Ep 219 - The Rogue Pharmacist - The Science of Oils in Skin Care

The use of oils in skin care is nothing new—it dates back thousands of years—and those who’ve adopted an oil into their regimen swear by it. However, many consumers and estheticians still shy away from the use of oils because they feel too heavy or sticky or because of the fear the oils will cause a breakout. But it could be that people use them incorrectly. In this episode of The Rogue Pharmacist, Ben Fuchs shares what oils are both good and bad for the skin, their beneficial properties, and whether facial oils will really make your skin more or less oily.

Associated Skin Care Professionals (ASCP) presents The Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs, R.Ph. This podcast takes an enlightening approach to supporting licensed estheticians in their pursuit to achieve results-driven skin care treatments for their clients. You can always count on us to share professional skin care education, innovative techniques, and the latest in skin science.

Benjamin Knight Fuchs is a registered pharmacist, nutritionist, and skin care chemist with 35 years of experience developing pharmacy-potent skin health products for estheticians, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons. Ben’s expert advice gives licensed estheticians the education and skin science to better support the skin care services performed in the treatment room while sharing insights to enhance clients’ at-home skin care routines.

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0:00:00.1 Benjamin Knight Fuchs: Calling all forward-thinking Estheticians. It's time to redefine the art of skincare and embrace a revolutionary approach that begins with your client's skin cell health. I'm pharmacist Benjamin Knight Fuchs welcoming you to Truth Treatment Systems where beauty begins at the cell. We believe you're not just a beauty professional, you are a healthcare professional. You wanna make a positive difference, and you wanna make a good living and we will help you do both. We're here to support your outta-the-box thinking and empower you to question traditional products, outdated formulations, and old school ingredients. Imagine a world where solutions to the skin's, enigmatic conditions, like just beyond the horizon. At Truth, we're not just a skincare brand, we're a movement that encourages you to explore better solutions and find that uh-huh moment that changes the game. You are an artist and a healer of the skin, and we're here to provide the canvas and the tools for you to create tailored protocols leaving generic ones in the past. Sign up now @truthtreatmentspro.com and receive two complimentary mineral-rich electrolyte sheet masks. That's truthtreatmentspro.com, where healthy skin is beautiful skin. 


0:01:09.1 S2: This podcast is sponsored by Lamprobe. Lamprobe is a popular aesthetic tool that enables skincare practitioners to rapidly treat a wide variety of common minor skin irregularities or MSI. Red MSI treated by Lamprobe include dilated capillaries and cherry Angiomas, yellow MSI, cholesterol deposits and sebaceous hyperplasia. And brown MSI treated include skin tags and more. Lamprobe MSI treatments are non-evasive and deliver immediate results. Lamprobe can empower your skin practice with these new and highly in-demand services. For more information, visit lamprobe.com. That's L-A-M-P-R-O-B-E.com and follow Lamprobe on social media @Lamprobe. 


0:02:03.9 Maggie Stasek: Hello and welcome to ASCP and the Rogue Pharmacist with Benjamin Knight Fuchs. In each episode, we'll explore how internal and external factors can impact the skin. I'm Maggie Stasek, ASEP's Education program manager, and joining me is Ben Fuchs skincare formulator and pharmacist. Hi Ben. 


0:02:19.5 BF: Hello, Maggie. 


0:02:20.7 MS: The use of oils and skincare is nothing new. Dates back thousands of years, and those who have adopted an oil into their regimen, I think they square by it. However, a lot of people still freak out a little bit at the thought of putting an oil on their skin. 


0:02:34.4 BF: That's very interesting. First of all, what's an oil? Do you ever wonder what exactly is an oil?  


0:02:39.3 MS: Good point. 


