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Is Your Face Oil Aging You? PUFAs and Your Skin

polyunsaturated fats and skin aging

Anyone that has been reading me more than a minute knows I am all about the oils.  I cleanse and moisturize with them and credit them for giving me soft vibrant skin.  When I started using face oil I was not nearly as well versed as I am now about the types of oils I put on or in my body.  I still contended with the odd breakouts and I couldn’t, no matter how I switched up my oils, couldn’t shift the blackheads on my nose.  I also had bouts of dryness and the feeling that I couldn’t get my face all the way “clean”  no matter how much steam I used.  I changed my mixtures in the OCM (mostly castor and grapeseed oils in different ratios) and, while I had moments of clarity, I didn’t have much consistency.   

That all changed once I started applying what I had learned about the dangers of PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) to my skincare regimen.  After all, if these bad fats were wreaking so much havoc by ingesting them, what were they doing to the outside using them on the skin? 

Before we go forward let’s back up a bit and give you a short refresher in oils.  They break down into, essentially, three classes; saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.  Saturated fats (like coconut oil) are solid at room temperature.  They are considered very stable with very long shelf lives.  They have all their hydrogen in their links  and are heat stable.  Tropical oils are unlikely to be damaged by UV radiation (this is as a result of evolving near the equator) and are light and sun stable.  

Monounsaturated fat only contains one double bond.  They are, as is polyunsaturated fat, liquid at room temperature.  Monounsaturated fat are less heat stable.  (I would not cook with my olive oil instead using it to dress salads and in finish dishes.)  They are, however, sun stable.  Oils such as olive, macadamia, avocado, hazelnut  and, to a lesser extent, almond  (it brings up the rear at 9.5 g monounsaturated fat per 1 tbsp. of oil) are best when stored in dark glass in cool places as they are less prone to oxidation that way. Avocado and macadamia are both remarkably heat stable.  Argan oil is relatively monounsaturated but it is borderline between mono and polyunsaturated fats so when I use it I generally mix it with coconut oil when using it as a hair or body treatment.  

Marula oil has recently stormed onto the scene and I have to say, this up and comer is a powerful new part of my beauty routine.  While it does contain between 4 and 7% polyunsaturated fat, it is primarily monounsaturated fat at 70 to 78% with a small part of saturated fat, 5 to 8%.  Because of that ratio, I consider it not only safe, but perfect for my face and body because it is non-comedogenic, has sun-protective qualities of both saturated fat so I use it on my face as a moisturizer.  

Polyunsaturated fats have more than one double bond in their links.  That means they are missing their hydrogen molecules and are incredibly prone to oxidation both in the body and on the skin.  They break down when exposed to oxygen,light and heat so putting them on the skin where they will, more than likely, be exposed to all of the above is asking for trouble. This oxidation is not used for energy rather is a major cause of inflammation.  Examples of polyunsaturated fats are sunflower, safflower, grapeseed, flaxseed (yes, that supposedly ever so good for you progesterone lowering estrogen increasing golden liquid is actually a PUFA bomb), sunflower, sesame, fish (Omega-3 is a PUFA) canola, (which is generally GMO adding insult to injury) and corn oil.  (There are more but this is a sampling of the most touted for health benefits.)   

Bear in mind the skin is the largest organ in the body and it absorbs up to 65% of what we put on it so with that in mind, knowing PUFA’s anti-thyroid, pesticide exposing (these seed oils are often exposed to chemical pesticides and many are genetically modified but they are also high in anti-nutrients naturally like phytic acid), oxidative properties , why would you want to put them on your skin when the damage they do in the body contributes to aging as it is?

Here’s another thing to think about.  PUFAs contribute to those lovely little age spots that appear on the skin.  You know the ones everyone blames on sugar and protein?  PUFAs actually contribute to them as they oxidize in the body and chemically react with iron and since estrogen dominance/progesterone deficiency exponentially increase the storage of iron  (making estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency a prime factor in aging) it goes without saying removing offending polyunsaturated fat is the smartest thing you can do for your health.

To illustrate a point, in recent animal studies demonstrating UV light induces lipid peroxidation, two groups of rabbits were fed a high fat diet; one group being fed corn oil and the other group being fed coconut oil.  Both groups had their backs shaved and were exposed to sunlight conditions.  The group fed corn oil experienced prematurely wrinkled skin while the group fed coconut oil experienced no such condition.  

You might be wondering what are my personal experiences with polyunsaturated fats vs. saturated and monounsaturated fats. I gave up these fats completely (when absolutely possible)  when I got pregnant with my triplets.  I gave them up on my skin, when possible, for the most part about 18 months ago.  (I have used a few products that do have some sunflower seed oil in them as even the best brands can contain them but I make sure these seed oils are minimal and very low down on the list of ingredients and only if the other ingredients compensate for these oils.).  

