Welcome back to Bella Eden Farms! Boy, this year has been something else! Time is flying by so quickly. In our last Blogs and Blots post, we were discussing the chemistry of oils. Now, how do oils, particularly fatty acids within those oils, protect and penetrate the skin? Are oils good for our skin?
The skin is a complex and highly specialized organ serving multiple functions in the body, the main of which is to provide a barrier that prevents water loss and protects the body from adverse environmental agents. The success of this function is attributed to the outermost layer of our skin, the stratum corneum (SC). It consists of 15-20 layers of dead flattened keratinocytes (skin cells) embedded in a lipid (fat) matrix, acting together as a “brick and mortar” system that is difficult to penetrate. The major lipids of the human SC are ceramides, cholesterol, and fatty acids.
Fatty acids have multiple roles in the epidermis (skin). They are found in bound form in triglycerides, phospholipids, and ceramides, which are all playing a vital role in formation of the epidermal permeability barrier. They function as building blocks, form outer membranes of cells, and play a role in transportation of substances across the cell membrane and in energy generation and storage. They regulate the acidic pH at the SC surface and regulate permeability, inflammation, and antimicrobial barrier.
Both essential and non-essential fatty acids play separate and critical roles in proper skin function. Many essential fatty acids can be produced by keratinocytes, but others are produced by other organs such as liver and kidney and then used by the skin cells. Fatty acids are also available from our diet. As we age, we lose oils and decrease fatty acid production in our skin, leading to aging and dry skin.
Research performed more than 80 years ago shows that essential fatty acid deficiency leads to abnormalities in skin function, resulting in scaly dermatosis, permeability of skin to water and hair loss. The human body can produce all but two of the fatty acids it needs: linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, well known inflammatory skin diseases, are characterized by changes in fatty acid composition in keratinocytes, indicating their possible involvement in modulating inflammatory processes.
Digging a little deeper into the beauty of chemistry (or how chemistry leads to beauty), fatty acids are also classified by length of the carbon chain, as we mentioned in our first Blogs and Blots post. You may have heard of some of these: short-chain fatty acids, medium-chain fatty acids, long-chain fatty acids, and very long chain fatty acids. You may have read about these when researching healthy oils in your diet. We also read about saturated and unsaturated oils. The difference in types of oils impact properties and actions of topical therapies. Both chain length of fatty acids and the saturation of the oils play a role in skin health, functionality and intent of the product, and duration of the benefit of the product.
Since oil and water do not mix and the skin’s matrix is an oil base, then products that are soluble is oil more readily penetrate the skin’s barrier. Oil-based transporters are often used for transporting ingredients, such as vitamins or medications, across the skin barriers. This is an important concept, very important, when trying to formulate a product for a certain skin condition or simply as a moisturizer. Skin is a complex organ, and tons of time is spent in research on transporting (and keeping) moisture and other ingredients into and across the skin’s barrier.
Here at Bella Eden Farms, we use various oils to maximize their benefit for specific purposes - whether it’s in soap, lotions, lip balm, face serum, or bath salts. The secret is in the sauce, so they say!
Stay tuned, and we’ll chat about different oils and some of their benefits!
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Meanwhile, Be beautiful . Be yourself . Be.
See you at the next Blogs & Blots post!