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What Can Facial Oils Do For My Dry Skin?

Dry skin is a serious bummer. I did a quick Instagram response to a YouTuber who claimed that the secret to healthy (clear?) skin, is to dry your skin out, to literally strip it of all natural oils so as to not *feed* the bacteria. While this has some scientific merit (just as you don't want to feed the trolls on Instagram, you shouldn't feed the bacteria on your skin), unfortunately it is a short-term solution that can create long-term problems. Stripping your skin of its natural oils will help starve the bacteria of their food supply, but it will also create an environment that is dry, which will eventually lead to an over-production of sebum (as it tries to compensate for all the lost oils), which will kind of land you in the same place where you started.

People with acne do generally tend to have oilier skin. However, people with dry skin still get acne, and if you have dry skin and acne you know what a conundrum this can pose for you.

Dry skin is, afterall, very common. If you experience dry skin you might find that it’s seasonal or you might suffer all year round. When your skin loses moisture, it might crack or peel and then become inflamed or irritated. Your skin might become slightly rough and itchy. Your skin may even get this way after using products that are too harsh for your skin, or products that result in contact dermatitis.

If your skin is dry, you probably already know that this means your skin may not produce as many natural oils as other people’s, and will be less able to retain water. The protective barrier is therefore not as good as it should be.

Once your skin starts to become inflamed or cracked you are experiencing signs of dermatitis. Cracks in the skin can lead to germs getting in, which can cause infections in the form of red, sore spots. This is obviously not ideal for someone seeking healthy, beautiful skin.

Thus, you can see that drying out your skin is absolutely not the answer. Dry skin can = acne, too.

The first step to managing dry skin is to keep it properly moisturized. If you’ve never considered using a facial oil for dry skin, I am here to tell you why you should!

Most people are completely and vehemently against using oils on their skin. For some strange reason people have been led to believe that if we put oil on our face, it will make our skin oilier. This could not be further from the truth. If anything makes your skin oilier it is deliberately drying your skin out in an attempt to clear your acne, thereby forcing your skin to increase its sebum production in a futile attempt to compensate for all of the lost moisture. Your skin starts pumping out sebum when its oil content isn't balanced, or when an extenuating factor like hormones comes into play. So if you strip your skin's natural oils by over-cleansing, your body will actually produce more oil to compensate. But a quality face oil will replenish your skin with the essential fatty acids and moisture it needs. When balance is restored those overactive sebaceous glands take a breather, leaving skin healthier and clearer.

Fatty Acids

Oil products contain the essential fatty acids your skin needs to stay properly hydrated, but your body can't produce them on its own. This is especially great for people with dry skin. Oils also act as the skin's lipid barrier, protecting against extreme temperatures, dry climates, and over-cleansing. Even if you have oily skin, you can still use a facial oil, especially in the winter months.

Here are some reasons why facial oils are great for all skin types, although especially for dry skin:

1. Facial oils offer great moisturising properties. Oils are emollients, ingredients which soften or soothe the skin, and which help to keep the skin moist and flexible. When you have dry skin, oils produce a layer over the skin’s surface which traps water beneath it, thus reducing trans epidermal water loss (TEWL) and keeping the skin healthy. For those of us with dry skin, our moisture barrier is likely already compromised, and so using something that increases moisture and prevents TEWL is important.

2. Facial oils can soothe the inflammation and irritation normally associated with dry skin, and especially acne. The protective layer they create prevents the penetration of irritants, allergens and bacteria. Besides maintaining the integrity of the lipid barrier, oils inhibit peroxidative and oxidative damage (Lasch, et. alm 1997). If you don't know why oxidation is bad, you need to read my eBook.

3. Facial oils derived from plants contain compounds such as polyphenols, phytosterols and carotenoids which are metabolized by the skin and provide antioxidant properties which may help not only repair the skin, but also treat existing acne.

4. Topical applications of fatty acids alleviate breakouts by re-stabilizing the lipid barrier, thus restoring anti-microbial activity on the skin's surface (Elias & Schmuth, 2009). What's more, because lipids dissolve lipids, oils actually break up congestion at the source.

When you’re looking to choose the right facial oil for your skin, try to look for an oil that is denser, and has a high viscosity (they typically penetrate a bit slower into the top layers of the skin). Examples would be avocado oil, or macadamia oil. Oils that contain natural anti-inflammatory properties, like jojoba and hemp seed oil, may also be beneficial.

