For thousands of years, wine manufacturers in the Mediterranean had vast piles of grape seeds left over. Wine is made from crushing the grape fruit (scientific name vitis vinifera) to squeeze out the juice, with the seeds being uninvolved, so until the last century, wineries had tons of a useless by-product which they could use for nothing more than poor quality animal feed.
But then the industrial revolution happened, and for the first time ever, grape seeds were useful; they could be used to make oil.
Grapeseeds aren’t naturally greasy like an olive or coconut, the quantities of oil are tiny and you can’t squeeze them out by hand, but with high tech machinery born in the 1800s the formerly impossible became easy. With the never-ending supplies from wineries all across the world, manufacturers cleverly identified the opportunity for one of the greatest cash cows of the last 150 years and turned grapeseed oil into of the premier cooking oils alongside canola oil, sunflower oil, and corn oil.
But this new invention wasn’t just used for frying eggs and meat, it also worked its way into the cosmetics industry. The result? Grapeseed oil is now everywhere, in natural cleansers and soaps everywhere.
Grapeseed oil is beloved in massage parlours since it’s an extremely light oil which is well absorbed into the skin, leaving only a very light satin film on the skin afterwards. If you’ve bought an all-natural moisturisers there’s a chance that grapeseed oil is in it; if you’ve used antiaging cream there’s a high probability that you’ve put grapeseed oil on your face. Grapeseed oil is used as a lubricant in many commercial shaving creams as well.
Now the hype has spread to the acne market, and the glorious truth is that topical grapeseed oil is great for your skin, it’s not just a marketing scam like chlorophyll or cucumbers. It’s actually a nightmare when eaten as food, but highly effective when applied directly.
For the top 7 grapeseed oil brands for acne and skincare, read this article, but today we will discuss exactly why grapeseed oil is so effective.
Grapeseed oil is rich in a vital fatty acid
Grapeseed oil is dramatically superior to the overrated olive oil, and it kills acne through a relatively uncommon mechanism: supplying your skin cells with linoleic acid. What is linoleic acid?
It’s one of the many fatty acids found in nature, along with the likes of oleic acid, palmitic acid, linolenic acid, and stearic acid. Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fat, more commonly known as omega 6 when found in the diet.
Linoleic acid is actually a substance which almost every human being living in the west eats too much of, due to the astronomical increase in vegetable oils in our diet over the last 100 years. Too much linoleic acid can destroy your body and skin by systematically increasing the activity of your immune system, suppressing the activity of omega 3s, and destabilising cell membranes.
…but what’s interesting is that despite the daily overdose which we’re all experiencing systematically, a massive amount of people are lacking linoleic acid in one place where it’s vital – the skin cells on our face…
…and most importantly for us, acne prone people are particularly deficient. The first study appeared back in 1986, concluding that “acne patients have been shown to have low levels of linoleic acid in their skin surface lipids”. A huge amount of new studies have been conducted on linoleic acid in the last ten years. Principally, a lack of linoleic acid has been shown to make sebum harder and stickier, and thus more prone to clogging skin pores.
When linoleic acid isn’t available, your sebaceous glands use oleic acid instead, which is monounsaturated and thus has a far higher melting point. The clogged pores allow p.acnes bacteria to multiply, and induce the skin cell inflammation which gives birth to all pimples.
The many roles of linoleic acid in acne
That’s the simplest reason why linoleic acid is so vital, but it also has countless more minor functions:
ONE – linoleic acid has natural anti-microbial powers which can prevent p.acnes from multiplying and taking over.
TWO – linoleic acid is a key ingredient of ceramides, proteins which maintain the structural integrity of skin cells and defend against irritation and inflammation. Acne patients were found here to have lower ceramide levels than average.
THREE – similarly, linoleic acid is involved with the formation of lamellar granules, another set of skin proteins which 1) are involved with proper skin barrier function, and 2) release enzymes that maintain the proper shedding of skin cells by digesting the adhesive barriers between them.
FOUR – linoleic acid is anti-inflammatory itself and protects skin cells from UV radiation damage due to sunlight.
Another of the most interesting mechanisms is the effect of linoleic acid on sebum production. Studies suggest that linoleic acid can activate receptors in the sebaceous glands called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which have been shown in studies (here and here) to tightly regulate your skin’s sebum output.
PPARs are actually some of the receptors which Accutane acts on. Staying on sebum production, there’s also some evidence that linoleic acid locally inhibits the activity of 5-alpha reductase, the enzyme which converts the androgen testosterone into its more potent pore-clogging form, DHT.
That’s the holy grail of acne treatment; you don’t want to inhibit the conversion inside the body, because DHT and testosterone are both vital for health and vitality. But inhibiting the conversion on your skin’s surface can prevent oily skin and acne while having no effect on sex drive or energy levels.
