Facial Oils Edit: Non-Toxic Skincare

I have previously written a post about my switch to non-toxic skincare products. In that post, I have detailed why I decided to discard my chemical-ridden skincare items. I also discussed how to read the ingredient labels of your products and identify the most common and harmful chemicals. I highly recommend that you read the original post if you are interested in knowing about non-toxic skincare. 

So, facial oils, han! Everyone and their mothers are talking about facial oils. Growing up in a very desi, Pakistani home, I remember my grandmother using pure mustard, olive, and coconut oils to moisturize her body. I saw a sharp contrast during my teen years, as all my friends wanted oil-free skincare to avoid breakouts. Neutrogena and Clean & Clear were all the rage. Now in my twenties, I see facials oils becoming increasingly popular worldwide, especially in Europe and North America where I have lived my adult life.

My first foray into facial oils was in 2014 with the Josie Maran 100% Argan Oil I purchased at Sephora. It cured my dry, flaky skin in the harsh New England winter. So after discarding my old skincare products in February this year, I naturally turned to using facial oils in light of good past experience.

I could not find the argan oil I had previously used in Amsterdam, therefore I turned to using coconut oil as a make-up remover and sometimes moisturizer even. I assumed that since coconut oil is natural–and so hyped on social media–it should be good for my skin. Truth: no. It caused clogged pores, little white bumps under the forehead skin, and small black and white heads around my nose. I knew coconut oil was the culprit because I was not using anything else on my face at the time.

Why coconut oil, the miraculous superfood of our age, was congesting my skin when argan oil did not? I did my research. Turns out coconut oil is not as miraculous as we have made it out to be–not for the gut, not for the skin, not for the heart, and surprisingly not for hair even. For the sake of this post, we will only focus on the topical uses of coconut oil, as that is what I focused most of my research on. 

92 percent of coconut oil is saturated fat. While that may be good for some skin types, oily and breakout-prone skin types do not benefit from it. Craig Austin, MD, explains why:

“There are a few issues with putting it on your face as it’s considered a comedogenic product. When you use coconut oil, you’re applying an oil to your skin in combination with bacteria and dead skin cells—the oil essentially aids in ‘clogging’ the pore. Coconut oil is one of the thicker oils, and the thicker the oil, the harder it is to get adequately absorbed by your skin, so it essentially sits on top of the dermis and forms a film over the pore. Bacteria and dead skin cells will then fester under the skin and cause your body to produce excess sebum, which can result in acne.”

Austin refers to coconut oil as a comedogenic product. What does that mean? Comedogenic means the tendency to cause blackheads by blocking pores. Trends would have us believe otherwise, but coconut oil is consistently rated 4 out of 5 (5 being severely comedogenic) on the comedogenic index. Argan oil, however, has a comedogenic rating of 0, so that explains why when I used it long ago in winter, acne did not flare up. There are studies that challenge the comedogenic ratings being widely used by researchers and scientists, but they appear pre-mature and scarce.

Besides the comedogenic tendency, there are other factors to consider before slapping an oil on our faces. Lily Talakoub, MD and Naissan Wesley, MD write for The Dermatology News:

The chemical constituents of plant essential oils differ among species. Factors influencing these constituents include geographical location, environment, and stage of maturity of the plant. Furthermore, the stereochemical properties of essential oils can vary and depend on the method of extraction. There are over fifty different types of fatty acids in oils, and each oil has its own unique composition.

Choosing the right oil, however, is not easy. Most consumers shy away from pure oils because they fear breakouts or increased “oiliness” of their skin. Understanding the properties of the oils can help determine which oils will benefit specific skin types. Argan oil and sunflower oil, for example, are rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E, which hydrate the skin and have antiaging properties. Tea tree oil has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities which are great for acne-prone skin.

In addition, be wary of essentials oils that can irritate facial skin in some people. I had used the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate which is made up of many different oils, including essentials oils. It really plumped up my skin, but I must admit I occasionally got a rash from it. I did not understand why then, but after my research on oils and evaluating the ingredients of the concentrate, I conclude that it was due to the essential oil irritants in the product that caused me the occasional itch and rash.

At this point, we can say there is no one magic oil for all. How our skin reacts to an oil depends on many factors, including the oil’s composition, our genetics, and lifestyle. Prior to using an oil, check its comedogenic rating here–that can be your starting point for research. Mostly, it is learning through trial and error. That said, I will share the two oils that have worked for me. For reference, I have dry skin in the winter and combination during summer, and argan and rosehip seed oils have been tremendous to my skin.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil

Between 2014 – 2016, I used the Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil. It served as a great moisturizer day and night in the harsh New England winters. The oil is lightweight and absorbs quickly. I experienced no break outs or black heads. At the time of using Argan oil, I did not use any other moisturizers. I would recommend this oil for people that have dry skin. Whether or not it applies well under face make-up, I do not know because I did not wear any.

Buy in EU, UK and US.


Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil

This is my current favorite face oil. With a comedogenic rating of 1, I have not found rosehip seed oil to block my pores. It has a nice orange color and light consistency. There is a strong smell, which does not bother me and disappears rather quickly.

I do not use this oil everyday, but I use two to three drops whenever I use a clay mask. It instantly restores the moisture in my skin and makes it glow slightly. When my skin is going through a rough, dry patch, I use rosehip seed oil on top of my regular moisturizer and I find my skin finds its moisture balance overnight. I have also traveled with this oil and used it as a moisturizer day and night–wears beautifully under concealer.

There are claims that rosehip seed oil reduces hyper-pigmentation, wrinkles, and more. I could not find any scientific evidence for these declarations. My hyper-pigmentation is lighter than it was when I switched to a natural skincare regimen, but that could be attributed to the general cell turnover and not necessarily a particular product that I started using. I guess I will never know, and that is okay! 🙂

Buy in EU, UK, and US.

I hope this post was informative, especially for those of you that sent me messages about facial oils. It has taken me a long time to write because of the research that has gone into the post, so thank you for sticking around. I will also be posting about non-toxic skincare beyond oils, sun-care, and body-care in the upcoming posts, so stay tuned!

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave me a comment or send an email. If you know something that I have not mentioned in this post, please do share your knowledge. 🙂


3 thoughts on “Facial Oils Edit: Non-Toxic Skincare

  1. I like how you’ve added so much research and background to your post, it all makes sense and I’ve actually noticed that coconut oil clogged my pores and I started getting tiny bumps under my skin.


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