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Natural Oils For Your Skin

No one is a real skincare formulator without knowing its oils. This is why a chart like this is mandatory. Most natural cosmetics are oil-based, or contain a % of oil in their constitution. Vegetable oils and natural oils, in general, are filled with essential nutrients for your skin and your health – that is why you should add them to your diet as well -, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants. Some of them have some active substances that provide the oil with anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, providing some help with many skin conditions.

Isn’t it better to soak up your skin in products filled with nutrients your body needs, instead of lab-created substances your body most likely needs to reject?

In this article, you can find a list of the 12 most used oils for natural skincare products like creams, lotions, balms, hair conditioners and so on.

You can find a brief description of how they are produced, their main characteristics, properties for cosmetics and indications of where to buy it.

During my research for this article, I was able to notice that most oils are “rich in essencial fatty acids, anti-oxidants and vitamins”. Although that is true in most cases, 1. It doesn’t distinguish them and 2. it feels like sales speech, which doesn’t contribute to give the deserved credit to natural cosmetics … 

For that reason, I’ve highlighted what are the strenghts and weaknesses of each oil, to have a better understanding of when to use each one.

However, my golden rule is to use your locally available oils. Every oil has its own strenghts, and while jojoba oil is great for skin, sunflower oil or palm oil are already very good, compared with over-the-counter moisturizers.

Natural Oils For Skin – Free Printable

Get a printable version of this soap making oils chart, completely FREE! Available in english and portuguese!

References

Olive oil

Olea Europaea

What is it: This is the comes from pressed olives. It’s best known as a healthy, edible oil with a fruity aroma. Gentle oil with little cleansing properties, but very conditioning with good emmolient properties due to the oleic acid content, and antioxidants (Vitamins E and polyphenols) and Vitamin K (check out Explaining Each Oil Element Compound).

Strengths and Weaknesses: Highly conditioning and mild. When used raw, do a skin test before using it, especially if you have very sensitive skin or oily/acne-prone skin. Your skin condition might worsen, as the high oleic acid content might clog skin pores, increasing the risk of inflammation and infection (comedogenic rating of 2). 

Shelf Life: 2 years

Where to find this oil: It’s a very good Mediterranean oil, common in Portuguese kitchens. You probably already have it! Preferably, always use 100% extra virgin olive oil (do not use oil blends in soap making).

Properties for Cosmetics: With its excellent emollient properties it is widely used in body care products. I’ve used olive oil in salves and lip balms, and they are all fantastic products.

Coconut oil

Cocos Nucifera

What is it: Coconut oil is an edible oil made from the meat of mature coconuts. It’s available in refined or unrefined varieties. Unrefined coconut oil comes from fresh coconut meat. It’s not processed with chemicals and retains its coconut aroma and flavor. Refined coconut oil comes from dried coconut meat, and is bleached and deodorized to remove contaminants, aroma and flavour. Refined coconut isn’t all-natural and isn’t recommended for use as a carrier oil.

Coconut oil contains skin-nourishing fatty acids and polyphenols, which make it a great carrier oil for massage oils and skin care preparations (check out Explaining Each Oil Element Compound).

Strengths and Weaknesses: Shows some anti-inflammatory properties when applied on skin. Very good to hydrate hair as it has a very good penetration on hair shaft. But make a skin test if you have sensitive or oily skin, as it might clog pores (and cause blackheads or pimples) due to its saturated fat content (comedogeny of 4). 

Shelf Life: 18 months

Properties for Cosmetics: Coconut oil is an effective skin moisturizer and provides protection against the elements. As it is a mild oil it is good for skin sensitivities and irritated or inflamed skin.It is very high in saturated fat which lends itself to it being a natural skin softener and source of nourishment. Being a hard oil (solid at room temperature) provides structure to natural cosmetics like a lip balm. It also penetrates very well into hair structure, making it a good ingredient for hair products.

Where to find this oil: Best known as a new edible, healthy oil, unrefined coconut oil is also starting to be common in supermarkets.

