By Hadassah Agbaps - April 24, 2019

Hi people, what's been on?

This post is triggered by emails I got concerning organic skincare for acne prone skin and I hope it answers most of your questions. I'll however be clear that the facts, details and recommendations given here are for educational purposes and is not intended to replace the advice of your dermatologist.

It seems like everytime I talk skincare, I concentrate on acne prone skin and sensitive skin. This is because it's the type of skin I relate most with and in trying to treat it with organic ingredients, I've tried to research as much as I can about it.
 I've tried different products (both medically recommended and peer recommended). I've also taken drugs which wasn't my favourite thing to do (necessary poisons in my opinion).
I finally found a skincare regimen that seems to work in keeping breakouts at bay. 

P.S. There's an argument I had with my colleagues (scientists can argue sha) concerning using the word 'natural' since technically petroleum which is still gotten from mother earth is also natural and that all 'natural' things are made from chemicals including you and I.
The thing is when we say 'natural', we mean that we try to keep something in as close to the original state that it was....hence natural hair, natural skincare ingredients etc.

My current skincare regimen includes

- Amla, Reetha and Shikakai facewash and for body, African Black Soap mixed with honey and essential oils. Sometimes I use a diluted version of the African Black soap for my face and follow up with a toner after rinsing.

- Apple Cider Vinegar and Aloe Vera Juice Toner ( 1 part ACV, 1 part AVJ in 3 parts water)

- Grapeseed oil based moisturiser.

Then once a week, I do facials (oats, clay, rosemary leaf scrub e.t.c) depending on how my skin feels.

This post will share tips about selecting the right oils if you have acne prone skin.

I never knew I'd ever switch to an oil based moisturiser until I learnt about oil cleansing from Paige of
When I interviewed her during the Nigerians' Got Good Hair series, I was impressed by how clear and youthful her skin was at her age. She is a licensed naturopath and she taught me about pH balancing in skin care and introduced me to ACV toner and since I started, I saw a marked improvement in my skin.
She also suggested I start oil cleansing but I was scared of using so much oil on my already oily skin.
This fear pushed me to research more about oils for acne prone and sensitive skin and I was made to understand that oils higher in linoleic fatty acids were better for acne prone skin than oils high in oleic fatty acids.

Several dermatological studies have linked a deficiency in linoleic fatty acid in skin lipids to acne (Downing et al., 1986; Pappas et al.,2002 ). Linoleic fatty acids are said to have anti inflammatory properties and may thus be beneficial to acne prone skin.

Linoleic acid and oleic acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids. They are part of a group of fatty acids called Essential Fatty Acids because humans can't produce themselves (we don't have the necessary enzymes to), need it for synthesis of important lipids and thus must be obtained from other sources. 
So how does this little information relate to skin?

In a paper written by Dr. Lister (2010) titled, "Role of Oils in the Topical Treatment of Acne", she noted that 
"when linoleic acid is present in the human sebum (natural oils) it reduces follicular inflammation due to clogging because it is lighter and less dense than its oleic acid counterpart. When there is a decrease in linoleic acid, the skin's natural oils are produced with oleic acid which is denser, clogs pores and more irritating to acne prone skin".


So what oils contain linoleic acids?

These oils includes,

- Borage Oil
- Canola Oil
- Wheat Germ Oil
- Soya bean oil
- Evening Primrose oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Flax seed oil
- Walnut seed oil
- Apricot seed oil
- Sunflower seed oil

What are the oils rich in oleic acids?
- Olive oil
- Pecan oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Peanut oil
- Rice bran oil
- Avocado oil
- Almond oil
- Apricot oil

P.S. Oleic acid isn't bad. It's really useful if you have dry skin or hair so don't ditch oils rich in these fatty acids!

Most common treatment for acne advocate aggressively cleansing the skin using cleansers that contain harsh detergents such as sodium lauryl sulfates and their counterparts in a bid to rid the skin of pesky oils. Unfortunately this route seems to backfire with the skin getting dehydrated and producing more oil as a result which leads to further breakouts. Use of gentle cleansers (preferably slightly acidic) in addition to proper moisturisation can help reduce acne breakouts triggered by dehydration and anti inflammation. That's where toners come in. Most cleansers are alkaline in nature because of their ability to open up pores and clean deeply. This causes an inbalance in the acid mantle of the skin. Toners help restore this balance especially on the thin sensitive skin of the face and neck.

Another cause of acne is the presence of lipophilic bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes.  This bacterium is part of the normal flora of the human skin. Because it does not tolerate oxygen, it burrows its way down into the pores and follicles of the skin. The oil secreted by the skin (via sebaceous glands) and dead skin cells provide the nutrients the bacterium requires to grow. The by products of its feeding and the enzymes it secretes trigger inflammation of the follicles...see where this is going?? (Fitz Gibbon et al, 2013).
So in addition to using oils rich in linoleic acids (less pore clogging),  it is also helpful to fortify it with essential oils with antimicrobial properties.

