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Mineral Oils v Plant Oils



There is a currently a lot written in skincare articles about mineral oils and how paraffin oil / Paraffinum Liquidum will form an occlusive layer on your skin and stop it “breathing” (See our May blog for more on whether skin actually breathes) You may also have read that mineral oil has large molecules that don’t penetrate the skin and sit on the skin surface, trapping sweat and bacteria beneath it.

A 2011 study compared mineral oil with jojoba oil, almond oil, avocado oil and soybean oil. The study found that none of the oils penetrated the skin further than the top 2-3 layers of corneocytes. Corneocytes are the upper layers of cells in the upper layer (stratum corneum) of the upper layer (epidermis) of the skin. So we are talking about an extremely thin layer and area of penetration! Only almond oil and soybean oil made it to the third layer, the other oils either sat on the skin’s surface or made it to the first two layers of cells.

In other words, plant oils act in the same way as mineral oil – forming a layer on top of the skin. The main difference mentioned by the authors of the study is that plant oils are similar in composition to skin lipids so they are taken up by the skin through enzymatic decomposition while mineral oil is not metabolised. Furthermore, many plant oils contain components such as triglycerides, flavonoids, phytosterols and tocopherols which provide additional benefits for your skin whereas mineral oil is very simple molecule made of only two atoms – carbon and hydrogen.

Oils applied to your skin trap help your skin to retain water and make your skin feel temporarily softer and smoother. They provide moisture to the top layers of the skin. There is no difference in this process regardless of whether you use mineral oil or plant oil.  However the additional benefits of natural plant oils over mineral oils do mean that plant oils are a much better choice when it comes to looking after your skin.

Take care

Cecilia and Claire

Pouring Oil on Troubled Skin?

shutterstock_123808480The use of oils in skin care, especially in those products for acne-prone, oily, or combination skin, often causes concern to users.  It seems counter intuitive that putting oil on oily skin will  help alleviate the problem.  However, it is actually true!

Many oils are fantastic for skincare,  even on acne-prone skin, and the right types of oils can even help reduce clogged pores and acne (However many can also cause clogged pores and inflame acne.

The first thing to consider is how comedogenic the oil is. Comedogenic simply means likely to cause comedones. Non-comedogenic, therefore, means unlikely to cause comedones!

A comedone is a plug of debris (made up of bacteria, oil, dead skin cells, and skin care ingredients)  filling a skin pore. Comedones commonly appear as blackheads and sometimes as whiteheads. Comedones trap the oil that normally flows out of pores and a pimple will often develop around this trapped oil

The product type is important, so a cleanser is less likely to clog pores as it is removed from the skin, while a moisturiser may be more likely. Even toners can cause clogged pores if they contain comedogenic ingredients . ( Look out for our blog on the fantastic Oil Cleanse Method)!

Look at the quantity of an oil in the product, because this influences how comedogenic a product is.   By law product ingredients must be  listed on skincare products in order of quantity, with the largest component appearing first.  A product may only contain a tiny percentage of an ingredient listed at the end!

Consider the type of oil in a product, and your skin type. Dry skin often has small pores, not letting much oil out or much debris in.  Oily skin often has larger pores to release a larger amount of oil on the skin, potentially  collecting debris, resulting in comedones.

The following oils have low comedogenecy  A level of 5 would means that an oil is likely to be highly comedogenic.  At Mary Elizabeth we ensure that all our products contain significant quantities of at least one, if not more, of these amazing oils.



Almond   oil 2
Apricot   oil 2
Avocado   oil 2
Calendula   oil 1
Coconut   oil 3
Emu   oil 1
Grapeseed   oil 1
Hazelnut   oil 2
Jojoba   oil 1
Olive   oil 2
Pomegranate   oil 1
Rosehip   oil 1
Safflower   Oil (high linoleic acid variety only*) 0
Sesame 2
Sunflower 2

* Safflower oil comes in two varieties: The high linoleic acid variety and the high oleic  variety. The high oleic acid variety is comedogenic and should only be used for cooking

We will blogging about different oils in our regular Oil of the Month feature.  Watch out too for our blog on the Oil Cleansing Method

Take care

Cecilia & Claire x




Oil of the Month – Meadowfoam Oil

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Meadowfoam Oil is a fairly new oil in skincare in the UK.  It’s the one we are asked most about when people read it on our ingredients list.  We use it because we believe it’s pretty special and has great skincare properties!

The oil is pressed from the seeds of Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba), a plant which received its name because,while in bloom, it resembles the white foam blowing on the ocean. Meadowfoam is native to northern California, southern Oregon, Vancouver Island, and British Columbia.

Chemically, Meadowfoam oil contains over 98% long-chain fatty acids, and also has higher quality triglyceride levels when compared to other vegetable oils. In addition, it has three long chain fatty acids that were previously unknown before its discovery. This all enhances its moisturising and rejuvenating capabilities, and is why it’s a key ingredient in our Frankincense and Rose Moisturiser. It also means that it’s a very stable oil so can help ensure the shelf life of your product.

