Washing your face with oil? It seems counter-intuitive when decades of oil-free skin care product marketing has conditioned us to believe that putting oil on oily skin will only lead to oilier breakouts. But using oil—whether it’s olive oil, rose hip seed oil or sunflower oil—to rid your skin of the day’s accumulated dirt and impurities can actually help balance out your body’s natural oil production for skin that’s dewy, soft, clear and, most importantly, healthy. As Dr. Daniel Carrasco of Austin Dermatology Associates explains, it’s the basic principle of “like dissolves like.”
“If you get an oil to dissolve another oil, then you could theoretically — if you’re trying to treat acne, for example, that could be helpful.”
To understand how it works, you have to understand the way your body’s own naturally produced oils operate on the skin. The body, particularly the skin on the face, produces its own kind of oil called sebum. Though sebum is generally meant to protect the skin, it’s also the substance responsible for creating blemishes on the skin when it interacts with dead skin cells to clog pores and produce acne.
Traditional cleansers work by trying to rid the skin of sebum completely, in an attempt to target impurities at their root source. While that approach can work for some, it’s not the way your skin was meant to operate.
“When we use harsh soaps, or any soaps for that matter, what they’re essentially doing is they’re dissolving those oils, and they’re stripping the skin of a barrier that should be there,” Dr. Carrasco says. “I think sometimes we tend to over wash our bodies and faces…with soap thinking that’s a good thing when essentially that’s not a natural thing to do.”
Because our bodies are continuously seeking balance, stripping our faces of those natural oils can have an adverse effect, causing skin to go into overdrive and produce excess sebum to replace that which was washed away. Cue the breakouts and irritated, damaged skin.
In contrast, plant-based oils like olive and hemp seed work as gentler alternatives to harsh cleansers by dissolving and replacing the sebum on your skin, rather than just getting rid of it.
“When we use harsh soaps, or any soaps for that matter, what they’re essentially doing is they’re dissolving those oils, and they’re stripping the skin of a barrier that should be there”
“Our bodies’ ability to protect itself is intrinsic, so we make natural oils in our body and the goal is always to try to reproduce those oils as much as we can,” Dr. Carrasco explains.
Plant-based oils certainly have enough in common with sebum to mimic it on the skin, tricking your body into regulating natural oil production.
Olive + M, an Austin olive oil-based skin care start-up founded by Mariska Nicholson, uses this principle in its line of oils that both cleanse and moisturize the skin. By pairing the fatty acids of olive oil, avocado oil and sunflower oil, the antioxidant power of pumpkin seed oil and red raspberry seed oil, and the natural anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties of 13 other essential and plant-based oils, Olive + M has concocted a formula that leaves skin feeling soft, fresh and healthy.
The line’s restorative benefits start with the essential fatty acids present in its olive oil base, as well as the other various nut and seed oils critical to its formulas. Though the body can’t produce the chemical compounds on its own, essential fatty acids, or EFAs, are necessary to help maintain the health of skin cell membranes. They do so by penetrating deep layers of the skin and creating a barrier that acts as a passageway for important nutrients to enter and for waste and impurities to exit. Olive + M’s Cleansing Oil uses this process to act as a cleanser for the dirt that accumulates on our faces each day and to act as a vessel to deliver the formula’s potent healing properties.
That same barrier function is responsible for the movement of water into and out of skin cells making oils extremely effective moisturizers that work not only to hydrate the skin, but also to prevent already present moisture from evaporating. Because of its squalene content, the olive oil in Olive + M’s Face Oil is especially good at penetrating the skin’s lipid layer to trap in moisture and give the surface a perpetually dewy glow. These moisturizing properties, as well as the silicon and hyaluronic acid found in some varieties, make oil a great primer capable of binding to makeup and evening skin tone.
“Our bodies’ ability to protect itself is intrinsic, so we make natural oils in our body and the goal is always to try to reproduce those oils as much as we can” -Dr. Daniel Carrasco of Austin Dermatology Associates
Oils are also antioxidant powerhouses, thanks to their botanical nature. The varied vitamins—A, E, B complex and C—that exist within their chemical structures help protect the skin from free radicals which can create damage or cause inflammation of the skin. Some oils, like the olive oil used in Olive + M’s line, also contain polyphenols that, when combined with phytosterols, or plant-based moisturizers, work to pack an extra compelling antioxidant punch.
Together, oils’ anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties work to delay the aging process and the formation of wrinkles by preventing harm to the skin and by stimulating cell regeneration. Oils high in vitamin A, like red raspberry seed oil and rose hip seed oil, can also help boost the production of collagen and skin cells to replace old, damaged cells with fresh, new ones. Moisturizing with oils also helps prevent aging as dehydrated skin is more quick to crack and wrinkle than skin that is plump and hydrated. Finally, oils are chock full of natural anti-aging ingredients like retinol, glycolic acid and vitamin C.
Though plant-based skin care products are a natural and healthy alternative to harsh cleansers for all skin types, not all oils are created equally. Dr. Carrasco recommends doing your research before deciding which combination of free radical-fighting, collagen-boosting, moisture-locking oils are right for you. It’s equally as important to find products that are unfiltered and unprocessed to allow oils to do the work they were meant to without interference from harmful toxins. At Olive + M, oils are sourced locally and naturally so that you can be sure they come straight from Mother Earth—just the way nature intended.
For more information visit www.oliveandm.com.