0:02:40.0 BF: Right? What's an oil? So, technically speaking, an oil is a substance that doesn't dissolve in water, number one. And it has electronic nature that's unique compared to other molecules. We'll say. In fact, let me just rephrase this a little bit. There's two types of molecules in nature. One dissolves in water, we say they're water soluble. Another dissolves in oil. We say they're oil soluble, right? And technically hydrophilic means water soluble lipophilic means fat soluble, and some molecules have a little bit of both. But basically speaking, there's two categories. Water soluble and fat soluble. An oil soluble, an oil is something that dissolves in an oil soluble liquid or a medium. And a water soluble ingredient dissolves in a water soluble medium. So what is it that makes something oil and dissolve in an oil soluble medium in a lipophilic medium versus water soluble electricity, but not just electricity, qua... 


0:03:34.4 BF: Electricity is a very tiny level, not the kind of electricity that you stick a plug into a socket and lace up a light, but electricity at what we, I don't wanna freak anybody out, but I'll say the quantum level, which is the very, very smallest level. What makes something an oil is when the electrical nature spreads all over the material. What makes something water soluble is when the electrical nature is concentrated. And technically we say an oil has an electronic nature that's non-polar that spreads. It doesn't have a polarity, it doesn't have a positive and a negative charge. Everything's kind of dispersed, spread out, and water soluble material has an electrical charge that's concentrated into a positive and a negative. So we say when it's concentrated into a positive negative, it has poles, like a magnet, has poles, a magnet has a positive and a negative charge, and they're distinct. The positive charges over here on the left and the negative charges on over here on the right or vice versa. But you get what I'm saying?  


0:04:26.6 MS: Yeah. 


0:04:26.6 BF: Left and right. But in a non-polar material, the charge is spread. It's not pole. A pole is like the north pole in the South pole. Pole means there's difference like pole, pole pole. So positive, negative charge makes something a water soluble like a magnet. If that positive negative charge is spread out, it's non-polar and that makes it oil. And this gives an oil soluble material a very interesting quality that a water soluble material doesn't have. Okay? Here's the classic example, peanut butter and jelly. You have peanut butter and you have jelly. Which one do you think is water soluble? And which one do you think is oil soluble?  


0:05:00.3 MS: I would say jelly's water soluble, peanut butter's oil soluble. 


0:05:03.4 BF: Why is that? Well, I mean, what makes you say that?  


0:05:06.0 MS: The jelly is water-based. The peanut butters oil based. 


0:05:10.0 BF: Right. If you have peanut butter and jelly on a knife and you stick them under the tap water or stout, the jelly will rinse off the peanut butter, not so much. Right?  


0:05:20.0 MS: Right. 


0:05:20.5 BF: Because when something's non-polar, it's like Velcro, all the electrical charges are spread so they can stick. 


0:05:27.8 MS: Interesting. 


0:05:28.7 BF: That's how Velcro sticks. It has everything spread out, right?  


0:05:32.1 MS: Yeah. 


0:05:32.2 BF: So the little hooks in the Velcro are spread out over the material, and that's what makes it sticky. So by virtue of the electronic nature, the spread are non-polar on the oil, oils are sticky. They're harder to rinse off. You can't rinse them off without soap, which is a whole nother story. Soap is an emulsifier. It helps break it down. So this stickiness gives oils a unique quality and a desirable quality in skincare products because they stick to the skin. So you put oil in the skin and that stickiness is perceived as, "Oh, that feels nice." Right?  


0:06:09.4 MS: Yeah. 




0:06:10.5 BF: Right? That's what we feel when we feel oil. "Oh, that feels lovely. That feels nice." And what we're feeling is oil, why you don't get that kind of feeling, right? A water-soluble ingredient. And this makes oils attractive in skincare. However, it doesn't make them effective in skincare in terms of having an effect on the skin. They're mechanical. They strictly perceptual and sensual with some exceptions I'll tell you about here in a second. But the attractive quality of an oil is not in its activity, but in its feel. And via conditioning, we're all in this trance of collapsing effectiveness with feel. In other words, we assume if we feel something that something's happening. 


