Everything You’ve Ever Wanted To Know About Face Oils

How to use them—and the best type for your skin.

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Face oils are quickly becoming a skincare category all their own, with new blends and ingredients hitting shelves on the regular. But what exactly do facial oils do for your skin—and how do you know which one is best to use? We chatted with three experts to find out everything you need to know about face oils and how to use them. Our panel includes Valerie Grandury, founder of Odacité, a Los Angeles-based natural beauty brand that specializes in face oils, Shannon O’Brien, president of Abundance Naturally, an all-natural beauty brand that focuses on pure, natural ingredients and Jessica Berto, medical aesthetician and trainer at Project Skin in Vancouver. Read on for their expert answers to every question you could think of about face oils, including how to incorporate them into your pre-existing skincare routine and which oils are best for your skin type.

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

Face oils can be of natural or synthetic origin and are typically used to hydrate the skin, but it’s important to remember that not all facial oils are the same. “While synthetic and mineral oils are comedogenic and clog pores, natural plant oils—when properly extracted and unfiltered—not only won’t clog pores but they can transform your skin,” says Grandury. When it comes to application, O’Brien says that they should be applied directly onto the skin as a base for your moisturizer. “Add a few drops to clean, damp skin and massage (gently rub) into your face. This can be done morning and night before adding your moisturizer,” she says. Grandury recommends using face oils in conjunction with your moisturizer, either layered or together by adding a few drops of oil into your cream and mixing.

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 — not instead of one. “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 by hydrating; hence why we need to keep our moisturizer,” says Berto. “Use them to help support your moisturizer.”

Can I use a facial oil with a serum?

If you use a daily serum, Berto recommends using your oil after your serum and before moisturizer or replacing your serum with an oil—just ensure the oil you’re using has a small molecular size so it’s able to properly absorb into your skin.

What can a face oil do for my skin?

“Many face oils are rich in essential fatty acids,” says O’Brien. She goes on to say that face oils can balance and normalize oily skin by helping to restore lost essential fatty acids to the skin providing hydration without leaving a greasy residue behind. In addition to their hydrating properties, Berto praises oils for their ability to protect the skin. “Because oils are lipophilic (which means they combine or dissolve in lipids or fats), they can trap water. Oils also help to strengthen and repair our own natural skin barrier, and they help with skin plumpness,” she says.

What are some key oils to look for when shopping?

When hitting the shops to pick up a face oil, there are a few key ingredients our experts have noted you should look out for. “Each oil has a specific nutrient and fatty acid profile and should be used accordingly,” says Grandury. O’Brien recommends looking for oils rich in essential fatty acids, vitamins A and C, lycopene, beta-carotene and antioxidants. “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, is very hydrating and absorbs quickly so it works on all skin types from acne prone teenage skin to dry, aging skin. Berto advises to looking at the label for purchasing 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 which are free from preservatives and fillers. Look for these words when searching for an oil.

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 6 fatty acids.
Oily, acne-prone skin: Berto recommends hemp oil for blemish-prone skin, O’Brien advises using rosehip or pumpkin seed oil while Grandury goes for black cumin and grapeseed oils.
Aging skin: Grandury loves açai oil as it’s loaded with antioxidants and vitamins.
Sensitive skin: O’Brien recommends using a high-quality, single ingredient oil and doing a patch test before using it all over your face. “Many people with sensitive skin find natural face oils easier for their skin to tolerate and flourish because it can displace a blended moisturizer that can have several ingredients and its hard to pinpoint what is causing the irritation.”

Not sure what to do? Berto suggests having a conversation with 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.”

Are there specific oils I should use on my body?

If the skin on your body needs a serious hit of hydration, body oils are a great way to boost moisture levels and feel ultra-luxe to apply. “Look for a hydrating nut or seed oil like macadamia, almond or coconut, says O’Brien, while Berto advises reaching for argan oil.

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