how to choose the right oils for your skin

Every time cooler weather sets in, oils become our skin BFF. We'll be mixing them into our serums, creams, lotions and foundations for softer, smoother skin.

I grew up in Mombasa and struggled with dryness and eczema. Coconut oil was my go-to for years. I’ve been adding oils to lotions and creams for added moisture even before I knew it was a thing. You probably have been too.

The main types of oils in skin care are plant oils, mineral oils and essential oils.


Plant oils

All plants contain fats and oils mainly in their seeds. Plant oils are rich in antioxidants that heal and nourish the skin by maintaining its lipid barrier. The lipid barrier is the outermost layer of the skin which minimizes water loss. 

Mineral oils

Mineral oils prevent water loss by forming a film on the skin’s surface, keeping water in the skin. They are commonly used in formulations because they rarely irritate the skin, effectively increase hydration and are cheap. Although very effective in sealing the skin’s surface, they have a greasy feel e.g. petrolatum, mineral oil

Essential Oils

These are fragrant oils from parts of plants like the bark, leaves and seeds. A lot of natural skin care products have essential oils but it's not advised to use them on skin. Essential oils are highly volatile and can irritate, sensitize and damage the skin. 

Whether you have oily or dry skin, a  plant oil is a great addition to your winter skin care closet. You just have to choose the right oils for your skin type. The wrong oil can lead to breakouts. 

Choosing plant oils that are right for your skin is important for its health

The composition of oils

Oils are made up of several components, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) being some of them.

  • Oleic acid, Omega -9 is a monounsaturated fatty acid

  • Linoleic acid, Omega – 6 is a polyunsaturated fatty acid

These EFAs will determine which oils would work for your skin.

Dry skin benefits the most from oleic rich oils which really moisturize it.

Oily skin benefits the most from linoleic rich oils. These oils have are thinner and absorb quickly. Oily skin has high levels of oleic acid and low levels of linoleic acid. This deficiency in linoleic acid causes the skin’s oil (sebum) to thicken, clogging pores and contributing to acne.

To create a balance in the skin which results in less breakouts, try skin care with oils high in linoleic acid.


Oils for dry skin

When you have dry skin, you need oils higher in oleic acid. For example:

A - E

Argan, Apricot Kernel, Avocado, Camellia, Cocoa Butter, Coconut

F - J

Flaxseed, Hazelnut, Jojoba

K - O

Macadamia, Marula, Olive

P - T

Palm Fruit, Safflower, Sea Buckthorn, Shea Butter, Sweet Almond, Tamanu 

U - Z



Oils for oily skin

When you have oily skin, you need linoleic rich oils. For example: 

A - E

Black Cumin Seed, Castor, Chia Seed, Evening Primrose

F - J

Grapeseed, Hemp Seed

K - O

Kukui Nut, Maracuja/Passion fruit

P - T

Pomegranate, Pumpkin Seed, Rosehip, Sesame, Soybean, Sunflower 

U - Z

Walnut, Wheatgerm 


In Conclusion

If you have dry skin, use oleic rich oils and if you have oily skin, linoleic. Obviously, skin care is very personal and some linoleic rich oils could work for dry skin. The same applies to oily skin and oleic rich oils. This is simply a guide to help test out what works for you.

When I purchase a luxury moisturizer, I want to make sure it's full of natural, cold-pressed plant oils, not mineral oils. This way, I'm getting my money's worth. Mineral oils are cheap and widely available. If I need mineral oil, I look no further than Vaseline petroleum jelly.  

Which oils do you add to moisturizer? Let me know in the comments!

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