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SKIN CARE 101 - Occlusives

By Ann C Wooledge
on November 17, 2014
1 comment

organic skin care at wingsets


This series of blogs will be about skin care and how we can make the right choices while we search the aisles, go to home parties and read a bunch of "stuff" online. Now if you are new to this blog, you should know that we are unrelenting advocates of being label readers - always! I know, I really do. It takes time, precious time, but our health is as precious as it gets. I've been researching skin care ingredients for over 12 years and I've seen some very good and some very bad advice. I hope to help you with just the basics on what to look for in a good, healthy, effective skin care ingredient. This will be the first of a series and will be repeated in our Ingredient Benefits tab at the bottom of each page of our website. I have been juggling too many balls the past few years and have been remiss on sharing what I do know about skin care including carrier oils and essential oils. The winter months remind all of us that tight, dry, flaking and chapped skin is something to be avoided.

Occlusives - what are they?

I will make this abbreviated for now and go into more detail on each oil as we progress. We do actually have some information we've shared in the past about the oils we use in our products plus other ingredients. But this series is more about why you want or don't want a particular ingredient.

So, what makes an oil “occlusive” and what does that really mean? Occlusives generally get a bad rap because we automatically think of things that clog our pores, but that isn’t true. You need these protective oils. They prevent transdermal moisture loss, protect your skin from harsh winds, dry weather and cold weather. I’m sitting in front of our pellet stove right now. I love this stove and it is the only thing (well, maybe not the only thing) that keeps me sane through the cold Nebraska winters. But, I also notice a distinct drying of my skin as I sit here if I don’t use a protective cream that contains at least one occlusive oil, preferably at least two.  There are so many quality ingredients now available to all of us through the internet and, of course, I recommend organic or certified organic and cold pressed, unrefined. Why? I have compared the cosmetic grade oils to the cold pressed unrefined oils that we now use and the difference in just the appearance tells me that the beneficial properties have  been refined out of cosmetic grade oils. I have a picture I posted on our Facebook page probably two or more years ago of our beautiful dark green certified organic, cold pressed, unrefined avocado oil sitting in a clear glass container beside the expeller processed, cosmetic grade of avocado oil that we once used before I figured this out. The cosmetic grade is colorless, thin and odorless - something large manufacturers look for - plus it is significantly cheaper. The cold-pressed (i.e. without heat that ruins beneficial properties) is dark green, thicker and has a nice subtle plant-type fragrance. Before I knew better I thought – well, if it is cosmetic grade and I’m making a cosmetic, then that’s what I need. Simple right? Well, not so much. Oils retain their phytonutrients only if they are cold-pressed and unrefined, which means they are full of antioxidants that fight those free radicals that try to make those wrinkles on your face. Cosmetic grade oils, which are what you will find in your big box store and home party brands, have been stripped of their benefits! Do they still “feel” like they are doing something for your skin? Well, yes, they do because oil is still oil. It is what is going on beneath your skin at the cellular level that you can’t “feel” that makes such a huge difference.

So here is a list of oils that are “occlusive”:

Jojoba oil (one of our favorites)
Rice Bran Oil
Sesame oil (not the roasted kind that smells heavenly in any stir fry recipe)
Avocado oil (again one of our favorites)
Pumpkin Seed oil (okay, another of our favorites and I will tell you why in another blog)
Macadamia Nut oil (obviously not to be used with nut allergies)
Moringa oil (we are experimenting with this one to determine if the hype is hype or true information)
Mineral oil (which is petroleum product and we advise you to avoid any products containing mineral oil and it also clogs pores)

Why do occlusive oils work to protect our skin?

Oils are – well obviously fats. And we will talk in another blog about the different types of fats and why some work better than others.  It is known that fats penetrate deeper into the surface layers of the skin and alleviate drying of the skin and help to retain the skin’s moisture by preventing moisture loss through evaporation. The healthier our skin is, the healthier our body is. It is truly a protective covering and keeping that covering intact, healthy, moisturized and elastic is key to overall health. Bacteria and viruses can enter quite easily through broken, red and chapped skin. It is more than just a beauty question (listen up here men!), or holding back the ravages of time and preventing and delaying wrinkle formation, it is essential to the health of your body overall. We all need and want (we really do) more supple, softer and elastic skin regardless of whether it is on our face on our feet.

