So you’re thinking of incorporating a facial oil into your routine? The most important thing to note is that your success with an oil begins with selecting the right facial oil for your skin type. There’s also a degree of trial and error required! So without hesitation, let’s dive in and look at everything you need to know about facial oils! 🛢️
Your Own Oil
Let’s begin with our skin’s own natural oil – sebum. It’s secreted by the skin’s sebaceous glands and along with the help of lipids, they act to keep the outer layer of our skin intact (the stratum corneum). They do this by behaving like the grout amongst your bathroom tiles, i.e. they keep your skin cells together much like grout keeps tiles together. By doing this, water loss is prevented, the layers of the skin are kept soft and supple and we are protected from outside pathogens and allergens entering our bodies.
Hormones can affect the amount of sebum produced by the skin. Too much sebum can lead to the appearance of oily skin, which can get trapped within pores and cause spots to form. Too little sebum can lead to dry skin that is inflamed and irritated. And, if you’re lucky enough to have just the right amount of sebum, you have normal skin!
So If My Skin Has Its Own Oil, Why Would I Want To Add More?
Good question! So, let’s start with dry skin. Dry skin doesn’t produce enough oils on its own which means that your skin cells can separate (the grout isn’t working effectively!). So, if your cells separate, water can escape (called transepidermal water loss), leading to dryness and flakiness. Therefore, using an oil can actually help replenish that diminished grouting, keeping your cells together which repairs your skin barrier and keeps moisture in. However, you also need to add water back in to your skin before you then barrier your skin with an oil. We will discuss this further on.
If you have oily skin you may be already using harsh skin-care products in an attempt to minimise your oil production. These harsh products can dry your skin out leading to it producing more oil in response to the dryness. Neglecting to hydrate your skin is a key component in excess sebum production. So, is using a facial oil your answer? Not exactly, again, we will look at this further on.
Some Pros & Cons Of Facial Oils
- They can soften skin and reduce water loss
- Certain oils can provide antioxidant, antimicrobial and skin barrier repairing properties
- Can be very beneficial for those with dry skin
- Aren’t as effective as moisturisers in increasing skin’s hydration
- Some oils can worsen skin conditions
- Some can clog pores
What Are Facial Oils Exactly?
Facial oils can be:
- Fragrant plant oils (essential oils) e.g. lavender, rosemary, geranium oils
- Non-fragrant oils e.g. squalane, jojoba, marula oils
- Synthetic oils e.g. mineral oils
Oils act to add barrier protection to the skin, silkiness, and moisturisation. They can be occlusive or emollient but NEVER humectant.
So, What Do Those Terms Mean?
First off, as mentioned, the biggest benefit of oils is their moisturising capabilities. There are essentially three ways a moisturiser can increase the water level in your skin:
Occlusive: oily substances that focus more on preventing the skin from losing moisture by forming a protective film over the epidermis.
For example, petrolatum, lanolin and mineral oils
Emollient: moisturisers that soften and condition the skin without actually adding moisture to it. They do this by filling in the gaps between skin cells to improve the appearance of dry patches and make the skin more flexible.
For example, plant oils, shea butter and cocoa butter
Humectant: Humectants add moisture by drawing water from the environment towards the epidermis in order to rehydrate the skin’s surface. They help to increase the amount of water within the skin and store it away until it is needed. Humectants are great moisturisers for the majority of skin types. The most popular humectants are Glycerin and Hyaluronic Acid. Oils will never fall into this category.
So, although oils are moisturising and may indirectly increase the amount of hydration in the skin (by providing barrier repair to help prevent further water loss), they are not technically hydrating themselves. Water is hydrating to the skin and oils cannot provide water like humectants can.
Moisturiser Or Facial Oil?
To summarise, using a facial oil can be a great way to lock in all the hydrating ingredients you have used in your skincare routine. Some oils can even increase penetration of other skincare products you are using such as AHAs or antioxidants, for example. Others can ward off acne-causing bacteria (tea tree oil) or provide antioxidant benefits (rosehip oil). If you have dry or dehydrated skin that is struggling with water loss, oils may be the ingredient you have been looking for. If you have oily skin, you would be better off focusing more on providing hydration to your skin in the form of a light-weight oil-free moisturiser before looking at including facial oils in your routine.
