October 25, 2012

Oils for the skin: to use or not to use?

by Natalie Katsman

In our days when fats are recognized to be bad for health, and the very word "fat" has a negative meaning, oils, as a source of the unwanted substance, are often misunderstood.

Natural oils contain hundreds of organic constituents such as hormones, vitamins and other natural elements that can be beneficial for the skin.

Natural oils can be divided into two general categories - essential oils and carrier or base oils.

Essential oils are volatile compounds found in plans. They give fruits, flowers, herbs and spices their fragrance and flavor. Obtained by distillation or expression, essential oils are highly concentrated and used at a very low concentration.

Carrier oils, such as almond, sunflower, olive, walnut and other oils are used in higher concentration in cosmetics, or they can be applied directly to the skin to nourish, soften and protect it. They are used as a base in which essential oils are diluted.

Oils are highly penetrating. They easily enter through a cell wall delivering essential vitamins, oxygen, and nutrients. This helps to stimulate cell metabolism and regeneration process.

Ability of oils to penetrate and carry nutrients through the the cell wall to the cell nucleus can prevent cell deterioration that can lead to infections and diseases.

Many oils have anti-bacterial properties, thus helping to reduce infections in sensitive or damaged skin.

Oils have been successfully used in skin care preparations for centuries. They constitute a substantial part of skin care formulations, and some people actually prefer oils to creams.

It might sound strange, but oils can be used as skin cleansers. Sunflower (non-refined), olive and almond oils will serve the purpose. Did you know that vegetable oil is a great way to remove oil-based paint from the skin? The same mechanism works with everyday residues and impurities that accumulate on your skin. Oils effectively lift off the dirt, leaving the skin clean and nourished.

If you still prefer water but your sensitive skin feels dry after it, apply oil to the skin prior to washing your face. You skin will feel much softer.

Many oils, such as safflower oil, are rich in essential fatty acids that the body requires for healthy cells but cannot produce by itself. These acids preserve the protective function of cell membranes. Skin that does not get enough of these nutrients loses moisture and elasticity, becomes dry and forms wrinkles and fine lines. Fatty acids can prevent skin dryness and help to restore moisture balance.

Great controversy exists when it comes to the use of oils on acne-prone skin. The anti-bacterial properties of essential oils, such as lavender and tea tree, help to kill the bacteria and counter acne. Basil oil has been successfully used by Indians to clear the skin of the unsightly breakouts.

If your skin is oily, you probably would like to avoid oils. However, if you put too much effort into making your skin drier, your skin can take it as a signal to produce even more oil.

While moisturizing your skin (there are oil-free products designed for oily skin), you can try products with such essential oils as tea tree, basil, eucalyptus, cedarwood, cypress, lemon, or lavender that are known to normalize oily skin and, along with sage and lemongrass oils, to slow down body oil production.

Tea tree oil, chamomile, lavender, geranium, rose, neroli and ylang ylang are recommended for all skin types. These essential oils are soothing, anti-inflammatory, healing and nutritive. Mature skin will also benefit from clary sage, palmarosa, and carrot seed oil - for they are proven to be effective in wrinkle prevention.
(C) Natalie Katsman, 2003.

Natalie Katsman is a co-founder of http://www.natural-aid.com (now defunct), where you can find fine quality aloe vera products for beauty and well-being and subscribe to HealthySkin Newsletter filled with beauty tips, recipes and information on herbal healing, skin care and cosmetic chemistry.