Hydrated skin is smooth. It’s bouncy, it’s even and it glows. We know we need to keep our skin hydrated but do we have the right idea about how? Face oils have become a staple part of skincare routines across the globe, and the common misconception is that oils are hydrating when in fact – they’re not! This misconception is not helped by brands marketing face oils as ‘hydrating’. The concept of hydration is to cause something to add water or absorb water, but the molecular structure of oil doesn’t allow this to happen.
To understand how oil can benefit our skin, we must first start with the structure of water. On a molecular level, water is described as polar (carries a partial negative charge on its oxygen atoms and a partial positive charge on its hydrogen atoms). In comparison to water, oils are non-polar; they carry even charges across their atoms causing them to be repelled by the polarity of water. This makes oils hydrophobic.
When we think of this in the context of skincare- how can oil be hydrating when it quite literally repels water? Transepidermal loss is when water travels from the dermis (middle layer of the skin) to the epidermis (outer layer) and evaporates on the surface of the skin. The epidermis is also known as the lipid layer or more commonly known in the skincare community as your skin barrier. It consists of ‘cholesterol, fatty acids and ceramides.’ When the skin barrier is damaged, its own fatty acids have usually been stripped away due to harsh conditions; the fatty acids in face oils build the skin barrier back up which in turn stops water from leaving the skin.
We now know oils aren’t hydrating but we should know they are part of the moisturising process. The process contains 3 important categories: humectants, emollients and occlusives. For hydration we need humectants- these are ingredients that draw water from products to hydrate skin cells. They hold the water on the surface of the skin, leaving it plump and hydrated. An example of this is hyaluronic acid, perhaps the most popular hydrating product on the market. Once hydrated, we move onto emollients which soften skin and occlusives which lock the humectant and emollient in; oils can be both an emollient and an occlusive. The most effective skincare routines have a humectant and an occlusive to deliver that hydrated glow. Oils in your routine should create a barrier that seals the serums and the moisturiser in and keeps the irritants out. Our skin barrier contains fatty acids and the best way to hydrate and take care of it is to follow up our hydrating serums with oils containing fatty acids. Oils containing fatty acids restore and replenish the skin barrier. A restored and replenished skin barrier holds onto hydration much better.
Cosmetic chemist Vince Spinatto says in Allure ‘[So] while oils can condition the skin and hair, they only retain water content — not add it — which means they are moisturizing but not hydrating.’ Despite this, studies have shown certain plant oils have a history of skin barrier repair and overall benefits to skin health. A study published in the International Journal for Molecular Medicine found that oils such as Argan, Avocado, Jojoba and Almond oil were among the plant oils that have been beneficial for the skin. Research in this field continues, but we know although oils aren’t hydrating, they still provide a multitude of benefits such as protecting damaged skin, combatting dark marks and hyperpigmentation, anti-inflammatory effects and reducing skin ageing. Here are some oils we think you’ll get the most out of:
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-pressed Rosehip Seed Oil – Popular brand The Ordinary provides an oil rich in linoleic acid, linolenic acid and pro-vitamin A. The process of cold-pressed extraction has allowed for all its qualities to be preserved enabling it to support healthy skin and reduce signs of photo-ageing. Use this as the last step in your routine and wake up with the softest skin.
Face Theory Marula Oil 010 Cold Pressed – A premium multitasking oil, it is formulated with 100% Organic Marula oil. A versatile all-rounder that soothes and protects cracked, dry or damaged skin. Recommended for most skin types.
KEM Ultra Glow Oil– Our very own Ultra Glow oil is packed with nourishing oils that contain essential skin superfoods and vitamins to promote cellular regeneration and turnover. Instead of one oil you get the best of Rosehip, Argan, Sunflower, Avocado, Meadowfoam and Broccoli seed oil in a bottle carefully formulated to combat dull skin, dark marks, and scarring and hyperpigmentation. For best results use it as the final step in your routine (as an occlusive) after applying your Night Shift nighttime treatment.
Youth to the People Superberry Hydrate & Glow Dream Oil – Packed with rare super berry antioxidants that leave skin soft and glowing. Prickly pear and squalene oil lock in moisture with the help of omega fatty acids and high levels of vitamin C. Their perfected balance of jojoba and sunflower oil illuminates and revives dehydrated skin without weighing it down. Use 2-5 drops on cleansed skin day and night.