The good oil
Face oil is big business - but how do you know your argan from your perilla?
What's the good oil now? We love our special oils for our face as much as our plate and there have been as many oil fads in beauty as there have for food. Baby oil was the toast of one margarine-congratulatory decade, used for everything from removing mascara to burning legs. Now using it is as reprehensible as smoking. At the table.
Vitamin E oil had a run at the same time as sunflower oil was frying the mince, with 400iu capsules from the health food shop pierced and applied directly to wrinkles in the hope of miracle results. Emu oil was the go in the late '80s (while we brought peanut oil into the kitchen), rose hip oil (while we ate avocado oil) was hip in the '90s and then the mish-mash Bio Oil gained a cult following at about the same time we began dousing everything in extra virgin olive oil. But what now? Should we even be putting oil near our faces?
The traditional oils used in good cosmetics - wheat germ oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, good old evening primrose oil - have been supplanted by the exotic. They are tricky names to remember - marula oil, perilla oil or burity oil with that, madam? - and cost a lot. Argan oil is popular in skincare at the moment. It is obtained from the argan tree, an endangered species of north Africa that is apparently under UNESCO protection. ''Beware of formulations that contain more silicon oil [dimethicone] than the actual argan oil,'' says Sue Dann of Dr Spiller skincare. ''Argan oil is very expensive and often appears down the list on ingredient labels, well after cheaper synthetic oils.'' Dann's a fan. She says oils like argan oil closely resemble the lipids in human skin so they work naturally with the skin, not against it. ''Oils are important for healthy skin but they should be light, non-comedogenic oils that don't form a film on the skin,'' she says. ''Women might fear that oils in a skin care cream may aggravate existing high levels of oil in the skin or contribute to impurities but the opposite is true. Applying a good skin care cream that reduces moisture loss will result in the normalisation of the skin's sebum production - the skin will be less oily.''
Corrine Morley, of Trilogy, says pure plant oils have a finer molecular structure than mineral oils and many are similar in design to sebum. ''They are readily accepted and absorbed by the skin and are not shown to clog or irritate pores or disrupt normal, healthy skin cell function,'' she says. Morley is a fan of the fashionable marula oil, a key ingredient in Trilogy's Age Proof range, as ''it's a nourishing oil that hydrates, softens and revitalises the skin while helping to protect from free radical damage''.
Sue Dann says water-based creams - the vast majority on the market - are not good at maintaining hydration and contain emulsifiers ''at the level of detergents''. ''Bacteria thrive in water yet they don't do well in oil. For this reason preservation requirements in an oil-based cream are significantly lower than in a water-based cream. In fact the oil component in an oil-based cream can be stabilised with anti-oxidant Vitamins C and E.'' There is some good-oil skincare out there, some on-trend, some not. Try Planet Eve Certified Organics Facial Cleansing Oil ($49), Dr Spiller Vitamin Skin Function Oil ($90), Skeyndor Skin Velours Ceramides ($84) and Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant Plus ($29).
What's your good oil? Do you prefer using simple oils of old - the almond and borage oils - or do you like the newer formulations with added antioxidants and vitamins? What's your experience with beauty oils been like? Where and how do you use them? Has that changed over the years? I love my Clarins facial oil for massage and the new Shu Uemura cleansing oil after a heavy make-up day - but many women remain sceptical.