Sunflower oil

Helianthus Annuus

What is it: It is an edible oil extracted from sunflower seeds, with a neutral odor. The oil is said to act as a skin barrier against toxins and germs that cause infection, making it a great choice for irritated skin. It helps soften skin, moisturize skin, and soothe irritation. High in oleic or linoleic fatty acids (depending in the oil type), rich in vitamins A, D and E, it is probably the cheapest from this list, and for that has a great quality/price relation. If you wish to make cheap cosmetics, this oil is your best friend (check out Explaining Each Oil Element Compound).

Strengths and Weaknesses: Best relation quality/price you will ever find. It’s a non-comedogenic oil (0-2), due to high linoleic content, moisturizing, due oleic acid content, filled with vitamins (A, B, D, E), suitable for all skin types … and cheap! 

Shelf Life: 6 months

Properties for Cosmetics: Rich in skin loving vitamin E and other vitamins, fairly light and easily absorbed by skin (due to the high linoleic content), moisturizing and nourishing, this oil is very good for hair and skin homemade products, to treat dry, dehydrated, aged and weathered skins. It is said to add some UV protection to skin (not enough to use as a sunblock!). High linoleic acid sunflower oil also has anti-inflammatory properties, and is a “non-comedogenic” – means it doesn’t clog pores – along with argan oil, hemp oil and shea butter.

Where you find this oil: The most common and cheap kitchen oil. Be careful to purchase 100% pure, as it usually comes mixed with other vegetable oils.

Castor oil

Ricinus Communis

What is it: This powerful oil is extracted from the castor bean and is particularly high in the unsaturated fatty acid ricinoleic – with 90% ricinoleic acid – that helps with several skin conditions (check out Explaining Each Oil Element Compound). A hard shiny oil, it is used in many beauty products for its emollient properties and ability to form a barrier against harsh conditions.

Strengths and Weaknesses:  Castor oil is said to promote skin health and has many benefits for facial skin, and hair. However, most of these statements are not supported scientifically. Despite being a hard, thick oil, it is a comedogenic oil of 1, meaning it doesn’t clog pores and is easily absorbed by skin.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for Cosmetics: One of the most benefitial oils it is one that should always be bought cold pressed when using topically in beauty products or directly onto the skin, hair, eyelashes or eyebrows. The list of said benefits of this ancient oil includes thickening hair, treats/prevents acne and scars, keeps skin youthful, minimizes signs of aging, treats shingles, calluses, athlete’s foot and is a wonderful hair conditioner. 

Where to find this oil: Health stores usually have castor oil in their skincare section. Pharmacies? Maybe.

Sweet almond oil

Prunus Dulcis

What is it: It’s an edible oil made from the kernels of sweet almonds. It has a strong, nutty aroma. The oil is lightweight and absorbs easily, and is a great moisturizer for dry skin. It has vitamin B and E, oleic and linoleic acids, and several essential minerals like calcium, magnesium or iron (check out Explaining Each Oil Element Compound).

Strengths and Weaknesses: Filled with several nutrients, vitamins, fatty acids, lightweight and easily absorbed by skin, this oil is very complete, suited for all skin types, great for skin care. Beware if you have nut alergy, do a skin test before using it. Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s better applied in leave-on products.

Shelf Life: 1 year

Properties for cosmetics: Sweet almond oil is one of the most popular carrier oils for skin care. It’s great in massage oils, and bath oils. It has fantastic moisturizing properties, with high contents in anti-oxidant vitamins, minerals, nutrients and monounsaturated fatty acids. A superb carrier oil that has the proven ability to soothe, soften and re-hydrate the skin in face and body care lotions and potions.

Where to find this oil: You can purchase sweet almond oil in health stores and pharmacies.

Palm oil

Elaeis Guineensis

What is it: Cold pressed from the fruit of the palm tree. There are two varieties of this oil. Refined, Bleach and Deodorized (RBD) and the unrefined version which is often referred to as African Palm oil. African Palm Oil is a fabulous orange colour and may give your soap a creamy butter yellow or a lovely orange shade. The Refined oil (RBD) is creamy off white in colour.