0:06:54.7 BF: And this is an illusion that the skincare companies, the skincare business takes advantage of. Because simply by putting an oil in a skincare product, you can trick the consumer into thinking they've done something to their skin, right? So they put it on the skin, they feel something they don't realize because of this illusion. They don't realize they're feeling the oil. They think they're doing something to their skin. They're not. They're strictly putting an oil on the skin. But it's worse. I'll tell you why. First of all, when you put something on the surface of the skin, the skin's supposed to breathe. And when you put something sticky and I'm saying sticky, but we don't really think of it as sticky, but from a molecular electronic, non-polar nature, it is sticky. That's why you're feeling it. When we put something sticky on the skin, oily on the skin, you're blocking its ability to breathe. 


0:07:41.8 BF: The skin has to breathe, oxygen comes in through the skin. And all be it not as much as the lungs obviously, but still, oxygen is coming in through the skin and carbon dioxide is coming out. So you're blocking the skin's ability to breathe. That's number one. Number two, the skin has moisture factors in it that are designed to read the ambient humidity in the environment. We've talked about this before, and when you put something on the surface of the skin, you block the skin's ability to read the ambient humidity and moisture, natural moisture factors are not produced as well as they would if they could really at ambient humidity. In other words, when you go into a dry climate, you're supposed to make more natural moisture factors. But if you have oil on the skin, that's not gonna happen because you block the skin's ability to read the low ambient humidity. 


0:08:26.1 BF: So oils can suppress the skin's ability to moisturize itself. Moisture is not just important for feel or for cosmetic purposes. Moisture is a chemistry issue. So the skin has to stay hydrated. So the chemistry of the skin is efficient, so the skin can do is kept biochemical business effectively. Oils will suppress that. Also, the third problem with oils, and this requires us to distinguish a special kind of oil, which is the kind of oil most people use in skincare products, which is a vegetable oil. That's a unique kind of oil. When we think of oil, we don't often make a distinction between a vegetable oil and a non vegetable oil, right? Most people think of oils, they think of vegetable oils. Vegetable oils are a specific kind of oil that has its own problems. And I'll tell you what those are here in a second. 


0:09:14.8 BF: But oil in general is gonna be non-polar. It's gonna stick to the skin. It's gonna suppress natural moisture factors, and it's gonna keep the skin from being able to breathe. It's not gonna have any activity. It's gonna, only create some kind of superficial sensation of something happening. That's all oils. But what most oils are in skincare products, they're almond oil and grape seed oil and macadamia nut oil and peanut oil and soil and corn oil, et cetera. These are vegetable oils. Now, vegetable oils are a unique kind of oil. These are oils that are made up of something called triglycerides. I wanna get too chem, biochemically wonky, but it's sort of important. A triglyceride is like a letter E. Alright? So E has a stick going up and down, and it has three lines, horizontal lines, alright? So you have a vertical stick and three lines. A triglyceride is letter E, the E the, up and down part. The vertical part of the E of the triglyceride is glycerin. And the three horizontal pieces are fatty acids. So triglycerides are letter E made up of a glycerin molecule that is going up and down, and three fatty acids that act like the letter A. So far so good. 


0:10:25.0 MS: Yeah. 


0:10:25.6 BF: Okay. Here's what gets problematic. Those three horizontal parts of the letter E of the triglyceride, the fatty acids are unstable or they can be unstable. And the ones that are the most unstable are the ones that have the most nutritional value. And this is, we find this in nutrition a lot, that the nutritional value of a molecule is proportional to its instability, right? And this is why nutrients are very unstable, because in order for them to do their nutrient work, they gotta break down quickly and release their energy. So we find that the best oils for eating are the most unstable oils, and those are the oils you never wanna cook with. Things like oh, grape seed oils comes to mind. Carrot seed oil, the hazelnut oil, the real exotic ones. 


