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We very often speak about how great this oil is because is high in unsaturated fatty acids, or has phenols. But what does that mean? What do these oil element compounds do? Here you can find a brief explanation about most common element compounds from oils, and what they mean.

Unsaturated fatty acids

Essential fatty acids are crucial for a healthy and good-looking skin, as they are not naturally produced by the body.  Deficiencies in essential fatty acids have negative consequences for your health and often lead to dry and inflamed skin prone to blackheads and whiteheads.

Unsaturated fatty acids are Linoleic acid (omega-6), Linolenic acid (omega-3), Ricinoleic acid (omega-9, only present in castor oil). 

Alpha-linolenic acid: Alpha-linolenic acid is a high-dehydrating oleic acid when used too much. For your information, there is too much alpha-linolenic acid in linseed oil. Linseed oil for skincare is not recommended.

Gamma-linolenic acid: Gamma-linolenic acid is a rare oleic acid that is usually found only in low concentrations. Gamma-linolenic acid is actually produced by the body as well. As you get older, your body functions are getting weaker and your body does not produce enough gamma-linolenic acid. Gamma-linolenic acid is the salvation of aging skin. It is found in primrose oil, blackcurrant seed oil borage oil, or hemp oil.

Oleic acid

Hemp seed oil contains only about 9% oleic acid. Oleic acid is not the best fatty acid for skincare. It easily clogs pores and causes pimples. Such low levels of oleic acid are only found in few, rare oils.

Saturated fatty acids

Naturally produced by the body, saturated fatty acids are effective occlusive agents important for the skin. Since their levels are higher in young skin compared to elder skin, using skincare containing saturated fatty acids could make up for this deficiency and help combat skin ageing.

Saturated fatty acids are Lauric AcidPalmitic AcidStearic AcidMyristic AcidOleic Acid

Oleic acid is the most abundant fatty acid in human adipose tissue, and second in abundance in human tissues overall, following palmitic acid. Oleic acid is not the best fatty acid for skincare. It easily clogs pores and causes pimples.

You can find in which oils are all these fatty acids present in the table from this article and its contribution to soap making. You can also find this properties table for vegetable oils


Tocopherols (Vitamin E)

Part of the family of antioxidants, tocopherols are a type of vitamin E known for their skin benefits, which among others include UV, pollution protection and hydration. Tocopherols are useful beyond their skin benefits: as antioxidants, they are great for naturally preserving cosmetic formulations. In particular, gamma tocopherol is recognised as a component effectively protecting oil cosmetic formulations.


Polyphenols are active ingredients with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and anti-DNA damaging activities (Nichols & Katiyar, 2009). Research has also highlighted their photoprotective effects, and polyphenols contribute to fighting the spread of free radicals, which are responsible for premature skin ageing. Because of their activity, polyphenols are precious ingredients.

Vitamins and Minerals

Vitamin A (Retinol):  keeps skin and the lining of some parts of the body, such as the nose, healthy. Retinol in particular works to decrease oil production, promote cellular turnover, and increase collagen synthesis

Vitamin B: may be the most intimidating due to how many different types exist. What you need to know is that there are three primary forms: vitamin B3 (also known as niacin), vitamin B5 (also known as panthenol), and vitamin B12.

Vitamin B3: has been shown to boost collagen production and also reduce dark spots.

Vitamin B5 (Panthenol): is used as a humectant and is highly popular in moisturizers, shampoos and hair conditioners, offering barrier conditioning effects on the skin.

Vitamin B12: when applied topically, has been shown to successfully treat eczema by reducing the body’s production of nitric oxide production

Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): one of the most effective ways to fade hyperpigmentation and dark spots. It’s also an antioxidant, meaning that it can be used to protect your skin against free radicals and skin damage, which escalate the process of premature aging, brown spots, and wrinkles.

Vitamin D: well known from being produced by the body with sun exposure (D2), it’s also present in fatty substances (D3), mostly animal fats but also some vegetable oils, like sunflower and avocado. There are scientific evidences that it helps treat psoriasis.

Vitamin E (tocopherol): Being a powerful anti-oxidant, vitamin E is used to protect cells from free radicals, and has been known to boost the immune system. It is also an anti-inflammatory.


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