The use of palm oil in food products has attracted the concern of environmental groups; the high oil yield of the trees has encouraged wider cultivation, leading to the clearing of natural habitat forests in parts of Indonesia to make space for oil-palm monoculture. This lead to the creation of a association that produces sustainable palm oil, the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil. Whenever you wish to use palm oil, make sure it’s sustainable.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike all other vegetable oils in this list, it was rather dificult to find out good cosmetic properties about palm oil. This vegetable oil has clearly became a “criminal”, unjustly it might be said, as palm oil usage has nothing to do with the unresponsible way its exploitation and consequent deforestation of natural habitats are conducted – which is the responsability of the local human community and government, by the way, and in a greater scale, of all of us. 

Not using and banning palm oil from cosmetics won’t accomplish anything… There are just too many families which minimum life conditions depend on this oil. I’d strongly advise to read these article about the subject:

Palm Oil is a great ingredient: In fact, palm oil is very sustainable! It has one of the highest production yields (you get more palm oil from 1 kg of palm fruit than, for example, 1 kg of sunflower seeds). Therefore, it becomes cheap to produce. It has a very good fatty acid profile, being a good nutritional choice. it helps fighting bad cholesterol, slows progression of heart diseases, boosts brain health, enhances vitamin A status, and improves skin and hair health.

As a cheap, healthy vegetable oil, it is a basic, vital ingredient in many families’ tables. To ban it, is to ban a good food source from impoverish people who will simply stop having this ingredient, as I seriously doubt that they will go to the supermarket and opt to choose another oil… 

Shelf Life: 1 year

Properties in cosmetics: In fact, palm oil has as many benefits as any other vegetable oil. Its properties list as anti-bacterial, antioxidant, stimulant, anti-inflammatory, firming, brightening. It also may help with skin conditions, to reduce aging effects, acne, dark spots and blemishes. In hair, it reduces hair loss and slows down the appearance of grey hair. Not appropriate for oily or sensitive skin as it is high in oleic acid and may clog skin pores.

Where to find this oil: In Portugal, for example, it is possible to find palm oil in supermarkets

Grapeseed oil

Vitis Vinifera

What is it: It is extracted from the seeds of grapes, a winemaking by-product, and has fantastic skin penetration qualities. It has a thin, lightweight texture. It is high in linoleic acid and antioxidants.

Strengths and Weaknesses: High in linoleic acid, it’s another low-comedogenic (1) oil. Along with hypo-allergenic properties, makes it ideal for all skin types, especially sensitive, allergy-prone skin. Silky textured and very moisturizing. Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s best applied in leave-on products. 

Shelf Life: 1 year

Properties for Cosmetics: Grapeseed oil is a smooth silky textured oil that is quickly absorbed into the skin and does not leave a greasy film. It is an excellent moisturizer, and has hypo-allergenic properties making it perfect for allergy-prone or sensitive skins for many homemade skin care treatments. If you need a natural alternative for shaving cream, this is another great one that leaves the skin silky smooth and soft. 

Where to find this oil: Health stores may have this oil available, but this is not an easy oil to find. Natural cosmetics suppliers will have this sort of product and also some essential oil brands, selling this oil as a carrier oil.

Rice bran oil

Oriza Sativa

What is it: It is extracted from the bran (outer coating) of the brown rice grain. It has a thick and moisturizing consistency, similar to olive oil. It is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Rich in anti-oxidants and with fair UV protection properties, it’s excelent for mature, damaged skin. High in linoleic and oleic acids, makes for a conditioning, moisturizing, easily absorbed oil for skin (low-comedogenic (2)). Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s better applied in leave-on products.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for Cosmetics: Due to the content of UVA and UVB-absorbing materials, antioxidant-acting natural oryzanol rice bran oil is ideal for use in sunscreens and day creams.  It’s light and moisturizing, only slightly greasy, quickly absorbed by skin. It is a powerful antioxidant and intense conditioning. It is skin soothing, perfect for irritated and sensitive skin.

Where to find this oil: Health stores may have this oil available, but this is not an easy oil to find. Natural cosmetics suppliers will have this sort of product. Some essential oil brands may sell this oil as a carrier oil.

Jojoba oil

Simmondsia Chinensis

What is it: Jojoba oil is actually a wax-like substance, extracted from the seeds of jojoba plants. It has powerful moisturizing properties, contains vitamin E and several minerals.

