Sarah-Louise Waters

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I was recently asked my opinion of Bio Oil and was disappointed that my answer was based more on guesstimates and gut feeling than any actual facts.  After having undertaken a bit of research (and I emphasise, just a bit), this blog is a quick summary of my findings and an appraisal of the increasingly popular product.

 

 

Bio Oil is a big seller in the UK and worldwide the product has won 85 skincare awards in various categories.  If you check the internet there are numerous glowing testimonials from a whole host of people who have used the product and gained some positive effects.  The main uses of Bio Oil, as stated in advertising material, are to prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars and to even out skin tone.  The manufacturers also claim that the oil can be used to recondition dry and maturing skin, reducing the signs of ageing.  



Scars

Bio Oil helps with the prevention of scars by improving the skin’s elasticity so the skin heals with the minimal formation of scar tissue.  It is also claimed that Bio Oil can help reduce the appearance of scars, both new and old.  

In a 12 week “clinical” study in 2005, funded by Bio Oil’s manufacturers, 65% of the scars treated with the product twice daily (and massaged in) showed an improvement in appearance.  The product was tested both on new scars (six months old) and old scars (three years old) and where a subject had two identical scars, product was applied to one scar and not the other.



Stretch Marks

Stretch marks are basically scars caused by the fibres of the skin losing their elasticity and snapping, usually as a result of fast weight gain or loss.  For more information on stretch marks, please read my previous blog - http://bit.ly/15WCKcW.  Bio oil works in the same way with stretch marks as it does with scars - supporting the skin’s elasticity and giving the skin more time to adjust to any new conditions of stretch, meaning that fewer fibres are torn and less marks formed.  The manufacturers do not claim that Bio Oil can reduce the appearance of silvery or white stretch marks.

In the same “clinical” trial as above, when Bio Oil was massaged into abdominal stretch marks twice daily for four weeks, 50% of stretch marks were reduced in their appearance on the skin.



Uneven Skin Tone

Bio Oil can be used to help even out skin tone or colour.  If the skin develops patches where there is more pigment in the skin than others (hyperpigmentation), especially on the face (Melasma), it is claimed that regular use of the oil can help to fade these patches and achieve a more regular colour across the skin.  It is the vitamin A (Retinol) in Bio Oil that achieves result, although there are many other products on the market that contain vitamin A in higher doses and a stronger form.

It is recommended that you use Bio Oil on the affected area twice daily for three months to achieve a result with this condition.  You should be aware that melasma is worsened by sun exposure and Bio Oil does not contain an spf, so this should be applied on top of the oil daily.  I could not find any research results relating to the effectiveness of Bio Oil on uneven skin tone.



Anti-Ageing

As we have already seen, Bio Oil can improve the skin’s elasticity and act as a basic moisturiser for the skin.  As fine lines and wrinkles are caused by dehydration and a loss of elastic fibres, it stands to reason that its use either as a moisturiser or underneath your regular moisturiser will have an anti-ageing effect.  Due to the nature of the skin around the eyes, it is not recommended that you use Bio Oil in this delicate area.  Again, I could not find any research results regarding the anti-ageing effects of using Bio Oil regularly.

 

Ingredients

Bio Oil is a blend of the following oils; calendula, lavender, rosemary, chamomile and sunflower seed oil.  It also contains bisabolol (an anti-inflammatory), some stabilising chemicals and vitamins A and E.  So far, so good - all of the oils above are well known for their moisturising properties and skin calming effects.  I wouldn’t necessarily think of them as being especially good for supporting the collagen and elastin fibres in the skin but most oils will have a positive effect on this.

The base oil or what all of the other ingredients are mixed into is a basic mineral oil, which a lot of people will feel uncomfortable using (it’s a derivative of petroleum) and can cause a lot of people to break out.  The other problem with mineral oil is that it acts as an occlusive, which basically means that it creates a barrier on the skin.  This means that anything else that you put on top of Bio Oil will not be absorbed into the skin.  Therefore using it underneath your moisturiser will mean that any nourishing ingredients in your moisturiser are wasted sitting on the skin’s surface.  

 

The other main ingredient in Bio Oil and the one that the makers champion as a “breakthrough” is PurCellin Oil.  This is not, as the name suggests, a pure or natural ingredient but a manufactured oil made to replicate the oil that ducks produce to waterproof their feathers.  It is used within the product to aid the application and absorption of the other ingredients making Bio Oil more effective when used.  Apparently, however,  it is not a new oil at all and already has many uses in the commercial world, but with a different name - WD-40!  Interesting!!



Research Data

The manufacturers of Bio Oil have conducted research to back up the claims that they make about their product but the research is unfortunately a little unsatisfactory.  Of the three studies of which I am aware, the maximum number of subjects in any of them was 30 and they were all women and mostly all Caucasian (white).  This really is a tiny sample group and certainly would not be considered ‘clinical’ by any drug company.  Secondly the sample group is completely disproportionate of the population by not including any men or other racial skin types.  

I can’t comment on this research specifically but the other trick to watch out for that some skincare companies have been guilty of in the past is that of discounting any subjects in the trial group who did not respond well to the product.  For example, if they gave 100 women a product to try and only 45 of them had a positive experience, instead of reporting it as having a 45% success rate, they would discount 50 of the unhappy subjects so it appeared that 90% of them (45 out of 50) were happy with the outcome.  There also appears to have been no control or placebo group within these studies.  If a subject had two identical scars then they were applying product to one and not the other but I think it would be interesting to know how the use of Bio Oil compared to the same application of any other oil on the identical scars.

 

 

Conclusions

I am taken to wonder whether the reputation and price of Bio Oil help in its success with stretch mark and scar prevention / reduction.  Could it be that because we are assured by others that it works and because we have invested fairly highly in it, that we are more likely to apply Bio Oil regularly and therefore get a good result?  I wonder if I emptied out a bottle of Bio Oil and refilled it with a similar oil and sold it for the price of £7 a bottle, if it would have the same results on the skin?  Certainly there is evidence to suggest that the mere application of massage to scar tissue can help reduce its appearance over time, whether or not you apply any product at all.  Let’s also not forget that there is no knowing whether that scar or those stretch marks may have faded over time anyway with no intervention from Bio Oil or any other product.

 

I guess the point here is that if you really believe that Bio Oil will work for you and you apply it religiously and massage it in, then you will probably have a positive result on your skin condition.  If, however, the idea of applying a petroleum derivative and WD-40 to your skin repels you, get in touch and I will steer you in another direction.



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