You may have heard that oils are bad for acne prone skin, but this is not 100% true. There are some oils that will contribute to more acne, but by using the right oils you can actually help improve the condition of your skin. In this article you will learn why oils are good for acne-prone skin and what the best oils are.
Fatty acids are present in plant oils. There are many types of fatty acids, but the primary fatty acids that concern us in the skincare industry are linoleic acid and oleic acid. Another fatty acid you may hear of is linolenic acid.
What is Linoleic Acid?
Linoleic acid (LA) is a polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid found in many nut and seed oils. It is one of two essential fatty acids that the body cannot produce it on its own and must be obtained through food.
Oils high in LA are light and quickly absorbed by the skin.
What is Oleic Acid?
Oleic acid (OA) is a monounsaturated omega 9 fatty acid found in various animal and vegetable fats and oils.
Oils high in OA are rich and emollient, they are extra-occlusive and seal in moisture well.
What is Linolenic Acid?
There are two types of linolenic acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). They are both Omega 3 fatty acids. ALA is an essential fatty acid that must be obtained through the diet or topical application. GLA can be produced in the body from LA ingestion.
How do These Fatty Acids Affect the Skin?
LA plays a vital role in the structural integrity and barrier function of the skin. OA has anti-inflammatory and skin softening properties. Topical application of oils high in these fatty acids is a great way to nourish and protect the skin.
Omega 3 fatty acids (ALA and GLA) help the skin retain moisture, regulate oil production, and maintain elasticity. Topical application of omega-3 fatty acids lessens UV-induced photodamage, external signs of aging, and anti-inflammatory skin responses.
Why are High Linoleic Oils Good for Acne?
LA is the most abundant fatty acid in the skin and is a structural precursor for ceramides that compose the stratum corneum. Supplementation of this fatty acid moisturizes the skin, heals sunburn, and treats acne. There is evidence that decreased amounts of linoleic acid are found in the sebum of people with severe acne.
When our skin’s sebum is lacking LA, it gets sticky and hard, leading to clogged pores. Topical LA application can help keep sebum light and fluid and has been shown to reduce the size of microcomedones (clogged pores).
Oils high in OA are too occlusive for acne-prone skin and will cause breakouts, while oils high in LA will help minimize breakouts.
What are the Best High Linoleic Oils for Acne?
There are many oils that are high in LA, but the following ones are my favorite for acne-prone skin:
Sacha Inchi Oil
- LA: 36.8% OA: 8.28% ALA: 48.6%
- High in antioxidants and skin-nourishing fatty acids.
- Protects the skin from water loss and helps rebuild the skin barrier.
Pumpkin Seed Oil
- LA: 57.2% OA: 23.3%
- High in Zinc, excellent for wound healing.
- Increases skin firmness and fights acne-causing bacteria.
- Offers exceptional anti-inflammatory activity.
- Especially useful for hormonal acne due to its effects on the acne-aggravating androgen, DHT.
Safflower Seed Oil
- LA: 78% OA: 17%
- Has a small molecular structure that allows it to get into your pores and break up congestion.
- Highly moisturizing and quickly absorbed.
- High vitamin E content.
Guava Seed Oil
- LA: 76.5% OA: 9.17%
- Helps prevent premature aging and wrinkles.
- Has astringent properties, meaning it will shrink skin tissues, reduce pore size, and tighten loose skin.
Watermelon Seed Oil
- LA: 63% OA: 15%
- Absorbs quickly, this oil is very light and also slightly drying.
- High in vitamin E.
Prickly Pear Seed Oil
- LA: 61% OA: 20.6%
- Exceptional anti-aging oil. A very high concentration of vitamin E and powerful antioxidants called Betalains.
- Contains amino acids that stimulate collagen production.
- Vitamin K brightens the skin and reduces dark spots.
Black Cumin Seed
- LA: 57.9% OA: 23.7%
- Effective at killing not just one, but various strains of acne-causing bacteria.
- Contains an anti-inflammatory compound called thymoquinone (TQ). TQ is one of the few substances that work on multiple inflammatory pathways that are specifically involved in acne.
- High in zinc. Zinc helps fight infections and speed healing.
Perilla Seed Oil
- LA: 17% OA: 14.9% ALA: 64%
- Contains a compound which acts as a precursor for ceramides (these help the skin barrier and prevent water loss).
- Light and dry oil that absorbs quickly.
- Antiseptic and cleansing, easing skin congestion.
- Rich in flavones and antioxidants.