We at Earthen Living have been exclusively using oils on our skin for a long time now, and we are fully converted, oil-only users. Here is why we ditched lotions and creams for good.
1. Oils are free from synthetic chemicals and endocrine disruptors.
One of the top advantages of natural skin oils is that they tend to have no synthetic chemicals. As creams, moisturisers, and lotions contain water and fats or oils, manufacturers need to add emollient components for the cream not to separate and preservatives for the oil not to go rancid. Parabens, a common group of preservatives in beauty products, and synthetic fragrances can act as hormone disruptors and add to the toxic load our body has to deal with every day. Especially if you are thinking about conceiving, are pregnant, or breastfeeding, consider reducing endocrine disruptors.
Extra Tipp: When buying skin oil, read the ingredient list. You want to avoid oils containing paraffin (a highly processed synthetic oil obtained from petroleum). Studies have shown that paraffin oils cannot be metabolised by the skin. Vegetable oils, on the other hand, can be taken up by enzymes in our skin and give a direct caring effect on dry and cracked skin (1). Our Earthen Living oils are full of the natural goodness of vegetable oils infused with additional skin superhero herbs and contain absolutely no synthetic ingredients. If you are after clean beauty, it does not get cleaner than this.
2. Plant-based oils improve skin barrier health (2)
Harsh chemicals, over-exfoliation, or pollutants, can damage the moisture barrier and create tiny cracks in the skin, which leaves your skin vulnerable to outside irritants that can cause wrinkles, breakouts, discolouration, and other issues. Especially in today's world, give your skin some extra care. By making self abhyanga (oil massage) a part of our daily routine, we support our skin to be at the top of its game, and pathogens are less able to cross the skin barrier.
3. Sesame oil can combat wrinkles by regulating oxidative stress.
Sesame oil, Ayurveda’s favourite oil, has been shown to regulate oxidative stress as it contains significant amounts of lignans such as sesamin, sesamolin, and sesaminol . The antioxidative activity of these components protects our skin from sun damage and free radicals. Free radicals cause our bodies to age early and contribute to wrinkles and discolouration on the skin. The antioxidative components of sesame oil combat these effects. Yes you understood this right sesame oil has a natural SPF! It is the oil with the highest UV resistance and can resist 30% of UV rays (4) when applied to the skin. In comparison, synthetic oils do not have any UV resistance. If you are keen on using skin products with integrated SPF, sesame oil is your go to!
4.Oils are packed with essential nutrients and fatty acids. Natural oils derived from plants contain many valuable ingredients that help restore balance, nourish skin, body, and mind. Beauty is not just skin deep but goes beyond. Each time you use an oil,you are feeding the superficial layers of the skin and allowing the seven layers of your skin to absorb the oil. This not only nourishes the skin but also stimulates circulation and engages the lymphatic system thus helping the body get rid of toxins and be more prepared to fight off invaders.
5. Oils can also serve as a vehicle for herbal ingredients with potent skin healing properties. Natural oils can be absorbed and metabolised into the skin and take the active ingredients in the herbs into our body. Transdermal drug administration is an emerging research field as the uptake of certain supplements or medicines can be more effective when we bypass the digestive tract. Ayurveda has been using this technique for a few thousand years, and we expertly craft our oil formulas for maximum effect. We can look at our oils not only as part of our beauty routine but also getting a small nutrient boost!
6. Oils are an effective moisturiser.
The occlusive effect of the plant oil decreases the loss of water. This moisture-locking effect can make oils a more effective moisturiser than creams and lotions. To maximise this effect, apply the oil in combination with water, for example, before or after a shower. Many people worry that the “heavy oil” might clog their pores. However, dermatologists have found that, even in acne, oils can work better than many creams and moisturisers. The positive effect is due to the high content of linoleic acid and its ability to reduce sebum oxidation.
8. Applying love
In Ayurveda oiling, your body is a Snehana procedure. Snehana can translate as love. By incorporating a simple oil massage into our daily routine, we are literally applying self-love. We always feel grounded, nourished, and loved by just a few minutes for a self-massage. Abhyanga definitely is in our top three self-care rituals!
Extra Tipp: Self-Abhyanga can be a great tool to address self-love and body image issues through a simple daily routine. There is no need to conceptualise, or verbalise anything, or even look at yourself. Just massage your body with care, and you will see that, over the weeks, you will start to love this ritual, come to accept what is, and feel more positive about yourself. We bet your body lotion can't do that.
BONUS: When and how to use skin oils
Now we have learned about the myriad benefits of oils, let's look at when and how to use skin oils.
According to Ayurvedic tradition, self-abhyanga is best done in the morning to gently wake your body up, prepare for the day and apply an extra layer of protection and resilience. However, don’t worry if you can’t fit this into your morning routine. Especially for Vata types, abhyanga is a great winding down ritual before bedtime. Light some candles, maybe listen to some relaxing music, and really indulge in a slow massage. You will have the most blissful night's sleep!
Whether morning or evening, warm the oil by pouring out a small portion of the oil into a container which you keep in a bowl of warm to hot water so the oil is warm. Keep a thermos of hot water at hand, and change it if the oil gets cold. Alternatively, you can use an oil warmer that just keeps the oil at a constant warm temperature. This applies for body and hair oils and allows for better absorption.
Now apply the warm oil with long gentle strokes moving from the head to the toe. You can incorporate circular movements over the joints. Once you have covered your body in oil, relax for a few minutes and give the oil time to absorb into the skin. The next step is Swedana, sweating. If you had a professional Ayurvedic treatment, the therapist would apply steam after the massage. At home, we imitate the effect by having a hot shower. The hot water opens your pores, increases circulation, and supports the oil to penetrate deeper into the skin. At the same time, you are removing the liposoluble toxins the oil has drawn out by washing off any excess oil. Ayurveda (and science) suggest that by removing this oil, we remove all the fat-soluble toxins, dirt, or pollutants that do not wash off with just water. Sebum mixed with old skin particles, for example, can lead to blackheads. Being a lipid, it repels water and does not wash off easily unless we use the help of some oil. However, don't be in a rush to wash off all the goodness you have just slathered on. If you give it some time, you will notice that your skin drinks up most of the oil. It is best not to be using heavy synthetic cleansers as they will strip a lot of the goodness you just applied of your skin.
If your skin still feels tight when you step out of the shower, Ayurveda says you can re-apply a thin layer of oil after showering. You can leave this "second coat of oil" on for the rest of the day as you have already washed off the toxins and gunk with the excess oil from the "first coat". The purpose of the extra “coat” of oil is to lock in more precious moisture. Once you have started oiling your body regularly, extra oil after the shower should no longer be necessary.
When not to use oils
If you are allergic to any botanicals, please carefully read the ingredient list of each oil. If unsure, do a patch test: apply a small amount of oil to a small area on your skin and see how your body reacts.
Ayurveda also advises skipping your daily massage for the days you are on your period to not to disturb your flow. The same is true if you are feeling unwell with a fever or a heavy cold.