Plant Oils For Skin: The Effect of LA and GLA

Plant oils have varieties of therapeutic properties for human being. I have been using my DIY face oil for more than two year, I have tested and played around with difference plant oils on my face to observe which oils works best for me especially I am living in tropical country, I don’t want to have a sticky and oily feeling.

I do feel my skin conditions changed, it become soften, glowing and moisturize (not like previously which is tightening and drying). Even my lip is easily dry previously and often need to apply lip balm, it become more much better compare as previously.

Of course, occasionally, I do have pimples and breakout during this experiment process, but for the overall, the result is good! I have also noticed that my skin conditions changed according to my menstruation, stress and diet.

Why Plant Oils?

Plant oils are essential in cosmetology. There are rich with fatty acids and some oils even contain vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for human kind.

Plant oils function as occlusive layer to prevent water loss through the skin, there soften the upper layer of the skin, act as an emollient, and help in skin regenerative and revitalize purpose. Besides, plant oils are more easily metabolise by our body because their composition is similar to our human skin lipids.  Unlike mineral oils, there is no nutritional value and hard to metabolize by our skin.

Long term using mineral oil as a moisturizer, make us more and more depends on it, and we will feel skin tightening and dryness although we have just applied the oils for a short period of time. 

Plant oils have their shortcoming as well. There are shorter shelf lives and easily become rancid when contacted with light, heat, atmospheric oxygen or moisture. Therefore, in commercial, most of the plant oils are refined to improve the stability for longer shelf life.

The Effect of Fatty Acids on Skin

Under the chemical terms, oils or lipids are triglycerides – an ester of glycerol and three fatty acids. Fatty acids are organic chain compounds composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

The fatty acids are categorizes as saturated and unsaturated fatty acid.

Saturated Fatty Acids

  • Full of hydrogen
  • Solid as room temperature, usually white solid
  • All single bonds
  • Straight chain
  • For example: myristic acid, palmitic, stearic or arachidic acids

Unsaturated Fatty Acids

  • Not full of hydrogen
  • Liquid at room temperature, usually colourless liquid
  • At least one double bond
  • 2 main classes: monounsaturated (omega-9) and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6)
  • Example: Palmitoleic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, α- linolenic acid, etc


Our bodies do not synthesised some of the fatty acids: linoleic acid (LA) and α- linolenic acid (ALA) due to lack of appropriate enzymes. Therefore, must be supplied by diet. LA, gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and arachidonic acid (AA) are EFAs of omega-6 family.

According to studies, LA and GLA play most important role in healthy skin maintenance and for skin disorder alleviation. Because they are the structural components of cell membranes and they ensure fluidity and stability.

The following are the summary of the benefits and most abundance LA and GLA content found in the oils listed:

Common Name Benefits Most Abundance Contents
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) GLA is also the precursor for potent, short-lived, hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids, such as prostaglandin E1, which helps modulate normal skin physiologic processes by improving blood flow and reducing inflammation, as well as reducing water loss.

For dry skin, eczema, inflammation, wounds, and dermatitis.

Borage oil 20 – 24%

Evening primrose oil 8 – 10%

Black current seed oil 15 – 17%

Linoleic acid (LA)

Normalises the skin metabolism; helps protect again excessive loss of water; strengthen the autoimmune system; for dry, oily sun burn and inflammation skin.

Sunflower oil 55 – 70%

Safflower oil 55 – 81%

Grapeseed oil 58 – 81%

Soya oil 50 – 55%

Corn oil 34 – 62%



Braunschweig, R. V. (2007). Pflanzenöle, Qualität, Anwendung und Wirkung.

Zielinska, A., & Nowak, I., (2014). Fatty acids in vegetable oils and their importance in cosmetic industry. CHEMIK 2014, 68, 2, 103–110.

Price, L. & Price, S. (2008). Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage. 4th Edn. Riverhead Publishing.

Bioriginal Food & Science Corporation, The Effectiveness of GLA in Topical Formulations for the skin.

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