These essential oils includes,
Tea tree essential oil
Eucalyptus oil
Lemongrass essential oil
Grapefruit peel oil*
Orange peel oil*
Peppermint oil
Citronella oil
Geranium oil

(*note that some essential oils especially citrus derived essential oils are phototoxic and should not be used in the daytime.  Care should also be taken to use essential oils in the right doses as they are really potent stuff).

Oils high in lauric acid also have antibacterial properties (due to the presence of lauric acid), though for some skin types, they may clog pores.
These include
- Coconut oil
- Palm Kernel Oil

The third cause of acne is pore clogging due to dead skin cells. Due to the oily nature of the skin of most acne sufferers, dead skin cells instead of being sloughed off are stuck to the skin by oil. That's why most acne treatments includes some form of exfoliation.  Don't forget that inflammation worsens acne and so the last thing you want to do it aggressively scrub the skin.
Gentle ways natural ways of exfoliating the skin includes,
Oat meal scrubs
Rice grain scrubs

You can also slough off dead skin cells using mild exfoilating acids such as
2% Salicylic acids
Tomato juice
Lemon/Lime Juice
Pineapple Juice
Pawpaw enzyme
Medical grade Alpha Hydroxy Acids Solutions

Clay masks are also helpful in clearing out clogged pores. I enjoy using Queen Helen Mint Julep Facial Masque and switched over to Bentonite clay mask since I also use it for my hair!
Note, when using clay masks,  it's better to mix it with apple cider vinegar or aloe vera juice to balance out the alkaline nature of the clay. Also, always mix your clay in a plastic bowl with a plastic spoon or spatula to prevent chemical reactions with the clay.

Downing DT, Stewart ME, Wertz PW, Strauss JS. Essential fatty acids and acne. J Am Acad Dermatol.1986;14:221–225 

Fitz Gibbon S., Tomida S., Chiu BH., Nguyen L, Du C, Elashoff D.,  Erfe M., Loncaric A., Kim J., Modlin R.L, Miller J, Sodergren E., Craft N., Weinstock G., Li H. Propionibacterium acnes strain populations in the human skin microbiome associated with Acne. J Investigative Dermatol. 2013 ; 133: 2152-2160

Pappas A, Anthonavage M, Gordon JS. Metabolic fate and selective utilization of major fatty acids in human sebaceous gland. J Invest Dermatol. 2002;118:164–171.

Linder J. Role of Oils in the Topical treatment of Acne. J Cosmetic Dermatol. 2010; 21:211-214

So there you have it!

If you have any questions, suggestions and experience with any of these oils, do share with us in the comments section.

Till I spill again,
Live Beautifully. Naturally.

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  1. There's no dull moment with you Hadassah,.. Serious Breakouts? Yes . Oily Face? YES , thanks for this post but #whew some of them oils are not easy to come by oooo. It will be nice if you can share some DIY oil treatment for acne prone skin, thanks

    1. Lol! Thanks. There's soyabean oil and canola widely available as cooking oil, so you can try them out. Do a patch treatment on one side of your face. The other oils aren't hard to find. NaturalNigerian sells most of them. Check her on I can also hook you up with some just in case you don't see them.

  2. Thanks, I'll check the website.. those cooking oil better watch out I'm coming for them.(patch treatment in mind)

  3. Hi Haddasah, U did a good job with dis post but my question is how do I go about mixing these oils? Also I'm living far away frm Natural Nigerian so dat its nt economical to go to all dat length oof ordering a bottle of oil! So spill pls!

    1. Hi Verere, you can use the oils raw without mixing if you prefer. If you have any essential oils listed, a drop per ml is sufficient. Soya bean oil and canola oil is widely available in Nigeria so can be reasonable substitutes to exotic oils.
      You apply the oil the same way you would a serum...a few drops should cover the whole face and neck. Again do a patch test before use to make sure you'll have no allergies to the oil.

    2. * a drop for every 10-15ml is a rough estimate for dilution.

  4. Ok. I do eucalyptus essential oil and I cook wt canola oil so I'm good to go! Tanx. Wat a piece!

  5. I wish to share my oil treatment for acne. I wash face with warm water and beauty formula tea tree cleanser, massage face for 3mins with honey,grapeseed oil and flaxseed oil leave for 7mins and rinse off with warm water,wash any oily residue on my face with cold water and cleanser. Moisturize face with coconut oil and shea butter (good to go for the night). I've been doing this religiously for 5days and I can say my face feels different,pimples spot are fading gradually. Yet to try the canola and soya bean oil

  6. Atta girl. But one thing I dislike is a long and complicated routine be it hair or face. I am lazy when it comes to all dat. I prefer short and quick routines! I'll share mine soon as I start seeing good results. By d way Haddasah I av done d big chop! All those glorious hair down d trash can! I wanna rock a new look like d TWA for a few months.


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