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Botanical Balms

Plant oils for beautiful skin


Plant oils provide a simple, natural way to achieve moisturized, healthy skin.

Whether your skin is dry, damaged, or oily, you can find a plant oil that will help you restore your natural radiance. Unlike ubiquitous mineral oils, which cover the skin with a waterproof film that can clog pores and produce other unwanted effects, plant oils actually nourish the skin.

Here’s the rundown on skin-nourishing oils that beautify your skin—whether you rub them on your skin or add them to your menu.

Coconut oil (Cocos nucifera)

Coconut oil is great for nourishing your cells from the inside, and can be used in recipes or straight from the spoon. Topically, virgin coconut oil helps wounds heal and gives collagen a boost as well, which provides support for the underlying structure of your skin. Findings of studies echo the traditional wisdom of using coconut oil for its antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties.

Coconut oil lathers easily, so it’s often found in cleansing products. You can also use it by itself to gently remove all traces of your makeup, including waterproof mascara.

Research supports the use of coconut oil to hydrate skin and increase skin surface lipid levels, which helps to plump up the appearance of skin. Use coconut oil for soothing relief of excess sun exposur e.

Sea buckthorn oil (Hippophae rhamnoides L.)

Studies show that this orange-coloured antioxidant oil increases glutathione and vitamin C in wounds, thereby promoting healing. Sea buckthorn is high in quercetin and vitamin C and is proven to boost collagen production.

Sea buckthorn has strong free-radical scavenging activity whether you eat the berries or apply the oil to your skin. This oil has been traditionally used to diminish inflammation, to help relieve pain, and for its antibacterial properties.

Due to its high content of carotene, sea buckthorn oil will leave your skin with an orange glow when used straight from the bottle. Look for it as an ingredient in a formulation or mix it in your hand with a little jojoba oil before applying to your skin. The colour disappears within an hour or so as the oil is absorbed.

Argan oil (Argania spinosa)

Known as the tree of life by the natives of Morocco, the argan tree has been providing culinary and topical health benefits for more than eight centuries. Long revered for its cardio-protective properties, argan oil is also widely used to treat skin infections.

Composed of up to 80 percent monounsaturated fats and up to 20 percent saturated fats, this nut oil also contains polyphenols, sterols, squalene, and tocopherols (vitamin E). In fact, argan contains more gamma-tocopherol than any other oil.

As a result, argan oil is very healing for dry skin and broken skin. It is also useful for reducing the greasiness and improving the appearance of oily skin. This oil is very rich and very expensive, so it’s used in small amounts in formulations. Use straight oil sparingly.

Soybean oil (Glycine max)

Soybean oil is a pale yellow oil containing linoleic, oleic, linolenic, and palmitic acids. Soybeans also contain the isoflavones genistein, daidzein, and glycitein that are proven to have a remarkable ability to protect the skin from free radicals triggered by UVB sun rays.

Other research suggests topical soybean oil may increase resistance to alopecia areata, an autoimmune skin disease that involves the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body. Antioxidant soybean oil is also used to soften skin and as a moisturizer.

Jojoba oil (Simmondsia chinensis)

This nonfragrant emollient liquid wax is an ideal lubricant and noncomedogenic moisturizer (won’t clog pores) partially because it resists rancidity better than other oils. This oil also more closely resembles human sebum (oil) than any other plant oil, and helps to balance sebum production in oilier skins.

While jojoba oil is great for oily skin, it’s also extremely nourishing for dry skin. Jojoba has also been used for its natural antifungal activity, against such unpleasantries as athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. Research also shows that jojoba oil inhibits the breakdown of collagen after sun exposure, which is a major cause of skin aging.

Avocado oil (Persea americana)

Rich in nutrient waxes, proteins, and minerals as well as vitamins A, D, and E, anti-inflammatory avocado is the perfect nutrition for dry and damaged skin, eczema, psoriasis, and sunburn. This heavy fruit oil penetrates deeply into the skin, and research shows that avocado is beneficial for wound healing.

Sesame oil (Sesamum indicum L.)

Long used in Ayurvedic medicine for its soothing properties, sesame oil is high in vitamin E to nourish and rejuvenate skin and is resistant to rancidity. Studies show that sesame oil enhances tocotrienol levels in adipose (fat) tissue and skin, leading to improved antioxidant status.

Unfortunately, sesame allergy is becoming increasingly common, involving both anaphylaxis and contact dermatitis. If you are allergic to sesame seeds, you may be wise to avoid the use of sesame oil.

Olive oil (Olea europaea L.)

Unlike other oils extracted from a nut or seed, olive oil is extracted from the olive fruit. Virgin and extra-virgin olive oils are produced through mechanical extraction only, then filtered. Olive oil is inexpensive compared to some of the other oils, and is a source of mono- and polyunsaturated fats, vitamin E, and squalene.

Squalene helps regulate sebum (oil that acts as a barrier, inhibiting the growth of bacteria on skin) production. Squalene is also useful as an emollient and antioxidant to protect skin.

Use olive oil directly on your face, and massage into body skin. It also makes an excellent hot oil treatment for hair: simply apply a small amount to hair, cover head with a shower cap, and wrap in a towel. After 20 minutes, shampoo as usual.

The mechanics of oils

Cold-pressed oils mechanically extracted, with oil temperature not exceeding 32 C (90 F)
Expeller pressed oils mechanically extracted using heat
Refined oils extracted with high heat and/or harsh solvents; these oils have fewer nutrients


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Matthew Kadey, MSc, RDMatthew Kadey, MSc, RD