0:11:14.9 BF: Those are the ones you tend to see in the fancier skincare products. And those are the worst ones. They call them technically unsaturated oils. Or sometimes you hear polyunsaturated oils. Poly means many. Those are the worst. It's the unsaturation. And I don't wanna get into too much chemistry, but the unsaturation that makes them unstable, the more unsaturated an oil is, the more unstable it is. And the instability leads to the production of what are called free radicals and very dangerous free radicals. A class of free radicals called lipid peroxides, which are among the most carcinogenic, pro-aging and pro-inflammatory of the free radicals, the fatty free radicals. And the more unstable the oil is, the more unsaturated the oil is, and the more nutritionally valuable the oil is. And the more exotic and fancy schmancy the oil is, the more dangerous it is. Now, I will say that if you use an oil fresh, like you squeeze it or cold press it, they say, you'll get some nutritional value out of vegetable oils. 


0:12:14.2 BF: There's things like, flavonoids and phytosterols and various nutritional elements, even vitamins that are found in oils. But that's not what cosmetic oils are. Cosmetic oils or oils that you can't eat. You can eat a food grade oil and you can use a food grade oil for your skin, but you can't eat a cosmetic grade oil. Cosmetic grade oil is a rancid oil. It's an oil that can't be used for food, and that's what most skincare companies use. So you're not getting any benefit from this thing, right? It's only sitting on the surface, only giving you perception. It's got potential toxicity, it's got potential inflammatory effects. It's got potential pro-aging effects. There's really no use for it unless it's a fresh oil that you've... And you never see this in a cosmetic product obviously. 


0:12:58.1 BF: But when you hear them touted for their benefits, they're giving you the benefits of the fresh oil. They're not telling you that this is a cosmetic grade oil, and this is an oil that's already probably oxidized. That reaction, by the way, is called oxidation. It's already oxidized, it's already broken down. It's already less valuable. And even pro-inflammatory and pro-aging and deleterious to health. And it's not doing anything anyway except giving you this perception of a, softness of the skin. So what the heck is it in there for? It's in there 'cause it's cheap and it's in there because people have this illusion that something's happening. It's really deceitful and it's not fair. And when I see vegetable oil on a product, I immediately know that's a company or that's a formulation that is not really interested in the customer's health as much as interested in the customer's perception of something happening. 


0:13:48.5 BF: Now, even worse, when you have an oil that's in a clear bottle, that's even worse because now it's already, the oil's already probably rancid or oxidized and pro-inflammatory and pro-aging. But now, even as it's on the shelf, it's degrading even further. And then keep in mind it's already degraded. You put on your skin. What happens when it hits the air, it oxidizes even further. Long story short, they're the craziest ingredients, the silliest ingredients to have ever seen in a skincare product. And I don't wanna step on any toes here, but I never use vegetable oils. Now, there's one exception, and that is jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is called an oil, but it's not really an oil. It's very, very stable. It's more like a wax technically speaking, and that gives it a certain stability. And that's the one... It's called an oil, but that's the one kind of vegetable derived lipid that is probably not gonna, it is not gonna have deleterious or harmful effects on the skin. 


0:14:46.4 BF: Again, it's not gonna really do anything, but at least it won't have any harmful effects. So, long story short, I don't ever use oils, vegetable oils in my skincare products. Vegetable oils have to be distinguished from ordinary oils. Ordinary oils tend to be derived from hydrocarbons, and they have their own problems like mineral oil classically. They have their own problems, but most of the oils you see are vegetable oils. They don't have any benefit. They could only be deleterious on the skin, and there's really no use for, I don't really sees a use for them unless they're fresh. And I will emphasize that when they're fresh, they do have some nutritional value. 


0:15:14.1 MS: Talk to me for a minute about squalene. 


0:15:16.5 BF: I love squalene. Love, love, love squalene. And I've been using it for years and it's one of my favorite ingredients is, it's a hydrocarbon, meaning it's hydrogen carbon. It has a very beautiful chemical structure that is similar to vitamin A. And in fact, it's made in the body in the same kind of biochemical pathways that make vitamin A or that make substances like vitamin A. And this molecule is extremely stable. 


