A few months ago I introduced an epic blend of facial oils. And just like I predicted, clients LOVED it!!! However, I have been asked several times why the oil cannot be used in place of a moisturizer. Facial oils are popular for their ability to moisturize and hydrate skin and many people will say you can skip your moisturizer. WRONG! The problem with plant oils is that they are composed of fatty acids, and your skin contains other lipids as well. Over time, ONLY using oil will cause damaging low-level inflammation.
The role lipids play in skin health: Healthy skin is plump, well hydrated and moisturized. Keeping our skin healthy is ensuring its structure remains in its best possible state. Ingredients that aid in this is referred to as Natural Moisturizing Factors (NMF), or components that mimic the structure and functions of the healthy skin. Within our skin lipids prevent water evaporation, provide lubrication, and contribute to the outer texture of the stratum corneum (SC) smoothness. Lipids account for about 15% of the stratum corneum weight composed of 50% ceramides, approximately 15% fatty acids, and approximately 25% cholesterol. Our lipids within the SC are affected by age, genetics, seasonal climate changes, and diet. When your skin is deficient of lipids, it’s predisposed to dry skin, as they aid in keeping NMF inside our cells. These lipids go into our cells where they’re needed to keep cells hydrated and aqueous enzymes stable so they function well. This is how lipids keep our barrier hydrated, allowing our skin to self-repair and function accurately. The major players in retaining water in our barrier are ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.
When the barrier is healthy, the skin appears smooth, soft, and plump. When the barrier is unhealthy, skin appears dry, rough, dull, and dehydrated. It’s important to keep a healthy balance of all 3 lipids in the skin. No single lipid is more important than another, but lacking the balance of lipids can weaken our skin’s barrier. Most facial oils don’t contain each lipid, focusing on fatty acids, causing damage to your skin in the long run (assuming you aren’t using a moisturizer with it). Long-term barrier dysfunction causes inflammation, dehydration, and aging because the barrier can no longer repair its self.
Just because you don’t see aging, inflammation, or signs of a compromised barrier, doesn’t mean it NOT happening! It won’t be noticeable overnight, it might not be noticeable within a few months, but you will definitely notice once it’s taken a toll on your skin. Occlusive agents increase moisture levels in the skin by providing a physical barrier to epidermal water loss. Humectants attract water from the environment and pull it into your skin. Emollients provide some occlusivity and smooth flaky skin cells. Facial oils are occlusives. If you’re only applying oil as your moisturizer, your skin is missing out on other moisturizing ingredients. Doing so means your skin may never truly be hydrated as it’s missing the benefits of humectants and emollients.
Again, when the skin isn’t well hydrated, the barrier cannot function properly. Oils should be considered supplemental hydration to balance your skin, not your sole source of moisture. Always, always use a moisturizer.