Aimee Masi, MA, licensed medical aesthetician, Loyola Medicine, Oakbrook Terrrace, Illinois.
To combat dry skin and other dermatological problems, people often visit drugstores and buy one product after another, trying to find one that really works—especially in the winter, when skin gets even drier. But did you know that the best “lotions” may already be in your home?
According to Aimee Masi, MA, a medical aesthetician (a licensed skin-care specialist) at Loyola Medicine in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois, when it comes to treating common conditions such as dry skin, sunburn, bug bites, rosacea, eczema and even wrinkles, using oils that you already have on hand, or making your own lotions from them, can provide great relief. Besides working very well, they often are far less expensive than lotions that you would buy in the store. The oils are available at supermarkets, health-food stores and drugstores. Below are Masi’s tips on how to use them to make your skin look and feel better…
For dry winter skin. Masi said that using a nickel-sized amount of evening primrose oil, pressed from the seeds of the evening primrose plant, is great for moisturizing the face in cold weather due to its gamma linoleic acid (a beneficial fatty acid)—and you can use even more if you would like to cover your whole body. According to Masi, it doesn’t feel “heavy” like many lotions do, but it still prevents chapping from windburn and becomes invisible when the skin absorbs it. You can apply it in the morning or at night or both times, if needed. Masi does not recommend using evening primrose oil if you are pregnant because of a possible risk for early uterine contractions. However, data on this is controversial, so consult your doctor.
For sunburn and bug bites (including spider bites!). Any type of olive oil can work very well for relieving the discomfort of sunburns and bug bites because it reduces skin inflammation. That calms the skin, which makes it itch and hurt less and accelerates healing. Use only the amount of oil that you need to lightly cover the affected area, and gently massage it into the skin once a day. If the scent of olive oil reminds you a bit too much of dinner, Masi suggested making your own scented oil. Her favorite: Pour olive oil into a jar containing dried organic chamomile flower buds—use enough to submerge the buds. The buds are available online and in many health-food stores. Then seal the jar and let it sit for a month in a dark, dry place. Before using the oil, strain out the flower buds, and you will be left with a chamomile-scented oil to use on your skin.
For rosacea. To reduce the severity of flare-ups that leave your cheeks and nose glowing red, you can try evening primrose oil (mentioned above) or hazelnut oil. You can’t cure rosacea (no one knows how to do that), but due to their astringent properties, both oils cleanse and repair damaged skin, prevent dehydration, reduce inflammation, redness and swelling, and stimulate skin regrowth. Put a few drops directly onto the face before bed each night and gently massage them into your skin. If you’re wondering if you should mix the two oils, Masi advised not to—instead, alternate the oils each day, she said. (And talk to your doctor before using evening primrose oil if you’re pregnant.)
To relieve eczema. Many people with eczema find that they can soothe the redness, itching and soreness with plain avocado oil. For the dry, flaky skin that eczema brings, avocado oil can be mixed with brown sugar and used as a gentle scrub. It not only helps moisturize and calm the irritation, but because brown sugar is coarse (but not too abrasive) and contains a form of natural glycolic acid, it exfoliates, so it also helps eliminate the flaking that is part of this condition. Any oil would moisturize, but avocado oil is particularly helpful for eczema patients because it is unusually thick, so it protects the skin better from dehydration. To use: Make a mixture by adding just enough avocado oil to granulated brown sugar to create a grainy paste. You can make a batch that will keep in the refrigerator or in a dark, dry, cool place for several months. Apply to the dry portions of your skin using a gentle, circular massage for a few minutes two to three times per week. Then rinse the skin with lukewarm water and pat dry with a towel. Important: Never scrub over open wounds—avoid those areas until they are completely closed. And if the scrub is too irritating for your skin, then either use less brown sugar, use the scrub less often or less vigorously or stop using the scrub altogether.
To reduce fine wrinkles. Rubbing a nickel-sized amount of evening primrose oil on your face in the morning and/or evening may help because it is high in antioxidants, which help protect and repair damaged cells that lead to wrinkles—so it may smooth out your skin. (Talk to your doctor before using it if pregnant.)
For almost all of these skin conditions, Masi said that the oils will provide immediate relief—except when it comes to smoothing out wrinkles, which could require daily use for a month…so be patient!