If I told you that oily skin needs oil, would you stop reading right here? Please don’t. It’s true. Hear me out.
Our skin needs oil to be able to do its job. It keeps us warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot. It keeps us from getting waterlogged, say, in a rainstorm or pool, and it keeps our natural water content from evaporating. It protects the body from bacteria and fungi and environmental debris—any nasty stuff out there that would love to get into our pores and wreak all kinds of havoc. Our body’s oil creates a filmy barrier that provides the “glue” that keeps our cells connected, keeps the skin moist, keeps the oil-water content of the skin in balance. It also contains Vitamin E that protects the skin from ageing.
That oil is a fatty substance called “sebum” that is produced by microscopic sebaceous glands connected to the hair follicles. Since we have around five million hair follicles, we have around five million sebaceous glands. That’s a lot of oil! But as long as the oil is keeping our skin functioning as it should, we are barely aware of it. Let our skin become too dry or too oily and, all of a sudden, it’s in the forefront of our minds.
When the skin is too dry, it’s a no-brainer—we can supplement our natural oil. But what about those of us with oily skin? Would it be insane to add more oil to it? No. It’s the smart thing to do.
Oily skin is caused by overactive sebaceous glands, and we can get those glands to calm down by adding oil to our skin. Here’s a common scenario: Our face is oily and so we scrub and scrub and scrub to cleanse away the oil and, we hope, keep it away. But what we’ve done is dehydrate our skin. The skin then goes into panic mode and sends out an alarm to the sebaceous glands, which go into overdrive, pump out more oil to the skin, and we’re right back where we started.
That’s where essential fatty acids come in. The body manufactures fatty acids, such as those found in sebum. The fatty acids that it cannot manufacture but are required (i.e., essential) for the body to function properly are called “Essential Fatty Acids” (EFA).
Carrier oils are a rich source of EFAs. A carrier oil is pressed from the fatty parts of a plant, such as the seeds, kernels or nuts. Not to be confused with an essential oil that is distilled from the leaves, bark, roots or flowers. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, carrier oils are used to dilute them without sacrificing the therapeutic value. The carrier oil “carries” the essential oil onto the skin, while also “carrying” its own therapeutic benefits.
The carrier oils mimic what sebum does. If the natural film barrier provided by sebum is not in tact, the oils repair the damaged skin and protect the body from any of those “undesirables” in the environment who want to do us harm. They also lubricate the skin and lock in the body’s natural moisture. They keep the skin happy, and a happy skin is not sending out alarms, getting those sebaceous glands all riled up.
The following carrier oils contain a high content of essential fatty acids, as well as the benefits particular to each.
Jojoba oil is technically a wax, but it has the consistency of oil and is very similar to sebum. It is lightweight and, therefore, absorbed immediately into the skin and keeps those sebaceous glands from overproducing. The oil is extracted from the seeds of the jojoba tree that grows in the southwestern U. S. and Mexico. In addition to essential fatty acids, it supplies the skin with antioxidants, Vitamin E and sterols.
Evening Primrose Oil
This oil is pressed from the seeds of the Evening Primrose flower, a herbaceous plant native to the Americas. The oil is rich in vitamins and minerals, hydrates the skin and improves its elasticity. It’s especially preferred for dry, mature skin.
The thistle-like plant was cultivated at least as far back as Ancient Egypt. The oil extracted from the plant’s seeds can breathe new life into the skin by unclogging pores and stimulating the regeneration of skin cells to help clear up scars and other blemishes.
Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil, although lightweight and easily absorbed, is a rich, luxurious oil. It nourishes and protects the skin’s cell membranes and leaves skin moist and glowing.
Argan oil, cold-pressed from the nuts of the Moroccan argan tree, is called "Liquid Gold." It’s one of the rarest oils in the world. It’s overflowing with Vitamin A that encourages cell regeneration and also contains Vitamin E and antioxidants to reduce fine lines.
With carrier oils, as with anything we apply to our face, in particular, it’s best to test them first for adverse reactions, perhaps on another part of the body.