Sarah Jagger | Is your facial oil ageing your skin?
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Is your facial oil ageing your skin?

Are facial oils aging your skin - Sarah jagger

Is your facial oil ageing your skin?

Facial oil and I go way back. I was the teenager who saved up my pocket money and bought aromatherapy oils to make my own skincare.

If a friend had a skin complaint, I’d blend up an amateur concoction to help heal it. Fast forward to a career as a makeup artist and I developed a firm belief that facial oils were the best thing to plump, smooth and prepare a model’s skin before applying any makeup.

As a life long aromatherapy devotee who’s penned numerous articles singing the praises of oils it may come as a shock when I say that I’m questioning the benefits of oils entirely. I haven’t written them off exactly but I’m experimenting with an oil-free regime and so far, I’m loving the results.

Bear with me…

I’m fickle when it comes to cosmetics because I try every new product and treatment that I can get my hands on. There’s always something better coming along so when it comes to “what works best”, I change my mind a lot.

I happily give myself over as a guinea pig and don’t mind if I hate the effects or if it makes my skin worse – the journalist in me has a sort of masochistic urge to report on the good, the bad and the ugly in the cosmetic world. I’m sceptical by nature but fortunately, for the most part I subject my complexion to great products and my skin continually gets better.

I love natural, organic products (and regularly blog about them until the sun comes home) but pharmaceutical products certainly have their place – at the end of the day even natural ingredients are chemicals…but that’s another blog.

Dermatologist Dr Rachael Eckel for Sarah Jagger

Dermatologist Dr Rachael Eckel

I began to question oils when I attended a seminar by dermatologist Dr Rachael Eckel who believes that sebum (oil naturally produced within our skin) has no purpose apart from causing skin disease.

According to Dr Eckel dryness, eczema, rosacea, large pores, fine lines, pigmentation and age spots are all down to the presence of oil.

According to Dr Eckel dryness, eczema, rosacea, large pores, fine lines, pigmentation and age spots are all down to the presence of oil.

When I met up with Dr Eckel later she was photographing a before picture of her (impeccably perfect) skin before embarking on six weeks of using face oil daily to document how it would mess up her complexion.

Eckel suggests that as we evolved we lost the hair from all over our bodies however the oil glands designed to lubricate our hair follicles remained.

Between the ages of one and ten we have beautiful skin because it hasn’t yet started producing oil – it’s soft, hydrated and perfect – only when oil starts being produced do we start to see skin complaints.

Even as a firm facial oil fan I had to admit that her argument made sense.

What about sebum oil & pigmentation?

So what about the popular theory that facial oils actually fight sebum oil? That once our skin gets used to receiving topical oil it starts to produce less of its own and as a result we end up with less spots?

“It’s a misconception -It simply doesn’t work that way”‘ says Dr Eckel ” the best analogy I can give you is trying to wash up an oily, greasy baking tray that you’ve cooked lasagne in. Would you wash it with oil or would you use something that breaks down the grease?The only way to tackle natural oil is to eliminate it completely”.

And she wasn’t just talking about spots and clogged pores…

According to Dr Eckel, the dull complexion, sun damage, pigmentation and fine lines on my face, which I’d put down to being prone to dryness were actually caused by a loss of water.

When too much oil clogs the pores it creates a build up, plugging the pores. The oil tries to break free, forcing its way out and creating holes within the skin -these holes let essential water out, resulting in dehydrated, older looking skin.

In my case this process had also created rosacea – a sensitive, red skin disease that Eckel says goes undiagnosed in far too many cases. “People tend to resort to heavy creams and oils to help sooth dryness and sensitivity but the oil content in these rich products only makes matters worse”.

Pigmentation is a similar story. “Don’t be fooled into thinking freckles are cute” says Dr Eckel “there is nothing cute about freckles – they’re sun damage – skin cancer waiting to happen!”

Her words reminded me of a clinical study I’d read, conducted by The University of Gottingen that showed discolouration and pigmentation are actually more directly related to people’s perception of an individual’s age than lines or wrinkles.

So where to next?

The only way, according to Eckel, to eliminate the oil, shrink my pores, erase my pigmentation, plump my dehydrated skin and eliminate my rosacea was to put it through a hardcore, punishing regime of exfoliating skincare including a Retinoid, namely retinoic acid – a vitamin A derivative-to peel away the imperfections.

Dr Rachel sent me home with seven products to be used twice a day for six weeks with the warning that the process would be gruelling. “For the next six weeks you’ll hate it and you’ll hate me- you’ll be red, flaky and probably sore but the results are worth it’. Off I went with the best part of the entire Zo Skin Health range (created by renowned dermatologist Dr Zein Obagi) and reluctantly put my facial oils to the back of the cupboard.

Not for the faint-hearted

I’m not going to pussy foot around- the first two weeks were awful. Really awful!

My face was red, raw, itchy, hot, stingy and tight. The flaking was unsightly and I felt incredibly self conscious.

