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Face Oil

Written by: Becki Murray

Last Updated: 9 February 2024

Face oils are designed to moisturise, nourish, and rejuvenate your skin, often containing a blend of natural oils that deliver benefits such as reducing the signs of ageing, fighting free radicals, and promoting healing. Facial oils might not be for everyone – and if you have oily skin you might be slightly wary of them – but they can actually feel really nice and do have some benefits. By choosing a suitable face oil and using it appropriately, you can strengthen your skin’s barrier and maintain a glowing and youthful complexion.

face oil

What are the benefits of face oils?

One of the things people like about facial oils is that they usually smell and feel great. There’s a luxurious, indulgent and pampering element to a facial oil too. And more than that, they are now packed with lots of natural and nourishing ingredients to feed your skin.

Here are five ways in which using face oil as part of your skincare can benefit you. Face oil can:

  • Moisturise your skin to reduce water loss and prevent dryness
  • Nourish your skin with nutrients such as essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants
  • Balance your skin’s natural oil production, reducing oiliness
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles
  • Make your skin smoother and more supple

But, I thought you wanted to get rid of oil on your face?

Oil isn’t a no-go for skin as some people think. Our skin already makes oil and it plays an important role in keeping our faces hydrated and protected. We usually think about sebum in a negative way because of its relationship to acne but sebum and other oils in the skin help to prevent water loss by creating a seal/protective layer. This is because oils are hydrophobic, which means that they keep water in by repelling the water molecules rather than attracting them.


What are natural oils, and how do they nourish the skin?

Natural oils are oils extracted from plant-based sources — such as nuts, seeds, and fruits — as opposed to synthetic oils manufactured in laboratories.

Many natural oils contain bioactive compounds, such as vitamins and antioxidants, that can nourish your skin in ways such as the following:

  • Supplying nutrients essential for skin health and regeneration: Natural oils can provide essential fatty acids, vitamins, and antioxidants.
  • Soothing inflammation and promoting healing: Some natural oils have anti-inflammatory properties and can help with conditions such as acne, eczema, and rosacea.
  • Reinforcing your skin’s lipid barrier: Natural oils can repair and strengthen your skin as a barrier against the outside world.
  • Fighting free radicals: Natural oils contain antioxidants that can help fight against free radicals, which contribute to lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

Can face oils hydrate the skin effectively?

No — but we might be talking at cross purposes, so let’s make sure we’re on the same page.

Face oils can moisturise your skin very effectively, but they cannot hydrate your skin.

Hydration involves adding water to the deeper layers of your skin. To hydrate these layers, you need to use a product that contains humectant ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid or glycerine. Humectants can draw moisture into the skin.

By contrast, moisturisation involves preventing water loss from the surface of your skin. Face oils can create a barrier on the surface of your skin, sealing in existing moisture and preventing it from evaporating.

So to hydrate your skin effectively, you need a hydrating product. Your face oil can then moisturise your skin and lock in the moisture.

What types of face oils are best for dry skin?

If you have dry skin — in general, look for a face oil that delivers lots of fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamins to nourish your skin and encourage it to repair itself.

In particular, look for these six types of oil:

  • Argan oil. Argan oil contains vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. It can improve your skin’s moisturisation and elasticity.
  • Rosehip oil. Rosehip oil contains vitamin A and vitamin C. It can improve your skin texture and encourage skin regeneration.
  • Marula oil. Marula oil contains antioxidants and omega fatty acids, making it great for moisturising and nourishing your skin.
  • Jojoba oil. Similar in composition to sebum, your skin’s natural oil, jojoba oil can be good for regulating oil production and moisturising your skin deeply.
  • Squalane oil. Squalane oil is lightweight and non-greasy, making it good for moisturising dry skin. It also provides protection against free radicals.
  • Avocado oil. Avocado oil contains essential fatty acids along with vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. It can help soothe and moisturise dry, irritated skin.

Can face oils help in balancing skin hydration?

Yes, face oils can help in balancing the hydration of your skin. As explained earlier on this page, you need to use a humectant (such as hyaluronic acid) first to hydrate your skin. Once your skin is hydrated, face oils can help by sealing in that hydration; strengthening your skin barrier; and preventing trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL for short), the technical term for water evaporating from your skin into the air.

How should I incorporate face oils into my skincare routine?

If you haven’t been using a face oil, start by applying face oil once a day, preferably in the evening. See how your skin responds to the oil, and decide whether to apply it in the morning as well.

First, cleanse your skin with a gentle cleanser that will get rid of impurities and excess oil. Then, if you normally apply a toner to balance your skin’s pH and help your skin absorb other products, apply that toner as usual.

With your skin still damp, apply the face oil. It typically goes a long way, so you don’t need much of it. Put a few drops of face oil in the palm of one hand, rub your hands together to warm the oil so your skin can better absorb it, and then gently press the oil onto your face and neck. If your skin has dry areas, put more of the oil there. You can either pat the oil into your skin or massage it in gently using an upward, circular motion.

If your skin is dry, apply your moisturiser on top of the face oil. If your skin is oily, the face oil is probably enough, so you can skip the moisturiser.

Are there specific face oils for sensitive skin?

Yes, absolutely. If you have sensitive skin, look for a face oil that is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t clog your pores. You should also make sure the face oil is free of fragrances, because these may irritate your skin, and free of drying alcohols, such as ethanol or isopropyl alcohol. (By contrast, fatty alcohols — such as cetearyl alcohol or cetyl alcohol — are not drying and should be fine for sensitive skin.)


What are the luxurious aspects of using face oils?

Depending on the type of face oil you choose, the oil can add a touch of luxury to your everyday skincare routine. The oil may have a rich texture that glides smoothly on to your skin and makes it feel soft and supple; it may smell great; and it may leave your skin glowing and feeling terrific and revitalised.

What natural ingredients are commonly found in face oils?

Face oils can contain a wide variety of natural ingredients. These ingredients tend to fall into two main categories:

  • Carrier oils. These are oils often used to form the basis of a face oil. They include jojoba oil, argan oil, squalane oil, rosehip oil, and grapeseed oil.
  • Essential oils. These potent oils are often included in face oils to deliver specific benefits. For example, lavender oil can soothe irritated skin, tea tree oil can help combat acne, and frankincense can promote wound healing.

Beyond carrier oils and essential oils, face oils may contain other natural ingredients such as shea butter for moisturisation and nourishment, aloe vera for its calming effects, and antioxidants such as vitamin E and green tea extract to protect your skin.

What are essential oils and how do they contribute to skin health?

Essential oils are oils derived from plants, such as from the flowers, leaves, or bark of a plant. The term ‘essential’ means not that the oil is necessary or critical for humans but that the oil captures the essence of the plant. Essential oils can contribute to the health of your skin in several ways:

  • Killing bacteria and fungi. Oils such as tea tree oil and lemongrass oil have antibacterial and antifungal properties that can help fight acne and other skin infections.
  • Soothing and calming inflammation. Oils such as chamomile oil and lavender oil can reduce redness and inflammation.
  • Protecting against free radical damage. Oils such as frankincense and rosehip oil contain antioxidants that may help protect your skin from damage by free radicals.

How to safely use essential oils?

Because essential oils are concentrated, you need to use them carefully rather than liberally. Before applying an essential oil to your face, do a 24-hour patch test on the skin of your inner arm to see how your skin responds to the oil.


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