Do you steer clear of the oils because you just don’t believe they won’t clog your skin and cause more acne?

I don’t blame you. Chances are, many commonly used oils will do just that.

Surely, you should always aim to choose those labeled ‘organic’, ‘cold-pressed’, ‘unrefined’, but this, on contrary to the popular belief, is not enough to ensure they won’t cause you breakouts.

In the sea of plain wrong information, I want to explain the two KEY factors to help you choose the best face oil for your skin.

So let’s get started!

1. COMEDOGENICITY RATING

Comedogenicity rating tells you how likely a substance is to clog your pores. This is VERY important for acne-prone skin, as clogged pores are the beginning of acne. The ratings are on the scale fro 0-5:

0 – Will not clog pores

1 – Low

2 – Moderately low

3 – Moderate

4 – Fairly high

5 – High

Always choose oils (or any other product) with a low comedogenicity rating (0-2).

However, unique skin chemistry makes every individual react somewhat differently to different oils.

So just out of caution make sure you try it out first on a small area of your face (for 1-2 days) instead of your moisturizer to check for any reactions.

2. THE RATIO OF LINOLEIC TO OLEIC ACID IN THE CHEMICAL COMPOSITION OF AN OIL

This is the golden nugget!

You can usually see the composition of oils on the label. What you see are different fatty acids – the building blocks of oils, and linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) is one of them.

Linoleic acid makes an oil lighter and drier, so it sinks readily into your skin and doesn’t leave a greasy residue, usually after 20 min of applying when it is fully absorbed.

It also helps to correct an inherent deficiency of acne-prone skin, which I will explain more about below.

Oleic acid makes an oil heavier (greasier). It is comedogenic by itself, so oils rich in oleic acid can clog pores and ultimately lead to acne. 

Taken together, the percentages of linoleic and oleic acid in each oil make it an easy guess whether an oil will suit your skin or not.

If you have acne-prone skin, use oils that have (much) higher percentage of linoleic than oleic acid!

If your skin is on the dry side, it is a good idea to choose oils with somewhat more oleic acid for moisturizing properties. 

Oils with a very high content of linoleic acid (and a high ratio of linoleic to oleic acid) might actually be drying to your skin after some time of usage. If that happens, try diluting it down with a more moisturizing oil.

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OILS FOR ACNE-PRONE SKIN – SPECIFIC GUIDELINES FOR DIFFERENT SKIN TYPES

OILY ACNE-PRONE SKIN

By acne-prone skin, I don’t necessarily mean full face of inflamed acne. That could also mean occasional breakouts or some stubborn pimples on a part of your face.

Sebum of acne-prone skin is deficient in linoleic acid, as shown by this study. This usually (but not always) happens when too much sebum is produced (resulting in oily skin).

Skin produces the extra sebum with oleic acid instead, which dilutes the linoleic acid content, and this is comedogenic!

Linoleic acid has been scientifically shown to reduce the occurrence of clogged pores and comedones.

Preventing the formation of comedones (clogged pores) is the KEY when it comes to having permanently clear skin!

Applying oils high in linoleic acid will help to restore linoleic acid balance and emulsify the hardened sebum, making it free-flowing, which helps to prevent the future breakouts and acne.

You also need to take action to reduce excess sebum production to prevent acne.

When testosterone circulating in our blood gets converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the skin, it strongly increases the sebum production.

And just a note, both men and women have testosterone! 🙂

There is a special enzyme doing the conversion (testosterone -> DHT) and it is called 5-alpha reductase.

To reduce the excess oil (sebum), we have to reduce the conversion of testosterone to DHT.

How?

There are some known 5-alpha reductase inhibitors: gamma-linoleic acid, linoleic acid, and zinc, for example, which act to block the action of 5-alpha reductase.

Here is a list of oils rich in linoleic acid that can help to reduce sebum production, and help you manage oily skin in the long run!

  • Hemp seed oil (nr. 1 for OILY acne-prone skin)

  • Grape seed oil(very light and odorless oil that absorbs easily, no greasy residue. I find it works great for most acne-prone skin types)

  • Rosehip seed oil (great for reducing hyperpigmentation, mainly due to the high content of trans-retinoic acid – a derivative of vitamin A)

  • Maracuja oil (great one if your skin is slightly on the oily side, but not so acne-prone)

COMBINATION SKIN (OILY T-ZONE)

Many of us have somewhat more oil on the forehead, nose, and chin (the T-zone).

To reduce the excess oil on your T-zone, I would say the best is to use two different oils. Treat your T-zone as described for oily skin above, and cheeks as normal skin.

If you don’t want to use two different oils, use rosehip seed oil. It will balance out the extra sebum while being nourishing at the same time.

DRY ACNE-PRONE SKIN

It is a misconception that dry skin cannot be prone to acne.

Dryness actually causes inflammation in the skin, because the skin barrier is damaged. Bringing back the moisture into your skin and nourishment with the right oils will help.

Choose among oils with low comedogenicity ratings but with a somewhat balanced ratio of linoleic to oleic acid for moisturizing properties.

This will strengthen your skin and fight acne in the long run.

  • Jojoba oil

  • Sunflower oil (this is a great oil if you are prone to acne and breakouts, but struggle with dry skin)
NORMAL SKIN WITH OCCASIONAL BREAKOUTS

Choose an oil with a higher ratio of linoleic to oleic acid, but a not very high ratio of linoleic to oleic acid, as this might be too drying.

  • Rosehip seed oil (great for reducing pigmentation)

  • Pumpkin seed oil (more moisturizing than very high-linoleic acid oils)

  • Jojoba oil (a classic that works great)

  • Argan oil (truly a liquid gold of skin care, but best for the skin types not very prone to acne)

Hopefully, you feel more courageous now in trying facial oils! Let me know your experience if you have used plant-based oils in your skin care.

Much love,

Sara

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