Face Oils Contain Active Nutrients

Posted by Dr. Natasha Ryz on

Face oils that contain plant oils are rich in essential nutrients including fatty acids, squalene, vitamins, phytosterols and other bioactive compounds that have benefits for your skin.

The active nutrients of face oils may include:

    • Fatty acids
    • Lecithin
    • Squalene
    • Ceramides
    • Vitamin E - tocopherols and tocotrienols
    • Vitamin K - phylloquinone
    • Carotenoids
    • Phytosterols
    • Polyphenols

Face oils

What is a face oil?

A face oil is an oil-based skincare product that can soften, condition and soothe your skin.

A face oil is made from plant-based oils, and may also include mineral oils, animal-based oils, and/or esters. 

A simple face oil may be composed of a single plant oil, whereas a more complex face oil may contain several plant oils, as well as extracts, actives and essential oils.

Some plant oils in face oils may include:

Different plant oils have different properties, including textures, aromas, colors, skin feel, nutrient profiles and benefits.

There are face oils that are created for different skin types and concerns, including dry skin, mature skin, sensitive skin or acne prone skin.

Learn more: What is a Face Oil?

Essential Nutrients of Face Oil

What are the active nutrients in face oils?

Face oils that contain plant oils are rich in active nutrients including fatty acids, squalene, vitamins, phytosterols, polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that have benefits for your skin.

The active nutrients of face oils may include:

    • Fatty acids
    • Lecithin
    • Squalene
    • Ceramides
    • Vitamin E - tocopherols and tocotrienols
    • Vitamin K - phylloquinone
    • Carotenoids
    • Phytosterols
    • Polyphenols

The amounts of nutrients in plant oils depends on how the plants were extracted and processed. Unrefined and cold-pressed plant oils contain the highest amount of active nutrients.


Fatty Acids



Face oils contain fatty acids

Fatty acids have multiply benefits for your skin and can soften your skin, calm redness and irritation and strengthen your skin barrier.

Fatty acids from plant oils typically include linoleic acid (n-6), oleic acid (n-9), linolenic acid (n-3) and several others that vary depending on the plant source.

Fatty acids with benefits include:

    • Linoleic acid
    • Oleic acid
    • Alpha-linolenic acid
    • Palmitic acid
    • Stearic acid
    • Gamma-linolenic acid

All fatty acids are emollients and can soften your skin, help the skin retain its moisture and to support the skin’s barrier function.

Learn more: Benefits of Emollients for Dry Skin

Linoleic acid

Linoleic acid is an omega 6 fatty acid found naturally in your skin barrier.

Linoleic acid is an essential fatty acid that cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied through the diet, supplements and skincare. 

Linoleic acid has many benefits for your skin when applied topically. It softens your skin and strengthens your skin's moisture barrier. 

Linoleic acid is a precursor for ceramides (Breiden et al, 2014), which are bioactive lipids that play a role in keeping our skin barrier firm, smooth and healthy.

Learn more: What is Linoleic Acid? Omega 6 Essential Fatty Acid for Dry Skin

High natural sources of linoleic acid (n-6) include sunflower seed oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil, hemp seed oil and apple seed oil.

Oleic acid

Oleic acid is an omega 9 fatty acid found naturally in your skin barrier and in sebum. 

Oleic acid has many benefits for dry skin when applied topically. It is quickly absorbed and softens dry skin.

Plant oils rich is oleic acid include olive oil, camellia seed oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil and apple seed oil.

Face oils contain fatty acids

Alpha-linolenic acid

Alpha-linolenic acid is an omega 3 fatty acid found naturally in your skin barrier.

Alpha-linolenic acid is an essential fatty acid that cannot be made by the body, and must be supplied through the diet, supplements and skincare. 

High sources of alpha-linolenic acid (n-3) include strawberry seed oil, blueberry seed oil and blackberry seed oil. 

Learn more: Lipid Barrier: Beneficial Fats in Your Skin Barrier

Palmitic acid 

Palmitic acid is a saturated fatty acid found naturally in your skin barrier. Saturated fats tend to be solid at room temperature (like coconut oil and butter).

Palmitic acid is a rich emollient as well as an occlusive agent, meaning it locks moisture into your skin rather than letting it evaporate.

As you age, your skin barrier makes less palmitic acid (Kim et al, 2010).

Rich sources of palmitic acid are palm oil, cocoa butter, coconut oil and argan oil. 

Stearic acid

Stearic acid is a saturated fatty acid found naturally in your skin barrier. Like palmitic acid, it’s very rich and forms an occlusive layer over the skin.

As you age, your skin barrier makes less stearic acid (Kim et al, 2010).

Natural sources of stearic acid are cocoa butter, shea butter and argan oil. 

Gamma-linolenic acid

Gamma-linolenic acid is an omega-6 fatty acid that is known for its skin-supporting properties (Kapoor et al, 2006). 

Rich sources of gamma-linolenic acid (n-6) include evening primrose oil, borage oil, black currant seed oil and hemp seed oil. 

Face oils contain Lecithin

Face oils contain lecithin

Lecithin is the gummy material in crude vegetable oil that is removed by degumming.

The specific phospholipid formerly called lecithin is now referred to as phosphatidylcholine (Scholdfield et al, 1981).

Phosphatidylcholine is a natural phospholipid found in cell membranes and is known for its emulsifying, moisturizing and protective properties.

Lecithin is sourced commercially from soybean and sunflower kernel.

Lecithin is a mix of phospholipids, triglycerides, fatty acids, and various other compounds. 

The composition of lecithin can vary depending on the source from which it is derived (e.g., soybeans, sunflower seeds, egg yolks), but the primary components of lecithin are phospholipids.

Soybean lecithin has been shown to contain:

    • 19 - 21% phosphatidylcholine
    • 8 - 20% phosphatidylethanolamine
    • 20 - 21% inositol phosphatides
    • 5 - 11% other phosphatides
    • 33 - 35% soybean oil
    • 2 - 5% sterols
    • 1.3 mg/g vitamin E tocopherols

 (Scholdfield et al, 1981)

The composition of soybean lecithin includes triglycerides, fatty acids, pigments, sterols, sterol glycosides and esters and vitamin E tocopherols (Scholdfield et al, 1981).

Sources of lecithin include soybean oil, sunflower seed oil and rice bran oil. 

 Rice bran oil contains 1-2% lecithin (Jala et al, 2015).

The active portion of rice bran lecithin is a complex mixture of phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylinositol, along with glycolipids, triglycerides, free fatty acid, oryzanol, tocols, sterols, and waxes as minor components (Jala et al, 2015).

Face oils contain squalene

Face oils contain squalene

Squalene is an oily liquid hydrocarbon. Squalane is its hydrogenated form.

Squalene is naturally found in shark liver oil, human sebum and certain plant oils, including rice bran oil.

Shark liver (Squalus) is the highest natural source of squalene and the name "squalene" originates from "Squalus" species of shark.

Human sebum also naturally contains 13% squalene as one of its major constituents (Kim et al, 2012). 

Squalene is widely distributed in nature, with reasonable amounts found in olive oil, palm oil, wheat-germ oil, amaranth oil, and rice bran oil (Huang et al, 2009).

Rice bran oil contains 0.35 - 3.18 mg/g squalene (Shimizu et al, 2019).

Squalene is a strong antioxidant and is also an emollient and can help the skin maintain hydration.

When squalene is hydrogenated, it becomes squalane, which is often used in skincare products for its skin-softening and emollient effects.

Squalane has gained popularity in skincare and cosmetic products due to its lightweight texture, emollient properties, and compatibility with a wide range of skin types. Squalane is less prone to oxidation compared to squalene, making it more stable and suitable for cosmetic formulations.

Face oils contain ceramides

Face oils contain ceramides

Ceramides and glucosylceramides are lipids found naturally in your skin barrier and play a crucial role in maintaining the skin's barrier function and moisture retention.

Ceramides are synthesized from glucosylceramides.

Rich sources of ceramides include wheat germ oil, soybean oil and rice bran oil.

Rice bran oil has been shown to contain 13 glucosylceramides and ceramide "elasticamide" (Miyasaka et al, 2022).

 Face oils contain vitamin E

Face oils contain vitamin E

Vitamin E is an essential nutrient and it has benefits for your skin.

When applied topically, vitamin E is a skin conditioning agent, a powerful antioxidant and it can protect your skin against photodamage from the sun.

There are 8 types of natural vitamin E. There are four tocopherols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta) and four tocotrienols (alpha, beta, gamma and delta).

The best sources of vitamin E tocopherols are raspberry seed oil, blackcurrant seed oil, apple seed oil, wheat germ oil, soybean oil, corn seed oil and sunflower seed oil.

The best sources of vitamin E tocotrienols are annatto seed, palm oil, rice bran oil and blueberry seed oil.

Learn more: What is Topical Vitamin E?

Face oils contain vitamin K

Face oils contain vitamin K

Vitamin K is a group of fat-soluble vitamins.

There are two main forms of vitamin K: vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) and vitamin K2 (menaquinone).

Topical vitamin K as phylloquinone is purported to offer skin benefits such as reducing the appearance of bruises and dark circles, possibly aiding in wound healing and promoting skin elasticity, though scientific evidence supporting these claims remains limited and requires further investigation.

Significant amounts of vitamin K1 (phylloquinone) are found in several plant oils including soybean oil, pumpkin seed oil, avocado oil and olive oil (Jakob et al, 1996; Woolard et al, 2002; Schurgers et al, 2002; Pokkanta et al, 2019).

Here are a few examples:

    • Soybean oil contains 8.19 mg/g phylloquinone 
    • Pumpkin seed oil contains 0.112 mg/g phylloquinone 
    • Avocado oil contains 0.0792 mg/g phylloquinone 
    • Olive oil contains 0.0548 mg/g phylloquinone 

Face oils contain carotenoids

Face oils contain carotenoids

Carotenoids are a large family of fat-soluble isoprenoid pigments widely recognized as bioactive, responsible for many of the yellow-to-red colors in flowers, fruits, vegetables and microorganisms.

