Why Cleansing Oils that are High in Linoleic Acid are Good for Treating Acne

You're already on board with oil cleansing. (Oh, you're not? No problem. Read our primer on the oil cleaning method and then jump back here when you're caught up).


We know that it's smart to wash oily skin with a gentle oil cleanser. But did you know that oils high in linoleic acid are one of the best acne treatments?


Linoleic acid doesn't get as much hype in the skincare world as other favourite ingredients... yet. But this little known ingredient is a multi-purpose powerhouse.


Before we talk about why you want linoleic acid in your cleansing oil to treat acne, let's start with what it is.


What is Linoleic acid?


Linoleic acid (LA) is also sometimes called "vitamin F". It is a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). PUFAs stimulate the growth of hair and skin (1). Unsaturated fatty acids stay liquid at low temperatures.


Linoleic acid is an essential omega-6 fatty acid. Fatty acids are "essential" when our body cannot produce them, they're needed for proper functioning.


Linoleic acid is naturally present in our skin. It plays an important role in maintaining the strength of our skin's outermost layer called the epidermis.


Linoleic acid verses oleic acid


To better understand what linoleic is, it is helpful to know what it is not.


In some ways, linoleic acid has an "opposite". Oleic acid is naturally produced in the body. Our skin produces oleic acid when we are deficient in linoleic acid. The problem? Oleic acid makes oils thick. When it makes our sebum thick it creates clogged pores.


So between the two, we want more linoleic acid than oleic acid. Why?


Let's talk about exactly that.


Why is linoleic acid good for my skin?


Linoleic acid benefits skin in several ways, which we'll get to in just a moment. But first, the magic of linoleic acid is that it benefits seemingly contradictory skin concerns: dryness/dehydration and oiliness/acne. You may think you need different products to treat these opposing skin types, but with linoleic acid-rich products, you can tackle both.


Here's how it works:


For the oily/acne prone: smooth sailing for sebum


Linoleic acid is good for oily skin and acne prone skin because it regulates your sebum to ensure it doesn't clog your pores.


We'll go into more detail about treating acne with linoleic acid in just a minute.


Sit tight!


For the dry/dehydrated: strengthen skin barrier


Like all good essential fatty acids, linoleic acid supports the integrity of the skin's natural moisture barrier. Also known as the skin barrier, it's role is to keep moisture in and keep irritants out. Think of it like a two-way security guard!


No matter what your skin type is, skin hydration is essential to healthy skin. And you cannot maintain proper hydration without a skin barrier that's functioning properly.


woman holding and reviewing empyri skincare


How linoleic acid treats acne-prone skin


It exfoliates the skin


We should say it "exfoliates" the skin. By that we mean linoleic acid plays a role in our skin's natural process for shedding dead skin.


This is different from other acids, glycolic acid for example, that are chemical exfoliants. These acids work by breaking down the bonds between skin cells until they loosen and shed off.


Linoleic acid on the other hand is not a true acid like the above. Remember, it's a fatty acid!


When our skin is low in linoleic acid, our sebum becomes thick and sticky. This makes it difficult for dead skin cells to naturally fall off the way they would in "normal" skin functioning. With nowhere to go, this mixture of sebum and dead skin gets trapped in our pores. And you guessed it, this is a recipe for acne bacteria to start breeding.


When you use an oil cleanser with high linoleic acid content, you ensure your sebum stays thin and runny. By doing so, you're supporting the skin's natural exfoliation process because that sebum will have a fast track to exit and avoid clogged pores.


Manages oil production


Linoleic acid keeps the natural oil on your skin thin and "runny". This ensures that it can exit your pores instead of clogging them. It also helps to break the over-dry, over-oily cycle that plagues many of us.


It’s anti-inflammatory


We know that inflammation is the source of many skincare evils, including acne. Linoleic acid treats inflammation to reduce the size and redness of acne blemishes.


In this way, it's helpful at preventing acne but also treating any unavoidable (probably hormonal!) breakouts.


What is the best method to use linoleic acid?


Some skincare acids (think glycolic, hyaluronic or salicylic acid) can be used as stand alone treatments - but linoleic acid is not one of them. To incorporate into your skincare routine, choose products with oils high in linoleic acid.


To reap the benefits of linoleic acid for oily skin or to treat acne, the best method to use is oil cleansing.


Look for a face wash that uses omega-6 rich carrier oils. Our favourite is hemp seed oil of course! Other oils that work for this method are grapeseed oil and sunflower oil.


While oil cleansing with linoleic acid is ideal for clearing clogged pores, its beneficial to use it in a leave-on treatment as well. Either a facial oil or a serum are the best method for this.


We recommend a product that combines oils for a well-balanced skin treatment. But if you're set on using a single oil for its linoleic acid, choose rosehip seed oil - people swear by it!


Empyri's daily moisturizing serum boasts 22% linoleic acid content! Carrier oils in the formula include hemp seed oil, argan oil, raspberry seed oil and pumpkin seed oil. It absorbs deeply into the skin to promote cell turnover and at the same time nourishes skin surface lipids for a healthier skin barrier. With regular use, our customers rave that their pores look smaller. And we tell them, you have linoleic acid to thank for that!


Not a fan of facial oil? If you prefer the familiarity of a cream for your daily dose of moisture and protection, you're in luck. Look for a day cream fortified with omega-6 rich oils like empyri's holistic hydration daily moisturizer with hemp oil.


oil cleanser on stone with blue background


Which oils are high in linoleic acid?


Here are some of the omega-6 rich plant oils high in linoleic acid:

  • sunflower seed oil
  • pumpkin seed oil
  • argan oil
  • hemp seed oil (our favourite!)
  • grapeseed oil
  • evening primrose oil
  • raspberry seed oil
  • rosehip oil


The good news about these oils is that they are all high in essential fatty acids. Yes, omega-6 but also others as well. Fatty acids contribute to a healthy skin barrier. This is what keeps skin hydrated, plump and youthful! I'd say that's a win-win-win.


Always choose cold pressed oils for cleansing. Heat breaks down the fatty acids in these oils. Cold pressed oils maintain their integrity and natural characteristics - including their linoleic acid content.



You Are Loved. 



Jennifer Grant with Hemp Roots


Author Bio: Jennifer is the president and founder of empyri.  Jennifer’s passion for formulation and product development was set ablaze in 2019, when she incorporated the healing power of cannabis roots into her long-standing three-step skin care system. Armed with scientific evidence on the actives in cannabis roots and seeds, a clean and conscious brand was born. Using her masters degree in bio-chemical engineering, Jennifer is forging a path to ...READ FULL BIO