Introduction: The Benefits of Using Oils In Your Skin Care Routine
Plant oils are commonly used for multiple purposes all around the world. They possess compounds that can give them antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, among several others. These properties make them attractive alternative treatments for dry skin conditions, i.e. conditions associated with a disruption of the skin’s barrier. Oils can be a fantastic addition to any skin care routine - provided you know which ones to use for your skin type, as not all are created equal. The impact of different oils on human skin varies, depending upon the unique mix of fatty acids and other compounds present in the oil. The ratio of fatty acids in an oil tends to be a major determinant of the oil’s capacity to repair the skin barrier. Generally, oils with a higher ratio of linoleic acid to oleic acid tend to benefit the skin barrier, while oils with a higher ratio of oleic acid might be detrimental to it.
Oils are able to create an occlusive film on the skin and reduce transepidermal water loss (TEWL), so skin remains hydrated - a characteristic that is essential for the maintenance of skin health. Oils are also able to help protect, regenerate and soften the skin, relieve inflammation and maintain proper structure of the skin’s intracellular matrix. They are important in the formation of the permeability barrier, which contributes to the acidification of the stratum corneum, promoting its structural integrity and barrier function. Fatty acids in oils serve as building blocks for complex lipids in sebum that impart a self-disinfecting activity to the skin surface. Skin that is deficient in fatty acids is said to have a compromised barrier and is more susceptible to dryness and flaking, irritation, and even infection. Fatty acids also play an important role in the biological synthesis of cell membrane components, or inflammatory mediators, called eicosanoids including prostaglandins, prostacyclins, thromboxanes, and leukotrienes. When it comes to the outward appearance of the skin, the health of its internal structure is important to consider as skin with a healthy internal structure also has a better outward appearance.
Before we move on to the next segment, it is important to mention that the oils being referred to over here are not the same as the fragrant plant extracts commonly known as “essential oils”. Essential oils are concentrated, hydrophobic liquids that contain volatile compounds. They are called “essential” oils because they contain the compounds that give a plant its characteristic “essence” or fragrance. We actively don’t recommend using these on your skin because of their potential to sensitise or irritate the skin.
What Is Sea Buckthorn Oil and How Does It Benefit the Skin
The name hippophae rhamnoides, the scientific name for sea buckthorn, comes from an amalgamation of two Greek words, “hippo”, which means horse, and “phaos”, which means to shine. The plant got this name because in ancient times its leaves were used as horse fodder and gave the horses that ate them a shiny coat. Sea buckthorn has a long history of application as food and medicine.
Sea buckthorn oil is obtained via mechanical cold pressing or solvent extraction from the fruit and/or seeds of the sea buckthorn plant. Cold pressed sea buckthorn oil is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, flavonoids, also known as vitamin P, polyphenols and polysaccharides.
Sea buckthorn seed oil and sea buckthorn fruit oil both have different compositions, appearances and benefits. The oil from the berries is a thick, deep red-orange liquid with a tart taste and a characteristic scent. It has the highest concentration, at 30-35% by weight, of palmitoleic (omega-7) acid, of all vegetable oils. While both oils contain a wide range of essential unsaturated fatty acids (UFAs), the concentration of this fatty acid is much lower in the seed oil. Palmitoleic acid is highly valued in cosmetics for its anti-inflammatory properties and its ability to protect cells against oxidative stress. It also helps with skin dryness, atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, the maintenance of skin elasticity, and in the improvement of skin wrinkles.
As mentioned previously, both sea buckthorn fruit and seed oils are rich in unsaturated fatty acids. However, the seed oil is richer in polyunsaturated fatty acids, while the oil of the fruit is richer in monounsaturated fatty acids. Unsaturated fatty acids work synergistically to improve blood circulation in the skin, thereby resulting in the more efficient removal of excess toxins and an increased availability of nutrients and oxygen for the skin. In the deeper layers of the skin, unsaturated fatty acids are converted to prostaglandins, a group of lipids that, among other things, are involved in dealing with the body’s physiological response to injury.
Fatty acids are also constituents of the skin barrier where they help the skin retain water so it stays supple and also help prevent dryness and attenuate the skin’s ageing process. They also play a role in the regulation of sebaceous gland function and can result in the improvement of conditions like acne. Sea buckthorn oil also contains saturated fatty acids that form a protective barrier/occlusive film on the skin thereby reducing transepidermal water loss and keeping the skin from becoming dehydrated. They also help stabilise the oil and increase its resistance to rancidity and oxidation.
Sea buckthorn berries, and by extension the oil obtained from them, are also an exceptionally rich source of vitamins, and around 14 have been identified in the berries including vitamins A, C, D, E, F, K, P, and B complex. Sea buckthorn berries have about 14 times more vitamin C than oranges. They also contain several other beneficial compounds such as amino acids, minerals, and phenolic acids, that help limit the formation of free radicals, protect cells against their harmful effects and also help counteract the effects of UV damage on the skin.
