CD1a autoreactive T cells are common in human blood and skin, but the search for natural autoantigens has been confounded by background T cell responses to CD1 proteins and self lipids. After capturing CD1a-lipid complexes, we gently eluted ligands, while preserving unliganded CD1a for testing lipids from tissues. CD1a released hundreds of ligands of two types. Inhibitory ligands were ubiquitous membrane lipids with polar headgroups, whereas stimulatory compounds were apolar oils. CD1a autoantigens naturally accumulate in epidermis and sebum, where they were identified as squalene and skin waxes. T cell activation by skin oils suggests that headless mini-antigens nest within CD1a and displace non-antigenic resident lipids with large head groups. Oily autoantigens naturally coat the skin's surface, pointing to a new mechanism of barrier immunity.