Everything You Need To Know About Cold-Pressed Skincare

You may have heard of cold-pressed juice and its incredible health benefits, but did you know that a similar process can be used to create nourishing skincare products? Cold-pressed skincare is capturing special attention in the beauty industry because of its more natural, environmentally friendly production and efficacy for various skin concerns. "As a general rule, cold-pressed formulations are designed to contain less 'fillers' than the average conventional products, which means you're also getting a lot more for what you pay for, along with making a purchase that is more ethically produced," nutritionist and reiki master Serena Poon tells Well + Good. "The higher the quality and the more nutrient dense a skin-care product is, the higher the potential for effective results."

If you're curious about what cold-pressed skincare is, what exactly makes it so nutrient dense, and if it is worth incorporating into your skincare routine, you're not alone. Cold-pressed products are making their mark in the organic skincare world, an industry currently worth roughly $11.8 billion. Millennials and Gen Z consumers specifically are becoming more knowledgeable about the ingredients present in their beauty products, with 68% noting their interest in skincare that is eco-conscious and healthy for their bodies. With this kind of intentional and educated purchasing, it is no wonder cold-pressed skincare is becoming a popular beauty trend. If you're interested in hopping on the cold-pressed skincare bandwagon, the information below will help guide you.

What are cold-pressed skincare products?

Cold-pressed refers to the machinated technique used to extract nutritious ingredients and oil from plant materials. While the majority of modern skincare products are formulated using heat or chemical solvents to extract this oil, this refining process can have a negative effect on the quality of the nutrients present. Temperatures of more than 200 degrees Celsius can be applied to the ingredients, which is enough to remove the oil's natural scent as well as neutralize the oil's color and natural acidity. "It can denature of break down key vitamins, nutrients, and key fats in oils," board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans, M.D., tells InStyle. This does not make them dangerous to use. However, they may have less overall benefits than an alternatively manufactured product. 

Cold-pressed skincare, on the other hand, is significantly less processed. Clean nuts and seeds with relatively low moisture content are put through an oilseed press to be crushed and separated into oil and meal. The pressing process is low-heat, maxing out at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The resulting oil and the products made with it are considerably more pure than anything with additives or stripped with heat. Once filtered and bottled, they have more vitamins and nutrients in them, which results in better benefits and healthier, more beautiful-looking skin for you. 

Ingredients found in cold-pressed skincare products

Cold-pressed skincare products can be made with a variety of nuts, seeds, beans, and flowers. "Most people think of olive oil whey they think of cold-pressing, but so many ingredients in skincare are cold-pressed including our own jojoba from our own farm," green beauty expert Vicki Engsall shared with HelloGiggles. "Some other ingredients that are normally cold-pressed are ingredients sourced from nuts, seeds, beans, or even flowers such as rosehip, sunflower, macadamia oil, Argan oil, and so many more."

Jojoba, sweet almond, avocado, grapeseed, and coconut oil are common cold-pressed oils used in skincare and cosmetics thanks to their rich vitamin and mineral contents. Oils like jojoba and grapeseed are non-comedogenic oils ideal for keeping skin nourished and locking in hydration. Sweet almond oil is instrumental in protecting the skin from environmental and sun damage, purifying pores, moisturizing skin, and improving complexion.  Rich in fatty acids and skin-supportive vitamins, unrefined avocado oil is an especially nourishing addition to your skin routine. "It has carotenoids, which help with DNA repair, and vitamin E, which is very important for the flow of sebaceous glands to give you suppleness of skin," functional medicine doctor Nisha Chellam tells mbg. And the numerous fatty aids in coconut oil have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, helping with skin conditions like acne and inflammation.

Cold-pressed oils contain antioxidants

The high levels of antioxidants present in cold-pressed oils are a huge benefit to the skin. In case you forgot what they are or their vast skincare benefits, antioxidants are compounds found primarily in plants, food, and supplements. They are responsible for counteracting scavenging free radicals, or bioactive compounds created from environmental stressors like smoke, pollution, bacteria, and ultraviolet rays from the sun. When free radicals interact with the skin, they cause oxidative stress, a process that damages the skin's DNA, increasing skin aging, inflammation, and negatively impacting skin pigmentation. 

Foods like berries, dark chocolate, avocados, bell peppers, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables are bursting with antioxidants and are great to incorporate into a balanced diet. "It is best to digest them with food because this way they would benefit the whole body, including the gut and heart," dermatologist Dr. Anton Alexandroff tells Live Science. "However the most efficient way to protect skin is to apply them topically because this way higher concentrations are archived locally in the skin." 

