recommended for commercial use. Striae gravidarum, are scars that represent one of the most common types of connective tissue changes of pregnancy which usually causes itching and other forms of discomfort (Sciencedirect.com).
Bitter almonds are toxic even in small amounts due to their cyanide properties. As such, sweet almonds are the form that has been grown for both commercial and other proprietary uses. However, some products may still use this version of oil, by removing the cyanide content. When the cyanide content is removed from bitter almonds, it is touted to have properties such as antiviral, anti-bacterial as well as anti-itch properties as seen in the study by Tashan and Kafkasli, 2012). See more on the differences of these versions of oils below:
Sweet Almond Oil vs. Bitter Almond Oil
There are two (2) types of almond trees – Bitter and Sweet. The ones that are grown commercially for food and skincare are ‘Sweet almonds’, and as such, they are considered safe. On the other hand, bitter almonds are not grown commercially for food, due to their hydrogen cyanide properties. Cyanide is a fast metabolizing poison that prevents the cells of the body from using oxygen (Graham and Taylor, 2021). As such, if you should see the oils being sold, then it would be required to be free from prussic acid (cyanide)—Alcademics.com.
Further, bitter almonds are very bitter, as such, if eaten by accident, your unique taste buds will usually be able to differentiate it quite quickly. Nonetheless, bitter almonds are typically not recommended to be used internally. However, it might be added to cosmetic products for its scent and flavour.
Sometimes, you will see some labels explicitly state on the product ‘sweet almond oil’ while others simply ‘almond oil’. This is usually implied that the almonds are source from edible almonds. However, some products may say ‘bitter almonds’. Products depicting this type of labeling are required to ensure that the cyanide has been removed. Nonetheless, to be on the side of caution, read all your almond oils or related product labels.
3. Argan oil and the skin
Argan oil (Agania Spinosa L) has become a well-established actor in the cosmetic oil industry due to its purported, well-favoured benefits. One popular benefit is its ability in helping one to main a fair complexion. As such, it is said to be a tradition among Moroccan women, the country where this oil was notably originated (Villareal et al. 2013). In fact, argan oil is purported to be exclusively produced by the Essaouira and Sous massa draa region of Morrocco (Charrouf et al. 2014).
Traditionally, the oil was touted as a ‘cure-all oil’ for several types of skin situations such as acne, pimples, scars, and even chickenpox (Villareal et al. 2013). Additionally, it was used as an excellent source for moisturizing dry skin as well as helping to slow down the appearance of skin wrinkles (Villareal et al. 2013). The oil is also used as a treatment for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema as well as inflammation (Villareal et al. 2013).
Argan oil is rich in tocopherols (vitamin E), medium-chain fatty acids (linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic and stearic acid), and carotenoids (Villareal et. al. 2013; Drissi et. al. 2004; Cherki, et al. 2006; Bennani et al. 2007). It is also said to have squalene (Khallouki et al. 2003). Squalene is an oily substance that is naturally found in plants, animals, and humans. The ingredient is prized in the cosmetic world mainly to its moisturizing properties (Sciencedirect.com).
Daily application of the oil has been shown to improve skin elasticity (Boucetta et. al. 2015) and skin hydration. This it does by restoring the functions of the skin barrier and thus maintaining the capacity of the skin to hold water (Boucetta et. al. 2014). It is also purported to have a therapeutic effect on the skin due to its softening and relaxing properties (Manca et. al. 2016).
If you are looking to naturally manage pigmentation of the skin, argan oil may be able to help in that effort. This is due to the fact that research contends that it has a depigmentation effect on the skin due largely to its fatty acids and tocopherol compounds (Hayakawa, 1980; Funasaka et. al.2000). Its carotenoid properties is also purported to protect the skin from sunlight (Stahl and Sies, 1996). However, there have not been any studies on the melanin biosynthesis effect of argan oil, which could provide more insights into its underlining mechanism of the depigmentation effects (Villareal et al. 2013).
4. Emu oil and the skin
Emu oil is produced from the large flightless native Australian bird – Emu (Sherwood et al. 2020). The birds are harvested for their fat deposits. The oil then goes through the process of being centrifuged and then filtered to create what is called – purified emu oil. It is this version that is distributed for commercial use (Jeengar et. al. 2015). Additionally, the oil is said to presents a low health hazard as it only requires minimal refining. Its source is also purported to be renewable, eco-sustainable, and is considered relatively inexpensive (Whitehouse et.. al. 1998).
The oil has been purported medicinally due to its benefits some of which include relieving pain (Jeengar et. al. 2015; Taylor, 2010; Power and Cameron, 2004), wound care (Jeengar et. al. 2015) as well as bowel inflammation (Abimosleh et. al. 2012). Topically, it has been shown to have the propensity to alleviate inflammation of the skin and promote the healing process and thus helping with scars. This is due largely to its anti-inflammatory activity which has been associated with reducing the levels of the pro-inflammatory cytokines factors in the skin (Bornhovd et. al. 2001; Yoganathan et al. 2003). Its anti-inflammatory effects are due to its (N-3) fatty acids components such as oleic acid, linoleic acid, and palmitic acid (Yoganathan et al. 2003). N-3 fatty acids are those that are usually found in fish oils. It also contains diverse levels of carotenoids compounds, flavones, polyphenols, tocopherols, and phospholipids (Whitehouse et. al. 1998; Bennett et. al. 2008).