Regardless of skin type, before you can really appreciate the place oils may have in your skincare routine, you need to ensure that you are providing hydration to your skin in the form of a moisturiser. There is no point using oil as a barrier to lock in hydration if you haven’t hydrated it in the first placed. This is why you will see moisturisers with the first ingredient always being water because all skin types need it!
Hydration is 🔑 for all skin types, I can’t say it enough!
Ok, I Think I Want To Use Facial Oil – Help!
So before we get into this, I’m going to say that for whatever skin concern you are aiming to address, there will always be another ingredient out there that can help that concern better than facial oils. There’s almost always a product that has more peer-reviewed research or clinical trials behind it. However, that’s not to say that facial oils are a waste of time, plenty of people swear by their powers! Plus, they feel so lovely and luxurious to use! It’s really a matter of trial and error as to finding the right one for you, if you wish to include them in your routine.
Some Suggestions Of Oils For Your Skin Type:
Oily Skin: Jojoba oil or grapeseed oil, both are lightweight oils for your skin type.
Dry Skin: Almond oil or marula oil.
Acne-Prone Skin: Pomegranate oil or rosehip oil.
Normal Skin: Argan or squalane oil.
Sensitive Skin: Moringa oil or aloe vera oil.
Using Paula’s Choice Ingredient Dictionary can help provide you with more information on facial oils if you wish to use them, visit it here.
Moisturiser Or Facial Oil First?
The golden question! Generally, oil molecules are large and cannot get through to the skin barrier and so this would suggest that they go last in your routine to provide barrier support. However, some oils have molecules small enough to get through, they may be able to penetrate to deeper layers and strengthen the stratum corneum. For example, research suggests that jojoba oil and argan oil can actually help repair the skin barrier. Therefore, you may want to follow the general rule of water based products first, oil based products next and then finish with cream based/occlusive products.
To be honest, the evidence on this question is inconclusive. Some experts say to use oils last, after your moisturiser and lock everything in. That way the oil isn’t blocking the ingredients within your moisturiser from penetrating the skin. Others say use your oil before moisturiser or even mix it in with your moisturiser.
I would go with common sense, if you’re using a very thick oil, use it last, if you’re using a light oil, use it before your moisturiser or mixed in with it.
All of the above applies to nighttime applications. If you wish to use an oil in the day, I would personally use it before my moisturiser. This is because you don’t want the oil interfering with your SPF application or your makeup, if you wear it. However, if you do it a different way and it works for you, continue on!
The evidence on oils is not well researched. So, I think oils are a nice little luxury to my skincare routine rather than a treatment for a particular concern. There are far better ingredients out there for my concerns of acne, acne scarring, dryness and brightness. However, if my skin is feeling particularly parched or I’ve overdone it with the acids or retinoids then it’s nice to do a hydrating routine with ceramides, hyaluronic acid and glycerin and then apply something like rosehip oil or squalane oil and lock it all in.
BUT, I can live without facial oils, I don’t think I need one. Granted I have normal to dry skin and not extremely dry skin and so that’s why the above is my opinion. I think if I had exceptionally dry skin, my opinion would be that I need and love them. If I had oily skin, I would say my focus is probably more on hydration with a moisturiser and an occasional use of oil if my skin is feeling particularly sensitised from harsh product use.
Another thing to remember is that not all facial oils are just oils. Plenty of oil based products out there have other, more potent ingredients within them that can address skin concerns. For example, Sunday Riley’s Luna Sleeping Night Oil contains Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate which is a retinoic acid ester. In this case, the oil is not just an oil and actually the presence of oils can increase penetration of the HPR into the skin.
So, there you have it, more clued up on facial oils I hope? As I’ve said the evidence is not as there as it is with ingredients like retinoids or acids, for example. I would suggest that if you want to use one, pick one most suited to your skin type first. Then before fully committing and applying it all over your face, test patch it on one area of your face. I would do this for a week or so to see how your skin reacts. If there’s no increase in congestion or breakouts then move to applying a few drops all over. As to whether you use the oil before or after moisturiser, try both ways and see which you prefer! This is where the method of trial and error will be applied!!
My next blog piece will be on probiotics in skincare! Subscribe here so that you don’t miss that one!
Love & Knowledge,
S A M A N T H A