Oils for Your Face

Myth: Oil is bad for your face and it’s what causes acne.

Truth: The cause of acne and skin blemishes is much more complex, and not all oil is created equal. Acne and blemishes are primarily caused by unbalanced oil production, clogged pores, and bacteria. If you constantly work to remove oil from your skin using oil-free cleansers and scrubs, your skin responds by overproducing sebum to compensate. In combination with other factors, this leads to worse acne and blemishes. I can talk in more detail about skin physiology and causes of acne in another post, but here I’m going to focus on what oils you can use to improve your skin. What matters for an oil to be beneficial for acne prevention is the ratio of essential fatty acids, specifically the levels of linoleic acid versus oleic acid. If your skin doesn’t have enough linoleic acid, the sebum produced becomes thick and clogs pores. Studies have shown individuals with acne tend to be deficient in linoleic acid. So, oils that are higher in linoleic acid and lower in oleic acid tend to be helpful in balancing your oil production, adding moisture, and preventing blemishes.

I recommend looking at the Complete List of Comedogenic Oils blog post from the Holistic Health Herbalist, which provides good detail on different oils.

This table shows a subset of oils and their composition of oleic and linoleic acids. These percentages don’t show the full story, since there are other fatty acids in oils (like pamitic acid and stearic acid for example).

Oil Oleic Acid Linoleic Acid
Higher in oleic acid
Macadamia oil 55-67% 1-5%
Marula oil 70-78% 4-7%
Sea Buckthorn oil 29% 7%
Palm fruit oil 41% 10%
Hazelnut oil 79% 12%
Neem oil 50% 13%
Shea nut oil 73% 14%
Avocado oil 65% 15%
Olive oil 63-80% 5-15%
Almond oil 62-86% 20-30%
Apricot Kernel oil 70% 23%
Balanced, but higher in oleic acid
Coconut oil (refined) 4.4% 0.95%
Coconut oil (unrefined) 5-10% 1-2%
Jojoba oil 5-15% 5%
Flaxseed oil 21% 16%
Tamanu oil 34-41% 29-38%
Argan oil 43% 37%
Balanced, but higher in linoleic acid
Castor oil 4% 4%
Pomegranate oil 5% 10%
Kukui nut oil 25% 40%
Sesame oil 39% 46%
Higher in linoleic acid
Rosehip seed oil 14% 44%
Soybean oil 24% 50%
Black cumin seed oil 22% 56%
Hemp seed oil 11% 56%
Pumpkin seed oil 23% 57%
Sunflower oil 30% 59%
Safflower oil 10-20% 70-80%
Grape seed oil 21% 63-72%
Evening primrose oil 8% 73%

A few notes on some of these oils:

  • Neem oil should be mixed with a carrier oil; while it’s high in oleic acid, it can be a good spot treatment due to its great antibacterial properties.
  • Jojoba oil is actually a plant wax and is compositionally very similar to human skin oil.
  • Some of my favorites for my face include rosehip seed oil, tamanu oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, and grapeseed oil.




Mineral Makeup: Homemade Cosmetics

Recently there’s been a lot of buzz about mineral makeup and the benefits of using more natural products. Mineral makeup is for the most part much more expensive than traditional drug store makeup, but it can easily be made at home if one wants to put in the time. Another solution to the cost problem of foundations, eye shadows and bronzers is to buy samples of them online. Most of the samples are enough to last a good amount of time and are usually around $2-3 each. I buy most of my makeup from Honeybee Gardens, partially because I can find them for a little cheaper on Vitacost.com (this place is great for getting lots of different products for a bit cheaper than at the stores or other online places).

Simple homemade mineral makeup: Blue mica + silver mica

This past week I played around with making some of my own makeup. The starting supplies were a little pricey, but that was mainly due to how many different colors I wanted. I went to a store called Otion, which is located in Bellingham and is connected to the online store Bramble Berry.

Before making your own eye shadow you’ll need to decide a few things. Think about whether you want a powder or pressed eye shadow, and whether or not you want a more sparkly shine to the eye shadow or a matte finish. And lastly, what is the color you want?

1 oz: $1.50

The basic array of ingredients you’ll need are these: (or a subset of them)

