Facial oil serum is the darling of the beauty world… but what’s actually dripping out of the pipette onto our skin?
By Clare Jones, ITEC Certified Aromatherapist
I first tried oils over 20 years ago and switched between Clarins and Dauphin – the prevailing brands of the day. Then, a few years ago as the oil phenomenon took off, I became an aficionado, trying out lots of brands and branched out into making my own. Whilst I wouldn’t say my skin is perfect, it has never glowed more.
Oil works particularly well as a complement to a water based serum with hyaluronic acid or vitamins. I love ‘The Ordinary’ range, which offers great high-tech beauty ingredients at incredibly reasonable prices.
I believe oils can cleanse, nourish and protect every skin type. The more I found out about oils, the more I fell in love with them; so much so, in fact, that I decided to qualify as an aromatherapist.
Even if your salon doesn’t currently use oil, I believe even the smallest of slithers is a fabulous, luxurious finishing touch to a treatment for any skin type and it will leave your customers both curious and delighted.
Here’s the oil lowdown if you’re keen to be in the know.
What Are Oils?
Oils are blends of plant-derived lipids or they are made from petrochemicals. Oils have been used in ancient cultures’ beauty regimes, from the Egyptians onwards, and according to Cosmopolitan they are “the sexiest [beauty] product in history”.
Oils can remove grime and make-up and ensure optimum natural moisture levels. Some oils can even penetrate and deliver nutrients to deeper levels of skin. If you use moisturiser, you already use oil.
All emulsions (that’s creams and milks to the layperson) are a mix of oil and water, along with other actives. However, what we are talking about here are the little vials of facial oil serum (usually with a pipette) that you can find just about anywhere.
Which Oil Is Best?
Not all facial oils are equal. Each is a unique blend of properties and what we need depends on our skin type and condition.
There are hundreds of choice formulators, stemming from the basic (such as the Sunflower), to the well-researched (Rosehip) to the exotic (Sacha Inchi).
Oils have different profiles and this affects their performance. Some are better as a barrier oil – ie sitting on the skin’s surface (for example, Coconut oil) while some will actually penetrate the skin’s surface and have been known to deliver nutrients to the bloodstream (Rosehip).
If oils are manufactured, the process can involve solvents and heating which can destroy the therapeutic properties, particularly with the more delicate oils. So you need to know which processes the oils have been through to ensure they’re going to be useful.
Petrochemicals, What’s The Problem?
The beauty industry and chemicals is a hugely controversial topic. In my view, we do not need to resort to petrochemicals and synthetics that are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disrupters and which may be carcinogenic. However, we are often also blinded by science.
This is a personal choice, though, and I would advocate you get savvy about ingredients and read product labels if these are things you want to avoid in your own regime and in the products you offer in your salon. For example, Beauty Editor explains why things like mineral oil are not ideal for your skin.
When it comes to oil, most of the high-end brands aim for organic and it’s lovely to add some entirely natural products to your regime. They certainly will not do you any harm. But hang on just a second… because even that can be confusing!
Which Should I Choose – Organic, Wild-Crafted or Natural?
Approximately 60% of plant material used to distil oils is grown in countries that do not have organic standards or certification. Some plants used for essential oil production are wild where fewer chemicals may reach them, but without certification standards we cannot be sure. Many farmers work organically but choose not to apply for certification for a variety of reasons. So, it’s an area to be approached with caution.
However, there are two keywords that you need to look out for: Cold-Pressed and Unrefined. Avoiding heat (which destroys some of the oil’s goodness) in manufacturing is key, and being unrefined so all the nutritious components of the oil are retained is also valuable.
What’s In Oil?
99% of facial oil serum is fixed, carrier or base oil. They are called ‘fixed’ as they have large molecules that do not evaporate like the essential oils. There are hundreds of seed, nut and vegetable oils from the exotic to the everyday, and typically obtained from the seed or nut. Fixed oils are blends of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids with traces of vitamins and minerals along with a variety of other trace plant constituents.
Fixed oils are extracted usually by a process called cold-press or expeller pressing. Some are extracted using solvents, heat and/or steam. Cold-pressing oils means that the temperature used during the extraction process is kept at or below 110 degrees. This is essential to avoid destroying the oil’s nutrients and therapeutic properties.
Once extracted, many oils are then refined to improve or remove unpleasant odours and eradicate substances that cause rapid oxidation – the peril of the producer because it reduces shelf life. It’s like chemotherapy for plants destroying both good and bad.
Different carrier oils work differently for skin types and in making my own facial oils I put a lot of work into selecting the right blend of viscosity, colour, and aroma etc. The amount of dilution will be determined by the application.
The beautiful scents of essential oils are what first got me into making my own facial oil serum. They are famous for their incredible aromatics and therapeutic properties. Their ability to soothe and heal the mind, body and spirit has been admired for centuries.
Essential oils are a bit of a contradiction because they aren’t really oils. Instead, they are volatile materials that evaporate. There are over 500 essential oils to choose from, ranging from citrus to woody, and floral to resin, and herbal to spice.
My absolute favourites are Jasmine and Neroli, but I also like unusual oils such as Violet Leaf and Copaiba Balsam. The scents are divine!
Essential oils are powerful – just one drop could be the extract of many plants. They contain certain components and that means they cannot be applied directly to the skin. Some of them have great skin benefits, but some are also unsuitable for skin care. For those with skin sensitive they can be a complete no-no. Essential oils will only ever constitute around 1% of your facial oil.
Other Ingredients In Oil Formulations
I use a number of other plant-based vitamins, extract and actives with scientifically proven actives in my oil serums. Peptides and vitamins A and E are very popular.
Oils In The Salon
I think oils can have a place in salon routines – they’re great cleansers (as long as you thoroughly remove them), and they work well as the basis of massage at the end of treatments. Some of the benefits of aromatherapy can also be incorporated and, I promise, your clients will be won over every time by the stunning, wafting aromas of, say, Bergamot or Lavender. They add a lavish finishing touch and give an extra ‘customer service’ boost that will stay with them for a long time afterwards.
What do you think of beauty oils? We’d love to hear your views, so please do get in touch with us!