Everything You Need to Know About Face Oil

Woman holding up face oil applicator

Despite ever-growing popularity, there is still a lot of misinformation (and general confusion) out there about face oil. So, we’re setting the record straight by answering the questions we get asked the most on the topic.

Isn’t face oil bad for my skin?

It turns out the skincare ingredient we’ve all feared the most is actually good for our skin. That’s because when you look at how skin ages, you’ll learn three important facts: 1) oils, also known as lipids or essential fatty acids, occur naturally in your skin, giving young skin that youthful flow 2) lipids create a protective barrier to hold moisture in and keep the elements, like sun and wind, out, and 3) as you age you produce fewer lipids, dehydrating your skin and making it far more prone to wrinkles.

How does face oil work?

When oils are applied to the skin, without the interference of waxes (more about that below), they are absorbed directly into the top layers of the epidermis, where they instantly go to work to improve the lipid barrier function. By replenishing the oils you’ve lost due to the natural aging process and exposure, you enable your skin to do what it does naturally—retain moisture and repel assaults from sun and wind.

How is face oil different from lotion?

Conventional creams and lotions are mostly waxes and water, with a few oils thrown in. Waxes form an occlusive layer on the skin, which helps to hold moisture in. That’s good, but there are two major downsides: wax build-up may lead to clogged pores, and the wax barrier may prevent the oil component of the cream (the part of the product that actually benefits skin) from penetrating.

Natural oils, on the other hand, deliver all of the benefits without any downsides. What’s more, the small lipid particles in oils penetrate past the epidermal barrier to deliver nutrients to deeper layers of the skin. This means that a very high concentration of therapeutic ingredients can reach the dermal layer where skin renewal takes place.

Why is face oil more expensive than lotion?

Conventional creams are composed principally of wax, water, fillers, and preservatives, with a small dash of oil thrown in to make it sound like you’re getting something for your money. Oil blends, on the other hand, are made up of only therapeutic ingredients—nothing else. The oils are, understandably, more expensive than wax and water. But when you compare the quantity of beneficial ingredients you’re getting in an oil blend vs. a cream, the oil blend works out to be a much better value.

Are all face oils basically the same?

All face oils are not created equal, so it’s important to shop wisely.

Some, but not all, oils deliver important micronutrients. The best oil blends deliver an array of vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, becoming a kind of topical supplementation to benefit your skin. Read the label to make sure you are getting a range of antioxidant and essential fatty acid-rich oils.

Choose essential oils not fragrances: Artificial fragrance oils should be avoided and essential oils should be chosen with care. Essential oils from the citrus family smell wonderful but they can photosensitize the skin, ultimately causing more harm than good.

Expeller-pressed, steam-distilled, or CO2-extracted oils are preferable to solvent-extracted oils because contaminants from solvent extractions are a leading cause of allergic reactions.

Select skincare oils based on their therapeutic properties. Some oils, like rosehip seed oil and carrot seed oil, have known anti-aging, skin-rejuvenating benefits, while others, like cypress oil, have more antiseptic properties.

What ingredients should I look for in a face oil?

Reading the tiny print on an ingredient label is no easy task. But it will be worth the effort if your face oil ingredient list includes oils rich in essential fatty acids, especially the Omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Here’s why:

Essential Fatty Acids

Oils rich in essential fatty acids work in multiple ways to improve various skin conditions:

  • They combine with the oils on the skin’s surface to maintain the integrity of the environmental barrier, thus protecting skin from UV and pollution assault.
  • Thanks to superior penetrability, they deliver micronutrients to deeper layers of the skin where they work to repair free radical damage and reduce inflammation.
  • They dissolve hardened oil deposits that occur well below the skin’s surface, improving skin quality of all types, from acne prone to aging.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular the DHA and EPA types found in some algae, modulate inflammatory processes, which are the major cause of aging.


Antioxidants prevent free radicals from damaging cells and DNA, which leads ultimately to an acceleration of the aging process. And, as an added bonus, essential fatty acids and antioxidants work better together when it comes to maintaining a youthful appearance. The key is teamwork.

Is face oil beneficial for all skin types?

It almost goes without saying that face oil is ideal for aging skin. Oils not only hydrate the skin, but also make it more resilient and able to combat wrinkle formation. While it may seem counterintuitive to apply oil to blemish-prone skin, it turns out that the oils are far more effective than scrubs, harsh soaps, and other treatments that strip your skin. Topical applications of oils alleviate breakouts by re-stabilizing the lipid barrier, thus restoring anti-microbial activity on the skin’s surface. What’s more, because lipids dissolve lipids, oils actually break up congestion at the source.

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