Contrary to what we're told by cosmetics companies and doctors, there are much deeper rooted causes to acne.
Simply treating the skin with synthetic chemicals and prescription drugs may help some, but for the majority of people with acne-prone skin, the answer lies within their bodies.
What the deficiency is
Our skin is primarily made up of lipids such as essential fatty acids, ceramides, and cholesterol, and plays a crucial role in our skin's barrier function.
It has been shown in studies that those with acne have abnormally low levels of linoleic fatty acid in their skin,
which is an omega-6 essential fatty acid.
"When linoleic acid is not present or is present at much-reduced levels, sebum is produced
with oleic acid, which is denser, more likely to cause follicular blockage, and is irritating to the skin".
Oleic fatty acid or omega-9 fatty acid, is problematic for those that have acne or are prone to breakouts, and will make the severity of these conditions worse. It tends to make the skin greasier, clog pores, and it has fewer anti-inflammatory and protective properties.
On top of that, GLA (gamma-linolenic acid, or omega-6) and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid, or omega-3) have anti-inflammatory properties and may help reduce acne symptoms - Source
These deficiencies can be corrected internally and topically
Dietary supplementation of GLA and omega-3 fatty acids can significantly decrease
inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne lesions.
An easy way to treat acne is through topical application of linoleic acid. This study
showed a 25% reduction in the size of microcomedones over a one month period.
How to topically treat a fatty acid deficiency
So, then what is the answer to balancing out acne-prone skin? They're Carrier oils.
They're oils that can be used on the skin, are either edible or inedible, and come from a variety of sources such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Carrier oils are mainly made up of fatty acids, with linoleic and oleic usually being the most abundant.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but this is where you'll get the healthiest dose of linoleic acid your skin needs.
Oils high in linoleic and low in oleic acids are considered "drying" oils, meaning they absorb quickly into the skin, and are beneficial for all skin types - including oily, and of course acne.
Oils high in oleic and low in linoleic acids are your olive and avocado oils. They're heavier than high linoleic oils, and take longer to absorb. They can cause breakouts and may lead to dry skin with extended use.
Carrier oils for acne-prone skin
It can be hard to distinguish which oils are higher in linoleic than oleic acid. I've made a list of oils below that contain high amounts of linoleic acid with low amounts of oleic acid, with their corresponding percentages.
You may want to experiment with mixing different oils together to see what works best for your skin, and if you want the added benefits of omega-3 and GLA.
Oils high in linoleic and low in oleic fatty acids
Some of the oils may contain GLA, and/or omega-3.
Evening primrose oil - 72.6% linoleic: 8.4% oleic: 9.1% GLA
(high linoleic variety) - 68 - 85% linoleic: 8 - 30% oleic
- 52.97% linoleic: 22.72% oleic: 6.95% omega-3
Oils slightly higher in linoleic than oleic fatty acids
P. acnes is a bacteria that has been linked to acne. Tea tree essential oil is a strong antibacterial, and a few drops can be added to carrier oils for its added benefits.
It's important to buy certified organic oils that have been cold-pressed (extracted using a low heat) from reliable sources. Non-organic oils are usually refined, contain pesticides
and have a completely different fatty acid and nutrient profile than organic varieties. In fact, some non-organic oils on the market have even been found to contain harmful chemicals
I buy almost all of my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs
. Most of their products are certified organic, and they offer the some of highest quality and cost-effective ingredients I have found so far.
All of the percentages of fatty acids above are provided by Mountain Rose Herbs and are unique to their own products.
I would love to know if you've used any oils for reducing acne, breakouts, or oiliness, and how it worked out for you!