Twice a day I was using an army of exfoliating products: an oil free, AHA cleansing wash, a gentle magnesium scrub, salicylic pads (like a toner), a pigmentation lighting cream, antioxidant lotion (like a lightweight moisturiser), a glycolic serum and a retinoic acid treatment (a highly active exfoliating ingredient which builds collagen, also erasing lines and sun damage ).

In the morning I slathered on an SPF 50 for protection, which contained a flesh tone tint I thought would help to camouflage the redness.

It didn’t.

My instructions were to religiously stick to the regime for at least 6 weeks, by which time I would start to see incredible changes to my skin and it would be used to the retinoic acid so I’d no longer react with redness and flakiness. But at week three I had to go in front of an HD camera to be filmed in close up so I had to abandon a few of the really active products four days before the shoot to help the flaking stop and let the redness subside.

The downside of taking a little break from the regime is that my skin hadn’t had enough time to get used to the retinoic acid so commencing the products again meant starting from scratch, repeating all the painful redness of the first two weeks.

On the plus side, once the flaking disappeared I saw for the first time the full effects of the products I was using.

The holy grail?

My skin was plump, fresh, firm and spot -free. My pigmentation had almost gone and my pores were remarkably smaller. My blackheads had disappeared. On the few days shooting I can honestly say that I lost count of how many compliments I had on my complexion. Numerous people guessed my age at 25 (11 years younger!!) and I felt fantastic with no more makeup than a bit of mascara and some lip balm. If you’re thinking that all this is sounding horribly smug, you’re probably right. It seemed like I’d found the holy grail of anti ageing skincare.

Sarahs skin BEFORE Dr Eckel and Zo Skin Care Range

BEFORE

Sarah Jagger's skin AFTER Dr Eckel and Zo Skin Care Range

AFTER

Committing to your skin

The problem with any demanding regime is that you need to stick with it. “It’s like going to the gym” says Eckel,” if you stop you go back to looking the way you did before you started”. She’s right of course and that’s exactly what happened when each job in front of the camera came along.

I’d put the regime to one side for a week or two until the job was over and take it up again afterwards. Instead of persevering through a few weeks of discomfort I spent four months stuck in the cycle of yo yo flaking.

Fortunately I got there in the end and Dr Rachel has now tweaked my regime to maintain the new complexion I’m absolutely delighted with. My skin is entirely used to the Retinoic acid and I’m flake free. I’m also sun damage free and my skin has a kind of luminosity it didn’t have before. Oh, and it’s completely eradicated those stubborn red marks left over from spots that I knew I shouldn’t have picked at but did anyway.

I’ve just come back from a week in the sun and can put the minds of retinoid sceptics at ease- it didn’t make me more reactive to the sun. In fact, I came home without any colour, freckles or pigmentation on my face (SPF 50 applied every two hours in the sun). When I asked Dr Rachael about this she explained that the ingredient itself is sensitive to sunlight, which is why you should apply it before bed at night but it shouldn’t make skin any more vulnerable to UV rays than it would be after buffing away dead skin with a face scrub.

In the scheme of things, a few weeks isn’t a very long time to have red, flaky skin if the end result is a perfect, healthy complexion that looks light years younger. Stopping and starting, however, is exactly the way not to do it- retinoid products are not for the faint hearted in the initial stages but in my opinion the short period of flakiness is completely worth it.

I still try all sorts of skincare products and love my regular laser facials but exfoliating everyday and including retinoic acid into my weekly regime is a method I see sticking for some time. I can’t promise to stay away from facial oils forever (after all, it’s my job to road test everything with an open mind) but as for now, I’m delighted with the effects of following an oil- free, exfoliating regime and between you and me I’m loving all the complexion compliments.

Zo Skin Health products proudly sit high on my beauty pedestal!

When it comes to starting a new regime of highly active products, I would always suggest visiting a dermatologist first, however if this isn’t an option, Dr Eckel has some tips for improving your skin as of today.

Dr Eckel’s tips for improving your skin today

When it comes to starting a new regime of highly active products, I would always suggest visiting a dermatologist first, however if this isn’t an option, Dr Eckel has some tips for improving your skin as of today.

  1.  Cleanse with an oil free facial wash, using fingertips to massage into a foam for at least one minute both am and pm.
  1. Stop using facial oils or moisturisers heavy in oils – resist the temptation even if you’re really dry and use an oil free formula instead.
  1. Use a gentle mineral based scrub once a day to eliminate dead skin cells.
  1. Introduce a retinoid into your skincare regime. They should be used once in the first week, twice in the second week and built up to frequent use as skin adjusts.
  1. Apply an antioxidant product such as vitamin C once or twice a day. Vitamin C is only active if formulated in a stable form on its own (not as an ingredient added to other products) and stored in air tight packaging. Zo Skin Health C-Bright is one of the rare stable vitamin C products on the market.
  1. Always use an SPF of 30 or over. Everyday. All year round. No matter what the weather.

Are you suffering from any of the skin complaints mentioned in this article?

Similarly, if you’ve discovered a product or treatment that has drastically improved your complexion, I’d love to hear about it and be educated by your experience.

Drop me a tweet, Facebook post or email through the links below and I’ll reply to it personally: