Sunday, February 19, 2012

Question: How many oils is too many oils?

Darina e-mailed me to ask: My question is how many oils is too many?  What I mean is you are creating a formulation perhaps a lotion or a cream does there come a point where adding another base oil is just over the top and not beneficial. I'm experimenting with a cleanser at the moment. The main ingredient will be olive oil, but I'll have castor for its cleansing properties, I also want rosehip for its benefits, I'd love some Jojoba and I'd love some wheatgerm in there too but now I'm thinking is that just too many! They all have their own little uses and benefits and I want them in there for those reasons but maybe it's just counter productive?

Great question! I always ask myself this - what is my end goal? What product am I making? What properties or features do I want in this product? What properties do you want in your oils or emollients? Let's take a look at the oils you mention...

Olive oil: Lots of oleic acid, which can mimic human sebum, but it can make P. acnes bacterium worse. Moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, regenerating, and softening. Should be well absorbed by our skin. Tons of tocopherols and squalane. Shelf life of about a year. A greasy feeling oil. 

Castor oil: Good for cleansing, but doesn't really bring much to the mix by way of tocopherols, phytosterols, polyphenols, or beneficial fatty acids. Shelf life of at least a year. A dryish feeling, thick oil. 

Rosehip oil: Contains great anti-oxidants and free radical scavengers, oleic acid for great moisturizing and softening, linoleic and linolenic acids to help with skin barrier repair and anti-inflammatory properties, something that offers the possibility of some reduction of fine lines and signs of photo-aging, and scar reduction, and Vitamin C. It's been known to make acne worse. Shelf life of six months or so. A dry feeling oil. You want to use this at 6% or more to get the possible reduction of fine lines property. 

Wheat germ oil: Very high in linoleic acid and Vitamin E. It has tons of phytosterols, which help our skin barrier mechanisms recover by penetrating into skin, reducing transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and they can help with sun damaged or harmed by the elements, as well as reducing inflammation and itching. The polyphenols are amazing - ferulic acid is a very effective anti-oxidant - more powerful than Vitamin E - that can prevent skin aging, reduce age spots, helps repair light and radiation induced damage. It penetrates skin to soften and moisturize, soothes wind chapped and sun burned skin, and reduces itching and inflammation. It's also filled with carotenoids like xanthophyll and beta carotene, both of which are precursors to Vitamin A. And the squalene! Wheat germ contains about 0.1% to 0.7% squalene, which is soaked quickly into our skin to soften and moisturize. It has a shelf life of about 6 months. It feels light but greasy. 

Jojoba oil: Contains linoleic acid. It sinks into our skin through the hair follicles - not blocking the follicles, though! - and it mixes with our sebum to create a thin, non-occlusive layer of jojoba oil and sebum. It can help loosen oils, which can be washed away. It doesn't have a ton of Vitamin E, but it has some good phytosterols and polyphenols. It is considered a liquid wax, and has a shelf life of at least 2 years! 

Check the properties of each oil. Then check how much you have to use of each oil. And check the shelf life. Do any of the oils overlap? For instance, if you want the oleic acid of olive oil, could you leave it out in place of more rosehip oil? If you want the Vitamin E of wheat germ oil, but nothing else, could you just add something like a Vitamin E capsule to the mix? Do you really want the slightly occlusive nature of the jojoba oil? Do any of these oils have suggested usages rates - don't go over, don't go under, that kind of thing - that you need to consider? 

Let's say we can only use three oils, what could we choose? Again, what's your end goal?

If I were making a cleaning product for my skin - oily, acne prone, rosacea prone - I would leave out the rosehip and olive oil because I don't want my break outs to get worse. So I'd be using jojoba, castor, and wheat germ oil for my skin. If you were to make something for someone with really dry skin, you might want to choose those oils with higher levels of linoleic acid (to help with barrier damage repair), oleic acid (to help with softening and moisturizing), and high levels of Vitamin E, so you might choose olive oil, wheat germ oil, and castor oil (if you want the cleansing properties).

If I were to make a facial moisturizer, I'd want to leave out the heavier ingredients, so I'd go with the rosehip, olive oil, and wheat germ oils for a dry skin moisturizer. If you like heavier ingredients and you want more occlusion, you might want the jojoba oil along with the rosehip and olive oil.

If I want something with really great label appeal, I'd definitely go for jojoba, wheat germ, and rosehip.

If you were making a body lotion, I'd go for jojoba, olive, and wheat germ because I want the slightly occlusive nature of jojoba with the skin repairing qualities of wheat germ.