Finally, linoleic acid may be able to prevent blackheads since it has an inhibitory effect on melatonin. Most blackheads are formed when the melatonin found in every human’s skin oxidises, turns intensely black, and gets trapped in skin pores; by preventing an excess of melatonin linoleic acid can prevent this. Inhibition of melatonin can even improve other forms of hyperpigmentation.
Why grapeseed oil could revolutionise your skin
Overall, linoleic acid deficiency is connected to a ton of factors behind the pathogenesis of pimples in the first place. Why does this matter? Out of all the widely used natural oil based topical treatments, grapeseed oil is one of the richest in linoleic acid. The percentages are 69.6% linoleic acid, 15.8% oleic acid, 7% palmitic acid, and 4% stearic acid.
Coconut oil, meanwhile, contains less than 3% linoleic acid; its main acne benefits come from the antibacterial lauric acid. Olive oil contains 15%, cocoa butter contains 3.2%. Sesame seed oil contains 41%, which is good but not good enough.
It’s hard to identify whether you have a linoleic acid deficiency on your face (it’s usually unconnected to the quantity you eat), but if you do, then grapeseed oil is unbeatable.
There’s a variety of studies scattered around showing the benefits of linoleic acid on various skin-related factors, as we just covered above. But we also have direct evidence on linoleic acid, with results that are just as excellent.
We have this study from 1998, where the aim was to evaluate the effects of topically applied linoleic acid on the size of microcomedones (a type of pimple) in patients with mild acne. The study was double-blind and it lasted for 1 month. The linoleic acid performed superbly; patients treated with the linoleic acid enjoyed a near 25% reduction in the size of their pimples over 1 month, while the placebo treated group experienced nothing.
The scientists concluded that “topical linoleic acid might play a role as a comedolytic agent in acne-prone patients”. The definition of comedolytic is an “agent capable of resolving comedones or preventing the formation of new comedones”, so in other words, destroying acne.
One of the best topical oils for vitamin E
Next we come to the second feature of this acne-clearing powerhouse. Grapeseed oil is pretty weak on the nutrition front, it contains very little vitamin A (the ultimate nutrient for oily skin), K2, nor minerals like magnesium and zinc. But where few treatments can compare is its vitamin E content, with approximately 144% of the RDA per 100 grams.
Vitamin E is among the top 5 nutrients for acne ever because it strengthens your sebum against oxidation, preventing the mutant compound squalene peroxide from forming and clogging your skin pores. You can experience huge reductions in acne from eating more nuts, green vegetables, and eggs because of the vitamin E, but that’s only by ingesting it.
By applying vitamin E directly, the vitamin E isn’t wasted on pointless things like your heart, your lungs, or keeping your brain functioning; it is completely transferred to your face where it can defend against acne with hyper-concentrated efficiency.
Recently we covered olive oil, which is also rich in vitamin E, but crippled with a major side effect. Olive oil is 70% oleic acid by weight, and oleic acid is a notorious disruptor of human skin barrier function. For example, olive oil has been shown to increase trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which can lead to dry, weak, and irritated skin.
In fact, the two oils are the complete mirror image of each other. Eat olive oil with potatoes and salad and you’ll enjoy improved heart health and lowered inflammation; swill grapeseed oil and your acne will grow more inflamed as your immune system becomes hyperactive. Splash olive oil on your face and you will weaken your skin barrier; slather grapeseed oil on your face and all your pimples will calm down.
Other vitamin E rich oils have similar problems, like cocoa butter, which ranks 4 out of 5 on the comedogenicity scale. Coconut oil doesn’t even contain any vitamin E.
If you want to apply vitamin E directly to your acne, then grapeseed oil is among the best tools for doing it (though argan oil is even better).
Side effects are minimal
There’s also the fact that its user reviews are some of the most positive in existence. Some random stories from random grapeseed oil users on the internet include…
- “Incredible inflammation reducer, reduced cyst by 70%”.
- “Makes my skin feel amazing”.
- “So far my skin is looking very good and my spots are healing”.
- “Not only is my acne slowly disappearing but also the scars”.
- “Within a few hours of the first application, my acne was less red and inflamed”.
Unless grapeseed oil corp. has agents everywhere and paid for every single one of those reviews then that’s another strong point in its favour.
Finally, there’s the fact that grapeseed oil has a lower comedogenicity rating of 2 out of 5, indicating a “moderately low” that it will clog your skin pores. That means that you can also use it as a moisturiser, and unlike coconut oil and cocoa butter (4 and 4 out of 5 respectively), there won’t be any disastrous side effects. Jojoba oil is also an acne-friendly moisturiser, but grapeseed oil beats it because of the extra vitamin E.
Get a cold pressed grapeseed oil – or pay the price
It should be clear by now that grapeseed oil is an excellent topical treatment for acne. In its natural form, grapeseed oil is almost entirely free from side effects. There’s only a very slight chance of clogged pores since two out of five is higher than zero, and a risk of an allergic reaction (an automatic factor with all natural treatments).
