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Mineral oil versus natural oils in skincare---are all oils created equal?

As a skin care professional, one of the obstacles I run up against on a regular basis is the fallout of mass-marketing campaigns preaching that consumers should avoid oil-based products if they have skin issues. The truth is that oil is one of the very best things you can put on your skin -- natural oils, that is, not synthetic, chemically-altered oils. It is these synthetic oils such as mineral oil to which the campaigns are really referring to. Oils derived from plants, such as olive, coconut, avocado, or grape seeds are in fact illustriously beneficial to our skin.

To understand the difference, it is helpful to know where the oils are derived from and why this makes them so different when applying them to the skin. Mineral oil is a distillate of petroleum used to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil. It is ubiquitous in skincare products because it is inexpensive and rarely causes allergic reactions. Aside from the obvious---it is a derivative of crude oil---why is it so bad for your skin? Mineral oil is used commercially as mosquito control where it is sprayed on the surface of water to make an impervious film that prevents mosquito larvae from breathing. Translation: it clogs your skin. It coats the skin like plastic and interferes with the skins ability to eliminate toxins, which promotes acne and other skin disorders. Mineral oil also slows down skin function and cell development that can result in premature aging.

On the other hand, unadulterated oils, found naturally in nature and derived from plants, have immense benefits. For example, olive oil has antioxidant properties and is rich in vitamins, minerals and nutrients, thus having multiple healing effects on the skin. The vitamin E content is high in olive oil, thereby assisting in repairing cells and preventing cell damage. It is soothing and healing to all skin types. It has an excellent moisturizing effect on the skin, and leaves a breathable protective film that holds in moisture. Olive oil produces very mild long-lasting skincare products which are suitable for small children or those with sensitive skin since olive oil is unlikely to cause allergic reactions.

Coconut oil is another natural choice for skincare because it is high in the fatty acids lauric and capric. These fatty acids are just like the fatty acids found to be so beneficial in human breast milk and are extremely powerful antimicrobial agents. Coconut oil's antimicrobial properties are beneficial for the skin and help to quickly re-establish the skins own natural antimicrobial and acid barrier. Coconut oil's small molecular structure allows for easy absorption, giving the skin a soft smooth texture without feeling greasy. As well as aiding healing and repair, its effects are long-lasting. Coconut oil is an amazing moisturizer keeping the skin soft and smooth.

So the answer is no - all oils are not created equal. Don't be scared off by an oil-based product. Look closer at what the oil is and steer clear of synthetic oils such as mineral oil, but feel good about purchasing products with rich, natural, beneficial properties such as avocado, grapeseed, olive, coconut and sesame.

Leslie McCann is the founder of My Mama's Love--a company devoted to producing allergy friendly and non-toxic skin remedies. Her daughter is the company's namesake whom has Asperger's syndrome and food & chemical sensitivities. It's for this reason that Leslie started producing her own products.