Carotenoids have strong antioxidant activity and play a role in protecting your skin against oxidative damage.

Human skin contains carotenoids, such as beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene and their isomers, which serve the living cells as a protection against oxidation (Darvin et al, 2011).

The most significant carotenoids used in cosmetics are lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, lycopene, and astaxanthin (Anunciato et al, 2012).

Plant oils rich in carotenoids include red palm oil, sea buckthorn oil, raspberry seed oil and blueberry seed oil (Zeb et al, 2004; Parry et al, 2005, Tudor et al, 2019).

For example, cold-pressed blueberry seed oil contains a high amount of carotenoids, with:

    • 7.80 mg/g zeaxanthin 
    • 1.49 mg/g cryptoxanthin 
    • 1.35 mg/g beta-carotene 
    • 0.60 mg/g lutein
    • 11.24 mg/g total carotenoids 

 (Parry et al, 2005)

Face oils contain phytosterols

Face oils contain phytosterols

Phytosterols are plant-derived sterols that have a similar structure and functions as cholesterol. There are more than 100 types of phytosterols!

The main phytosterols in plant oils are beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, brassicasterol, and delta5-avenasterol (Verleyen et al, 2002).

Phytosterols such as sitosterol are potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds (Bakrim et al, 2022).

Rich sources of phytosterols include rice bran oil, soybean oil and apple seed oil (Pieszka et al 2015; Yang et al, 2019).

The total phytosterol contents of plant oils has been shown to range between 1.42 and 18.91 mg/g (Yang et al, 2019).

Some examples include:

    • 18.91 mg/g phytosterols in rice bran oil
    • 6.37 mg/g phytosterols in sesame oil
    • 4.66 mg/g phytosterols in flaxseed oil
    • 3.0 mg/g phytosterols in soybean oil
    • 3.0 mg/g phytosterols in olive oil
    • 2.53 mg/g phytosterols in sunflower oil

Cold-pressed apple seed oil has been shown to contain 3.46 mg/g phytosterols, including:

    • 2.629 mg/g sitosterol
    • 0.347 mg/g avenasterol
    • 0.249 mg/g sitostanol
    • 0.219 mg/g campesterol
    • 0.013 mg/g stigmasterol 

(Pieszka et al 2015)

Face oils contain active ingredients

Face oils contain polyphenols

The polyphenols group includes phenolic acids, tannins, flavonoids, anthocyanins, mono- and oligomeric catechins, lignans, and others.

Polyphenols are plant compounds with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and potential anti-aging properties. They can help protect the skin from damage caused by UV radiation and other environmental factors (Adamska-Szewczyk et al, 2019).

Plant oils high in polyphenols include olive oil, grape seed oil, hemp seed oil and apple seed oil (Fromm et al, 2012; Smeriglio et al, 2016; Konuskan et al, 2019; Izzo et al, 2020; Calzolari et al, 2021). 

The total amounts of polyphenols in apple seed oil has been shown to range from 3.9 to 26.3 mg/g (Fromm et al, 2012).

Phloridzin is the most abundant polyphenol of apple seed oil, accounting for 79 to 92% of the polyphenols (Fromm et al, 2012).

The other minor polyphenols in apple seed oil include phloretin-2'-xyloglucoside, 5-caffeoylquinic acid (chlorogenic acid), p-coumaroylquinic acid and (−)epicatechin (Fromm et al, 2012). 

Face oils contain active ingredients


A face oil is made from plant-based carrier oils, and may also include mineral oils, animal-based oils, and/or esters. 

A simple face oil may be composed of a single plant carrier oil, whereas a more complex face oil may contain several plant carrier oils, as well as extracts, actives and essential oils.

Face oils that contain plant carrier oils are rich in active nutrients including fatty acids, lecithin, squalene, vitamins, phytosterols, polyphenols and other bioactive compounds that have benefits for your skin.

Face oils can soften your skin, improve the texture of your skin, reduce fine lines, calm redness and irritation and protect your skin from daily damage.

Face oils are great for all skin types, but especially dry skin.


Face oils contains active ingredients


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Author Information

Dr. Natasha Ryz, Scientist and Founder of Dry Skin Love Skincare

Dr. Natasha Ryz is a scientist, skin care expert and an entrepreneur. She is the founder of Dry Skin Love Skincare, and she creates skincare products for beauty, dry skin and pain relief.

Dr. Ryz has a PhD in Experimental Medicine from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, and she is a Vanier scholar. She also holds a Master of Science degree and a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Natasha is the former Chief Science Officer of Zenabis Global, and she oversaw cannabis extraction, analytics, and product development. Her team brought 20 products to market including oils, sprays, vapes and softgels.

Why I Started A Skincare Company

Email: natasha.ryz@dryskinlove.com
Twitter: @tashryz
Instagram: @tash.ryz
LinkedIn: @natasharyz

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