When buying a face oil, you really get what you pay for. Cheaper oil products often contain refined, more processed ingredients with fillers and additives, whereas more expensive oils tend to be purer and more effective. This is not always the case, however, and some cheaper oils may suit your skin just fine! Look for pure oils of rosehip, argan, jojoba, apricot kernel, avocado, macadamia nut, and calendula to get the most benefits. And remember, although a good face oil may seem pricey, it's highly concentrated, so a few drops go a long way. Also remember, that just because one oil may not work for you, it does not mean that all oils won't. You may have to try a few to find the one that suits your skin and its needs best.

Use a few drops and massage them into your delicate facial skin after your normal evening cleansing and moisturising routine.

So what oil should you use? There are so many, it really is difficult to narrow it down. And how will you know if it's the right oil for your skin?

Unfortunately there's no sure way to know with any certainty what oil is going to work for your skin. You really do have to try it out for yourself. This of course means you run the risk of causing breakouts, but don't worry about that too much, because if it does, it should go away soon after you discontinue use.

However, if you have dry, irritated, inflamed skin - let me get you started on a couple of oils you may or may not want to try out.

The type of oil used all depends on the skin type or condition. Also, as plants, all plant oils contain antioxidants, but it's about opting for the oils with highest antioxidants (which will depend on the quality of the individual product more than it will depend on the oil).

Jojoba Oil

Desert Essence Jojoba Oil (Get it at a discount with my code TRK 603)

Jojoba is a super common oil used in skin care products, and for good reason! Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) is a long-lived, drought resistant, perennial plant. The jojoba plant produces esters of long-chain alcohols and fatty acids (waxes) as a seed lipid energy reserve. The composition of jojoba oil closely resembles that of sebum produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin. Both are waxes composed of monounsaturated esters, which is probably most of the reason people try it. But it can be good for skin in other ways too. It's a fairly stable oil, meaning that it isn't as prone to oxidation. Jojoba wax (oil) has an anti-inflammatory effect and it can be used on a variety of skin conditions including skin infections, skin aging, as well as wound healing (Habashy, et. al, 2005). Its antioxidant capacity makes it ideal for topical applications (Abdel-Mageed, et. al, 2014). Moreover, jojoba has been shown to enhance the absorption of topical drugs (Pazyar, et. al, 2013) which may be important for those of us using something like a retinoid to treat our acne.

Olive Oil

Life Flo Pure Olive Oil (Get it at a discount with my code TRK 603)

Olive oil is another popular oil, although it's most commonly used in the kitchen! Early on in my acne journey I used olive oil in my skin care as a moisturizer. It didn't "cure" my acne, but it also didn't make it any worse. I still, to this day, use olive oil in some of my face scrubs. I think that people reach for the olive oil because it is cheap and it's usually always handy. But these are just anecdotes, and an oil's cost shouldn't merit its use on the face without evidence. What can olive oil actually do for our skin?

One study showed that olive oil has antioxidant effects in reducing DNA damage by reactive oxygen species, and that the effective component may be labile to UVB (Budiyanto, et. al, 2000), meaning it may help mitigate skin damage caused by UV exposure.

However, an older study did show that olive oil may be a weak irritant (Kranke, et. al, 1997). A recent study also found that, in contrast to sunflower seed oil, topical treatment with olive oil significantly damaged the skin barrier, and therefore has the potential to promote the development of, and exacerbate existing, atopic dermatitis (Danby, et. al, 2013). Similar results were found in another study that noted a delayed barrier function recovery (Darmstadt, et. al, 2002).

Oleic acid is also often enriched in cooking oils to prevent food from going rancid (it’s a healthier option than saturated or trans fats), so some cooking oils aren’t good for skincare. If you do buy cooking oil to use on your face, make sure you buy one that isn’t labelled “high oleic”.

So, olive oil may not be the best oil for your skin, but you can certainly try it if your skin is extremely damaged and dry. If you're using it and find it works for you, that's great. There's not much concern over using it in applications like a scrub, as this doesn't remain on the skin.

Sunflower Seed Oil

Life Flo Pure Sunflower Oil (Get it at a discount with my code TRK 603)

Sunflower seed oil is a great skin care oil that doesn't always get it's due rewards. In one study, sunflower seed oil preserved stratum corneum integrity, did not cause erythema, and improved hydration in dermatitis volunteers (Danby, et. al, 2013). Another study found that a single application of sunflower seed oil significantly accelerated skin barrier recovery within 1 hour, and the effect was sustained 5 hours after application.