And if you were worried about how much something like this might cost, you'd want to go with olive and castor oil. 

Yeah, I know, I haven't made this easier...but it does go to the point that knowing your ingredients and having a clear end goal makes it easier to make these decisions!

So how many oils is too many oils? I really can't answer that question because it's about what you want in a product. I tend to choose two or three oils per product and use them at 10% or more because that seems to be the level that works well for me.

You can use 2% of this, and 3% of that, until you get 8 different oils in your product, but something feels really pointless about that. I feel it's better to choose two or three oils that do what you want and use those - or choose one or two oils that do what we want. You can do the titch of this and titch of that thing, but I don't think you're getting much out of an exotic oil like evening primrose or rose hip or sea buckthorn oil by using it at 2% - better to go with 5% or 10% to really get some value out of it! (This is my opinion. Your opinion may differ. Neither of us are right or wrong - we're just disagreeing!)

To summarize: I think you can have too many oils in a product. (Wow, that took a while to answer, eh?)

Related posts:
Oils & emollients section
Can you substitute one oil for another in a recipe?


p said...

I've stuck by your 10% rule of thumb, Susan. Which means that if I'm making an oil serum, I can use a whole lot of different oils (as many as 10!) and not feel too silly! In practice I don't end up using more than 4 or 5, each at 10+%. Seems to work well for me!

Ben said...

I'm curious about your use of the word "occlusive" to describe jojoba. If occlusive means acting as a barrier or blocking passage, yet you said that jojoba does not block your pores...then are we talking about acting as a barrier between your skin and the outside elements? Or is it (or can it?) act as a barrier to prevent the other oils in our product from absorbing into our skin?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p! I think the 10% rule of thumb works well. It's just a guideline, but it seems to keep me from using 25 oils in one lotion!

Hi Ben. Here's the definition of occlusive with regards to the bath & body products...

What the heck is occlusion? This is the way we prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL) from our skin. (From Wikipedia: TEWL is defined as the measurement of the quantity of water that passes from inside a body through the epidermal layer - skin - to the surrounding atmosphere via diffusion and evaporation processes.) We want to trap in that water and prevent it from evaporating from our skin, and protect our skin from further damage while it repairs itself from physical assaults of the day.

And here's a post on transepidermal water loss or TEWL.

Oils aren't absorbed by our skin - for the most part, I'm sure there's some evidence somewhere for something I haven't heard of yet - so we aren't worried about preventing that. The fatty acid molecules are simply too large to penetrate our skin, that's why jojoba is unique!

Ben said...

Thanks Susan!

Also just a quick question about shelf-lives: when you say a product, say rice bran oil, has a shelf-life of up to 1 year, this means just sitting on our shelves, right? long a life does it have once we put it in our products with .5% liquid germall plus? If I put my rice bran in 11 months after buying it...what's the life expectancy of my product all else equal?

Piep said...

I love, love, love the details and all the information you provide in this post but I think your pro-knowledge has got the better of you in answering this question. Really, you can rename this post "how many details equals too many oils!"

The experiment in question is a cleansing product. By definition, a product like that has only one purpose: to cleanse. All the other ingredients are wasted the moment you take the second wipe to clean off all the soaked goo and dirt. You will wipe off most of your lovely ingredients as well.

A cleanser is to cleanse, so saying that castor oil doesn't bring much to the table besides it's cleansing properties seems to be overlooking the fact that this is exactly what we're looking for for this product.
It doesn't matter how many benefits all the other ingredients bring to the table: they get wiped of (or seriously diluted).

Better put the lovely ingredients in the next products: a great toner to prepare your skin for what you saved for last: a wonderful leave on product (the best is saved for last).

I do hope I haven't offended you on my very first comment, but I think your knowledge and drive to share all this obscured the way you read the original question.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Piep. Thanks for your comments. I don't offend easily, so say what you like! I understand the original question, but why answer one person's questions when I can address a question I've seen more than a few times? If I wanted just to answer the original question about oil cleaning, I would have responded in an e-mail, and be done with it. Instead, I saw a teachable moment and took it.

I'm sorry that you don't like the way I write or respond to questions.

Hissy Fit said...

Dearest Susan, I truly admire and appreciate your tenacity and patience. "opportunity to teach!" kinda the point of the blog. Plus, when lingo like "TMI" comes around, my brain stutters. How can there ever be Too Much Information?! ...especially in an arena where the purpose is to share and educate