Everything You Need To Know About Face Oils

What they are, how to use them and how to pick the right one for your skin type.

by
Amandine Sol Botanicals face oil photographed on white background to illustrate an article about face oils.

Face oils are a skincare category all their own, with new blends made from trendy ingredients hitting shelves on the regular. With so many options to choose from, how do you pick the best one for your skin type and specific concerns? We tapped three experts to find out everything you need to know about face oils and how to use them, including Valerie Grandury, founder of Los Angeles-based natural beauty brand Odacité, Shannon O’Brien, president of natural skincare brand Abundance Naturally, and Jessica Berto, medical aesthetician and trainer at Project Skin in Vancouver. Read on for their answers to every question you have about face oils, including how to incorporate them into your current skincare routine and whether or not they’re good for oily skin types (short answer: yes, if you’re using the right one).

What exactly are face oils—and how do I use them?

Face oils are typically used to hydrate and can be of natural or synthetic origin. While an oil can boost your skincare routine, not all are created equal. “While synthetic and mineral oils are comedogenic and clog pores, natural plant oils—when properly extracted and unfiltered—won’t clog pores and can transform your skin,” says Grandury.

Apply your face oil directly onto skin as a base for your moisturizer. “Add a few drops to clean, damp skin and massage into your face. This can be done morning and night before adding your moisturizer,” she says. (Alternately, Grandury also recommends mixing a few drops of oil directly into your cream.)

Can a face oil replace my moisturizer?

While face oils can do a lot for your skin, they are best used in conjunction with a moisturizer. “Face oils nourish, lubricate and form a protective lipid barrier on the surface of the skin to help keep water in, but since they don’t contain any water themselves, they do not actually moisturize,” says Berto. “Use them to help support your moisturizer.”

Can I use a face oil and a serum?

If you use a serum daily, Berto recommends applying oil after serum and before moisturizer, or replacing your serum with an oil—just make sure the one you’re using has a small molecule size so it properly absorbs into your skin. Argan, squalane and jojoba oils are great options.

What can a face oil do for my skin?

“Many face oils are rich in essential fatty acids,” says O’Brien. They can help balance oily skin types by restoring essential fatty acids and providing hydration without leaving a greasy residue behind. In addition to their moisture-boosting properties, oils can also protect skin. “Because oils are lipophilic (which means they combine or dissolve in lipids or fats), they can trap water,” Berto says. “Oils also help to strengthen and repair our own natural skin barrier, and they help with skin plumpness.”

What are some key oils to look for when shopping?

“Each oil has a specific nutrient and fatty acid profile and should be used accordingly,” says Grandury.

Look for oils rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins A and C, lycopene, beta-carotene and antioxidants, suggests O’Brien. “If face oils are new for you and you are unsure where to start or how your skin will react, I would suggest a single-ingredient natural oil like rosehip, seabuckthorn and black seed,” she says. She specifically sings the praises of rosehip oil as it’s high in linoleic acid, very hydrating and absorbs quickly, so it works well for all skin types.

Berto recommends looking at the ingredient list to ensure you’re getting a good quality product. “Make sure the oil you pick is organic and unrefined. Sometimes you can’t find  “certified organic” oils, but you can often find natural and unrefined ones, which are free from preservatives and fillers.”

What is the best face oil to use on my skin type?

Dry and dehydrated skin: Grandury says that pomegranate, marula and moringa oils are best, while Berto recommends jojoba and argan oils. Abyssinian oil is another great option as it’s high in omega 3 and fatty acids.

Oily, acne-prone skin: Berto recommends hemp oil for blemish-prone skin, while O’Brien suggests rosehip or pumpkin seed oils. Grandury likes black cumin and grapeseed oils for this skin type.

Aging skin: Grandury loves acai oil, which is loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.

Sensitive skin: O’Brien recommends using a high-quality, single ingredient oil and doing a patch test before incorporating it into your skincare routine. “Many people with sensitive skin find natural face oils easier for their skin to tolerate,” she explains.

Not sure what your skin type is or what oil to choose? Berto suggests talking to your dermatologist or aesthetician to make sure your skin can handle an oil. “Just because something seems amazing does not mean it’s great for everyone,” she warns.

Are there specific oils I should use on my body?

If your body needs a serious hit of hydration, body oils are a great way to boost moisture levels. Plus, they make for an incredibly luxurious experience. “Look for a hydrating nut or seed oil, like macadamia, almond or coconut,” says O’Brien.