Thus, linoleate-enriched oil such as sunflower seed oil might enhance skin barrier function and improve compromised barrier function (Darmstadt, et. al, 2002).

This, in my opinion, makes it an especially good oil for topical use in people with dry or damaged skin.

Avocado Oil

Aura Cacia Avocado Oil (Get it at a discount with my code TRK 603)

Avocado oil is another great skin oil. One study found that avocado oil increased wound contraction and reepithelialization as well as exhibited anti-inflammatory activity, and increased collagen and tensile strength (de Oliveira, et. al, 2013). An analysis of the components of avocado oil by gas chromatography detected the majority presence of oleic fatty acid (47.20%), followed by palmitic (23.66%), linoleic (13.46%) docosadienoic (8.88%), palmitoleic (3.58%), linolenic (1.60%), eicosenoic (1.29%), and myristic acids (0.33%). Based on these findings, it is evident that avocado oil can promote increased collagen synthesis and decreased numbers of inflammatory cells during the wound-healing process and may thus be considered a new option for treating skin wounds like acne lesions. This would be one of my choice oils.

Moringa Oil

Desert Essence Moringa, Jojoba & Rose Hip Oil (Get it at a discount with my code TRK 603)

In one study, the topical use of a moringa oil cream showed significant effects on skin volume, texture parameters (energy, variance and contrast), skin roughness, skin scaliness, skin smoothness, and skin wrinkles parameters. The results suggested that moringa cream enhances skin revitalization effect and supports anti-aging skin effects (Ali, et. al, 2014). Both the fatty acid profile and antioxidant content can diminish the appearance of wrinkles, lighten skin tone, and deeply moisturize the skin, making it a possible choice oil for damaged skin.

Argan oil

Josie Maran Argan Oil

Argan oil. You know what it is. I know what it is. Everyone knows what it is. It's super, super popular right now, mostly for hair care, but also for skin.

One study found that the topical application of argan oil has an anti-aging effect on the skin demonstrated by the improvement of skin elasticity (Boucetta, et. al, 2015). Another study found a visible sebum-regulating efficacy in 95% of patients (Dobrev, 2007). After 4 weeks of treatment there was a significant reduction in the casual sebum level by 20% and area covered with oily spots by 42%. This demonstrates that argan oil may be useful for sebum regulation, which is particularly useful for people with acneic skin in which sebum is an issue.

If you're going to opt for argan oil, be sure to check the ingredient list because often times the argan oil will only be used as a small percentage of the mixture. Also be sure to buy from a company that is eco-friendly and fair trade because often times the oil is derived at the expense of women from Morocco. Josie Maran is a good example of a fair-trade, eco-friendly, high quality argan oil.

Hemp Seed Oil

BestNaturesCosmetics Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp oil is becoming the choice oil in the beauty industry. Hemp-seed oil has several positive effects on the skin; thanks to its unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) content it alleviates skin problems such as dryness and those related to the aging process (Sapino, et. al, 2005). Hemp oil also contains omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids which are key components in maintaining healthy skin. The linolenic acid present has amazing anti-inflammatory properties that we know are necessary to treat acne. However, it is important that the hemp oil be unrefined. Of course you can purchase the refined oil and may experience the same benefits, or if you live in a state or country where it is legal - make your own!

Rosehip Seed Oil

Life Flo Rosehip Seed Oil (Get it at a discount with my cocde TRK 603)

This is perhaps one of my most prized oils and I always highly encourage people to try it for their skin. Not only did it not break me out, it actually helped to heal all of my hyperpigmentation and I believe helped to repair my damaged moisture barrier. Rosehip seed oil is high in linoleic acid, and since we know that people who are acne-prone tend to have a low percentage of linoleic acid, and a high percentage of oleic acid in their sebum, substituting with rosehip seed oil can certainly bring some of those much needed fatty acids back to the skin (Downing, et. al, 1986). In one study, topical applications of linoleic acid on the faces of people with mild acne made their microcomedones smaller (Letawe, Boone & Pierard, 2002). Plus it works by hindering an important step in the acne formation process, rather than killing bacteria (which isn't always present). With rosehip seed oil you’ll also get a healthy dose of vitamin A, and antioxidants, both of which are so important for healthy, glowing and nourished skin. I think it’s the combination of these things together rather than a single component that makes skin respond so well to rosehip oil, but linoleic acid is also likely a big part of it. If you want to learn more about rosehip seed oil, check out my eBook!

