Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Body Series - Oils - Part 1: Almond, Coconut, & Avocado

Have you ever noticed all those bizarre-sounding ingredients in your face and body lotions? How about the fact that there's so many ingredients in these products and you don't understand half of them? Have you ever found yourself wondering about your skin care company's "green" policies, kindness policies, and overall corporate/ company policies?

Well, these are the kinds of questions I have been asking myself for years about the products I used and I was often disappointed when I found the answers. So, after much personal research, I started using pure oils (vegetable, nut, and/or seed oils) to moisturize and care for my skin after hearing about the possibility online and in various books. The great part about this is that vegetable, nut, and seed oils contain only one ingredient (hooray!) and can easily be purchased, for the most part, from a source that is green/ globally responsible/ kind to animals/ kind to other people (hooray hooray!). The other really great part is that, compared to my incredibly expensive former anti-aging regimen, using oils for skin care is a really frugal choice. Your pocketbook will thank you!

So, since most of you probably don't have the time or money or patience to research and try every oil out there, I thought it might be helpful to try to experiment a little on my own and record my results. First up, Almond Oil and Coconut Oil because they are relatively inexpensive and fairly easy to obtain and also fairly commonly known. I also included Avocado Oil this week because I've been wanting to try this oil ever since I read it helps reduce age spots, heal sun damage, and scars and may increase collagen in skin. WOW. Keep in mind, this is a casual experiment and based on my experiences with these oils over the course of several weeks. But, I think you'll find the results useful.

The Great "Oil" Experiment - Part 1 -
Sweet Almond Oil, Coconut Oil, and Avocado Oil

BOTH ALMOND OILS - On the left - organic; on the right - non-organic



Method of Use:
I applied each oil as a morning moisturizer after shower to my face and body and then tracked the "open-air" absorption as well several other standard characteristics and overall results, which I've included here. For Nut Allergy information related to coconut oil, please review this information. Please note, the Mountain Rose Herb (MRH) website for ordering Avocado Oil indicates that it is a dark green. As you can see in the picture above, the oil I used was definitely not. I will likely purchase again through MRH and certainly provide an update if I notice any differences.

Sweet Almond Oil
The almond tree originated in the Middle East and, in the Old Testament, the almond was a symbol of watchfulness and promise due to its early flowering. In India, consumption of almonds is believed to be good for the brain, while the Chinese consider it a symbol of enduring sadness and female beauty.
Sweet Almond Oil is good for all skin types but should not be used by those with nut allergies. Almond Oil is high in fatty acids, particularly Oleic Acid (Omega 9) and Linoleic Acid (Omega 6). It can benefit hair, skin, and supports internal organs, nerves and brain tissues. It assists in digestion by aiding in the assimilation of nutrients. Recently, it has been used as a pain killer, similar to aspirin.
It is a wonderful massage oil and most frequently used to soften, soothe, and recondition skin.

Coconut Oil
Throughout the tropical world, coconut oil has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. Coconut oil will melt at 76 degrees and turn to liquid.
Coconut oil has nearly unlimited benefits, which can be attributed to the presence of the following fatty acids: lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid. It is an antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, and antibacterial.  
It can be used for hair care, skin care, and is considered to be an effective tool (as part of a healthy diet) in preventing heart disease, reducing weight, aiding in digestion, and strengthening the immune system. It is also considered useful to assist in healing and infections.   

Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is a rich and extremely penetrating oil abundant in Vitamins A, B1, B2, D, and E, lecithin, and potassium, as well as proteins, beta-carotene, and more than 20% essential fatty acids. It is also high in Sterolins, which are reputed to reduce age spots, help heal sun damage, and scars. It is considered to be an extremely effective moisturizing and nourishing oil that assists in the rejuvenation and regeneration of the skin.
One study found that avocado oil significantly increases the amount of collagen in the skin. Furthermore, it is easily absorbed into deep tissue and helps to relieve the dryness and itching of psoriasis and eczema. This oil is highly recommended to those with sensitive skin, problem skin, and other irritations.
RESULTS ------
Keep in mind that you don't want to put something on your body that you wouldn't put in your body. Ensure that is a consideration when deciding which oil to use (and for how long you use it) on your skin.