I notice my skin is clear with NO blackheads on a consistent basis.  My skin positively glows using low PUFA (and whenever possible free of them altogether) skincare.  I do spend quite a lot of time in the sun with my children and I no longer get that leathery feeling.  (And no, I don’t tan.)  I went in for my yearly facial and the facialist asked why I wanted a facial when I had just had a chemical peel. (I had no such thing.)  She told me I had flawless skin.

When mixing your own oils, I recommend mixing a tropical oil like coconut oil with a monounsaturated fat such as avocado, olive or jojoba (which is actually a wax rather than an oil but mimics brilliantly the sebum on the skin.) when cleaning the skin with the Oil Cleansing Method.  For moisturizing the body, pure coconut oil works a treat as does saturated shea butter and cocoa butter.  For the face, Marula oil is one of my favorites as is Meadowfoam seed oil  which is remarkably stable due to its high levels of naturally occurring tocopherals (Vitamin E).  

I have just discovered this artisanal line of products called Laurel Whole Plant Organics that uses mono and saturated fats with only incidental use of polyunsaturated fats and they have a divine oils that even incorporate plant extracts that have been linked to sun protection making them optimal for those who prefer to have a healthy relationship with the sun (and get their Vitamin D naturally too!) instead of recoiling in fear behind a wall of zinc.   More on them later.

The takeaway here should be for beautiful skin, ditch the grapseed oil and step up to more saturated oils mixed with monounsaturated fats for glowing skin.

28 replies
  1. Mary
    Mary says:

    I am confused now,i wish you could explain more that which oils are pufas,,,,means all seed and nuts should be avoided?i use argan ,rosehips and carrot seed oil so much so shall i avoid using them as well?or how about castor oil ?u dont use it in your mix?

    Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      I gave a pretty good list of PUFA oils in this post if you read it. Yes, generally MOST nuts with the exception of macadamias, hazelnuts and small amounts of almonds (and walnuts every little while) are fine because they are generally low in PUFAs

      Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      Rosehip oil is generally not used in LARGE quantities so it gets a pass for me. I mix it with my coconut oil and use it on my body.

      Reply
  2. Noreen
    Noreen says:

    I don’t use oils on my face as my face is so oily as it is I presume this is a healthy oil what’s best for oily skin around the nose, chin, forehead cheeks is combination dry sometimes

    Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      Oil doesn’t make you oilier. In fact, it can balance oily skin. Jojoba is a great oil/wax and I think Marula and tamanu would be light but effective for you.

      Reply
      • Wendy Gardner
        Wendy Gardner says:

        It’s true. Oil can balance your skin out. When you keep stripping away your natural oils with harsh products, your body makes more. The trick is knowing which oils to use, what proportions to use, when… and this is determined by your individual skin, where you live, your age, your occupation, your genes… so you cannot simply copy anybody else. You do need to test things out and come to your own conclusions. Jacqueline’s site is filled with sanity… plenty of information and ideas to get you on track.

        Reply
  3. nancy
    nancy says:

    i really wish you could have a post explaining about oils more and categorizing them maybe like i can not get jojoba oil ,tea tree oil or avocado oil , what else could be detoxing or bring the “ick” out from skin pores to be used if not using castor?i used it in my hair oil mix ,on my lashes ,…..

    would you please share your beauty routine with us ?i think that would be so interesting for us to go through that and see how in your life with these SO MANY products and different oils are being done by you .we also can learn a lot from that even i dont know how and what use the oils mix on body and skin.

    Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      You could use castor. I don’t. I have shared my beauty routine before and you can’t take my routine because I test so many products. I am not an aromatherapist though. My experiments are based on what I know to be healthy. Experimentation is advised here to see what works for you.

      Reply
  4. Deborah
    Deborah says:

    Before reading this, I bought and mixed together, Argan, Tamanu, Rosehip and Jojoba, in a small dark glass bottle. I also mixed, Tamanu, Rosehip, Avacodo and pure vitiamin E oil. I love what both mixtures do for my face, especially the first combination of oils. I had few pimples and they have disappeared and my face is very soft and moist. Should I dispose of this? You had mention in one of your older posts that coconut oil can be used on the body and not the face. Has this changed?

