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by Lucy Cloonan 29 May, 2017


Just as the pantry is lined with an array of plant-based oils for a variety of cooking applications, natural oils play an essential role in skincare.

Boasting properties the skin finds easy to absorb, botanical oils are effective little worker bees that love nothing more than being put to good use moisturising skin in support of that youthful, supple glow. And as skin care employees, they get a stellar reference: they get in, get the job done and clean up a little along the way.

Here's why oils ain't just oils and how they work so well.

Why oils?
Poor old oils had a bad wrap for a while there. We lumped them all in a category together, feared them a little, and besmirched their good image. We labelled them greasy, and occasionally ramped up the rhetoric by accusing them of causing...wait for it...breakouts. (Collective gasp!)

But we were so very wrong in this vilification, according to experts. Instead, research shows oils are often exactly what the skin desires because they are exactly what we produce less of as we age.

Or as the Huffington Post explains: "When you look at young, luminous skin, you are seeing skin at its healthiest; skin cells held together by an abundance of oils. As we age, we produce less of the oils that give our skin a healthy glow. So, your job is to add them back. Doing so is one of the most important ways you can support your skin, because a healthy lipid barrier prevents dehydration by helping skin retain moisture."

Here's how they work
When you apply plant oil to the skin, it wastes no time getting straight to work. It is absorbed into the epidermis where it gets busy improving lipid barrier function. There's some really important things about this...                                                                         

• The oil doesn't just sit on the skin, clogging pores - oh no, it gets into it, heading straight for the luscious lipid barrier where it is kind enough to offer friendly, moisture-retaining support.

• The lipid barrier guards against moisture loss, combatting dry skin and inflammation, so keeping it happy is a big deal in the youth stakes.

• Natural oils resemble the body's cell structure so your system is quite content to welcome them in, sit them down for a nice cup of tea and chat about that dry weather, and how, thanks to oil's unexpected visit, it's not affecting them.

• It's not just about those lovely lipids though - oil has also been shown to inhibit per oxidative and oxidative damage. Big words, we know, spell check had a meltdown -  but they warrant it, they're a big deal contributing to that horror of all horrors...wrinkles (now you can collectively gasp for real).

• Meanwhile, oils keen to add a little extra bang for your buck offering additional properties like essential fatty acids, gamma linoleic acid, and vitamins that all work to boost the skin's elasticity.

Not just any oil

But there's more to selecting the right oil than meets the eye. Not all are these slick little suckers are created equal. For a little while there during what we shall term the "synthetic age", we were quite content to slather "mineral" oils on our bodies.

While that sounds innocuous enough, mineral oils are derived from petroleum and without eliciting too much shock and awe (you're probably exhausted from all the gasping) it turns out they were up to no good. 

Plant based oils, however, have been used for centuries with a pedigree that dates back to Egypt, traditional Chinese medicine and more.

Plant oils offer a finer molecular structure similar to the skin. That's why rosehip oil, Argan oil, hemp oil and the like are the go-to ingredients for skin care. They offer moisture protection along with a range of additional benefits like essential fatty acids, gamma linoleum acid, and Vitamin E.

The final lather
With so many plants at our disposal, botanical skincare offers a plethora of benefits, unique properties and pretty much an oil for any purpose. They've served a long and distinguished career in the skincare realm, and are unlikely to enjoy retirement any time soon......

Lucy Cloonan
Lucy Cloonan


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