Almond Oil:
This oil felt extremely moisturizing to my skin, but due to the length of time in which it takes to absorb, I found it to be highly impractical for any regular use as a daily moisturizer for exposed skin. It might be ok for application to areas that would be covered (for example, underneath clothes), but direct contact with light colored clothing will result in a slight, but noticeable, staining. It seemed like the organic version had a stronger smell, but both absorbed similarly.

I would recommend this for occasional use, massage, blends, and/ or overnight/ covered use. I liked this oil for its moisturizing qualities but unfortunately absorption was just too slow for regular, daytime use.

Coconut Oil:
I really wanted coconut oil to be my daily oil. Not only does it smell fantastic, but it's one of the better absorbers, easy to find/ purchase, and relatively inexpensive. Also, it has some extremely awesome qualities and everything I read about this oil seemed to reinforce the idea that it would be the one for me. ***Coconut Oil had so many great qualities I could not possibly come close to noting them all here. Please read here and here for additional information.

Unfortunately, however, it did not work well for me in the long run. As I continued to use the oil over the course of a couple of weeks, by the end of each day my skin would be very itchy and dry. For me, this oil did not provide enough moisturizing power. However, I would recommend that you give this oil a try to see how it works for you.

Furthermore, I do use this oil daily for other uses, such as in skin care blends, cooking, and hair care. It is a wonderful conditioner for hair -- I will massage coconut oil into my hair along with essential oils (such as rosemary) and allow to sit for an hour or two, then shower as usual (beware: if you are no-poo you may have trouble washing this out with water and/ or conditioner only). Overall,  I use coconut oil fairly regularly in my daily routine (like in my homemade toothpaste, as a homemade conditioner, or for cooking), but not as a stand-alone skin moisturizer.

One final comment regarding coconut and nut allergies... Coconut was recently [re]classified as a tree nut by the FDA; however, coconut is actually a member of the palm family, which is not related to nuts or peanuts. That being said, one could still actually be allergic to coconuts and I would advise you to do your own research if you have a concern in this regard.

Avocado Oil:
I was very excited to try this oil and it did much better than I expected. Absorption was great, better than coconut oil even, and I felt like this oil moisturized much better as well. And, on top of everything, it was really pretty inexpensive to purchase.

One downside to the oil is that the version available on Mountain Rose Herbs was reported to have a "relatively unstable nature" and should be used as soon as you receive it; however, I did not find this disclaimer on other sources, which indicated standard 1-2 yr shelf lives. I have had my oil for a few months and it still seems just fine, although it is not the MRH version.

Overall, I loved this oil and will continue to use it as one of my regulars; however, probably not as my standard daily moisturizer due to the shelf life issue, but probably definitely on the backs of my hands and under my eyes daily to fight collagen loss there.

The chart below summarizes various characteristics of the oils used.

So there you go, week 1 of the Great Oil Experiment and very interesting results overall... Stay tuned for the next set of oils in Part 2..... Meadowfoam, Jojoba, and Baobab, no, no... Tamanu, Wheat Germ, and Argan... No, wait, um... Kukui Nut and Hemp... no.......... hm.... ahhhh, the suspense...

Update: Check out Part 2 here and Part 3 here!

2. The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

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  1. This is great detailed information! I will be sure to share it with my readers!

    I would love it if on Monday you would link this up on my Natural Living Monday blog hop! I will try to remember to remind you too. I know my readers would love this. Thanks!

  2. I definitely will! Thanks for the comment. :)

  3. I still love these :) Thanks for sharing! Cant wait to see what you have to share this week!

    1. Thank you! I got held up on part 2 of this series becuase of the hemp oil so it will not be out until next week. I did leave a pretty good recipe though on your blog hop.... :)

  4. Thanks for the information! I've been using coconut oil as a moisturizer now and it's true I have to put it on in the morning and evening, but as I have severely dry skin, I don't mind. It absorbs pretty fast, is all natural and hasn't caused my face or skin to break out. I will check out some of your other oils you recommend. The key for me is to find an oil that isn't very expensive and that I have to send away for. So far coconut fits the bill but I may get some other oils for other skin care products. :)

    1. That is one of the best things about coconut oil-- you can find it locally. In my area, there are not a lot of options locally so I do have to send off for some of these other oils. None of the oils I have tested have caused break outs and after about a year of using these various oils, I really feel like my complexion is much better.

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