Friday, November 27, 2009

Facial serum - for oily, break out prone skin

What exactly is a facial serum? The definition I'm going with today is anhydrous product made up of lighter oils intended to hold active ingredients against the skin for better penetration. It is considered a treatment rather than a moisturizer - although I'd never say any product is intended to treat a condition! (I think this definition is from a facial serum class from Southern Soapers...)

You'll want to pick a carrier oil that suits your skin type as the base of your serum. Then you'll add oils and oil soluble ingredients that do what you want them to do.

Consider your skin type. I have oily skin with a tendency to break out and a lot of redness. My chief concerns are always not breaking out, having soft skin, keeping the barrier function of my skin at maximum awesomeness, and reducing redness. I'm not really working on an anti-aging kind of product - I'm going age anyway! - so my focus is on my skin that's prone to breakouts!

I'm going to consider using a carrier oil like squalane as my skin will soak it up quickly. I had been considering using hazelnut oil - it's light and dry feeling - but sesame oil has low comedogenicity and is well balanced between the linoleic and oleic acids. It offers anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, and studies are showing great promise with acne prone skin. It may also help with sebum regulation, and I need to be less oily, if possible! It is a medium weight oil, so balancing it with squalane is a good idea. So I have my two carrier oils - squalane and sesame oil.

As a quick note - apparently a polyphenol called sesamol has been found in sesame oil at 0.4 to 1.1%. It is a very effective anti-oxidant with capabilities on par with BHT (a food preservative) as anti-oxidant! Wow!

Another quick note: Jojoba is also a great oil for people worried about comedogenicity - it is considered non-comedogenic!

As for the redness in my skin and barrier function, this is where the fancier, more expensive oils make an appearance.

Calendula oil contains a ton of Vitamin E - good for skin softening - and is an anti-inflammatory. Camellia oil offers anti-inflammatory properties with a drier feel. Pomegranate oil is anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and has some possible anti-aging features. The phytosterols in this oil reduce redness and inflammation very well, so this looks like a must for my skin!

Evening primrose and borage oil offer GLA, which is great for barrier repair and moisture retention. Although evening primrose would feel drier on my skin, it has a high comedogenicity (3 out of 4), so I'm going with borage oil. And 20% borage oil is showing promise in combatting redness!

So what do I have so far? I have my carrier oils - squalane and sesame oils - and my exotic oils. Are there any oil soluble ingredients I want to add? At the moment, I can't think of anything extra, so let's get to the recipe!

As a note, if you're not sure what will make you break out, try using an oil neat in a small patch on your skin - somewhere you're likely to break out - for at least a week, as it will take this long for an actual break out to happen. This way you'll know what makes you break out without adding other confounding factors.

25% squalane
25% sesame oil
20% borage oil
10% calendula oil
20% pomegranate oil

Mix together. Use a few drops on your face at a time.

To summarize - in making a serum...
1. Consider your skin type. What problems do you have?
2. Consider your carrier oil. Consider the weight, the comedogenicity, the
3. Consider your exotic oils. What properties do you seek?

Join me tomorrow for a facial serum recipe suitable for dry skin!


melissa shoop said...

jojoba is a 2 on the comedogenic scale.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Melissa. There are a lot of debates about what is what on the comedogenic scale - check out this post for more information - so it's hard to say that jojoba oil is mildly comedogenic for all skin types. The comedogenicity will depend upon the skin type of the user. Some people can handle shea butter slathered neat on their skin, while others can't stand any oils due to break outs.

For instance, this site ( says it is non-comedogenic, this site (sage advice) says it's 0 to 2, while this site says it is a 1.

There's just no consensus on what is comedogenic and what isn't, so just go by what your skin can handle. Yeah, it takes time to learn what your skin likes and hates, but it is worth your time.