5. Cacay oil and the skin
Cacay (Caryodendron orinocense Karst) is derived from the nut of the cacay plant which belongs to the Euphorbiaceae family and is said to be found in countries of the Amazon Rivers such as Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela (Padilla et al.1996; Azevedo et al. 2020). – Losado, 2016; Medeiros de Azevedo et al. 2020). The tree has a dense, leafy top that distinguishes it from others in its surroundings and produces a fruit that contains the edible nuts (Universidad EIA).
The seeds of the nuts are then cold press to produce the oil for use. As such, while the oil is now becoming popular in the cosmetic industry, it is also used as a food in some regions, particularly in the Amazon (Avila et al. 2002). The nut is said to be rich in phosphorus, calcium, and iron (Martinez, 1979). The nut is said to have a pleasant taste, similar to that of peanuts (Avila et al. 2002).
The oil is boosted to be richer in nutrients than the prized Argan and rosehip oils, two (2) oils that are infamous in the anti-aging world. This is due in large to its outstanding nutrient profile which includes the antioxidant, vitamin A, which is considered natural retinol, and Vitamin E (tocopherols), the skin’s ‘UV Protector’ which can help to reduce one of the major signs of aging – photo-damaged skin. Photo-damaged skin is caused by excessive UV exposure. It is also purported to have a high concentration of fatty acids, with the most abundant being linoleic acid. (Cisneros et al. 2006; Martinez, 1979). You can read more on vitamin E and the skin in this post.
The oil is gaining notoriety in the skincare industry, particularly due to its anti-aging properties such as its vitamin A content. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that can help to boost the skin from the molecular levels and as such help with the skin’s natural renewal process. As such, cacay oil is touted to be able to reduce wrinkles, smooths and softens the skin, boosts collagen production, and improves skin tone as well as rejuvenates the skin.
Are there any side effects in using Cacay oil?
There is really not a lot of research into the possible side effects of using cacay oil. However, it is recommended to do a patch test to see if your skin will be able to tolerate it. Nonetheless, while going through some reviews of major cacay products, a few reviewers complained about experiencing burning sensation and redness. However, the majority of the reviews on cacay oil have been positive. However, you do not know how your skin will react, so do your own skin patch test, and use it in small amounts when just trying it out.
How to use oils as a moisturizer for your skin.
Oils can be used alone or as a blend based on your skin needs. For general moisturization of the skin, cleanse the skin and apply your oils as you would a regular cream-based moisture, immediately after cleansing or after the application of a serum, or other skincare treatments. You can also add the oils to a cream-based moisturizer if desire. Please ensure though that you wash your face with lukewarm water after the application of oils to remove all oily residues.
As a cleanser, you can rub the oil in the skin for a few minutes, and then rinse with warm water. You can apply a gentle cleanser as well afterward or just simply continue on with your regular skincare routine.
Here is a summary of the Five (5) oils to seriously consider for your SKINCARE ARSENAL.
Let’s Sum Up!
The use of natural oils as part of a skincare regimen is gaining momentum in the beauty and cosmetic industries. However, the use of oils dates back centuries with one popular story being that of the Egyptian princess, Cleopatra, who was known to use oils not only on her face but her entire body.
Fast forward to the 21st century, oils are still famed for being able to manage common and specific skin concerns, from dry skin to wrinkles. However, while the market is shelved with a lot of great oils, this article chooses to focus on five (5), that, if you do not have any other oils, just having these as part of your skincare, particularly, anti-aging regimen, would be more than sufficient.
The oils discussed are grape seed oil, which is known for its anti-inflammatory and skin smoothing and firming properties, sweet almond oil, and argan oil which can help with one’s overall skin complexion, emu oil which is excellent for relieving pain and reducing scars and cacay oil, the natural retinol which is said to be able to smooth the skin and helping with fine lines and wrinkles. All these oils are purported non-comedogenic. As such, they are considered not to clog the pores and thus help with general care of the skin.
You can add all these oils to your skincare regimen, from cleansing of the skin to the removal of makeup and for general skincare (miniaturization, scars, and wrinkles). On a personal note, I have been using oils, no cream moisturizers on my skin for more than five (5) years, and so I can attest to almost all of them, with the exception of the cacay oil, which is soon to be off my wish list. Oil works! And these oils are some of the best for skin care and come without side effects and loaded chemicals that can only serve to bolster your natural skincare routine. So, with all that was said….Are you skintimate yet!
You can read about the skin as it relates to epidermis, dermis, and ingredients to have as well as those to avoid in these in-depth articles:
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