If board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Rachael Eckel had her way, we would all stop using oil on our skin immediately. But oils are big business, so big, in fact, that the face oil market was worth £4.9m last year. Now I’m not against oils, I’ll happily slather them all over my body post-shower, but when it comes to face oils, I tend to err on Dr. Eckel’s side of the fence. My skin always looks better when I don’t use oil—or any moisturiser at all for that matter. You may be on the other side (waving, I hope) and find that a good face oil works wonders for your complexion. But Dr. Eckel, who is the principal trainer for ZO Skin Health in Europe, does put forward a convincing case as to why you may want to give up. Keep scrolling to find out why this dermatologist wants you to dry up your oil supply.
First of all, to understand why Dr. Eckel would rather we gave all our oils to “someone we don’t like,” you need to understand our body’s own oil and its purpose. Back in the day, in the fetal stage, oil played a big part of our lives. Essentially you spend nine months in an aquatic environment, so the oil prevents our delicate skin from shrivelling up like a prune. “As soon as we’re born, those oil-producing glands shut off,” explains Dr. Eckel. From age zero to 10, there is no oil on our skin. Look at a child’s skin, you never see an enlarged pore, acne, rosacea or pigmentation; it is the definition of healthy skin.”
Puberty is when we start to see skin problems occurring. “The glands are triggered to produce oil by the surge in testosterone, and this is when we see disease—acne, rosacea, blackheads and textural damage. Oil is enemy number two of the skin after the sun. It causes inflammation, weakens the skin and causes sensitivity, irritation and dryness. Too much oil disrupts the barrier function in the skin,” says Dr. Eckel.
Our own oil is pro-inflammatory and so are shop-bought oils claims Dr. Eckel. You see, the epidermis (the outer layer of the skin) is like a protective shield, there to prevent allergens getting in and water escaping. Think of it like a brick wall. “Keratinocyte cells are like bricks, and between them there is mortar that sticks these cells together to create an impenetrable barrier,” explains Dr. Eckel. “The ‘mortar’ is made from a delicate balance of water, lipid [fat and oil] and protein. If you screw this up and tip the balance, you basically blow holes in it. The wall becomes penetrable, allergens get in and all the precious water escapes.”
For a while now, popular thought has been that if your skin is oily and spot-prone you should apply oil to prevent your skin over-producing it. But Dr. Eckel disagrees. “With skin diseases like acne and rosacea, these patients have too much oil and lipid on the skin’s surface. The way to treat acne and rosacea is to dry it out and get rid of the oil.”
I gave up using oil on my skin about six weeks ago, and I have to say that my complexion has never looked better. Pores are minimised, the tone is more even and I’ve suffered with far fewer spots. Coincidence? I’m not so sure. If you suffer with acne or rosacea and want to try dropping oil from your routine, Dr. Eckel recommends this game-plan…
Cleanse twice daily
When oil and pollution meet you get a pro-inflammatory substance that wreaks havoc on the skin. Aim at removing your own oil, artificial oil and pollution particles morning and night with a cleanser containing 2% salicylic acid that digests the oil.
[Ed note: Try Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser, £13]
Those keratinocytes in the epidermis [Ed note: the ‘bricks’] naturally exfoliate every six weeks, but as we age this process slows down and you get a build-up of dead cells that dulls your complexion. If you don’t remove these “road blocks,” oil can get trapped in the pores, causing pustular, inflamed spots. Over time the oil eats away at the elastin, leading to permanent enlarged pores.
[Ed note: Try St. Ives Apricot Scrub, £5]
Apply a day cream, plus SPF
Your skincare products should only give the skin what it needs and can use. Anything else will just sit on the skin, clog pores and cause barrier dysfunction. Look for ingredients such as ceramides, cholesterol, squalene (which is a fractionated oil, so just the part of the oil your skin needs) and triglycerides. ZO Skin Health Daily Power Defence (£113) contains ceramides and DNA repair enzymes. Ceramides feel lovely—silky and soft but not greasy.
Retinol is an incredible ingredient. Close your eyes, name anything to do with flawless skin and retinol does it. It exfoliates, repairs barrier function balance and decreases oil production.
[Ed note: Try Exuviance Super Retinol Concentrate, £60]
Could you, or would you, give up face oil? Or do you love using face oils and are happy with the way they make your skin look and feel? Sound off in the comment box below.