Skincare Oils and Free Fatty Acids: The Science

Video: Skincare Oils and Free Fatty Acids: The Science

If you’re a skincare nerd, you may know that different skincare oils have different fatty acid profiles – that is, they differ in terms of which fatty acids they contain e.g. linoleic, linolenic, oleic and lauric acid. The fatty acids have interesting properties. For example, lauric acid is strongly antibacterial, and works better than benzoyl peroxide against Cutibacterium acnes bacteria. …

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Korean Skincare Review: Whamisa, Lagom, Huxley, Aromatica

Natural Korean Skincare Review: Whamisa, Lagom, Huxley, Aromatica

Franki + Seoul is one of the newest online Korean beauty stores in Australia. It’s run by two identical twin sisters Jayme and Jenny who are massive beauty nerds – they spent a year in Seoul testing beauty products and working with skincare companies, then received a grant from the City of Seoul government to start Franki + Seoul. Franki …

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Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil (and How to Use It)

The cult of coconut oil is going strong, and while a lot of the uses are pretty BS (pulling out toxins, for example), it is actually better for your hair than other oils! Here’s why, and how to best use it…

What Happens When Your Hair Gets Wet

First, we have to take a look at what happens when you wash your hair, at a microscopic level.

The outer layer of your hair is called the cuticle. It’s made up of rigid overlapping scales, full of keratin, a tough protein that also makes up a large proportion of your nails. The cuticle acts like a shield around the spongy interior of the hair, the cortex. The cortex and cuticle are all stuck together by the cell membrane complex.

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil and How to Use It

When hair gets wet, the cell membrane complex and the inner cuticle (endocuticle) soak up water and swell up, but the rigid outer layer doesn’t. This makes the scales stick up, and they get snagged and snap off when strands rub against each other or when you run a comb through it. This damage to the cuticle leads to split ends and breakage.

Why Coconut Oil Is the Best Hair Oil and How to Use It

How Can Oil Help?

There are 2 key ways that oiling hair can help. When oil is applied on hair after washing and before combing, it lubricates the hair so there’s less friction, leading to less snagging.

More powerfully though, adding oil to hair before washing, the oil coats the hair in a protective layer. Since oil is water-repellent, less water will get inside the hair, so there’s a lot less swelling. The cuticle scales stick up less, so less damage occurs.

Why Is Coconut Oil the Best Oil for Hair?

Coconut oil is particularly good because its structure means it can penetrate the hair shaft more than most other oils, leading to a stronger water-repellent effect. Here are the average structures of mineral oil, coconut oil and sunflower oil (all three are actually complex mixtures):

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Pixi Cleansing Balm, Rose Oil and Glowtion Review

Pixi products

I’ve been playing with more Pixi stuff – I loved their Glow Tonic so I was excited to try more of their skincare range.

Pixi products

Like a lot of other brands, Pixi have taken a tip from the Asian brands and released their Nourishing Cleansing Balm (£18 for 90 mL), which goes on as a waxy balm but emulsifies when water’s added. This gives you a way to do the oil cleansing method with one step, and it’s a bit easier to handle than a cleansing oil.

Pixi’s version has the following ingredients:

Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Cetearyl Isononanoate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Behenate, Cetearyl Olivate, Sorbitan Olivate, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Cocoate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Cetyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Fragrance.

The major oil components are sweet almond oil and cocoa seed butter – butters can sometimes be comedogenic, so that’s something to look out for when you use this. It’s got a range of different surfactants to lift off the oil afterwards (the main ones are glyceryl behenate, cetearyl olivate, sorbitan olivate, glyceryl stearate and glyceryl cocoate).

I was a bit sceptical when I tried this at first because my face still felt greasy after I showered it off, but patting my face dry with a towel it left my skin soft and not gross. It’ll be less greasy if you use a face cloth. I was pleasantly surprised when I wiped a cotton pad with toner over my face and the pad stayed 100% clean – that’s how I check how well a cleanser works, and cleansing balms and oils usually don’t do so well (most of them are intended to be used with a follow-up cleanser…or so they say). Full marks from me!

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New finds: The Body Shop, Urban Rituelle, DB Twist ‘n’ Go Polish Remover


I’ve been trying out a whole bunch of things lately – here are the ones that’ve made it to the top of my “yes!” pile. Urban Rituelle have released the new Dreamweaver range, which includes 2 summery fragrance blends – Island Blossom, a mix of jasmine, frangipani and berries, and Coconut & Lotus, which is a sugary blend of coconut, …

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Fact-check: Does Tea Tree Oil Work?



Tea tree oil is probably something you’ve seen at the beauty counter dozens of times, in skincare creams and ointments. But what is it used for?

What’s tea tree oil?

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the Melaleuca alternifolia shrub (common name tea tree, surprise surprise!). This tree is native to Eastern Australia. The oil is colourless to light yellow, and smells strongly pine-like. If eaten, it’s poisonous to both humans and animals.