I've just mentioned carrier oils here, but I should mention beeswax as well and probably the star performer in this lineup. Waxes in general are absorbed more slowly and can contribute to the “greasy” feel  that a lot of us try to avoid. But beeswax provides more protection than oils. The greasy feel only lasts for a short period of time and it is so worth it. We all need that protective barrier and only by using some occlusive oils/waxes in our products can we achieve this function. 

I know there are others and am just giving you a short synopsis. There have been newer oils on the market but we keep coming back to the ones we have used for years except, of course and importantly, we have switched to organic, cold pressed and unrefined. 


Thanks for listening!



Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health, nutrition and skin care. Ann was a Critical Care Registered Nurse, is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.

How healthy will your skin be in 5, 10 or 20 years? Part I - Rosacea

By Ann C Wooledge
on March 19, 2014

How healthy is your skin going to be in 5, 10 or 20 years?

And how early should you start to be concerned about that?

Skin health does not always refer to having no wrinkles or even fewer wrinkles, although with all of the glossy photo-shopped magazine ads, that is usually the first thing most people consider - not really the actual health of their skin. What about the typical and pretty common skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea? Interestingly enough, my family has a lot of these issues. I myself have rosacea, my daughter has had eczema since birth and my husband has a type of psoriasis, which we painfully discovered when he had a very bad flareup in November of 2011. So what do you do about these - and how do we keep the wrinkles at bay and our skin glowing and healthy looking?

Can you cure these skin issues or just calm them?

I am going to do this as a series and we'll start with rosacea. Rosacea apparently affects over 13 million Americans and usually causes facial redness and acne-like bumps and pimples. People like myself with rosacea will often blush much more easily or have "ruddy" cheeks. Bill Clinton is said to have rosacea and from looking at his pictures, I'd have to agree.

We've found that all of these skin issues are not "curable", but they can be relieved, calmed and alleviated unless you do something to trigger them. Each of us has our own individual triggers and it is important that we know what they are. I've been able to pretty much get rid of my rosacea; however I used to have red spots that turned into acne almost every day. That was before I started making my own creams and learned what triggers any episodes that I do get. I found that parabens will almost always cause a flareup with a cystic type pimple. I sample any new ingredients I receive because lots of parabens are hidden in other ingredients and are not declared. An example - I recently received a sample of a highly acclaimed and fairly expensive oil called Prickly Pear Seed Oil. It came with all sorts of accolades on how it would prevent wrinkles and other good things for your skin. I was very excited to receive this oil because of all the things I read about it. As I'm constantly searching and researching for new ingredients (part of the fun of being a formulator of skin care products) this one definitely sounded like something I wanted to add to our Skin Renewal Cream. We'll talk more about this particular oil in another blog, but the point I'm making here is - it had to have parabens in it because my face broke out in some pretty ugly cystic type pimples - big yuck for me, especially when my skin care line is our most popular line of products and I was afraid to "face" any of my customers for awhile. Not a very good advertisement. It took a few weeks to get them totally gone, but that's a long time in my experience. I'm super disappointed too because it does sound like a good oil to try. I will get samples from other places and let you know. This one was certified organic and Ecocert certified so how did a paraben get in here? I know some will say it was just the oil itself, but I know my skin and I know and understand the fatty acids in this particular oil and these would not have caused my face to break out to this degree.

Interestingly, the first time someone (a dermatologist) gave me a name for this skin condition was many years ago and she (and I think they still do) told me to use only "oil-free" makeup and creams. Which now makes me laugh whenever I hear that because it is just not true and if anything makes my skin more dry and flaky. Which as most of you know is why I started on this quest of healthy skin and being a skin product formulator.

So what can you do?

1. First of all, find out what your trigger is - it can be any of the usual allergy type triggers such as cheese, chocolate, soy, spicy foods and particularly alcohol can cause flares. I don't find any of these to be a problem anymore as long as I'm using a good skin care regimen and keeping my skin clean. My face does turn a bright red with any strenuous exercise - it just does and it goes away, so I don't consider that a problem except I often have to wash my face and add additional moisturizer after any routine that has caused my face to sweat - including gardening.