When applied to the skin, Meadowfoam Oil forms a moisture barrier and will assist the skin with preventing moisture loss. When added to lotions and lip balms, it will remoisturise dry or cracked lips and skin, and helps make balms last longer. We use it as one of our plant oils in our award winning Spearmint & Tea Tree Nurture Balm for these very reasons

In summary, Meadowfoam oil has these beneficial characteristics:

  • Moisturises the skin
  • Rejuvenates and adds shine to hair
  • Non-greasy feeling, soaks into the skin easily
  • Helps reduce wrinkles and signs of ageing
  • Blends well with other carrier oils
  • Very stable,  even under heat and air exposure
  • Binder, helps products retain their scent longe

In addition to  its uses, Meadowfoam oil is also beneficial for our environment! It was first developed in the 1970’s, and was introduced as an alternative to sperm whale oil in order to protect the species. The Meadowfoam plants themselves are a renewable crop, and are usually grown as a rotation crop for grass seed farmers. This eliminates the need to burn the fields in between grass seed plantings, and also provides farmers with additional income. Meadowfoam also requires less fertilizer and pesticides than most crops, assisting farmers and the environment.

So really, what’s not to love!

Take care

Cecilia & Claire x



Does skin really breathe?



Breathing occurs when air moves  in and out of our lungs. It is one of the few completely involuntary actions of the human body – we don’t “do” breathing, it just does itself!

Breathing delivers oxygen to different parts of our body, gets rid of excess carbon dioxide  and  helps move blood around the body. It’s an amazing part of our human physiology and we would die without being able to breathe.

But you have probably heard claims from skincare products saying that they help the skin to breathe. But the truth is that the skin does not breathe!

Skin is pretty amazing. It is the body’s largest organ, comprises about 15% of our body weight and it holds all our internal organs together. However it doesn’t play an active role in helping us breathe. The skin does absorb some oxygen under the right circumstances but that isn’t helping it “breathe”

The only mammal which actually breathes through its skin is the the tiny Marsupail  mouse Julia Donnart, which is too weak to inflate its lungs when it is first born, so it breathes through its skin instead until it leaves its mother’s pouch. Humans don’t breathe troughtheir skin.

When a product says it “helps your skin breathe” what it actually means is that it won’t clog your pores.  I suppose the former sounds better in adverts though!

When a product or ingredient is known to block pores, it is also called “comedogenic”. A comedo is a blocked hair follicle in the skin – a spot or a pimple. So when you apply a skincare product and you let your skin “breathe” you are actually  using ingredients that don’t cause spots!

See our Blog next month “Pouring Oil on Troubled Skin” for more about comedogenic oils

Take care

Cecilia and Claire xx

The Benefits of Natural Oils on Dry Skin

shutterstock_119013610Most of us will experience dry skin at some stage in our lives, especially during the harsh winter months when wind, cold and central heating all take their toll.

The main cause of dry skin is the gaps which open up between the skin cells when they are not sufficiently plumped up with water. Moisture is then lost from the deeper layers of the skin, allowing bacteria or irritants to pass through more easily.  If your skin is particularly dry it might crack or peel and then become inflamed or irritated. This is more likely to occur on the hands and feet, which we tend not to moisturize as frequently. Your skin might become slightly rough and itchy.

Inflamed or cracked may be the first sign of dermatitis.

Adequately moisturising your skin on a regular basis is the first step to managing dry skin. Using products which contain natural plant oils is a great way to increase the moisture levels in your skin

Oils are emollients, which mean they soften or soothe the skin, helping it to keep  skin moist and flexible. Oils help produce a layer over the skin’s surface which traps water beneath it.

Oils can also help soothe the inflammation and irritation normally associated with dry skin. They create a protective layer which helps to reduce the penetration of irritants, allergens and bacteria, and so helping to prevent the development of dermatitis.

Natural oils also make the skin look more hydrated and less wrinkled. Because they are plant based they contain beneficial compounds such as polyphenols, phytosterols and carotenoids ( we’ll be explaining more about these compounds in a future blog, so keep reading).These compounds are metabolised by the skin and provide antioxidant properties which can help reduce those signs of aging.

So which natural oils should you be looking out for? At Mary Elizabeth we have a few favourites which we include in our products

Oils that are denser and have a high viscosity which typically penetrate a bit slower into the top layers of the skin such as Avocado Oil (Persea Gratissima) and  Meadowfoam Oil (Limnanthes Alba)  .We use these in lovely oils in all our products

 Oils that offer natural anti-inflammatory properties , for example Jojoba Oil (Buxus Chinensis) and Hemp Seed Oil (Cannabis Sativa). Hemp oil is also great for nails which is another reason its in our multi award winning Spearmint and Tea Tree Nurture Balm

Oils that have been infused with anti-inflammatory herbs oils (generally called ‘macerated’ oils) such as  Calendula Oil (Calendula Officinalis) and Chamomile Oil  (Anthemis Noblis) both of which we’ve included in our Juniper and Jojoba Hand Cream

All of these oils can be used as facial oils. Use a few drops and massage them into your delicate facial skin after your normal evening cleansing and moisturising routine. You may want to try different oil blends until you find one that works best for your skin.

Oils really are natures defence against dry skin

Take care

Cecilia and Claire x


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