Natural Skincare and Plant Oils

There is some debate over whether a skincare product MUST contain water as part of an oil water emulsion in order for it to be effective as a moisturiser. It will be argued that a water- based cream or aqueous cream  is the better option since the aim is to moisturise the skin, and water is needed to do this. There is some validity to the notion that creams containing an oil/water mix disperse the oil into tiny “micelles” also known as liposomes - that have excellent penetration ability, taking water with them into the deeper layers of the skin. For this reason, some creams are also used as drug delivery systems.

To understand the views on this debate, perhaps it is important to go back a step and understand the purpose of the skin, and by corollary, what should be the purpose of a skincare product in optimising the skin’s function.

The skin is the largest organ in the body.  Amongst others, its primary functions are to prevent bacterial invasion from the outside, regulate the temperature of the body (via pores), and to provide a semipermeable barrier to prevent fluid loss from the body.Therefore a healthy skin is by definition well-hydrated and well- nourished, enabling it to perform its natural functions.

One means to achieve a healthy hydrated skin is to take care what goes into the body. Ie plenty of water, anti-oxidant-containing foods, such as fresh green vegetables, grains, and essential fatty acids from various plant and fish sources will go a long way in ensuring an optimally functioning skin.

The other way of course is topical application of moisturising skincare products.

Can a preparation containing only plant oils hydrate and nourish the skin?

Cold pressed plant oils such as Shea butter, olive oil and Jojoba wax have numerous beneficial and well-documentedproperties. These oils are rich in vitamins such as vitamin A and E, have anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant propertiesimportant in the elimination and repair of free radical damage, contain natural UV sun protection, and are effective for use in a number of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, wrinkles and other dry skin conditions. They are highly nourishing and give the skin a supple and soft appearance and texture.

But what about their moisturising properties?All of the above cold pressed oils and many more are natural humectants. A humectant is a substance that is able to draw water from the environment. The implication here is that emollients containing such pressed oils do not require water in the blend in order for them to attract water to the skin and retain it there.

So YES, plant oil blends containing no water can both nourish and hydrate the skin. However, due to the oily nature of such blends, I recommend their use for dry skin conditions. In oily skin, they may be comedogenic (tending to clog pores and encourage blackheads). The skin already contains its own oily layer called sebum, and oily skin has plenty of sebum. A light aqueous moisturiser is more suitable for oily skin.

One final advantage of plant oil blends is that they do not require preservation like water based products. Bacteria multiply in aqueous mediums far more prolifically than in oil mediums, necessitating the use of natural or synthetic preservatives in water- based formulations. The more oils in a formulation, the less preservation it needs, and in some preparations, essential oils are used for this purpose alone.Plant oil blends are therefore far more likely to be 100% organic or close, and enjoy a relatively long shelf life in this pure state.

reNu Organic Skincare plant oil blends are ideal moisturisers for dry and very dry skin conditions. The balms are 100% plant oils and very rich. Small amounts should be warmed between the hands before applying on the face or body. They leave the skin feeling nourished and soothed.