oil in, oil out. but is it acne-safe?

compiled by food blogger and whole food enthusiast andrew wilder, and andy bellatti, ms, rd

the cooking oil comparson chart, compiled by food blogger and whole food enthusiast andrew wilder, and andy bellatti, ms, rd (our naturopath laura figoski told us about it!)

oils have been a tricky subject for us at sS – both topically (being used on the skin) and orally (eating it!).  there seems to be hardly any clear-cut black or white lines, yes’s or no’s when it comes to their effects on acne – topically (comedogenicity), or orally (inflammation & acne seed formation).  read on to know what we’ve just found out, what we’ve always known, and have yet to research.

TOPICAL

with dr. fulton’s comedogenic ingredient research, we know of some oils that are definitely topically comedogenic if used neat on the skin (meaning, used on their own directly on the skin), or mixed in with other ingredients in a skincare product.  these oils include coconut, avocado and soybean oils.

in our own research, we’ve found some oils are non-comedogenic when mixed into a product but not used on their own, like olive oil (in our sS lipbalm) and jojoba oil (in our hair conditioner).

dr. fulton says that mineral oil (derived from petroleum, yuck!) is acne safe – but he also said that safflower and sunflower oils were, too.  we are embarking on testing the latter two topically, and will be testing them for comedogenicity.

UPDATED 12/11/14: the beloved argan oil of moroccan oil fame, has grown in popularity in the last couple of years, and is… definitely comedogenic.  avoid it in all your products – hair, skincare, makeup – to stay your clearest!

ORAL

so we’ve got the topical side of things covered.  but what about ingesting these oils – do they cause acne to form or increase inflammation internally?  or both?!

we tell clients to definitely avoid coconut oil (cloggy!!), soybean oil (soy = estrogen mimickers = will induce hormone imbalances = acne on the lower half of the face), corn (gmo and makes you more oily!) and vegetable oil (which is usually a mix of soybean and corn oil – click here to read more about this).

we’ve had a ton of clients break out from coconut oil topically, but also it seems to inflame client’s acne as well.  non-inflamed acne clients who cleared up, tried cooking with coconut oil, and came back not only broken out, but with inflamed, cystic acne.  so not only are you breaking out around the mouth because it’s passing through your lips while eating it, it also swells up the acne you already have.  awesome!

soybean oil is another clogger, which definitely induces acne internally;  we see clients break out mostly in the lower half of the face with this one (along with regular soy sauce consumption), which likely has to do with the soybeans and the estrogen-mimicking compounds they contain, which throws off our own hormone levels.  the fact that most soybeans used in this oil are GMO are a whole other topic!

dr. laura figoski, our naturopath, came in for a chat today and showed me a cooking oils comparison chart she’s worked with, and approves.  i did a bit of cross-referencing research; combined that with our acne expertise, and compiled a list below of the safest food-grade oil options for cooking – along with what uses they are best for (use cold like in salad dressings, or hot for stir-frying).

i was honestly hoping to find one or two easy-to-find oils that would be great for both cold and hot applications, but unfortunately, like life, there isn’t always an easy answer.

OK – WHAT ARE MY BEST OPTIONS?!

so with the oil comparison chart, cross-referencing and our acne-know-how, i’ve compiled a list of which oils are your healthiest best bets to buy for cooking at home.  some of them we haven’t tested yet for either topical comedogenicity, internal comedogenicity or inflammatory responses, and these are noted in blue.

these oils may not be the easiest to find, and may require a trip to a health food store (like rainbow – which has a great bulk oil section, or berkeley bowl, which has tons of variety).  and of course, the good old internet can help ship things to your door as well!

for cold cooking: like salads

  • safflower (high oleic unrefined)
    – dr. fulton says is acne safe!
  • flax (unrefined)
    – high in anti-inflammatory omega-3
  • – goes rancid quickly, even with refrigeration
  • hazelnut (unrefined)
  • hemp (unrefined)
    – should be acne-safe, since we used to carry acne-safe merry hempsters lipbalm which has it, but maybe is comedogenic if used neat?
    – contains GLA, the only omega-6 that is anti-inflammatory
  • olive oil
    – buy it in tin cans or dark glass bottles, many counterfeits exist!
    – can be mildly comedogenic when eaten, but is the most widely used and easily available

for cooking (low and slow, like baking)

  • lard
  • duck fat

for cooking (high heat, like sauteeing and stir-frying)

  • macadamia
    – long unrefrigerated shelf life
    – naturally processed
  • tea seed (not tea tree oil!)
  • almond
  • pecan
  • apricot kernel (refined)
  • hazelnut (refined)
  • sunflower (high oleic refined)
    – dr. fulton says is acne safe!

and others that have been generally rated healthy are cloggy (like peanut and avocado oils) – so a definite no on those.

in the name of science, we at skinSALVATION will be testing these oils – both on our bodies and in our mouths – and will get back to you with what we find.  check back here for updates!  and please let us know if you decide to guinea pig along with us, and how you feel about it all.  🙂

cheers!