0:15:41.7 BF: Squalane is however, it's precursor, which is called squalene. You may have seen that squalene is not stable and it breaks down into squalane. So squalane is a stabilized version of squalene. Because it's found in the skin. It's a major component of your natural skin lipids. It has a certain degree of non allergenicity and non toxicity. It feels soft on the skin. You're not gonna get any really nutritional benefits from it, but it does act like a penetrating aid. 


0:16:14.9 BF: So when you use squalane with vitamins, for example, it will pull the vitamins in. The squalene acts as a penetrating aid that will help pull the vitamins in. In fact, adding squalane to any product will enhance the transdermal penetration of active ingredients through the stratum corneum to the lower levels of the skin. Now, if you have parabens or you have other things that you don't want necessarily into the skin, those will get pulled in as well, which is one of the reasons why if you have transdermal penetration, you gotta be very careful with the rest of the formula because you're gonna pull in fragrances, you're pull in things like phthalates, you'll pull in parabens, et cetera. So squalene is a penetrating aid. But in terms of skin feel, it has a wonderful skin feel. It isn't gonna do anything. You're not gonna have activity from squalene, but we will have transdermal penetration. 


0:17:00.9 BF: And it's made not only by the skin, it's made inside the body in the same biochemical pathways that make things like cholesterol and co-enzyme Q10. And it's a very functional molecule in terms of its ability to moisturize the skin naturally because it's made in the skin, but also topically it has a softening effect on the skin that's a little bit more natural than a regular oil and has transdermal penetration properties. Anything that's alive is making squalene. It's made in large quantities in some plants, like olives. It's also made in sugar, but it's made pretty much in all, most plants that are producing lipids or oils will produce a little bit at least of squalane. It's vegetable derived. Although historically most squalane came from sharks, shark liver. And that's where it first came from. 


0:17:47.4 BF: That's where it was first noticed because Shark livers contain really interesting molecules. Some very fascinating molecules are found in Shark livers. In fact, reptiles and primitive animals primitive along the evolutionary tree. I'm thinking like reptiles, for example, make some really interesting molecules, medicinal type molecules. And it was discovered that shark livers are a wonderful source of squalane in addition to other medicines. Preparation H they use Shark liver, ingredients that help the hemorrhoidal tissue absorb oxygen. I never, and if you've ever heard of people putting preparation H on their skin for wrinkles. 


0:18:20.5 MS: I have heard that. Yeah. 


0:18:21.7 BF: It's because the Shark derived oxygenating factors. But Sharks are loaded with medicinal materials, medicinal lipids, as well as the cartilage. There was a book that came out why Sharks don't Get Cancer a long time ago. And most squalane historically had been derived from Shark livers. These days, I wouldn't say most, but a lot of squalane is derived from olives and sugar as well. But most plants will make at least a little bit of squalane if they're fatty plants. 


0:18:46.9 MS: And so to clarify when we're talking about oils, squalene itself is just a molecule. It is not an oil, but it could be put into an oil formulation. 


0:18:58.6 BF: Not quite, it's not a vegetable oil. So it's not, it doesn't have triglycerides in it, remember that what distinguishes vegetable oil from hydrocarbons is the triglycerides. Squalene doesn't have any triglycerides, but it is a hydrocarbon and it will dissolve an oil. So technically speaking, I would call it an oil, but I wouldn't call it a vegetable oil. And that is kind of a, there's no real strict definition of oil except to say that it's a molecule that's non-polar, where the electronic energy is spread out and it dissolves in lipophilic medium and squalene meets those criteria. 


0:19:31.1 MS: That concludes our show for today, and we thank you for listening. But if you just can't get enough of Ben Fuchs, the ASEP's Rogue Pharmacist, you can find him @truthtreatments.com. For more information on this episode, or for ways to connect with Ben Fuchs or to learn more about ASEP, check out the show notes.

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