  • Kaolin Clay: this soft, white powder is used as a base for eye shadows and helps add a softer, slippery feel to the makeup, as well as aiding in adhesion. Its chemical name is aluminum silicate.
  • Sericite Mica: this smooth and light powder helps with adhesion and smoothness, and provides a mild shimmer. The chemical name is aluminum potassium silicate. It can be used as a substitute for bismuth oxychloride, which has been under scrutiny lately concerning its possible health dangers. Bismuth Oxychloride is a byproduct of copper and lead refinement, and can be irritating to some skin types.
  • Titanium Dioxide: lightens pigments, provides UV protection, and soothes skin (white powder).
  • Liquid Glycerin: a good binding agent for pressed makeups, you can get a lot of this stuff for only a few dollars. It looks like corn syrup and it only takes a couple drops per approximately 1 tbsp of powder. Other binding agents I’ve seen listed online are BioSilk hair treatment, Shea butter, jojoba oil, and rubbing alcohol.
  • Vitamin E: also known as Tocopheryl acetate, vitamin E is a natural moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, preservative, and skin healer. This is an essential vitamin to include in your diet, but there are consequences if too much is ingested. Vitamin E is great for the skin, which makes is a good thing to include a drop of two of in mineral makeup. It also works as a preservative, which will be discussed below.
  • Jojoba oil: this is possibly the best oil you can use (I do have a personal bias though as I have used this as a moisturizer for years and absolutely love it), since it is the closest thing to natural skin oil. This makes it a perfect daily moisturizer that helps oil production and doesn’t make the skin too oily. Jojoba oil also lasts a long time without going rancid or losing antioxidants. Lastly, it’s not an eye irritant, which makes it safe to use in eye cosmetics, including eye makeup remover.

    Carmine red mica from Coastal Scents
  • Micas and Oxides: both of these are colored powders. Micas are more shimmery, while oxides are good for matte finishes. A matte finish is a solid, bright color, without any shimmer or sparkle to it.
  • Natural preservatives: I’m still determining the necessity of natural preservatives in homemade mineral makeup. Preservatives are traditionally used in products exposed to or containing moisture. Most beauty products contain water, which is why they contain preservatives. There are different forms of preservatives, but the overall goal is to limit oxidation of oils and eliminate bacterial growth. There are a number of natural preservatives including T-50 Vitamin E (this form has highest concentration of gamma tocopherol, which is the active antioxidant), rosemary oil extract, grape fruit seed extract (must be diluted to eliminate skin irritation), honey, lemon, sugar, salt, and sweet orange oil. I was reading online that one can add the essential oil of lemons as a preservative, but I had a hard time finding out if that extends to lemon juice. My guess is it would? But I’m not completely sure. Though as an experiment, I squeezed all of the juice out of a lemon into a jar and have been keeping it in the fridge to use in makeup.

In my attempts to make my own eye shadow I’ve had varied results. I’m still tinkering with the colors, and trying to get the right amounts of each ingredient. Let me take you step by step through my process of making a pressed eye shadow for the first time and then go through what I discovered about each ingredient thus far:

First I combine a small amount of kaolin clay (1/4 tsp about), sericite mica and titanium dioxide (1/8 tsp about of each). Then I added in the pigments I chose. After mixing that all together I added a few drops of liquid glycerin to hold the loose powder together. After mixing it well, I transferred it into a small dish and pressed with a clean, smooth cloth.

This is what I found:

  • In combining multiple pigments, mix these together first to get the amounts right, before adding any base or sericite mica to the mix.

    Left: pressed eye shadow. Right: too much glycerin to be pressed. You can see the difference in consistency from adding too much glycerin.
  • Even the smallest amount of titanium dioxide lightens your pigments. I was trying to put just a pinch in to utilize the UV protection properties, but I noticed even that much altered the color.
  • Sericite mica fades colors. I made a silvery black and I added a bit of sericite to give it a smoother texture, and it caused the color to fade to a dark greyish-black. At the same time glycerin can temper this….
  • Adding the glycerin will alter the color slightly also. I made a reasonably bright blue powder, which is shown in the image to the side, and I ended up with a bright baby blue. The darker blue pictured to the side was also a darker less shimmery blue before adding the glycerin. That blue to the left was also a little bit more gray from the sericite, so adding the glycerin seems to counter-act this. I’m still trying to determine how to compensate for that change, or how to anticipate the amount of color change that will occur.
  • Add ingredients slowly and mix the hell out of everything before adding more. This is probably the most important thing I learned. It takes longer than you would think for the ingredients to fully mix. The blue eye shadows to the side show the difference between adding too much glycerin. I didn’t mix it for long enough, so I thought it wasn’t enough glycerin and kept adding more. And then all of a sudden I had this incredibly creamy and liquid eye shadow that was not fit for being pressed. If you add one drop, mix it very well before adding any more. The consistency you want at the end will be slightly chunky or crumbly, but without any remaining powder. You should have multiple small pieces, but no powder.

That’s about it for now. I’m still playing around with mixing colors and finding different recipes and such.I made that blue eye shadow pictured above for my mom, who was skeptical that she would actually use it, and she loves it! She said that it stayed on all day and didn’t grease up or clump up in the eyelid crease.

Another note on supplies – many people go to Coastal Scents, and I think I might get some more pigments and containers from them later this week. They have a wide selection of micas, oxides, and base powders. They also sell kits and some pre-made mineral makeup.