One of the most frequent questions I get is “Is X oil good for the skin?”. My answer is always the same: oils should be chosen according to the person’s skin type. I am yet to encounter a plant oil which is “bad” for the skin – if you heard of one, please let me know! But I know plenty of examples when ill-chosen oils have caused skin issues. Therefore, in this blog post I will guide you through how to choose the right oil for you.
This guide was put together following years of research and observation, therefore please respect the intellectual property rights and seek permission for copying it, distributing it or deriving monetary benefit from it by emailing email@example.com as well as always reference the source when referring to it.
THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE: CARRIER VS. ESSENTIAL OILS
It is rather confusing that both carrier (base) and essential oils carry the name “oil”. In fact, these are two completely different categories of substances. In this post we will be covering carrier oils only. These are oils in the true sense of the word: fats, omegas, fatty acids, lipids. That’s what you get when you take an olive or a hazelnut, mash them up and apply pressure to them.
Essential oils, like lavender, chamomile or geranium, to name a few, are not fats at all. They are powerful plant chemicals, which sometimes possess skincare properties, but should not on their own constitute our skincare. They can be added to skincare products, but caution should be exercised and you should definitely research the ingredient and its potency before you include it in your regime.
Carrier oils – the subject of this post – can be used undiluted on the skin. All you need to know is which oils to choose and how to use them correctly. Without further ado then, let’s get into it!
5 STEPS TO CHOOSING THE RIGHT OIL FOR YOU:
1) Know your skin type
Or at least list the skin issues you have. This is really the most fundamental part of the process, you cannot do without. I suggest that you write down all your skin troubles and then analyse them. Some skin types will be easier to identify then the others – you may straight away see, e.g. an oily skin pattern, but some of you may be pulled in a few different directions. In that case, forget the skin type and just work with the list of the skin issues you prepared. The table below is a shortcut for identifying your skin type, but you may still fall somewhere in between:
2) Research the fatty acid profile of the oil
Each carrier oil has a unique combination of fatty acids, which results in the different skincare properties. That’s why a person struggling with sebum overproduction should not reach for an oil rich in a fatty acid suitable for dry complexions. There are four main types of fatty acids. Most of the oils contain some combination of at least three of them. When choosing an oil for you make sure that the fatty acid suitable for your skin type is prevalent and the less suitable fatty acids are in minority.
As a rule of thumb oils high in linoleic and linolenic acid are lighter and absorb faster, whereas oleic and stearic acid rich oils will form more of a protective film on the skin.
Individuals with sebum overproduction, acne, blackheads or enlarged pores should generally avoid oleic and stearic acid on their faces. These two acids work best for individuals whose skin is dry or mature and not in any way prone to breakouts or clogging. And what if your skin is both dry and sensitive? Then you will most likely benefit from a very balanced oil, where linoleic, linolenic and oleic acids are pretty much present in equal parts.
You can easily find the profiles of the oils by looking up “X oil fatty acid composition” in Internet. Try to use reputable, scientific websites as your sources.
3) Look up the comedogenic rating of the oil
Knowing the fatty acid profile of an oil is not everything. An oil can be rich in a fatty acid suitable to your skin type, but other components of the oil also influence how well it will be tolerated. This is why each plant oil is being rated on a comedogenic scale. A comedogenic rating expresses numerically the oil’s probability to make your skin break out. And so, an oil with a comedogenic rating 0 is pretty unlikely to cause breakouts, whereas an oil with a comedogenic rating 5 is almost certain to be badly tolerated by most.
As an example, here are the comedogenic ratings of the oils, which were listed in point 2.
I plotted the maximum allowed comedogenic rating for different skin conditions in the table below:
All you need to do now is to highlight all the skin conditions that apply to you and see what’s the lowest number you get – that’s your maximum allowed comedogenic rating.
Your maximum score doesn’t mean that you need to choose all the oils with your maximum rating, but that you can chose oils which are at your maximum or lower.
You can easily find the ratings of the oils by looking up “X oil comedogenic rating” in Internet. Try to use reputable, scientific websites as your sources.
Here are two examples to visualise it better:
a) Tammy’s skin:
Tammy’s maximum allowed comedogenic rating for an oil is 5, which means that Tammy can freely choose from all the oils, as her skin is less likely to breakout. Since she should look for an oil with a balanced fatty acid composition (for dry but sensitive skin) as well as her maximum allowed comedogenic rating being 5, I would recommend that she gives a grape seed – olive oil – wheat germ mix a try.
b) Luke’s skin:
Luke’s maximum allowed comedogenic rating is 1 because he has an acne prone skin. Therefore he has to chose from oils with a comedogenic rating between 0-1 and high in linoleic and linolenic acid. He can try oils like sacha inchi, grape seed or watermelon seed oils. But the wheat germ oil would be a big no-no, despite its high linolenic acid content.
4. Mix the oils – or not
Many of you ask me whether you can mix several oils together. The answer is: you can mix any plant oils together as long as they are suitable for your skin. Mixing oils won’t create any explosives, if you know what I mean. In fact, I am a big fan of mixing oils and partially that’s how Naturally Honest Labs came to be. By mixing a few carrier oils you can achieve your perfect fatty acid profile within your allowed comedogenic rating. Different oils also contain different antioxidants, minerals or vitamins, so by mixing them your skin can benefit from a greater variety.
If you’re new to facial oils, however, you may want to use the tips from this post for selecting single base oils first. This way you will know straight away how your skin reacts to a certain oil and there will be no confusion about which oil has done what with your skin. You may also stick with pure oils simply for practical reasons. Either way is ok, and it’s more of a personal preference.
5. Source good quality oils
Here at Naturally Honest Labs we use only cold-pressed, unrefined and organic certified plant oils as our ingredients. This way we ensure that the oils contain the highest level of antioxidants and minerals, which are great for the skin.
Choose a reputable supplier, try to check the claims they make and don’t be afraid to ask questions before you buy. Always check the INCI name of the oil you want to buy against what’s on the suppliers packaging – some suppliers try to cut costs by mixing expensive plant oils with cheaper ones or adding in mineral oil. Never buy or use oils past their due date and ensure that your raw ingredients stay fresh by storing them in a cool, dark place. It’s ok to use food grade oils (e.g. olive oil) on your skin – but don’t try the opposite!
HAVE FUN, PLAY, OBSERVE
I hope this guide will serve you well in finding the plant oils right for your skin. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Really there isn’t so much that can go wrong. Much of your success also depends on using the oils you choose correctly, so I recommend watching the following two videos:
Happy testing and don’t forget to let me know how you got on!