Essentialist tapped Dr. Rashmi Sharma, PhD in Medicinal Chemistry and Expert in Natural Cosmetic Formulations, to explain the role and benefits of natural oils in maintaining skin health. It's a short read with a powerful message - natural oils work. Read on to find out how.
Well hydrated and properly moisturized skin is essential not only for a youthful look but also to fight environmental irritants like microorganisms, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, air pollution, harsh climate changes and allergens. When in good health, SKIN (stratum corneum to be more specific), works as a wonderful interface between the body and the external environment .
Oils extracted from seeds, flowers, barks, and plants in general have been used as an effective emollient since ancient times. Various traditional therapies have utilized these naturally sourced oils to hydrate the skin, neutralize free radicals, heal acne blemishes, reduce scars, balance sebum levels, repair the skin barrier as well as improve skin elasticity  
In nature a large variety of botanical oils, with varying compositions are present, however, main components of these oils include triglycerides, free fatty acids, tocopherols, sterols, stanols, phospholipids, waxes, squalene, phenolic compounds and vitamins. Based on the composition, topical application of different oils and/or their combinations in specific ratio, can be used to achieve healthy skin and fight multiple skin ailments such as atopic dermatitis, effects of aging, and even severe diseases like skin cancer. They can also be used to promote skin barrier function and wound healing .
Changes in skin morphology like thinning, loss of elasticity, roughness, wrinkling, increased dryness, altered pigmentation, and impairment of the skin barrier are some of the key indications representing essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD) and environmentally influenced skin aging which needs to be addressed continually . As a first line of defense, botanical oils act as a protective barrier for the skin, allowing it to retain moisture, resulting in decreased TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) values . Their topical application decreases the loss of water from the stratum corneum and regulates crucial biological phenomenon such as keratinocyte growth (skin cells in outer layer) to maintain soft and supple skin. Unregulated growth of these cells can lead to skin thickening and other issues like psoriasis and inflammation .
Many key components of botanical oils like essential fatty acids (EFAs,) are crucial to skin function and can have profound effects on the fatty acid composition of the skin. Monosaturated Free Fatty Acids (MUFAs) present in botanical oils for example, act as permeability enhancers so the nourishing and functional compounds can work effectively. Phospholipids, another beneficial component from botanical oils, binds with other lipid layers of the stratum corneum and also function as a permeability enhancer to ensure uptake of nourishment by the skin. Phospholipids also act as an anti-inflammatory agent by regulating ω-hydroxy ceramides in skin .
Other components like polyphenols and tocopherols act as free‐radical scavengers and antioxidants which helps to modulate physiological processes like skin barrier homeostasis, inflammation, and wound healing in skin. Presence of other active compounds like carotenoids, triterpenes and flavonoids also impart antioxidant activity to oils  .
Modern science has greatly increased our capability to decipher the knowledge present in ancient therapies and effectively use natural formulations for holistic skin care. Some of the most potent ingredients are found simply in nature which contemporary research have allowed us to isolate and integrate. Healthy youthful skin can be achieved and maintained through the use of holistic and naturally derived skin care formulas.
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