But the product has to be that – in its natural form. I strongly recommend that you purchase as high quality a grapeseed oil as possible. Like any vegetable oil extracted from a seed or plant which isn’t naturally greasy, the standard industrial process involves chemical solvents, catalysts, and other toxic substances like the neurotoxin hexane.
Grapeseed oil has a very specific problem which shows up in studies, high levels of carcinogenic substances called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These compounds are formed in multiple stages of the factory process, scientifically due to incomplete combustion of organic matter. Believe it or not, commercial grapeseed oils undergo a drying process where there’s direct contact with combustion gases, which are so severe that PAHs are born.
Raw grape pomace is also compacted with bulldozers before the oil is extracted and this too is believed to create PAHs. Aside from causing cancer, most carcinogens are linked to free radical overload in the body, so what’s the acne patient’s solution? Buy a cold pressed bottle!
Sometimes known as expeller-pressed, cold pressed grapeseed oil is also a recent invention. 100 years ago your average vineyard farmer didn’t have a strong enough grip to squeeze the oil out, but now we have extremely powerful machinery to cold press the oil out.
This alternative factory process is done at low temperatures and without any chemical solvents and additives. The drying process is all-natural, often using our old friend the sun to dry the seeds on hardwood trays rather than chemicals. Cold pressing keeps the vitamin E intact as well.
Other secret strategies and a great product
Additionally, it is absolutely vital that you buy grapeseed oil in a dark bottle. A dark bottle prevents UV rays and other forms of light from penetrating the glass and oxidising the oil within, turning it rancid.
The dark bottle strategy is optimal for many topical treatments, such as tea tree oil, but it’s particularly vital for grapeseed oil, because it has such a high proportion (70%) of unstable polyunsaturated fats. Polyunsaturated fat is the most unstable form of fat, with monounsaturated fat being more stable and saturated fat being the most.
Buy a dark bottle at all costs. Fresh grapeseed oil is clear skin in a bottle, a rancid bottle is a whole civilisation of free radicals. If you can only buy cold pressed grapeseed oil in a clear bottle, transfer it to a dark bottle or keep it away from light.
It’s also smart to smell your oil beforehand. Some companies get lazy, store the grapeseed oil in a dark warehouse for months, and sell you a bad quality bottle for a higher price. If it’s rancid then you’ll know about it; the odour will be unmistakable.
Store your bottle in a cool place where the temperature does not exceed 70 degrees. The high proportion of polyunsaturated fats means that grapeseed oil doesn’t last for over two years like coconut oil and cocoa butter; keeping it cool will prevent spoilage.
An all natural brand which combines all of the points above is this Vie Naturelle Expeller Pressed Grapeseed Oil (links to Fushi Organic Grapeseed Oil for UK readers).
Your fool proof application strategy
The last question is application, and here the strategy is very simple – apply a thin layer to your whole face.
Grapeseed oil is a not a raw honey style treatment designed to kill off an individual inflamed pimple – it’s designed to prevent acne in the first place. Inundate your whole face with a moderate amount of the oil so that you can supply every single skin cell with the fatty acids they’re starved of.
Show no mercy to your acne, leave no area untouched. If you do have a linoleic acid deficiency then you’ll enjoy lowered inflammation, sebum production, and all the other benefits. You’ll notice a thin film after application, but that’s normal.
Follow those expert steps and your skin will always be two steps ahead of the competition.
There’s so many excellent plants and essential oils which can improve acne topically, but grapeseed oil shouldn’t be written off as some cookie cutter treatment. Why? Because it’s line of attack is completely unique.
Grapeseed oil is easily one of the best ways to apply vitamin E to your skin, since olive oil is flawed, and alongside safflower oil, the best topical source of linoleic acid. What’s more, few treatments combine both of those weapons. Raw honey is an antibacterial treatment, aloe vera is anti-inflammatory, and witch hazel is full of antioxidants. If you suffer from a deficiency in linoleic acid and don’t realise it, then grapeseed oil is the treatment for you.
Consider this scenario – what if you have flooded your body with antioxidants, implemented as many anti-inflammatory strategies as you can, but still can’t clear acne? In that case, it’s highly possible that you lack linoleic acid, and inundating your face with it is definitely a goal to pursue. Because the linoleic acid in your face and sebum has next to no correlation with the linoleic acid in your diet (which most acne patients should aim to reduce), it’s extremely hard to tell.
Try grapeseed oil and you might discover your fabled acne cure. Judging by the study above, I would apply it once a day for at least a month before judging whether it’s truly effective for you. Again a great product is Vie Naturelle Expeller Pressed Grapeseed Oil.
Just don’t make a catastrophic mistake – never eat it! Grapeseed oil is a healthy sounding name, but it’s one of the worst foods for acne ever. P.acnes bacteria will be watching intently and praying that you put it in your body.
Thanks for reading!