Your skin is your body’s biggest organ. It’s basically an outside indicator of what’s going on in your body. Your pimples, acne, eczema, blackheads, dermatitis, and other skin irritations can mark bad eating habits, sickness, stress, or maybe just genetics. Even though it sometimes seems like we can’t control breakouts, we can do things to soothe, lessen, and prevent the risk of problem skin. And just like what we eat and put inside our bodies affects our skin, what we put on it affects it greatly as well.
I’ve had an interest in natural skin care for a long time. It’s something that precedes my natural hair journey. Just like I used to look at the nutrition facts on my food labels and wonder what it all meant, I used to look at the ingredients to lotions and ponder what each one did. Now I know that those ingredients can significantly change the appearance and feel of our skin. I also know that a lot of those skin products I was using when I was younger were doing more to dry out and dull my skin than moisturize and nourish it. And even though I’ve thankfully never had a real problem with breakouts on my face (even though I do get the occasional pimple or two on my forehead/hairline area), I have what some people call “backne” and “chestne” aka back acne and chest acne. There’s some dark spots on my chest and back that makes wearing clothes with those parts exposed hard to wear. I remember when I was a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s wedding and having to use foundation on those parts of my skin. I eventually want to get to a place where the skin on my body is as healthy, supple, and clear as the skin on my face.
Although natural oils and extracts used for skincare have so many benefits, not all of them are best suited for your skin. Of course, everyone’s skin is different…and different things work on different people…but there are some rules when it comes to what you should be using on your skin. What’s good for dry skin can be terrible for oily, acne-prone skin. And then what good for either or those might not be good for sensitive skin, or people allergic to certain plants/nuts/fruits. What if you have combination skin (which I believe its my type)?
One good way to avoid products that will make your skin worse for any skin type is knowing whether the ingredients are comedogenic or non-comedogenic, or how likely or unlikely it’s clogging your pores. Clogged pores means acne, blackheads, and irritated, inflamed skin.
One thing I was actually very surprised to find out is that mineral oil and petroleum (aka the stuff used in Vaseline and all the old school black beauty products) have a comedogenicity level of 0 out of 5. As in they are completely non-comedogenic. As in all the stuff about Vaseline clogging your pores is not really accurate. However, Vaseline is still not good for the skin. Petroleum is unnatural…and its thickness prevents toxins from being eliminated through sweat as well as gives skin “shine” without moisturizing or nourishing it. You’re basically sealing in dryness when you use Vaseline or petroleum based products on your skin, scalp, and hair. It’s also very difficult to clean off.
Other comedogenicity level 0 skin (and hair) care oils and extracts: safflower oil, sunflower oil, aloe vera, hemp oil, vegetable glycerin, argan oil, shea butter (I was surprised about this one due to its thickness), and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and panthenol (vitamin B5). These are products that are least likely to clog your pores.
Then there’s level 1 and level 2 comedogenicity. Level 1 is still pretty likely not to clog pores and level 2 is still good as well, but there’s slightly more risk. Level 1 examples are castor oil, rosehip oil, beta-carotene (an antioxidant that is a pre-cursor of vitamin A), and lanolin (wool grease). Level 2 examples are some of my favorites: almond oil, apricot oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, chamomile, vitamin A, vitamin E, and olive oil.
Now when you get over level 2, it’s most likely best to take it out of your regimens…
Level 3 (moderately likely), level 4 (pretty likely), and level 5 (most likely) have a good to great chance of clogging your pores and irritating your skin. Level 3 includes cotton seed oil and soybean oil (which is actually used a good amount of beauty products). An example of level 4 is cocoa butter (which I used to have a big bottle of), flaxseed oil (wondering if the flaxseed gel that’s the rage right now is benefitting or not?), and palm oil. The only example I saw of a level 5 is wheat germ oil, which I never heard of as part of skin care but maybe that’s why…
There was also something that was confirmed for me in regard to coconut oil. As wonderful as coconut oil is for making the skin feel soft, supple and protecting it with fatty acids and antioxidants, I will no longer be buying it after I use up the small container I have. I’ve heard a good amount of natural hair and beauty bloggers start to warn that it’s not the best to be using on hair and skin, not just because of the protein buildup, but because it doesn’t absorb well. And now that I know that coconut oil has a comedogenicity level of 4 out of 5, which means it’s way more likely to clog your pores than Vaseline (lol, who would have thought), I won’t be using as much. And it makes sense because coconut is mostly saturated fat, which is the fat that clogs your arteries when you eat foods high in it. However, I did find that fractionated coconut oil, or coconut oil that has had the long chain fatty acids broken down into smaller components that are healthier and less comedogenic. It’s also much more expensive. Interestingly enough, the face product I’m using from Beelux Goods has fractionated coconut oil as its first ingredient. Whenever I used virgin coconut oil on my face, it made my face itch, so I just decided to use it on my body, and then kinda drifted from using that as well. Now I know why.
All this being said, these comedogenicity levels work differently on different types of skin. All natural oils are composed of fatty acids, and there are three types of omega fatty acids (unsaturated fats) that promote healthy skin: omega 3 (linolenic acids), omega 6 (linoleic acids), and omega 9 (oleic acid). All of these oils have different compositions of which fatty acids they have over the other.
People that have dry skin are better off using oils higher in oleic acid (omega 9) because their are thicker and seal in moisture. Oils high in oleic acid include apricot oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and almond oil.
People that have oily skin/acne fare better using oils higher in linoleic acid (omega 6) because their thinner while will being able to offer protection and nutrients. Examples include safflower oil, sunflower oil, guava seed, primrose oil, rosehip oil, grapeseed oil, and hemp seed oil.
People that have sensitive or combination skin do well when the oil has an equal or fairly balanced amount of both, like argan oil, tamanu oil, and baobab oil.
Notice how these oils are all low on the comedogenicity scale still…
I’m definitely going to start looking for products that have no or lower comedogenicity and seeing how much of a difference it makes. And I’m also very interested in making my own stuff…so this will definitely be a guide. I hope it is to you as well.