Are you constantly trying to blot oil from your face, hoping that this will prevent another zit from forming? The idea that oil causes acne may be a myth, as there is no real concrete evidence that oil is the cause of acne. Although most of try desperately to dry out our (supposedly) oily acne causing skin, a consensus has not been reached by the medical community that doing so will clear our skin. When various dermatologists were polled regarding this issue, their answers were surprising. The all famous Dr. Oz states that The American Academy of Dermatology has found that acne is NOT caused by oily skin or poor hygiene (no duh). He further states that ALL types of skin can develop acne. Similarly, Dr. Bershad, a dermatologist with the Mount Sinai Health System, agrees stating that there are many people with oily skin and many of them don’t have acne. She further posits that drying out the skin will not cure acne. In fact, many people with dry skin often have acne, according to Dr. Zerker, also from Mount Sinai.
Acne does seem co-occur with oily skin, but co-occurrence, or correlation does not imply causation. Remember your high school or college statistics class? There are all kind of correlations that occur, but we are warned not to read too much into them. For instance, sleeping with your shoes on is correlated with waking up with a headache. Clearly, sleeping with ones shoes could not be the cause of the headache and more likely the headache is due to the fact that the person who fell asleep with their shoes on was drunk. Therefore although acne co-occurs with oily skin, oily skin may not be the cause at all.
Other potential causes for acne according to dermatologists include genetics, bacteria called p. acnes on the skin, inflammation, and drying out of the skin (yes, you read that right). Drying out the oil on your skin because you thought it was causing your acne, is actually causing your acne!
Dr Cordero, Professor of Dermatology at the University of Virginia, claims that our skin needs its lipid (top) layer to protect it from irritation, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When we over dry our skin, we lose that lipid layer and lose our protection, leaving us vulnerable to developing acne.Dry skin can have microscopic cracks in it which can cause bacteria to settle and multiply there, and this too may cause acne according to Dr. Fusco, an Assistant Clinical professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center.
Another problem with over cleansing and stripping our skin is that we disturb our skin’s natural homeostasis or balance. Our skin tries to maintain a decent lipid layer, to protect itself from a world of bacteria and other irritations. When we constantly strip that lipid layer away, our skin may try to overcompensate for the loss, and may overproduce oil as a result. This overproduction of oil is more than our skin can manage and as a result, blockage of pores and blackheads may result.
Perhaps the answer lies in hydrating our skin using oils that will not only moisturize, but which will also fight bacteria and viruses. There are many oils that are nourishing and hydrating to the skin while also being antiseptic (preventing the growth of bacteria), anti-inflammatory (reducing inflammation, irritation), antiviral (inhibiting of viruses), and antibacterial (active in reducing bacteria) in nature. Some you can read about in my other blog, The Skin You’re In, but I also offer some new ones here as well.
Jojoba oil – Pronounced ho-ho-ba oil, jojoba’s molecular structure is surprisingly similar to our own natural sebum. As such, jojoba use allows our skin to believe that enough oil has been produced and therefore our skin will stop its overproduction of oil. Jojoba is also thought to dissolve any sebum that clogs pores allowing skin to breathe more effectively. In addition, jojoba is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, thereby addressing two of the causes of acne according to dermatologists, inflammation and bacteria. In a book by the National Research Council published in 2002, jojoba was cited as being able to slow outbreak of acne in the skin. People use jojoba for other conditions in addition to acne, such as psoriasis, eczema, sunburn and chapped lips. Jojoba can be applied directly to the skin. It will not clog your pores, in fact it will unclog them as previously stated. You can buy jojoba in health food stores like GNC and Trader Joe. It is not expensive and you will only need a few drops to apply to your face.
Tamanu oil – Tamanu oil comes from the nut of the tamanu tree, found in Southeast Asia. Although research is limited on tamanu’s effect on acne, research on tamanu’s ability to heal the skin is overwhelming. The Journal of Cosmetic Science found that tamanu aids in the promotion of scar healing. It has been used with success on skin rashes, sores, abrasions, scars and stretch marks. It is considered to have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and antibiotic properties. Since inflammation is a possible cause of acne according to dermatologists, tamanu may be worth a try. Lots of people swear by it, saying that it prevents acne while also reducing the appearance of already existing acne scars, but you will have to try it for yourself. On a Dr. Oz television show, model Carol Alt claimed to use it to prevent wrinkles, due to its antioxidant properties. I will be sure to include it in my next blog which will look at anti-aging oils. Tamanu oil is thick and can be used directly on the skin, but due to its density, you may prefer to dilute in another oil, such as jojoba oil or grape seed. It won’t be easy to find in stores and you should probably order it online. An excellent source for organic tamanu oil is Mountain Rose Herbs.
Grape Seed Oil – This oil is anti inflammatory and rich in a fatty acid called linoleic acid. According to Harvard Medical School, linoleic acid serves as an emollient or agent to smooth the skin and fill in spaces between the cells. Emollients are known for their ability to clear up acne prone skin. In addition, grape seed oil is an antioxidant, which neutralizes the damage done from free radicals. As such, it may also clear acne and prevent future breakouts. In addition, grape seeds is considered to be an anti-aging oil, so you will clear your skin and prevent wrinkles at the same time. You can buy cold processed grape seed oil from any supermarket. It can be used directly on the skin, undiluted.
Oregano essential oil – Oregano essential oil is powerful! It cannot be used directly on your skin but must be diluted or you will find it irritating. However, it can be an excellent tool in your acne fighting arsenal when used as a spot treatment. Oregano oil is naturally antiseptic and antibacterial. Try mixing equal amounts of oregano essential oil and either jojoba, coconut, or grape seed oil and apply to problem areas before bed. You may be able to find oregano essential oil in a store such as Whole Foods or Mrs. Green’s or else you can order it from Mountain Rose Herbs.