They hydrate the skin

If you constantly struggle with dry, flaky, or inflamed skin and haven't found a product that works for you, cold-pressed skincare products might be able to help. Cold-pressed skincare contains a number of ultra-hydrating vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids that keep your skin looking smooth and moisturized. 

Many plant oils contain omega fatty acids which are essential nutrients for a healthy functioning body. There are 11 known fatty acids, two of which (omega-3 and omega-6) are not produced by the body and therefore must come from food or external sources. Omega fatty acids have incredible benefits for the surface layers of the skin, providing necessary moisture for dehydrated skin, soothing redness and flakiness, smoothing the skin's texture, and reducing signs of skin damage and aging. Cold-pressed skincare oils like pumpkin, linseed, rosehip, and sunflower contain high levels of omega fatty acids. Many plant oils used in cold-pressed skincare products are also rich in vitamins known to improve the moisture content of skin, including vitamins A, C, and E. Due to their moisturizing abilities, these oils work great on their own or when layered with your favorite moisturizer.

They may help treat acne

Acne is a major buzzkill any day of the week, and because everyone's skin has different needs, treating it can be difficult and costly. Many cold-pressed skincare products have non-comedogenic properties, meaning they provide all of the nourishing, hydrating benefits your skin craves without the risk of clogged pores and breakouts. 

Their beneficial fatty acid content is also thought to help aid in the treatment of acne. Linoleic acid, a type of omega-6 fatty acid that the body can't make on its own, is a dream come true for people who struggle with acne. It is found in high concentrations in argan oil, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, and sweet almond oil, among others. Oleic acid, a type of omega-9 fatty acid, can be made by the body but is also beneficial in topical products for acne and repairing skin damage. Found in cold-pressed oils like jojoba, avocado, and sea buckthorn, low amounts of oleic acid are thought to possess anti-inflammatory properties and strengthen the skin barrier, both necessary to fight active breakouts and prevent acne.  

Cold-pressed safflower oil is also a powerful tool for combating acne. It is antimicrobial and antifungal, and possesses marvelous anti-aging properties as well. "Safflower oil is one of a very few oils that, as a stand-alone ingredient, has a beneficial fatty acid composition for the skin," organic product expert Kim Walls tells Byrdie. "If cold-pressed and processed properly, safflower oil has a higher level of antioxidant and antimicrobial properties than many other oils commonly used in skincare."  

Cold-pressed skincare reduces inflammation

You might think only of taking care of the face and neck when it comes to your skincare routine, but cold-pressed oils have benefits for skin troubles over the entire body. They are especially helpful for inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea or eczema. Rosacea involves sporadic but persistent flare-ups of redness, swelling, and sensitivity, as well as acne-like bumps. Eczema affects the surface layers of the skin and causes symptoms like itchy and extremely dry skin, rashes, blisters, and even skin infections. It can be triggered by a number of environmental factors and irritants such as detergents, harsh cleaners, artificial fragrances, scratchy fabrics, and extreme heat or cold air. 

Cold-processed coconut, sunflower seed, and grapeseed oils contain fatty acids like linoleic acid needed to help skin repair itself after a flare-up while also offering anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial benefits. While not as potent as a prescribed antibiotic, the presence of the fatty acid monolaurin in coconut oil has been found to be helpful in treating impetigo and reducing the presence of staph infections on the skin. Sunflower seed oils help reduce inflammation, but they are also made up of ceramides which are needed to keep the skin hydrated and protected. In addition to the presence of linoleic acid and their anti-inflammatory properties, grapeseed oil contains a molecule called phytosterols, which are thought to improve the skin's inflammatory response to outside stressors. 

Cold-pressed oils can help treat dandruff

Common scalp conditions like seborrheic dermatitis may be relieved with the help of cold-pressed skincare products and their highly nourishing properties. This scalp condition is a type of eczema that causes a scaly, flaky rash on parts of the body that see a lot of oil production, such as the face and scalp. A symptom of seborrheic dermatitis is dandruff, a mild form that results in dry, white, flaky skin on the scalp and eyebrows, and affects anywhere from 3-10% of people. Cold-pressed oils with antifungal properties, such as castor oil, are thought to be useful in correcting the condition when applied topically. Cold-pressed tea tree oil also possesses antifungal properties and may provide temporary relief from the itchiness and greasiness of seborrheic dermatitis when added in small amounts to shampoo and massaged directly into the scalp. 

People with generally sensitive skin may also find relief by using cold-pressed skincare alternatives in lieu of more refined products. Sensitive skin can cover a variety of complaints, including easily irritated skin, itchiness, burning, redness, and chronic dryness. Mild cold-pressed oils like evening primrose and avocado sterols contain linoleic acid and phytosterols respectively, both of which are good for restoring the lipid layer of the skin, reducing dehydration and calming areas of inflammation or irritation. 