Both sea buckthorn seed oil, and sea buckthorn berry oil, are rich sources of vitamin E and phytosterols. Phytosterols are cholesterol-like molecules that help protect against the reduction in collagen synthesis that results after UV exposure and may even stimulate the synthesis of collagen. Unlike sea buckthorn seed oil, sea buckthorn fruit oil is also rich in carotenoids. Carotenoids are red, orange and yellow organic pigments produced by several plants and other living species and are responsible for giving sea buckthorn its characteristic orange colour. Carotenoids benefit the skin by acting as antioxidants and some also have the ability to be converted into retinol on the skin, which belongs to a vitamin A-based class of drugs called retinoids. Retinoids are by far the most used and most studied anti-ageing compounds and have a solid track record to back up their effectiveness.
Components in sea buckthorn oil are able to reach varying levels of the epidermis due to the presence of fatty acids with properties that are able to enhance transdermal delivery. Sea buckthorn oil contains several, powerful antioxidant compounds that are able to fight off free radicals. It is also able to regulate the activity of enzymes within the skin that fight off free radicals and help the skin hold on to moisture. In addition, it is also able to relieve skin dryness and even potentially reverse skin damage caused by an exposure to UV radiation due to its high concentration of carotenoids and tocopherols. These properties make sea buckthorn oil exceptionally beneficial as an ingredient for the prevention of skin ageing and in the treatment of dry skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, or dermatitis.
Our sea buckthorn oil is a blend of both the fruit and the seed oil that work synergistically to amplify benefits to the skin. The berries are a rich source of vitamins C, A, in the form of alpha- and beta-carotene and a mixture of other carotenoids, E and P, alongside the AHAs: malic acid and citric acid.
Summarising the Benefits of Sea Buckthorn Oil
In comparison to other plant oils, sea buckthorn oil has a unique makeup of carotenoids, fatty acids, and complex lipids. It contains omega-7, or palmitoleic acid, which is a rare find in plant oils but is a component of skin lipids that stimulates the production of collagen, wound healing and skin regeneration, properties that make the oil especially beneficial for the treatment of scars. These benefits of sea buckthorn oil have also been connected to its omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content, alongside its content of other nutrients, the likes of carotenoids and tocopherols, that stimulate the production of dermal fibroblasts and collagen, along with the expression of enzymes, known as metalloproteinases, that induce the repair of tissue, and angiogenesis, i.e., the production of new blood vessels.
The fatty acids in sea buckthorn oil also help improve the skin’s hydration levels by helping reduce transepidermal water loss through the skin. They are able to do this in two ways: first, by forming an occlusive layer on top of the skin and second, by helping to stimulate the production of skin barrier lipids and proteins.
A good addition to any skin care routine, the antioxidant and nutritional profile of sea buckthorn oil make it particularly beneficial for ageing skin, acne, acne scars and dry skin conditions such as eczema, or dermatitis.
Extracting Sea Buckthorn Oil
Sea buckthorn has been used historically in traditional medicine for centuries. However, harvesting it is not easy. The berries tend to be found in mountainous areas and are densely surrounded with thorns. To pick the berries off the shrub therefore, it is necessary to remove the entire branch. This means that sea buckthorn berries can only be harvested once every two years, and on top of it, don’t yield a lot of oil either, which makes the oil an expensive one to extract.
Several different oil extraction methods exist. The methods used to extract and process the oil are important determinants of the quality of an oil. Cold-pressing is the preferred method of extraction as it doesn’t use heat or toxic chemicals and is as a result, best able to preserve the beneficial compounds in an oil while at the same time limiting irritating by-products.
Our sea buckthorn oil is a blend of both the fruit and the seed oil. It is cold pressed from hand picked, high quality berries and is stored in inert, UV-protective packaging from the time that it is extracted, to the time that it reaches the end customer. This is essential as UV radiation in sunlight is known to induce oxidation and rancidity in oils. Our sea buckthorn oil is also completely unrefined. This means that it is not mixed with other oils of chemicals that result in a deterioration in the quality and purity of the end product so you receive oil of the highest purity and potency to incorporate into your skin care regimen.
Incorporating Sea Buckthorn Oil Into Your Skin Care Routine
Incorporating our sea buckthorn oil into your skin care routine is not complicated. It’s one of my favourite oils to use on all skin types just because of the sheer strength of the nutritional punch that it packs. Sea buckthorn oil has something to offer for everyone but, as previously mentioned, is particularly beneficial for ageing skin, and skin prone to acne and acne scars, dryness and eczema, or dermatitis. However, if you’re prone to fungal acne, it’s not the best option for you, and you’d be better off using our fungal acne-safe MCT Oil instead. Sea buckthorn oil can be used alone, or mixed into another moisturiser or oil. It is best used at night because of the strong yellow colour that it has because of its high carotenoid content.