It seems counterintuitive to use a face oil, especially when your skin type is oily or blemish-prone. Then what often happens is that people wash too often, use harsh products that strip the skin of its naturals oils. And all of this causes your skin to go into overdrive and produce more oils since it “thinks” there aren’t enough oils to protect your skin.

Yes, you heard it right: Your skin makes oil that is an important element in protecting your skin and keeping it hydrated. Our skin makes sebum, the wax-like natural oil that many of us associate with acne and oily skin. Other than sebum, our skin also makes other fats and oils (often called lipids) in the top layer of the epidermis which is referred to as the stratum corneum.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema

The stratum corneum consists of skin cells held together by the lipids and it protects our skin against water loss. It also prevents other beneficial substances from evaporating from our skin while protecting against environmental chemicals, allergens, and pathogens from entering.

Think of your hydrated skin as a function of water balance and that the oils and lipids in the stratum corneum form a barrier to hold the water in. Without these oils, the water can evaporate, leaving your skin dry and flaky. People whose skin doesn’t make enough natural oils often have dry skin. And as contradictory as it sounds, people with acne-prone skin can also have dehydrated skin.

Even if you want to run screaming to the hills when you hear the word “oil”, you’re probably already using some form of oil in your skincare routine every day. Many moisturisers have oils in their formulations. For lotions to feel more lightweight, they’re formulated to have more water in their water to oil ratio. On the other hand, creams are formulated with more oils, especially creams labelled as rich or nourishing. Lastly, ointments are mostly made of oils (remember Vaseline?).

When you use the right oil for your skin, not only can it make your face glow, it will help stabilise and regulate your skin’s oil production – that is make your skin less oily (for the oily skin-types) – combat dry skin.

What And How Do Face Oils Do?

Facial oils have a long history in beauty and skincare. It’s thought that aboriginal tribes are using emu oil as a moisturiser for more than 40’000 years in Australia… More recently, the ancient Egyptians have used castor, olive, and sesame oil in their skincare.

The motivation for applying an oil to your skin is to help supplement the natural oils your skin is (or maybe isn’t) producing. This will moisturise your skin as well as strengthen the skin barrier to lock in the water. In addition, depending on the oils applied (argan, marula, coconut oil, etc), they have secondary effects like antioxidant or antibacterial properties.

A moisturiser can increase the water level in the skin in 3 ways. A moisturiser often contains humectants, the most widely known is glycerine or urea. These attract and hold water, so they add water back to the skin. Humectants fall into the hydration category, but oils don’t.

Moisturisers can contain emollients that are lubricating, softening, and strengthening the outer layer of skin by filling in the spaces between skin cells. Moisturisers can also contain occlusives in that they lock in the water. Oils fall into these categories. That’s due to the molecule size of the fatty acids that make up the oil. The molecules remain on the surface of the skin and act as a seal (occlusive) when they too large to pass through the skin barrier. If their size is small enough, they can penetrate into the deeper layers and repair and reinforce the lipids in the stratum corneum.

Not All Oils Are The Same

There are many different oils and they have different properties. Maybe the most widely known is tea tree oil for its clarifying, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It’s often used in acne treatments. Another well-known oil is jojoba, as it’s similar to sebum, the skin’s natural oil.

Then, as everyone’s skin is different, we all react differently to the same oil. Still, anyone can benefit from including oil into their skincare, as long as it’s the right one for their skin and it’s within the correct routine for their skin type.

So, What Are Facial Oils?

They are any kind of oils that you use on your face. And for that matter, most oils can be used on the face. It’s just that beauty brands have started marketing individual oils and oil blends as standalone products. Only, you can get the same (argan) oil in your local health food store, with a less pretty but bigger bottle. So apart from the price and packaging, there’s no real difference.

Despite the name, facial oils can also be used on any part of your body.

So, Does It Do Any Good?

Apart from moisturising, they’re great at removing makeup. Jokes aside, you don’t want to “waste” your pricey argan oil to wipe away your makeup, do you?

Our bodies produce less and less natural oils when we age. When you consider how our skin needs oil to maintain a healthy balance or we face dry skin, premature wrinkles, or blemishes, applying oil can keep these woes at bay.

Heavier oils nourish dry skin or worded differently dry skin literally feeds off oils. And best are those rich in fatty acids and oleic acid. Some oils help to balance and to regulate the skin’s oil production as well as contain anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and soothing compounds.

Oils contain vitamins, amino acids, anti-oxidants and so have ancillary benefits. Some are soothing, others act as oxidant scavengers, but they can’t hydrate your skin.

Where Should The Oil Go In The Skincare Routine?

Generally, when applying your different skincare products, you go from the runniest and lightest to the thickest and heaviest. That is after the toner comes serums and lightweight oils then you move up to the heavier products like moisturiser and sunscreen.

Another way is to add the face oil to another product to make it “go on steroids”, that is have more beneficial properties.

What Kind Of Facial Oil Should You Use?

If you’re looking to seal in your previous skincare, you can go with oils that have a larger molecular size. Know that these tend to be comedogenic. Argan, jojoba oils, and squalane have smaller molecular sizes and can sink into the skin. They will also not feel heavy. Take your skin type into consideration when you look for a face oil. And lastly, oils bottled in a dark glass is preferable, since exposure to light and heat will damage the oil.

Oil and Sunscreen Is A No No

You can use a face oil in the morning and evening. Particularly in the dry and cold winter months, adding oil to your skincare can work wonders to relieve your dry and dehydrated skin. But, if you care about sun damage, make sure to wait until it’s fully sunk into your skin before you apply SPF. If you mixed oil with SPF, the sunscreen’s formulation can be changed and not work at the same level of protection as you think.

Did you try adding face oils to your skincare regimen? Share your experience in the comments below.

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