    Thank you

    Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      Deborah I think if you haven’t had any breakouts then the coconut oil is fine for you. Not everyone finds it comedogenic. I don’t use it as a moisturizer (unless it is cut with something more liquid) for my face but use it all over my body. My husband uses it on his face with no problem. Tamanu is actually fairly saturated so you should be fine with your mixture if you are using a lot of Tamanu in comparison to the other oils. Make sure your Vitamin E oil is not soy based and for a kick add in some Progest-E which you can buy from Vitamin Express. I wouldn’t use nearly as much argan as tamanu though as argan, though a good oil, is more monounsaturated than saturated and should be used sparingly.

      Reply
  5. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Hi! I am really fascinated with the fatty acid content of various facial oils, so I definitely appreciated this article. I’m not 100% convinced that all PUFA-heavy oils in skincare are a problem, though. It’s something I want to think about and reserach/experiment with further! The biggest problems to me seem to be 1)using oxidized oils instead of fresh, properly refrigerated/protected PUFA’s and/or 2)using oils that don’t have the right balance for your skin’s needs.

    I’ve been really interested in the testimonials from folks with acne who find some omega-6 rich oils really help their skin. Minimalist Beauty writes about it, and forums, etc. are filled with discussions on it. These people got the idea from a study (or studies) that show that people with acne have less omega-6 in their skin, and omegas 6 and 3 can be important in protecting/healing the skin barrier (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20620762). Given that Americans aren’t dietarily deficient in Omega-6, it seems like the different ratios in acne vs. non-acne skin has to do with the body’s ability to transfer fatty acids to the right place–either the lymph system isn’t working well, or the omega-6’s are being used excessively in other parts of the body, etc. I also presume that the “healthy” skin sampled in studies doesn’t necessarily have the optimal fatty acid balance because we eat too many crappy, oxidized fats and not very many omega 3’s from whole food sources, pastured animal saturated fats, etc. Still, the prevalence of omega 6’s in skin without acne seems relevant.

    I also took a look at the oils used in Laurel’s (amazing) skincare products, and the different serums differ in types/percentages of fatty acids. I don’t know her recipes to calcuate exact numbers, but I wouldn’t call some of the oils she uses exactly low in omega-6 (rosehip, borage, etc.) I guess my point is that it might be a little more complicated than PUFA’s=bad, though you’re not going to get any arguments from me that people should stop eating Canola oil and all the other rancid vegetable oils you get these days. I guess it does seem possible to me that the ideal ratio of fatty acids for our diet might be different than the ideal ratio for our skincare depending on the ways in which our skin has been damaged/unbalanced in the past. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and reading more interesting blog posts from you!

    Reply
    • thedetoxdiva
      thedetoxdiva says:

      Now you understand why I LOVE Laurel oils. It is my experience that when I use more PUFA free skincare my skin is MUCH more protected, dewy, glowy, and even clearer. I have a lot of incidental research that shows that it is not the lack of Omega 3 fatty acids (we need far less than most research states) but the overdoses of PUFAs and the effects on hormones that contribute to acne, especially cystic hormonal acne.

      Reply
  6. sarah
    sarah says:

    Wonderful article. Very informative. I will definitely share your information. I was a little worried when I started reading it as there is so much information out there on different products. I am extremely conscious about the products I use and research everything that I buy. However, I was relieved when I checked the ingredients of a brand I use (Paw Melts) that none of the polyunsaturated oils are listed.

    Reply
      • Gade
        Gade says:

        Good to know. I’ve been using organic/cold pressed one and my skin feels amazingly soft. I was hoping it wasn’t doing any other damage because i don’t want to give it up 🙂

        Reply
  7. Jess
    Jess says:

    Merula isn’t non-comedogenic. It has a comedogenic rating of 4, which is very high. Any oil high in Oleic acid isn’t suitable for sensitive or acne prone skin. The issue with thinking oils high in PUFAs cause aging is that they go racid. This often happens from being processed chemically and in high heats. If cold pressed, store properly, used within their shelf life and when especially mixed with antioxidants they have less change of going rancid.

    “There’s a study going around that’s allegedly been conducted on rats that determines pufa’s are toxic. It implies that all oils high in pufa’s automatically contain free radicals and that simply isn’t true. They are formed when the oil is mistreated, heated or exposed to too much oxygen.”
    https://joshrosebrook.com/blogs/news/140960775-what-are-pufas

    Reply
  8. Jess
    Jess says:

    Using poly-saturated oils on your face is fine if they are cold pressed. The issue comes from when they are chemically or heat treated. Also mixing oils together, especially those high in antioxidants helps.

    Reply
  9. KC
    KC says:

    Hi Jacqueline. Love your post. I recently got into facial oils and had know idea the consequences that they could have on your skin. I have oily, acne-prone skin & a lot of my products have Tea Tree Oil. Do you know which category Tea Tree Oil is in (saturated, polyunsaturated)?

    Reply

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