For years and years we used to believe that if you have oily skin and acne, you need to remove as much oil as you can from your face. It makes sense – oil causes problems; you remove the oil and problem’s gone, right?
In fact, excess cleansing in skincare routine can make the problem even worse, because your skin will only start producing even more sebum.
Moreover, many experts came to the conclusion that adding oil to your skin might help balance things out and control the oiliness and breakouts. But, they soon realized that not all oils give the same results.
What makes the difference is the ratio between different types of fatty acids present in the oil. Research shows that acne-prone skin has a lower level of linoleic acid than normal skin. So apparently, oily and acne-prone skin prefers plant oils that contain linoleic acid in high percentages. Read on to learn the great benefits of linoleic acid.
What is Linoleic Acid?
Linoleic acid (also known as omega-6 fatty acid or vitamin F) is a polyunsaturated fatty acid that has more than one double bond. Linoleic acid is also an essential fatty acid, which means our body doesn’t synthesize it on its own, so we have to take it through food. However, even though our body doesn’t produce it, linoleic acid is very important for our general health, as well as for healthy skin and hair, nails.
Linoleic acid is found naturally in our skin. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the epidermis (top layers of skin). It is a very important element that servers as a precursor for ceramides, the significant skin lipids.
For topical applications, linoleic acid moisturizes and nourishes the skin deeply. Oils rich in linoleic acid have a thin, lightweight texture that doesn’t clog pores, which is one of the reasons why linoleic acid is perfect for nourishing acne-prone, oily skin in skincare products.
Benefits of Linoleic Acid for Skin
High amounts of nourishing fatty acids are the main reason why plant oils provide great skin care benefits. Each type of these acids has its own benefits for skin and its own role in skincare.
Linoleic acid is a multi-functional skincare element. It is especially efficient in balancing the skin’s sebum so that it still protects the skin without clogging the pores. Here are its 3 main linoleic acid benefits for skin:
It promotes healthy skin barrier function and makes skin soft and plump
Linoleic acid is a compound of human sebum. Sebaceous glands produce sebum to create a protective lipid barrier on the surface of the skin. This barrier locks the moisture and nutrients into the skin and keeps the harmful matters out.
However, due to environmental influences and aging processes, the skin’s barrier becomes less and less efficient as we age. And when the protective barrier is weak and insufficient, the skin easily loses moisture and becomes dry, rough, dehydrated and sunken. It also becomes more exposed to toxins and free radicals, which leads to wrinkles and fine lines.
When you apply a plant oil rich in linoleic and other fatty acids, it replenishes the skin’s barrier and helps protect the skin against the damages and drying out. It makes the skin soft, smooth, plump and supple. And when the skin is well moisturized, it becomes more resistant to aging signs and other damages.
It may help clear acne breakouts
Oily skin also needs moisturizing, it just needs to be the right kind of moisture. For example, the sebum of people who have acne has been found to be lacking of linoleic acid. And as we already said, linoleic acid makes the oils (including human sebum) thin and lightweight.
So, when the sebum doesn’t have enough linoleic acid, it becomes thick and sticky. It makes your face look and feel oily, clogs pores and causes acne and pimples.
However, if you apply an oil that is rich in linoleic acid, the oil can balance out the sebum, make it thinner and unclog your pores. That way, your skin still gets the moisture it needs. But it gets healthy moisture that nourishes the skin without weighing it down. In time, the skin gets a healthy, youthful appearance and clear complexion, with fewer acne breakouts.
It rejuvenates the skin and reduces signs of aging
Linoleic acid makes the skin plump, smooth and supple and gives you a youthful complexion.
When combined with other fatty acids, linoleic acid deep moisturizes the skin, replenishes it and restore its healthy, bouncy texture. It promotes healthy skin function, soothes inflammations and irritations and stimulates cell regeneration.
It also prevents future damages by protecting the skin against the pollutants, irritants, free radicals and other harmful environmental influences. Linoleic acid can help fade aging spots, brighten skin tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
How to Choose Best Plant Oil With Balanced Oleic and Linoleic Acid for Your Skin Type
As we can see, the benefits of linoleic acid can help your skin in a number of ways. However, like most skincare ingredients, linoleic acid doesn’t work best on its own, but in combination with other fatty acids for skin care products.
When choosing a plant oil that you will be using on your face, especially important is its content of oleic vs linoleic acid. In fact, this ratio determents whether the oil is more suitable for oily, acne-prone skin or for dry, sensitive and aging skin.
This can slightly vary, depending on your skin and its individual needs. But, some general rule is – if an oil contains a higher percentage of oleic acid, it is more suitable for dry skin; if it contains more linoleic acid, it will work best for oily skin. Plant oils are hypoallergenci that is great for sensitive skin.
Here are some plant oils, including nut oil, vegetable oil, fruit oil recommended to be included in facial oils for your skin care routine:
- If you have normal or combination skin, use an oil with a balanced oleic-linoleic acid ratio, such as jojoba, baobab, tamanu, argan oil, etc.
- If you have oily skin, the oils that contain high amounts of linoleic acid are sesame seed oil, hemp seed oil, safflower oils, rose hip, evening primrose, soybean oils, grapeseed, maracuja oil, etc.
- For dry skin, you can try out the olive, sunflower seed, marula, avocado, macadamia, sea buckthorn oil, etc.
1. Downing, Donald T., et al. “Essential fatty acids and acne.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 14.2 (1986): 221-225.
2. Letawe, C., M. Boone, and G. E. Pierard. “Digital image analysis of the effect of topically applied linoleic acid on acne microcomedones.” Clinical and experimental dermatology 23.2 (1998): 56-58.
3. McCusker, Meagen M., and Jane M. Grant-Kels. “Healing fats of the skin: the structural and immunologic roles of the ω-6 and ω-3 fatty acids.” Clinics in Dermatology 28.4 (2010): 440-451.