Plant oils for skin health

When making your own face/body/massage oil blend, ensure you choose the most suitable nutrient rich blend for skin type and condition.

Here I talk about fixed plant oils such as chia seed and avocado, not volatile oils (essential oils) such as lavender & chamomile.

What I need to look out for on the bottle and why

Fixed plant oil chemistry is complicated.

However knowing a little about plant oils can make it easier to understand which oils are suitable for the particular skin type and condition you wish to care for. 

Cold pressed & unrefined 
For maximum possible nutrient content and no undesirable processes involving harsh chemicals and damaging high heat.

Organic or wild harvested
I believe plants that have had to struggle to grow without the help of artificial pesticides and fertilisers are richer in desirable properties.

Some plants which produce oils are grown naturally without pesticides and fertilisers, but have not been certified organic, this takes a little more research!

Latin names
Common names can be mixed up or very similar, quality producers will provide the latin name.

For instance camellia and camelina - very similar name, but a completely different plant oil and properties. Rosehip seed oil has one common name, however under this common name comes two varieties - Rosa canina and Rosa rubignosa, rubignosa is the most desirable oil (when from Chile - discussed next...)

Country of origin
With some oils, the properties are more desirable when grown in certain areas/altitude. It also shows producers professionalism and a certain standard. For example rosehip (Rosa rubignosa) grown in high altitude Chile has higher levels of trans-retinoic acid, a pro-vitamin A, attributed with the ability to reduce scars and hyperpigmentation. 

So as you can see this information is important for those who wish to gain therapeutic properties from topical use of plant oils.  

How to choose oil for its properties

The phyto (plant) nutrients and fatty acid content. Every plant oil has a unique fatty acid profile - this is the key to the suitability to your skin type. Some plant oils are richer in skin beneficial properties than others, but first we need to look at fatty acid profiles before the exciting nutrients and antioxidants.  

Plant oils can be used in their pure form or blended with essential oils or as an ingredient in a cream/lotion.

I make plant oil blends to make many products such as;
- cleanser
- make up remover
- moisturiser
- serum
- pre-shave oil
- shave oil
- aftershave balm
- scalp mask
- after sun
- insect repellent
- massage oil
- hair serum
- massage oil and many other treatments.

Some benefits to using plant oils as skincare 

Plant oils make thorough and gentle cleansers, effective at removing heavy makeup. Cleansing with plant oil does not strip the skin of its natural protective oils and maintain the acid mantle.

A moisturisers main function is to reduce water loss from the skin, but there is far more we want and can have from our face oil, if the oil is carefully chosen, including balance, protection from free radicals and cell repair to name a few helpful benefits.

Serums have different functions depending on the desired effect, many of which can be obtained from a well balanced nutrient rich face oil.

Massage oils basic function is to provide slip, however carefully chosen massage oils can also be skin type suitable and contain beneficial nutrients.

Fatty acids and their function in skin health

Omega 3
The main omega 3 fatty acid found in plant oils is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid, meaning it is vital for good health, including good skin health,  unfortunately the majority of those on a western diet are severely lacking in omega 3. Alpha linolenic acid has many benefits including anti inflammatory properties.

Rich sources of alpha linolenic acid include camelina seed, chia seed, sacha inchi and rosehip seed. Hemp seed and Walnut also have a fairly high ALA content. There are also other oils with ALA, but like to concentrate on the riches sources to balance the linoleic acid. I prize these plant oils for their ALA content. Flax is rich in omega 3, however it is prone to oxidisation, so it`s shelf life is very short, this indicated to me that it is low in antioxidants. Oils rich in omega 3 have a silky smooth yet lightweight feel. 

Omega 6
The main omega 6 fatty found in plant oil is linoliec acid, it has the important function of reducing water loss fro the skin (TEWL), in my mind - an absolute must in moisturisers, but rarely found in ingredients lists. Another omega 6 found in some plant oils is the wonderful anti inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid GLA, our bodies convert Linoleic acid into GLA, so it is not vital we have it, however it is useful as it is anti-inflammatory, where as linoliec acid is pro inflammatory, therefor it is important we have the correct ratio of omega 3 and 6, so the omega 3 cam balance the inflammatory effects of some omega 6 fatty acids.

Rich sources of linoleic acid include many oils, my favourites to use are those also low in monosaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids as these are very lightweight and easily absorbed, such as hemp seed and watermelon seed. 

Rich sources of gamma linolenic acid include black currant seed, borage, evening primrose and there is a little in hemp seed oil. My favourite GLA rich oil is black currant seed oil, it is the riches source and has many other properties and its shelf life is longer than borage and evening primrose. 

Omega 5
Punicic acid, a very exciting fatty acid found in pomegranate seed oil, a non pore blocking thick and soothing oil which creates a luxurious silky oil, when blended with other plant oils. 

Omega 7
Mainly palmitoleic acid, naturally present in our skin which reduces with age.

Rich sources include macadamia nut and sea buckthorn.  

Omega 9
Oliec acid and erucic acid. Oliec rich plant oils can be a fairly heavy feel on the skin, I tend to only use the oils which provide some unusual properties. Erucic is a very beneficial fatty acid to protect dry skin from dehydration.

Rich source of oleic rich plant oils with unusual beneficial properties: Apricot kernel oil contains beta-sitosterol which is anti-inflammatory, I believe this helpful constituent is what has made apricot kernel oil the go to oil for sensitive skins, it actually has a fairly high linoleic acid content, so it is fairly light and easily absorbed. Avocado, deep green in colour, contains pro vitamin A, it is a rich oil - excellent for dry skin. Buriti is the richest plant oil source of beta carotene, a pro viamin A, its deep orange colour shows how rich it is in these helpful antioxidants. Camelina and hazelnut are rich in tannins, which have a mild astringent effect.  

Plant oils rich in saturated fatty acids have protective occlusive properties for dry skin, my favourites oils include antioxidant rich pequi and baobab and the incredible healing tamanu oil. Most oils which are very rich in saturated fatty acids are solid, such as coconut and shea butter. 

Phyto nutrients and antioxidants is a huge subject and individual to each plant oil, which takes much study, if you would like to learn more email to book a consultation. 


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