2. Secondly, find good organic skin care products. Your skin care products are really the biggest and best thing you can do to help or make worse your rosacea. It is really important to stay away from alcohol-containing products and as I said earlier parabens. I have found that I can use oil-based products and in fact my skin loves it when I use products made from unrefined organic ingredients such as shea butter, olive oil, avocado oil and others. It is important to find products that contain UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED oils because these retain the natural phytonutrients that actually feed your face and keep it healthy. Refined oils can also have solvents still in them, which will worsen the condition of anyone's skin. I recommend always to use products that contain as many natural ingredients as possible and I don't mean a cream that is full of just extracts of this and extracts of that. You need something in there to moisturize, soften and regenerate your skin. It is important if the product contains butters, such as shea butter, cocoa butter and/or mango butter - and this should be close to the top of the list of ingredients meaning it has a larger percentage contained in the total formula for that product, not thrown in at the bottom of the list as what I call eye-candy.

Tamanu oil is probably my favorite oil to use alone and for any breakouts or redness. I again encourage you to find unrefined, cold-pressed and organic and it does work wonders for your skin. Keep it out of your eye area as it will sting your eyes. I like to use it at night before I go to bed so I won't be taking the chance of inadvertently getting it into my eyes during the day. And finally, an oil that is truly a very good oil to use for the skin is neem oil. I did use this in our skin renewal cream from the beginning, but slowly phased it out simply because it does not smell very good - at all. I still use it in the garden as do other organic gardeners, but test it out first to see if the odor is offensive to you or not. Tamanu oil has a wonderful rich, almost caramel like odor, but I have heard some people say they don't like it or like the smell better if it is a refined Tamanu. Refined tamanu just doesn't have the same benefits for your face though, but these are individual choices you alone can make.

All products that contain water need to be preserved, although you will hear otherwise, it is just a fact of nature. So you will usually find phenoxyethanol as a preservative and from our testing with this preservative against many others, this is the one that did the best job, using the least amount and without causing problems with my skin.

3. Are there herbs or essential oils that work?  Lavender, of course, is well known for it's calming properties, both mind and body which includes your skin. We love lavender and tea tree in our products and encourage others to search for those ingredients. My research turned up quite a few of our favorite herbs for calming and adding nutrients to the skin. Rooibos tea is well known also for it's anti-inflammatory properties and I have found that if I include that in our creams, it really does make a difference. I add green tea, calendula, chamomile and helichrysum to that mix for ways to calm your skin and keep it glowing, healthy and young looking. Drinking these herbs as teas is also beneficial. The essential oils from these plants are also very beneficial for healthy skin, especially for their calming and healing properties. Finally, one herb, well I guess it is technically a spice, is turmeric which has been gaining a lot of attention with an incredible amount of research in the past few years. It is highly anti-inflammatory and with lots of research backing up those claims. Turmeric can be taken in capsule form and is probably the most effective way to use it unless you eat a lot of Indian type foods - but then you are getting into "hot" foods, which can cause a flare of your rosacea. I love Indian food, however, and just accept the fact that my skin may be red for a little while. It isn't really the redness that bothers me, it is if and when my face gets those pimple-like spots. I know when that happens, which it very rarely does anymore, that I need to take a step back and figure out what I had done that might have caused that and avoid whatever that was in the future - like the Prickly Pear Seed Oil.

And how early should you start to be concerned about this?

In my opinion it never is too early. I know pediatricians will tell you not to use oil products or creams on your babies, but I also have read research showing when sunflower oil was used to massage newborn babies in a neonatal unit, the survival rates were much higher. This only makes sense for several reasons including the fact that touch is very important for all of us, as is massage, but particularly important for babies. The oil (and this is where the pediatricians I think must get it wrong) if organic, unrefined will soften and protect your babies' skin causing it to be stronger. Any broken, chaffed or red areas are places bacteria can quickly enter and cause problems. Keeping your baby's skin supple and hydrated is very important. I think the medical field thinks only in terms of what they know to be available and those are synthetic type products including mineral oil. Do not put mineral oil on your baby - please!! Baby oil that you buy in the stores is usually mineral (read petroleum) based and is definitely not a good choice. I would rather you used nothing than to use mineral oil - which again, may be why the pediatricians recommend using nothing. Vegetable oils when used without water do not need a preservative. Creams and lotions are a mixture of oil and water and do need to be preserved. However, a lot of vegetable oils need to be refrigerated or have vitamin E added to them to prevent oxidation.

So - let me know what you use to keep your skin healthy? I didn't mention too much about nutrition, but I always tell people that their skin will reflect what they do or don't eat. Another blog for another time. Did your pediatrician tell you not to use any creams or oils on your baby as a newborn? Which of these suggestions did you like best or have you used and why?

Thanks for listening!


Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.



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