Strenghts and Weaknesses: Jojoba oil has a fat profile very similar to human sebum, making it an almost-perfect moisturizer for skin and hair scalp. It is also low-comedogenic (2), making it adequate for all skin types, including acne-prone and oily. Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s best applied in leave-on products.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for Cosmetics: Acne conditions benefit greatly from this lightweight, non greasy oil which provides anti-inflammatory properties. It is very close to the natural oil produced by the skin so it makes a perfect moisturizer for all skin types. It absorbs easily into the skin and doesn’t clog pores. Along with acne it is very effective in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, sunburn and chapped skin.

Where to find this oil: Natural cosmetics suppliers will have this sort of product. Some essential oil brands sell this oil as a carrier oil.

Argan oil

Argania Spinosa

What is it: Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree (Argania spinosa L.) that is endemic to Morocco. Scientific studies note that Argan oil is commonly used as a skin and hair moisturizer and as a remedy for juvenile acne. Golden in color, it is a lightweight, quick absorbing oil. It’s strong in has powerful moisturizing properties, contains vitamin E and several minerals.

Strengths and Weaknesses: Argan oil, also known as “liquid gold”, enhances the appearance and texture of skin and hair with its rich fatty acid and antioxidant content, easily hydrating, conditioning, and softening both without leaving a greasy residue. Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s best applied in leave-on products.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for Cosmetics: It is rich in essential nutrients (fatty acids such as oleic and linoleic), antioxidants (such as vitamin E) and anti-inflammatory compounds. It may reduce skin aging and treat some skin conditions, since it has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds. The oleic and linoleic acids that make up the majority of argan oil’s fat content are vital nutrients for maintaining healthy skin and hair. Some studies indicate that other vegetable oils with a similar nutritional profile may reduce split ends and other types of hair damage.

Where to find this oil: Natural cosmetics suppliers will have this sort of product. Some essential oil brands sell this oil as a carrier oil.

Hempseed oil

Cannabis Sativa

What is it: Obtained by cold pressing hemp seeds from the Cannabis Sativa plant, it is a great source of fatty acids namely, omega 3 and omega 6, low on oleic acid, and contains vitamins A, C, D and E, making it a light oil, highly conditioning and rich in anti-oxidants. 

Strengths and Weaknesses: True “non-comedogenic” (0), packed with vitamins and medicinal properties, is good to help treat skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis and others. This statement is actually backed up by science. Although this oil can be used in soap making, it’s best applied in leave-on products, due to its strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Shelf Life: 1 year

Properties for Cosmetics: Hempseed oil is anti-inflammatory and skin soothing. It is also and a light oil low on oleic acid, making it a “noncomedogenic” , which means it does not clog pores, making it a great oil to prevent and treat acne. With its high anti-oxidants content along with vitamins, this oil has an effective anti-oxidant action on the skin.

Where to find this oil: Hempseed oil is getting more common as its medicinal properties are being investigated and confirmed. Do not confuse this with CBD oil, they are different products. You may find this product in health stores or natural cosmetic products.

Rosehip seed oil

Rosa Canina and Rosa Rugose

What is it: It is cold pressed from rosehip seeds, the fruit of rose bushes, and is full of vitamins – A , C and F -, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids – oleic, palmitic, linoleic, gamma linolenic – that supposedly do wonderful things for your face. It has a lightweight, non greasy consistency.

Strengths and Weaknesses: An oil packed with so many benefitial vitamins, anti-oxidants and fatty acids that is ideal to treat damaged and mature skin, as well as acne, making it a perfect anti-aging. I’ve personally used it on facial creams and I can testify for its properties. Its only weakness is really the price (but it’s worth it!). Best applied in leave-on products.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for other cosmetics: Rich in vitamin C, this oil contains more of it than oranges or lemons. Vitamin C has antioxidant properties. Research shows vitamin C may help reduce ultraviolet light damage caused by free radicals. It also supports collagen production, which helps reduce wrinkling. Finally, vitamin C may increase wound healing and help prevent dry skin. Vitamin A may help to reduce sun damage, wrinkles, hyperpigmentation and treat mild to moderate acne (there are several news on the net about this, probably some exagerated). Source of lycopene – a naturally occurring chemical that gives fruits and vegetables a red color.

Where to find this oil: Only natural cosmetic stores selling ingredients have this oil available.