They may be able to help reverse sun damage

You may know how important wearing sunscreen is in the fight against skin cancer and skin aging, but remembering to put it on or reapply as directed is another story. Sun-related damage in your skin cells' DNA can happen as a result, even if you don't burn or tan. "The inflammation caused by sun damage happens every day, and it starts within the first minute you expose your skin to daylight without protection," skincare expert Paula Begoun explains to Harper's Bazaar. 

Sun damage isn't 100% reversible. However, some evidence suggests that lightweight, moisturizing, cold-pressed grapeseed oil is helpful for soothing sun-damaged skin thanks to the presence of polyphenols and vitamins C, D, and E. "These compounds have excellent antioxidant abilities making grapeseed oil a strong source of antioxidant benefits, including free radical scavenging and protection from environmental aggressors such as UV radiation or pollution," research scientist Marisa Plescia tells Byrdie. Vitamin E in particular is helpful for reducing skin inflammation after prolonged, unprotected exposure to ultraviolet light. 

Cold-pressed oils are generally safe to use

Plant-based, cold-pressed skincare products are generally safe to use. In cosmetics, the majority of cold-pressed oils don't irritate the skin and rarely cause allergic reactions. The more natural extraction process and the high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals they retain make cold-pressed skincare products beneficial for healthy, glowing skin. 

Some caution is required before jumping headfirst into the cold-pressed skincare world, however. Just like any other new skincare product you try, you should perform a patch test to make sure you don't have any allergic reaction to the ingredients. Furthermore, the term "cold-pressed" isn't regulated by the FDA, which means skincare brands get to determine what that means for their own products. It also means that there isn't a guarantee that the cold-pressed oils you buy will be as effective as you want them to be. Board-certified dermatologist Anthony Rossi cautions against worshiping cold-pressed oils, telling InStyle, "Cold-pressed juice may be your go-to, but the benefits that we see form using hydraulic force to extract juice out of fruits and vegetables may not translate to skincare — you're not eating it." If you're unsure if cold-pressed skincare oils are good for you, consider weighing the pros and cons with your dermatologist.

How to properly store cold-pressed skincare products

Like most skincare products, cold-pressed serums and lotions should be kept in dark and dry places. However, warm, humid temperatures — such as those present in the bathroom from a hot shower — can potentially break down and cause oxidization, which damages the integrity of unstable ingredients. Once damaged, these ingredients become virtually ineffective. 

This is especially true for natural products like cold-pressed oils and serums that have short expiration dates. "With the rise of natural skincare brands like Lush and Tara Harper making their products in smaller batches and often without the use of chemical preservatives, refrigeration is a necessity," skin specialist Patricia Boland shares with Who What Wear. "Cold skincare helps to stabilize the actives, soothes and calms irritation in the skin ... and helps to tighten the skin whilst refreshing [it]." 

Does that mean you need to run out and invest in a cute and trendy (but expensive) fridge for all of your cosmetics? Not necessarily. "Unless the manufacturer kept the product in a refrigerator or if it was sold at the retailer in a refrigerator, there's no reason to do it," dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross tells Elle. Even cold-pressed products go through stability testing, meaning they can withstand being transported and displayed.  However, at a minimum, your cold-pressed skincare products should be kept in a room temperature area away from direct sunlight to prolong their life and effectiveness.

Are cold-pressed skincare products worth it?

A quick Google search on cold-pressed skincare products brings up plenty of options, many of which come with higher price tags. If you're on any kind of budget, you may seriously question whether cold-pressed skincare products are actually worth the splurge. The gentler, low-heat extraction process of plant-based cold-pressed oils is great for retaining the potent nutritive value of the oil. It is also more time-consuming and less efficient than traditional refined oil production. Cold-pressed oils used in skincare and cosmetics require a higher amount of raw material to produce a lower amount of oil as well, meaning the price point is going to be significantly higher. 

Furthermore, terms like "natural," "non-toxic," and "clean ingredients" sound great but remain largely unregulated, meaning you may not know exactly what you are buying and if it will work as promised. In light of these concerns, some skin experts doubt their efficacy. "The verdict is not out, as there are not real studies," dermatologist Adarsh Vijay Mudgil tells Well + Good.

Although cold-pressed skincare products are generally more expensive, the benefits they provide are worth considering. Cold-pressed products have preserved the natural vitamins and minerals your skin needs to look its best, in addition to protecting and repairing it from environmental stressors. No matter what skincare product you buy, cold-pressed or otherwise, it is important to carefully take stock of the ingredients present. After all, skincare products are only as effective as what's in them.