By Dr Gaile Robredo-Vitas
Our skin already contains oils! Sebum is one of them. It is an oily substance secreted by specialized glands in the skin called sebaceous glands containing a mixture of fatty acids, triglycerides, wax esters, cholesterol and squalene that keeps our skin moisturized. In addition to sebum, the outer layer of the skin also contains lipids and free fatty acids.
All of these “oils” form a protective barrier against water loss and environmental elements such as dirt, pollutants, microbes and allergens. They also serve as gatekeepers and play a major role in the permeability of the skin.
Think of the outer layer of the skin as a brick wall. The bricks represent the skin cells, whereas the mortar represents the oils in between the cells. The mortar is important in keeping the skin barrier intact, which is critical in keeping the skin healthy, hydrated and disease-free.
Now imagine if the mortar in between the bricks are damaged or missing? Nothing keeps these bricks together and a lot of things can pass through or go in and out. Without these oils, we have a compromised skin barrier. Water can easily escape (aka transepidermal water loss) and elements can easily get in, which then leads to dryness, irritation, skin sensitivity and even allergies or infections.
So where do facial oils come in?
Oils, depending on their structure and molecular size, are either emollients or occlusives or both. Emollients are able to penetrate the skin and reinforce or strengthen the skin barrier, whereas occlusives sit on top of the skin and serve as a protective layer.
Individuals with dry skin do not produce enough oils, whilst those with oily skin, produce too much. Logic will tell you that dry skin types will definitely benefit from oils due to their moisturizing effect. But what about other skin types? Other than the moisturizing effect, some oils contain vitamins and minerals and provide additional benefits such as their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects, which other skin types can benefit from.
Keep in mind that not all oils are the same. What is important is to achieve a balance using the right products and formulations that work well on your skin. You can do this by identifying what your skin needs and to by trying to get as much information about the product you plan on using as you can. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to consult a skin expert, such as a board-certified dermatologist.
Photo from Vecteezy