Balms and oils are the rage with skin care. It seems that everywhere I look lately there is a cosmetic range touting a new oil or balm. Balms are anhydrous products which means they don’t contain any water. They are a blend of oils, possibly esters and waxes generally. The claimed benefits of these are increased moisturisation and healing of the skin. The results of using straight oil on your skin or balms, which are composed of nearly 100% oil are not great from a skin health perspective.
Take a quick look on the net and you will find a host of sites recommending the use of oils in place of a moisturiser, but is this really the best thing for your skin? Now what we most commonly see is older clients using oils as an anti-aging strategy. These clients are in their mid 30’s and the wrinkle brigade has started to visit. What they don’t realise is that by using oil they are accelerating aging.
Upon presentation to our clinic, they present with an aging and inflamed skin. Their skin barrier is majorly impaired and they are rapidly aging. They are confused as to why their skin looks like it does.
Now why is this the case…. If they are using an oil that has “benefits”???
It comes down to the fact that our skin requires 3 things in balance to maintain our skin barrier (2)
Vegetable oils contain one of these…….Fatty Acids. So when you apply just oil to the skin you are setting up the skin barrier to break down even further, because it needs all 3 of these things to be maintained (2). The stratum corneum lipids have a balance and a ratio where they are able to keep the skin intact. If you alter this ratio the result is an impaired skin barrier. By applying straight oil or balms on the skin you are actually altering the ratios that are in the epidermis. It is because of this reason you shouldn’t be using oils as a moisturiser or balms at all.
The benefit obtained by any oil is negated by the effect it will have on your skin barrier. You could have an oil full of Omega 3, but if you apply that baby straight to your skin you are headed for disaster.
It has been demonstrated that when cholesterol, free fatty acids, ceramides are applied alone to the skin they aggravate rather than improve the barrier [4-6]. Vegetable oils by their very nature only contain free fatty acids. So applying oil is an incomplete mixture of lipids. If we are to use 2 of the 3 necessary ingredients for the skin, this is still damaging the skin barrier. In contrast, three-component mixtures of the three key lipids[4-6] or two-component mixtures of acylceramides and cholesterol allow normal barrier recovery and can even accelerate barrier recovery, depending on the final proportion of the key lipids. The topical application of vegetable oils results in abnormal lamellar body contents and disordered intercellular lamellae.
What is also interesting is that formulas containing a high lipid content have been shown to increase the susceptibility of the skin to allowing irritant reactions. The reason is due to the increase in moisture loss. It is the composition of the moisturizer that determines whether the treatment strengthens or deteriorates the skin barrier function. What is even more interesting is that just because your skin looks “hydrated” doesn’t actually mean clinically it is. In one study, for example, the abnormal moisture loss remained high in patients with psoriasis after the plaques were treated with an emulsion containing glycerin, despite visible relief of the dryness symptoms, and similar results were found in cleaners and kitchen workers after treatment with a lipid-rich cream.
Ointments where used for a purpose. To deliver an active or pharmaceutical ingredient into the skin. They where not designed to be applied all over your face. Using oils and balms isn’t good for your skin at all and creates low grade inflammation. This is one of the reasons those who use natural ingredients often seem to age overnight. Suddenly they hit their late 40’s and because they have been using oils as their moisturiser their skin has had low grade inflammation for a long time. Inflammation ages you.
About the Author
Jacine Greenwood is an internationally recognised educator who is known within the industry for her up to date knowledge and her ability to deliver training in an easy to understand method.
Jacine is a Cosmetic Chemist as well as Esthetician. Jacine holds 6 Diplomas and a Bachelor of Nursing and her knowledge is well respected by her peers. With over 21 years experience in the industry and a background of cosmetic formulation, Jacine has an immense knowledge of current trends in research and new developments in the industry.
Jacine has been continually educating herself in all aspects of skin function and cosmetic chemistry for the past 21 years. Jacine’s knowledge is current and has a vast knowledge of the active ingredients that are being released onto the market.
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3. Elias, P. (2008)Barrier-repair therapy for atopic dermatitis: correctivelipid biochemical therapy. Expert Reviews.
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