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.


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!


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.


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.  🙂


party pleaser recipe ideas

labor day has come and gone, it’s hard to believe the summer is already almost (technically) over..  but thank goodness for the delayed san francisco indian summer!  there are still a lot of bbq’s, picnics and parties to go to, and yummy food to bring (and eat!).

2 things i made in the last week – spinach artichoke dip & carrot ginger salad dressing – were both incredible hits at the parties i brought them to.  they were also relatively quick and simple to make, and absolutely yummy – not to mention acne safe, healthy, and vegan too!

acne safe spinach artichoke dip

first: acne-safe spinach artichoke dip.  here’s the secret: the creaminess comes from cashew cream, and not milk or cheese – making it acne safe!  i got the original recipe from fellow skinSALVATION’er angela ross, of whole body balance’s website here.  she’s a certified nutrition consultant, and her site is full of acne-safe recipes.  (ps – she’s also starting a sugar detox program starting in a few days – click here for more info!).  the only modification i made was to add a bit more salt to taste – but other than that, i thought the recipe was perfect.

the second recipe i made (rather, my lovely beau made as my potluck contribution, since i was caught up at work) was the carrot ginger salad dressing.  you know, the dressing that’s on top of the iceberg lettuce greens at your favorite japanese restaurants – the one that there’s never enough of?  well, now with the recipe below, you can make a whole quart for a few bucks, and have lunch set for at least a week post-party.

carrot ginger dressing

the original recipe we based our dressing on was found here, on saveur.com’s website – and we made some modifications to make it acne-safe, a la sS style.

if you have any acne-safe (or even better, candida safe!) recipes you’ve brought with much success to gatherings, please share them with us!  the holiday season is upon us, and we might as well get our potluck recipe arsenal ready 🙂

angela ross’ spinach artichoke dip


one 16-ounce package of frozen, chopped spinach
one 14 ounce can or jar of artichoke hearts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt (adjust to taste – i added at least a half teaspoon more)
1 teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon lemon juice (didn’t have a lemon, so i used apple cider vinegar instead)
1 – 1 ½ cups cashew cream (easy recipe below)


  1. to make the cashew cream, soak 1 cup of raw, whole cashews in water for at least two hours, drain and rinse the cashews then put them in the blender with 1 cup water and blend until smooth.  (i didn’t have any raw cashews, so i used roasted from costco instead.  i also didn’t plan ahead, so i used hot water to soak them for about 30 minutes, then blended it up with fresh water to make the cream).
  2. defrost the spinach and squeeze out the excess water. set aside.
  3. drain and roughly chop the artichokes.
  4. sauté the onions in the olive oil until translucent, about 10 minutes. add the minced garlic and cook for another minute.
  5. stir in the chopped artichokes, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne and heat through.
  6. add in the spinach and lemon juice and stir until heated through.
  7. stir in the cashew cream.
  8. this dip is best enjoyed warm. enjoy with baby carrots, sliced red pepper & cucumber or try rice crackers or Mary’s crackers. ff there are leftovers the dip can be refrigerated and eaten cold the next day.  (i’ve mixed my leftovers with quinoa for a hearty breakfast, topped with an egg – yum!)

skinSALVATION’s carrot ginger salad dressing


1 cup olive oil
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup coconut aminos soy sauce substitute (available at whole foods, rainbow grocery or online)
1½ tsp. finely grated ginger
2 medium carrots (about 8 oz.), peeled and roughly chopped
½ medium yellow onion (about 6 oz.), roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for serving – any veggies you want!  we used:
a bunch of lettuce greens including iceberg, arugula and spinach
radishes, sliced thin
tomatoes, sliced into wedges
onions, sliced thin


  1. combine oil, vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, carrots, and onion in a food processor, and process until smooth.
  2. season with salt and pepper.
  3. combine dressing and lettuce in a bowl, and toss until evenly coated.
  4. serve immediately.

unused dressing will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator.

vote for skinSALVATION to help us receive a small business grant!

hey everyone!

chase bank is holding a small business grant giveaway, and we’ve just signed up. what we need now is to have at least 250 votes to enter us into the next round.

please click here to VOTE for skinSALVATION to enter the next round!

chase main street grants

with funding, we will be able to:
– formulate better, truly-acne safe products that are healthier for our bodies and the planet
– bring our range of effective, acne-safe skincare products and our upcoming book on how to live an acne-safe lifestyle to the mass market
– spread the work of what we do to everyone and anyone that suffers from acne, beyond the city limits of san francisco and to the world!
– help make the acne-safe lifestyle we teach our clients become mainstream information, much like how everyone knows that smoking is bad for your health
– help save others affected by acne from taking unnecessary and dangerous drugs like accutane, antibiotics or birth control

every click counts, and your continued support is appreciated!

if you:
– have successfully & safely cleared up from acne by working with sS
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– love companies that do not compromise on it’s standard of care
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please please PLEASE take a moment to click this link, and VOTE FOR skinSALVATION!

thank you so much for being a part of our success and growth!

kim & team sS

fragrance: a clogger by any other name…

more news on the sneaky, sneaky pore-cloggers front:

at sS, we warn clients to look out for fragrances in products because “fragrance” is an umbrella term that masks a host of ingredients, some which are pore-clogging.

these mystery “fragrance” ingredients can appear in all kinds of products that come in contact with your skin: from perfumes to makeup, from cleansers and moisturizers to clothing detergents and fabric softeners. and just think of all the sunscreens and serums with delicious aromas too!

you may be wondering how many ingredients are hidden under the term “fragrance”? well we just found a list of 3,059 ingredients! yowzer!

and much to our dismay, just as suspected, there are tons of insidious, comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients on this list.

right off the bat we spotted isopropyl myristate and corn oil, and further perusal revealed 43 additional cloggy ingredients masquerading as fragrance. the full list of comedogenic ingredients (that we know of) that can simply be labeled as “fragrance” includes:

  • Acetylated Lanolin
  • Acetylated Lanolin Alcohol
  • Avocado Oil
  • Black Kelp
  • Butyl Stearate
  • Cetyl Acetate
  • Coconut Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Cotton Seed Oil
  • Ethoxylated Lanolin
  • Fucus vesiculousus
  • Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil
  • Irish Moss
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Isopropyl Palmitate
  • Kelp
  • Knotted Kelp
  • Lamimaria ochroleuca extract
  • Laminaria digitata
  • Laminaria longicruris
  • Laminaria saccharine
  • Lanolic Acid
  • Lanolin
  • Lanolin Alcohol
  • Lauric Acid
  • Lauryl Alcohol
  • Linseed Oil
  • Mineral Oil
  • Myristic Acid
  • Octyldodecanol
  • Oleic Acid
  • Olive Oil
  • Peanut Oil
  • PEG 16 Lanolin
  • Petroleum
  • Propylene Glycol Monostearate
  • Seaweed
  • Sesame Oil
  • Soybean Oil
  • Stearic Acid TEA
  • Tocopherol
  • Xylene

so what’s an acne sufferer to do? well, apart from avoiding all delightfully-smelling products, your best bet is to either stick to sS-vetted products or contact the manufacturer of any product you are interested in, and get a complete list of the ingredients used in the product’s fragrance and run it against skinSALVATION’s complete list of known comedogenic ingredients.  another alternative, if you choose to take it, is to carefully test one suspicious product at a time (while being acne-safe with everything else!) to be able to isolate any new breakouts to the new ‘fragranced’ product you are using.

at sS, you know we’ve tested our products long term for ensure they aren’t pore-clogging, so no need to worry about your tried and true sS favorites!