Are face oils right for you? What to know about them and how to use them correctly

The thought of using facial oils may seem frightening, but having taken a chance on toners, serums, and cleansers, is this beauty trend worth a try? Let’s find out.

A woman pouring out oil from a bottle to apply on her skin

Key takeaways

  • Face oils are beneficial, but you may need a dermatologist to recommend one suitable for your skin type. 
  • Some face oils have antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and wound-healing properties.
  • Face oils act as protective barriers on the skin, locking in moisture and increasing skin hydration. 

If you are a skincare enthusiast that follows a skin care routine, chances are you are not new to the face oil trend—especially when it is a cult favorite. 

However, one may wonder about the benefits of adding this product to a beauty routine, having oily and acne-prone skin types in mind. 

What are face oils?

A face oil, as the name implies, is an oil-based beauty product formulated to enhance, lock in moisture, and renew the skin by supplementing the oils produced by this layer. 

Naturally, our bodies produce oils and lipids that help moisturize, hydrate, and protect the skin.

At the outermost part of the epidermis is a layer (the stratum corneum), which consists of 40-50% ceramides, 25% cholesterol, and 10-15% free fatty acids.

The stratum corneum plays the primary role of acting as a skin barrier, preventing unwanted materials from entering and moisture from leaving the skin. But the skin barrier can sometimes be compromised, and this is where the role of a face oil kicks in. 

What exactly do they do?

Face oils can improve hydration by blocking moisture from going out of the skin–more like trapping–thereby increasing the moisture content of the skin. They also repair damaged skin barriers and protect the skin, leaving it smooth and flexible. 

Every skin has times when it is dehydrated and needs reviving, so do not undervalue the impact of this beauty trend on your daily routine in these circumstances. Also worth exploring are some of these oils’ antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties on the skin.

Are face oils the same as serums?

Many people confuse face oils with serums, but they are not the same. 

In a nutshell, serums are more lightweight and highly concentrated than face oils, fully packed with active ingredients like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid that handle specific skin concerns like hyperpigmentation, wrinkles and acne

Because of how lightweight these serums are, they quickly absorb into the skin. But most oils sit on the skin and are not absorbed past the upper first layer of the dermis.

Additionally, oils are moisturizing but lack the humectant properties that most serums have. Humectants are agents that attract moisture, draw them in, and bind them to the skin. So, ideally, it is best to apply a serum that contains humectant first before applying your face oil to seal in the moisture. 

Can you use face oils in place of moisturizers?

Undoubtedly, facial oils appear to function in the same way as moisturizers, and while it may be tempting to switch between the two, you don't have to. 

Moisturizers are specially designed to repair and protect the skin and are formulated in a way that directly targets skin barrier concerns. They may contain humectants like hyaluronic acid and glycerin to increase skin hydration and make the skin appear supple and plump. 

Also, specific active ingredients may be added to a moisturizer like ceramides and niacinamide, to handle some special skin concerns, but face oils lack all these. 

Rather than using face oils in place of moisturizers, they can be used to supplement the roles of moisturizers to enhance and obtain the maximum benefits of these products.

Examples of face oils

There are several face oils to pick from if you want to give this beauty trend a try, so we’ve made a list of some that may be beneficial to your routine, and they include:

  • Almond oil
  • Argan oil
  • Castor oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Shea butter
  • Sunflower oil
  • Teatree oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Rosehip oil
  • Olive oil
  • Chamomile oil

Are face oils for everyone? Who should use it?

For persons with oily and acne-prone skin types, the sight of any oil-containing product in their routine is a no-no… which may be understandable.  

Nevertheless, it is crucial to note that some natural oils can be non-irritating, hydrating, and do not block pores, all thanks to the method of extraction used. 

Face oils may benefit dry skin types more because it is hydrating and seal in moisture. But people with oily and acne-prone skin types can benefit from them too. In fact, there may be easier and more effective ways to include them in your skincare routine.

One technique is to mix a few drops into your moisturizer before applying it or to use the thumb method to apply the face oil once a day,  preventing the oils from clogging pores. 

Furthermore, pay attention to your skin and ensure that the oil you are using is suitable for it. You can do this by performing a patch test on a portion of your skin and seeing how the oil responds to the skin. 

At what point do face oils go in during a skincare routine?

Dermatologists always advise going in with your light-weight products before the heavy-weights to ease product absorption into the skin. 

For the face oils, you may want to consider using them after applying your toner, serum, and treatments before applying the face oil to lock in moisture on the skin. 

Also, you can use it alongside a moisturizer by adding a few drops instead of applying directly on the skin. This might also reduce possible irritations. 

In all, face oils should always go in after you have applied other skincare products (except sunscreen) to lock in moisture and seal in everything. You will be making a skincare mistake if you do the opposite.

What to keep in mind before using face oils

While the hype surrounding face oils can be quite appealing, it's also crucial to understand that face oils may not be suitable for your skin type, which is perfectly fine. 

Pay attention to your skin and understand what it is saying to you. If your skin reacts to a particular face oil, you should either use something less irritating on your skin or stop using face oils altogether. 

Can a dermatologist recommend one for you?

A dermatologist can help you identify your skin type and what is ideal for you, to avoid using facial oils that may irritate your skin if you are unclear about what is best for your skin.