Ask a few different people who use face oils what the oils actually do for them and you’ll probably get a few different responses: they hydrate, they help with breakouts, they make my skin glow.
So, then, is their recent rise in popularity a result of marketing hype, or do face oils have different benefits to different types of skin? Before I answer that, let’s backtrack for a moment and define what face oils are, exactly.
For starters, oils are emollients, an important distinction because, unlike ointments and creams, which sink deep into the skin and provide intensive, long-lasting hydration, emollients remain closer to the skin’s surface. In turn, they’re not the most effective moisturizers. But they do provide a superficial hydration that can leave your skin feeling silky-smooth and soft.
That said, face oils shouldn’t be used as a moisturizer. Not on their own, at least. An oil acts more like the sealant that keeps moisture in. So try pairing it with traditional moisturizing ingredients, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin.
Face oils are also packed with essential nutrients, fatty acids, and antioxidants. They’re not the be-all, end-all solution to skin issues by any means, but face oils perform a significant amount of repairing and protecting the skin barrier, which sets the skin up to better absorb skincare products.
How to use face oil
As mentioned a couple paragraphs earlier, face oils pair well with moisturizing ingredients. So you can always try mixing them with your moisturizer.
But to get the most benefit from your face oil, it’s a better idea to keep it separate and apply it either as the last step of your skincare routine at night, after you moisturize, or the second-to-last step in the morning, right before you slather on sunscreen. Doing so will enable the oil to act as a barrier and keep all the active ingredients in your skincare products locked into your skin.
Your skin type matters
Some face oils are formulated with ingredients that facilitate hydration, while others are designed more to brighten and strengthen your skin. In either case, try to cater to your specific skin type.
For dry skin, look for a thicker oil with oleic acid, which will help with skin barrier repair. For oily skin, find a more lightweight oil that won’t clog your pores, like jojoba oil and grapeseed oil. For combination skin, any formulation is OK. Since you have more options, you may want to experiment with more specialized oils, like vitamin C for brightening, retinol for antiaging, or marula oil for its antibacterial properties.
Some face oils can help slow down oil production and soothe inflammation. Still, finding the right oil when you have acne-prone skin can be tricky. That’s not to say you should avoid them. Just talk with your dermatologist first.