It seems so perfectly natural and nurturing to slather your skin with oil. Apart from the silky sensuality of applying it, all oils are good for your skin. Right? Wrong!
What’s the big deal over a bit of oil? Sadly there are many oils sold and used for both body care and massage that are downright harmful. Bad for your skin and bad for your ongoing health. Finding your way through this minefield requires you to think logically and read the label. No label showing all the ingredients? Don’t buy or use it.
Hidden Danger #1: Packaging.
All oils dissolve and break down plastics over time. Some oils do it more quickly and some plastics are more vulnerable than others, but basically, any oil in any plastic packaging is a bad idea. And yes, that applies to cooking oils as well. The plastic molecules dissolve into the oil and then you apply to your skin (or eat) which introduces the harmful petrochemical substances into your bloodstream, digestive system and internal organs.
Hidden Danger #2: “white oil”, “baby oil” or “mineral oil”.
Whatever you call it, “mineral oil” (which goes by a multitude of soft and easy-to-sell names) is a major hazard but is commonly used as the base for everything from baby oil to lots of skin treatment oils that are prettied up by the addition of a little essential oil. Mineral oil is a petroleum by-product and has been shown to increase the risk of a wide range of cancers in addition to triggering asthma, and being causal in non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and Leukemia. The US National Library of Medicine has a wide range of studies available to show just how harmful this common ingredient is. Apart from the serious health risks of regularly using mineral oils, they actually dry out the skin over time and compound the very problems you were seeking to fix. So why is it used so widely? It’s mega-cheap, odorless, doesn’t spoil and because we as consumers simply don’t ask enough questions.
Hidden Danger #3: synthetic fragrances.
Synthetic fragrances are concocted from sometimes hundreds of chemical ingredients and preservatives, and the declaration of each and every component is not required under international labeling law. The pretty way to disguise the use of these chemical ingredients is to label them as “fragrance oils”. Lots of “natural” body oil and skin preparations include “fragrance oil” as well as 100% pure essential oils. Why? It’s a backdoor way of using chemical preservatives without having to declare them. And why are synthetic fragrances so dangerous? Many of the component chemicals are what we call “estrogenic”, which means they mimic hormone activity in the body, disrupt normal hormone function and actually contribute to the development of estrogen-dependent cancers.
Hidden Danger #4: Heat Extracted Oils.
Oils are composed of long-chain fatty acids which are damaged by heat. The little bits that break off the long-chain fatty acids are toxic to the body and are also easily absorbed into the skin and bloodstream. So while cold pressed virgin coconut oil is wonderfully nourishing and healing, heat extracted coconut oil isn’t. How do you tell? Usually the heat extracted oil has a smell. Cold pressed sesame or sunflower oils have no smell at oil, whilst the heat-extracted oils have distinct odors. Heat extracted coconut oil smells like toasted coconut. As a rule of thumb, if the bottle doesn’t scream “cold pressed” to justify the much higher price, it isn’t.
Hidden Danger #5: Rancid Oil.
Rancid oil is basically oil that has is spoiled. Some oils, like sunflower oil, become rancid very, very quickly and will contaminate and spoil any oils they are blended with, causing them to spoil too. Storing many oils without refrigeration or in direct sunlight will cause them to go rancid quickly. Olive oil, for instance, needs to be stored below 30C and protected from exposure to light. That’s why good olive oil always comes in green or brown glass bottles. Notable exceptions are oils like rice bran and sesame, that are very stable under heat. How can you tell if oil is rancid? You can smell it. If it has that funky “old oil” smell, toss it. When oil becomes rancid the same process occurs as when it is heat extracted, leaving small unstable parts of the fatty acid chains in the oil which are then absorbed into your skin, vital organs and bloodstream.
So, what should you be looking for? A natural plant based oil packed in glass or aluminum. No “fragrance oils” – just pure essential oils to add natural scent. Good labeling that shows all the ingredients. A best-before date. And make sure it passes the “sniff” test.
Nourish and nurture your skin with healthy, natural oils and your skin will glow. As you reduce your exposure to chemicals and inferior oils, your body will regain balance and your health will blossom. Toss the petrochemical based lotions and aim for a light coating of easily-absorbed plant based oil every evening before bed. Enjoy the nourishing sensuality and make sure you share that feeling with someone you love whenever you can.