In skincare, tea tree oil is useful because it’s antibacterial – pimples contain the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes (commonly abbreviated as P. acnes), and killing these reduce acne (many other acne treatments, like benzoyl peroxide and the antibiotics clindamycin and erythromycin, also directly kill acne bacteria). It also kills fungi, which means it’s handy for nail and foot infections too.

How do I use it?

If undiluted, tea tree oil can be irritating, so diluting it in another oil like mineral oil or sunflower oil is the best way to use it. A study found that 5% tea tree oil works as well as 5% benzoyl peroxide – it acts more slowly, but it’s less irritating, so 5% is a good starting point if you’re not sure.

5% tea tree oil means if you want a total of X mL tea tree oil mixture, to get the mL of:

Tea tree oil: multiply the total X by 0.05
Diluting oil: multiply the total X by 0.95

Then mix the two together in a clean bottle to get your mixture!

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Chia Seed Oil Skincare: Goodness Natural Beauty Lab



Chia seeds are worming their way into everything (it’s the glitter of the health food world!), so it’s no surprise that it’s made its way into skincare, in the form of chia seed oil (turns out those tiny dark specks have oil in them – who knew?).

Chia seed oil is a bit special in the world of skincare oils – it has a lot of alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3 fatty acid (about 64%). The only common-ish oils that also have a high omega-3 content are perilla oil (58%) and flaxseed oil (aka linseed oil, 55%). There are a handful of studies on topical chia seed oil and alpha-linolenic acid applied on skin floating around. They’ve found that chia seed oil is an effective moisturiser, and that alpha-linolenic acid can fix hyperpigmentation and acts against inflammation in the eye but not in mouse skin (unless you eat it), so the jury’s still out on its effectiveness.

The first brand I’ve come across that uses chia seed oil in their skincare products is Goodness Natural Beauty Lab, a New Zealand company which has a tidy range of chia seed products packaged with a pretty pastel colour theme. The products are biodegradable (no plastic microbeads) and have recyclable packaging. They’re also organic if you’re into that, but since there isn’t any good evidence that organic produce is more nutritious or has any less pesticide residues than conventional produce, it’s not a selling point for me. The range includes a cleanser and a scrub, along with a day cream, a night cream and a dropper bottle of chia seed oil.

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Oils for Oil Cleansing – Review



Since I posted the Beginner’s Guide to Oil Cleansing, a few people have asked me which oils I’ve tried for oil cleansing and what I thought of them, so here’s a quick rundown of my experience. A few things to note:

  • Your mileage may vary. Skincare is individual, what works for me may not work for you.
  • Oils are natural extracts without a definitive, set composition – one brand will not be the same as another, and even different batches from the same brand can differ. The more refined an oil, the more consistent it’ll be, but the less antioxidants/vitamins/non-triglyceride stuff it’ll contain.
  • Oils go off! Especially oils with a high linoleic acid, which unfortunately is also the type of oil that works best for my skin. If your oil smells different, it might be time to chuck it out.
  • Oils sold for cooking and oils sold for skincare may have different compositions – cooking oils are sometimes enriched in oleic acid compared to their skincare counterparts, and often are more processed and will contain less antioxidants/vitamins/non-triglyceride stuff.

With that out of the way, here are all the oils I’ve tried so far:

Olive oil

Product used: Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil ($5.99 for 375 mL = $0.016 per mL)

Olive oil is high in oleic acid, which gives it a thick, rich feel and has a higher chance of comedogenicity (causing pimples). There are mixed reports about whether olive oil is helpful or hurtful in skincare, which I would bet is partly because of the crazy amount of contaminated olive oil out there (from that last article, apparently Italy sells 3 times as much olive oil as it produces, and only 4% of exported Italian olive oil is pure).

This was the first oil I tried for oil cleansing. Cobram Estate seems to be legit, so I wasn’t too worried about the contamination issue. I did find it thicker and stickier than I liked though, so it tended to hang around on my shower tiles, plus it smelled strongly of olive oil which made me hungry.

Verdict: Might be good for dry skin, but do your research and beware of widespread contamination.

Sunflower oil

Product used: Coop Sunflower Oil (Swiss supermarket brand) – similar to Coles Sunflower Oil ($2.70 for 750 mL = $0.0036 per mL)

I ran out of make-up remover in Switzerland and my skin was feeling dry, so I grabbed the oil from the kitchen and tried cleansing with it. My skin ended up looking better than ever! I put it down to the high linoleic acid content. It’s light, less likely to clog pores and might help reduce acne, though I can’t pretend I have anything but unreliable anecdotal evidence on that front. It was the oil that really got me back into oil cleansing, and I’m sure I’ll come back to it… after I’ve tried all the other oils! It was mildly scented.

Verdict: Fantastic basic oil, suitable for most skin. No complaints! Be aware that sunflower oil for cooking may be “high oleic”, which will work differently.

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