These are just a small sampling of a few plant oils that you can use for your skin. As with any product, please try it for yourself before deciding whether or not it works. What works for someone else may not work for you, and similarly what doesn't work for someone else may work for you.

Questions, concerns, comments? Leave them below!


Abdel-Mageed, WM., Bayoumi, SA., Salama, AA., Salem-Bekhit, MM., Abd-Alrahman, SH., and Sayed, HM. (2014), Antioxidant lipoxygenase inhibitors from the leaf extracts of Simmondsia chinensis. Asian Pac J Trop Med.

Ali, A., Akhtar, N., and Chowdhary, F. (2014), Enhancement of human skin facial revitalization by moringa leaf extract cream. Postepy Dermatol Alergol, 31(2): 71-76.

Boucetta, KQ., Charrouf, Z., Aguenaou, H., Derouiche, A., and Bensouda, Y. (2015), The effect of dietary and/or cosmetic argan oil on postmenopausal skin elasticity. Clin Interv Aging, 10: 339-49.

Budiyanto, A., Ahmed, NU., Wu, A., Bito, T., Nikaido, O., Osawa, T., Ueda, M., and Ichihashi, M. (2000), Protective effect of topically applied olie oil against photocarcinogenesis following UVB exposure of mice. Carcinogenesis, 21(11): 2085-90.

Danby, SH., AlEnezi, T., Sultan, A., Lavender, T., Chittock, J., Brown K., and Cork, MJ. (2013), Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatr Dermatol, 30(1): 42-50.

Darmstadt, GL., Mao-Qiang, M., Chi, E., Saha, SK., Ziboh, VA., Black, RE., Santosham, M., and Elias, PM. (2002), Impact of topical oils on the skin barrier: possible implications for neonatal health in developing countries. Acta Paediatr, 91(5): 546-54.

de Oliveira, AP., de Souza Franco, E., Barreto, RR., Cordeiro, DP., de Melo, RG., de Aquino, CMF., Rodrigues e Silva, AA., de Medeiros, PL., da Silva, TG., da Silva Goes, AJ., and de Sousa Maia, MB. (2013), Effect of semisolid formulation of persea Americana Mill (Avocado) oil on wound healing in rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.

Dobrev, H. (2007), Clinical and instrumental study of the efficacy of a new sebum control cream. J Cosmet Dermatol, 6(2): 113-8.

Downing, DT., Stewart, ME., Wertz, PW., and Strauss, JS. (1986), Essential fatty acids in acne. JAAD, 2(1): 221-225.

Elias, PM., and Schmuth, M. (2009), Abnormal skin barrier in the etiopathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 9(4): 265-272.

Habashy, RR., Abdel-Naim, AB., Khalifa, AE., and Al-Azizi, MM. (2005), Anti-inflammatory effects of jojoba liquid wax in experimental models. Pharmacol Res, 51(2): 95-105.

Lasch, J., Schonfelder, U., Walke, M., Zellmer, S., and Beckert, D. (1997), Oxidative damage of human skin lipis. Dependence of lipid peroxidation on sterol concentration. Biochim Biophys Acta, 1349(2): 171-81.

Letawe, Boone & Pierard. (2002), Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones. Clinical and Experimenal Dermatology, 23(2): 56-58.;jsessionid=5C2DAE14FD4D6506900D4157DA4C9B07.f03t02

Kranke, B., Komericki, P., and Aberer, W. (1997), Olive oil -- contact sensitizer or irritant? Contact Dermatitis, 36(1): 5-10.

Pazyar, N., Yaghoobi, R., Ghassemi, MR., Kazerouni, A., Rafeie, E., and Jamshydian, N. (2013), Jojoba in dermatology: a succint review. G Ital Dermatol Venereol, 148(6): 687-91.

Sapino, S., Carlotti, ME., Peira, E., and Gallarate, M. (2005), Hemp-seed and olive oils: their stability against oxidation and use in O/W emulsions. J Cosmet Sci, 56(4): 227-51.

Yamamoto, A., Takenouchi, K., and Ito, M. (1995), Impaired water barrier function in acne vulgaris. Archives of Dermatological Research, 287(2): 214-218.

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