Lots of the plant-based culinary oils you use within the kitchen can play a dual role in promoting and maintaining skin health not just within the dead of winter, but additionally all year long. Vegetable and nut oils like coconut, high-oleic safflower or sunflower, extra virgin olive, almond, or avocado are usually not only healthful when consumed internally, but can be highly effective at hydrating, moisturizing, and protecting your skin when applied topically. Each of those oils is often found in natural skin care products where their unique characteristics and benefits are sometimes combined to boost or augment a product’s effectiveness.
For the very best results, I always recommend products that use these oils as their primary base because you possibly can realize their immediate benefits without exposing yourself or the environment to the harmful toxins present in products made with petroleum or synthetic ingredients.
Keep in mind that the oils that the majority closely resemble your skin’s natural oil (sebum) are those that will produce the very best results to your skin and your overall health. Additionally they are typically more stable, with a considerably longer shelf life than most other oils.
Sebum, your body’s natural oil, is secreted by your oil glands (sebaceous glands), which are typically located at the root of every hair as well as other places throughout the body. This oil is essential to skin health. It softens and lubricates the skin and hair and prevents the skin from drying and cracking. It also has anti-microbial properties that protect the skin from infection and damage.
Many factors (living in dry or windy climates or higher altitudes for example) can lead to excessively dry skin, where the sebum you secrete is simply not enough to do the job and additional moisturizers are needed.
By the identical token, overactive sebaceous glands that lead to excessively oily (and acne-prone) skin can sometimes be an indication of an oil deficiency within the body. As counter-intuitive as that may sound, in case your body isn’t getting enough Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) from food or supplementation, it might respond by over-producing and secreting sebum to counteract the potential harm or damage to your skin that may come from this deficiency.
All fats and oils (including sebum) are composed of molecules called fatty acids. There are two ways of classifying these fatty acids. The first is predicated on saturated fat vs. unsaturated fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). The other is a system of classification based on molecular size or the length of the carbon chain within each fatty acid.
If I can get technical here for a minute… fatty acids often encompass long chains of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached. So oils can have short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), or long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Sebum contains medium chain fatty acids, within the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), so oils that include MCFAs are those that most closely resemble sebum.
The two oils that are richest in antioxidants and most closely resemble your sebum are Virgin Coconut and EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), which is what makes them such excellent skincare ingredients, and the principle ones to look for in top quality natural lotions, creams and cleansers. This is a quick summary of every:
1. Coconut Oil: A Fat Like No Other
Coconut oil has wonderful antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage. Along with its highly moisturizing properties, it also helps keep connective tissues strong and supple so that the skin doesn’t sag and wrinkle. In some cases it can even restore damaged or diseased skin. While coconut oil applied on to the skin doesn’t have any immediate antimicrobial action, when bacteria, that are always present on the skin, turn the coconut’s triglycerides into free fatty acids (just as it does with sebum) the result is a rise in the variety of antimicrobial fatty acids on the skin, which provide protection from infection. Through the use of a coconut oil-based cream, lotion or just pure coconut oil you’ll be able to quickly help re-establish the skin’s natural antimicrobial and acid barrier.
At one time, coconut oil was mistakenly believed to be unhealthy because of its high saturated fat content (a whopping 92%), but we now know that the fat in coconut oil is a unique one – different from most other fats – that possesses many healthful properties. As a saturated fat consisting primarily of medium chain fatty acids (also referred to as medium-chain triglycerides or MCTs) coconut oil is more easily metabolized, and never easily oxidized so it does not cause harmful free radical damage like polyunsaturated vegetable oils often can. This is true whether the oil is ingested or applied topically.
Because coconut oil will help reduce chronic skin inflammation within days and be soothing and healing to wounds, blood blisters, rashes, etc., it’s also a wonderful ingredient to use in healing salves and ointments.
2. Olive Oil: Mother Nature’s Biggest Beauty Secret
Among all the natural lipids, olive oil has the most similar chemical composition to sebum, which gives it a robust affinity to human skin. Completely safe and simply absorbed, it has exceptional penetrating ability, and is high in well-documented antioxidant properties including tocopherols (vitamin E), beta-carotene (vitamin A), phytosterols, flavonoids (including quercetin and squalene), and phenolic compounds.
There’s as much as 5 mg of antioxidant polyphenols in every 10 grams of olive oil, and 1.6 mg or 2.3 IU (International Units) of Vitamin E per tablespoon. This potent combination of antioxidants works to neutralize free radicals (unstable molecules created by exposure to things like cigarette smoke, pollution, alcohol, radiation, and oxidation of trans fats) and repair cell membranes – including sun damaged skin.
In addition, olive oil has the natural ability to focus on the skin cells in the highest layer of your epidermis and can stimulate the synthesis of collagen and elastin – encouraging firmer and healthier skin. The rich emollients in olive oil allow just slightly to go a good distance.
Most commercial skin care products in the United States today are made from polyunsaturated oils, which oxidize and switch rancid very quickly causing free radical damage in the skin. So choose your oils wisely.
For optimal safety and efficacy, the oils you use on your skin, whether they’re main ingredients in your products or applied alone, needs to be certified organic, raw, and unprocessed, or subject to minimal processing as the latter can destroy much of the oil’s nutritive value and increase the likelihood of rancidity. This is applicable whether the oils are for internal consumption, topical application, or both.