Fats and oils, also known as emollients, are everything in skin care. Some people might shudder at the thought of them because we've been taught that they create acne or shiny foreheads but the reality is that your skin already contains them in the form of sebum. As people age, the amount of this substance declines and we have to replace it unless we want to look like a dried up prune. The purpose of these naturally occurring oils is to protect the skin from the elements and to keep it hydrated and healthy. People with oily skin tend to age better because they have a higher amount of sebum to keep their skin youthful. Those that aren't blessed with these lucky genes can maintain the same smooth firmness with a little help from moisturizers, creams, serums, oils or balms.
The conventional pharmacy version of an emollient is mineral oil, paraffin, or petrolatum, which are by-products of producing gasoline. Like for your car. They are cheap substances with little value to the skin except to create a thin layer of plastic to protect it from water loss and outside pathogens. It is sometimes the only thing that can be used for certain medical purposes because it is sterile and non-reactive but for creating beautiful skin, you can do WAY better. Fats and oils occur naturally in nuts and seeds like almonds, macadamia nuts, rosehip seeds and in fruits like coconut and olives. They are composed of triglycerides (fatty acids + glycerol) and other skin-healthy ingredients such as vitamins and antioxidants.
The key benefits of using plant emollients in skincare are:
1. They protect the skin from wind, pollutant, and sun (to a certain extent),.
2. They soften the skin and prevent water loss.
3. They deliver actives such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
4. They enhance penetration of actives deep into the layers of skin for maximum benefits.
5. They soothe inflammation and heal stubborn skin conditions.
Every oil has different levels of fatty acids (triglycerides) and other interesting components that affect how it is going to behave on the skin. In my next post, I will delve into the most common fatty acids.