As moisturizers go, sometimes the best ones might be found in your kitchen. Many quality cooking oils are pressed from natural plants and seeds, and are the same oils found in high-end skincare products.
Let’s look at a few and what to know before using them on your skin:
Olive oil is frequently recommended as a moisturizer and boasts a high level of antioxidants, which can prevent cell damage from free radicals, protecting against premature aging and cancer. Research shows it reduced skin cancer in mice when applied after sun exposure
It also has mild anti-bacterial properties and is anti-inflammatory. It has a strong fragrance, which while enjoyable at mealtime, may smell odd to you on your skin. Like other oils on this list, it may stain fabrics, so be careful.
Sunflower oil is easily absorbed and non-comedogenic, meaning it won’t clog pores. This is why it is often used as a carrier oil for other ingredients in cosmetic and skin care products. It may be a good choice for those with acne due to its high linoleic acid content. Research shows that those with acne have a lower amount of linoleic acid on their skin. This may be contributing to their clogged pores.
Here, we are talking about cold-pressed sesame oil, not toasted or heat-treated sesame oil. Sesame oil is often used in TCM topicals as it is the most neutral oil for mixing with herbal medicine. It’s also the main body oil used in Ayurvedic medicine and massage therapy and is full of skin-healthy nutrients like vitamin E and minerals. It’s also antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory. Sesame oil is very lightweight with a light and pleasant aroma.
Coconut oil is a champ as a natural moisturizer, with top-notch barrier protection and proven anti-bacterial properties – the highest among the natural oils on this list. Read more about coconut oil in this comprehensive article.
If you choose high-quality cold-pressed organic food oils (as opposed to cheaper, chemically processed vegetable oils), they will all help boost barrier protection for your skin and help seal in natural moisture. Refined oils that are not cold-pressed may be tricky, as often they are refined through a heat treatment and/or chemical process that can reduce the oils healing properties, or worse, leave behind toxins.
Natural oils, like sunflower, sesame, and olive oil, are all generally a better choice than petroleum-based jellies and mineral oils, as petroleum-based oils can close off pores and interfere with your skin’s natural detoxification process.
With oils, a little bit will do. Just a small amount in your palm can go a long way when smoothed over still-wet skin after a shower. Simply rub the oil over your wet skin then towel off to leave a thin layer of oil that’s not drippy or messy.
Testing for Allergies
Even natural oils can be allergens or trigger a reaction in sensitive skin. As with any skin care ingredient, if you suffer from allergies or skin conditions such as eczema, TSW, psoriasis, or acne, be sure to first apply the oil to a small patch of skin, cover the patch with a band-aid and wait at least a full day to see if the oil is an irritant for you.
Double-check the label to be sure your oil isn’t mixed with other oils, colors, or fragrances.
Great natural skin care doesn’t need to be expensive if you can find a natural oil that you love and aren’t allergic to for occasional moisturizing. Experiment a bit and see if you can make a swap.
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.