Shea butter

Butyrospermum Parkii

What is it: It is actually a wax-like solid butter, and not an oil. It is a fat that is extracted from the nuts of the shea tree. It’s the queen of oils and butters in natural cosmetic, a noble ingredient. lts chemical structure contains: 

  • linoleic, palmitic, stearic, and oleic fatty acids, ingredients that balance oils on your skin
  • vitamins A, E, and F, antioxidant vitamins that promote circulation and healthy skin cell growth
  • triglycerides, the fatty part of the shea nut that nourishes and conditions your skin
  • cetyl esters, the waxy part of the shea nut butter that conditions skin and locks in moisture

Strenghts and Weaknesses: Highly moisturizing and conditioning, anti-oxidant and well balanced, it contains many medicinal properties for skin care. Besides, there are no records of allergic reactions with shea butter, despite being a nutty ingredient. It’s a bit expensive but totally worth its price.

Shelf Life: 2 years

Properties for Cosmetics: The list of benefits to the skin is long. From helping to treat several skin conditions, to being a good anti-aging, conditioning and moisturizing, shea butter has most of it – and most of it backed up by scientific studies. As it is a butter at room temperature, it provides natural structure to cosmetics, namely, lip balms. It is also a good haircare product.

Where you can get: Natural cosmetic suppliers or essential oil suppliers sell shea butter.

Lard

Lard

What is it:  A white semi-solid fat rendered from fatty tissues from pigs. Known mainly for being related with health issues like high cholesterol and heart diseases, due to its content of saturated fatty acids, it has a very bad reputation. Actually, if you make an objective analysis, just by comparing its composition with other oils and fats, it is very similar to palm oil, and better for your health (yes, I mean eating) than many processed cooking margarines and butters.

Shelf Life: 1 year (refrigerated)

Properties in cosmetics: Highly moisturizing and conditioning, it’s often known as clogging pores. In fact, it has a comedogenic rating of 2 (similar to tallow) just like olive oil, and smaller than coconut oil (4). It’s good for many skin types, especially dry skin. You may find some reports on the net stating personal experiences about using lard to soothe psoriasis or eczema effects, where no other products worked.

USE SPARINGLY! You only need around a small pea sized amount for your whole face, for example. Use only handmade lard, as it doesn’t contain as much chemicals to refine and preserve lard. You don’t need them on your skin.

Where to find this oil: For beauty products, avoid supermarket lard, prefer handmade instead. You can find it in local markets or some butcher shops. You can also easily render it at home: How To Render White Lard At Home.


I simply listed the most common and mostly used in soap making (many of them cheap as well). I hope this list becomes useful to help you decide on what ingredients should you use to best fit your skincare needs on creams, lotions, lip balms…

If you have any questions, a suggestion to make, or simply wish to say you enjoyed this article, please, leave a comment below.

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2 thoughts on “Natural Oils For Your Skin”

  1. I have used organic unrefined coconut oil on my skin and love how it keeps my skin soft and moist. I am glad that you explained the different types of oils. I have some Grapeseed oil in the cupboard and will try it out to see how it works. The benefit of Grapeseed oil not feeling greasy is appealing. Which is your favorite oil?

    Reply
    • Hello Sharon, thanks for your comment and interest in this post.

      I have to be honest, while you can of course use this post to choose the best oil for your skin, I use it mainly for cosmetics’ formulations: balms, creams, lotions, serums.

      My favorite oil for soap is definitely olive oil, maybe because it’s a traditional oil in Portugal, very good, cheap and makes a wonderful soap. 

      For skincare, I don’t really have a favorite oil. I like them all 😀 I love that you can make a very good body lotion or a lip balm with sunflower oil, a very affordable oil that you usually already have in your kitchen. I also make a lip balm with olive oil. If you wish to have a more expensive lotion, or an anti-aging cream, you can use noble oils like rosehip seed oil, jojoba oil or argan oil. 

      Cononut oil feels lovely on your skin, rubbed raw. Grapeseed is indeed light although I have only used it mixed with others – for a eye serum.

      They are all good, and the best you can do is to adapt your skincare products to the local and more affordable oils you find in your area.

      Cheers,

      Sofia

      Reply

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