Everything You Want To Know About Facial Oils

If you’ve ever had excess oil or acne, you’ve likely been taught to use skincare products that remove the natural oils from your skin. So understandably, it seems totally counterintuitive to apply more oil. What gives? And why are face oils suddenly so popular?

The truth is, oil begets oil. Face oils have many benefits that can improve skin quality without resulting in dreaded breakouts or clogged pores as we've been led to believe for so long. Putting oil on your skin moisturizes, hydrates, protects and can even help banish blemishes. It all depends on exactly what type of oil you're slathering on. 

There are a large variety of oils on the market, specifically formulated to correspond to different skin types, from super dry to oily and in between. Here, we break down everything you've ever wanted to know about face oils and how they can benefit you.  

All the Types Of Face Oils and Their Benefits

Face oils are not automatically bad for you, but remember that it all depends on the oil. You’re not rubbing some random cooking oil all over your skin, after all. The oils currently being advocated are derived from a variety of plant sources, each of which correspond to a different skin need. If you suffer from dryness and flakiness, for example, Coconut oil can be extremely moisturizing. Almond oil, which is filled with omega-3 fatty acids, is also very effective at hydration and good for sensitive skin.

Other types of oils protect against toxins and pollutants, like smog, while strengthening the skin barrier. Rosehip oil contains vitamin C (an antioxidant) and vitamin A (a natural retinol), and is particularly effective against aging thanks to its ability to fight free radicals. (Free radicals are cell-damaging molecules that have been proven to accelerate aging and cause wrinkles. Antioxidants are their natural enemy.) So if you're interested in maintaining a youthful glow, Rosehip oil is the way to go (like the Purearth - Wild Rosehip Seed Face Treatment Oil).

Certain oils can also soothe, reducing redness and fighting inflammation. Argan and Yangu oils help calm irritation, particularly after using skin-refining products containing retinol or alpha hydroxy acids. Geranium oil, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce redness from skin conditions like rosacea. And studies have found that Primrose oil is excellent in the treatment of eczema.[1]

If you're worried about pimples, Tea tree oil has been shown effective in fighting them in clinical studies.[2] Furthermore, using Jojoba oil sparingly (one or two drops to cover your entire face) can decrease your skin's natural oil production, thereby still keeping it moisturized, but helping to prevent clogged pores that can lead to acne. For example,  Shiva Rose - Rose Face oil is a velvety combination of Jojoba, Rosehip Seed and Argan oils and is perfect for dry and mature skin.

Oils also help plump you up. When it comes to skin, that plumpness is often what keeps it looking youthful and fresh. Oils are lipophilic, meaning they dissolve easily in fats or lipids, and because of this quality they easily pass through the lipid layer of the skin. This prevents water loss while also giving you that plumping effect. Olive and Coconut oils are excellent in this department.

Oil Composition

Fatty acids are the building blocks of oils. Two types in particular are important when you’re figuring out which oil is right for your skin: linoleic acid and oleic acid.

Oleic acid makes oils thicker and richer, which means these oils seal in moisture very well. High-oleic oils include Coconut oil, Almond oil and Avocado oil. They work best for very dry skin since they are capable of delivering the most moisture (for example, Mahalo Vacation Glow). Some high-oleic oils, like Argan oil, Rosehip oil and Camellia oil, are also rich in antioxidants, ideal for aging skin. When it comes to acne-prone skin or oily skin, high-oleic oils may not work as well, as they are likely to cause even more breakouts.

Linoleic acids are best for oily and acne-prone skin because they result in lighter oils. High-linoleic oils are still moisturizing, but may not provide as much hydration as high-oleic oils. High-linoleic oils include Grapeseed oil, Passion fruit oil, Sesame seed oil and Sea buckthorn oil. Acne-prone skin is also often deficient in linoleic acids, which explains why oils high in linoleic acid are essential for this skin type.

Face oils also contain essential fatty acids, which is great since your body doesn’t naturally produce them—they must be derived from an outside source. Face oils often contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help support healthy skin, as they are crucial for the building of healthy cell membranes.[3]

Finally, face oils contain vitamins. Vitamin E and Vitamin C are both ideal as anti-aging components. Vitamin E also eases dryness and builds up the body’s defenses against sun damage.[4] Vitamin C fights free radicals, reducing signs of aging like fine lines, deep wrinkles and sagging.[5] Vitamin A, contained in Rosehip oil, is a retinol that has been proven in clinical studies to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and improve signs of sun damage overall.[6] 

When To Apply Oil

It's best to apply a face oil before your other skincare products, as the oil will allow for better absorption of whatever you put on after. The vitamins and other substances, like retinol or glycolic acid in anti-aging products, will get sucked into your skin more effectively. The same goes for moisturizers. When you apply an oil first, and a moisturizer after, the oil provides barrier protection, sealing the hydrating ingredients in your moisturizer into your skin.[7] If you feel your moisturizers and anti-aging products aren't quite living up to their reputations, adding a face oil into the mix can help improve their effects by making them absorb better. 

Best Oils For Each Skin Type

For oily skin: Avoid Coconut oil, which is comedogenic, meaning it can clog pores. Opt for lighter oils like Argan, Jojoba and Squalane, which absorb quickly into the skin before they can begin to clog pores. Grapeseed oil is also great for oily skin, as it is light and can fight bacteria. Because it contains linoleic acid, it is also less likely to clog pores. If your oily skin is also acne-prone, Grapeseed oil has astringent qualities that help reduce oil production and fight breakouts. Consider these:


For dry skin: For very dry skin prone to flakiness, Coconut and Marula oils are best. Marula oil, in particular, is pretty much a super oil with high moisturizing benefits (because it contains oleic acid) and small molecular makeup that allows for fast absorption. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins E and C and omega-6 and omega-9 fatty acids, it also helps fight aging and sun damage. As a bonus, it helps fight acne too thanks to its antimicrobial properties.[8] A few products that are effective for dry skin include:

For combination skin: Marula oil is your best friend if you have combination skin. It is hydrating, but it’s also an antibacterial that can reduce acne flare-ups. It further moisturizes while controlling oil production in oil-prone areas. 

For sensitive skin: Chamomile oil calms, and also reduces redness and inflammation in sensitive skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that make it a star for people with rosacea.

Warning: Always do a patch test before applying any oil. Some may contain plant ingredients that may cause an allergic reaction.

Face Oil Faceoff

Before you leap into the world of face oils, make sure to consult your dermatologist, as your doctor is best equipped to consult on your personal skin needs. Still, don't be afraid to give face oils a try, especially if you're finding your current skincare regimen is lacking or could use a boost. It can be just the thing that reinvigorates your skincare routine to take your skin to the next level.