But will it make me break out?! And: But do I really need another product?! These are the face oil questions. The truth in all but the most extreme cases is, not only will face oil not make you break out, it will absolutely change your life, not to mention your skin. Your skin will look and feel better. You will probably need less makeup. And you will probably need fewer skincare items altogether.
Perhaps the ultimate skin secret, face oil has been used by indigenous people all over the world in various forms for millennia; nothing lasts that long unless it works. Makeup artists, who love only what makes their clients look (quickly) fantastic, have been slathering it on clients for years; slowly, word spread. (Sophia Loren credits a lifetime of olive-oil baths as one of the reasons her skin remains so beautiful at 80.) One of the best-looking older women we’ve ever met, stylist/former model Linda Rodin, has made her fortune late in life mixing oils in her kitchen to create the runaway success Olio Lusso that launched her entire beauty company.
1. You See Instant Results
No matter your skin type, try face oil for the first time and you’ll see serious benefits right away. Conventional moisturizers, which combine waxes with water and oils, seal moisture in the skin with the wax. But they can also seal out some of the oil and water, not to mention treatment benefits included in the formula. With oil, it all sinks right in. And most oils are already naturally packed with ingredients like antioxidants, polyphenols, and omega fatty acids.
2. They’re Beyond Multipurpose
You can use face oil for basic (and really effective) moisturization, but it’s also amazing for makeup touchups—instead of adding more makeup, pat some oil on to revive the makeup you’ve already got on. In either case, avoid the T-zone unless you’re the driest person on earth. In a pinch, it’s makeup remover, frizz fighter, cuticle and under eye cream, lip balm…
You really need an oil if you use retinols or other drying anti-aging or anti-acne treatments. Treatments like Retin-A, AHA peels or creams, or breakout fighters from astringent toners all the way to prescription Accutane can really help your skin, but they can also seriously dry it out. Face oils return moisture and elasticity to your skin, smoothing wrinkles and soothing irritation in the process.
On the flip side, even skin that’s decidedly un-dry can also benefit from oils. While synthetic and mineral oils are comedogenic and clog pores, most natural plant oils are not. Believe it or not, the right face oil can help clear pores of excess sebum, and can reduce inflammation and irritation—critical, as inflammation itself is actually one of the primary causes of acne.
For ultra-dry skin, massage in some face oil, then layer over it with rich moisturizer. Another layering trick: Pat on face oil, then smooth all-natural mineral SPF over it. The sunblock seals in the oil a bit, but it also slightly mattifies your skin, so it’s less shiny. You can also use oil just the way you would serum or moisturizer when thinning out foundation or bronzer formulas.
And to treat a potential scar, massage oil in as often as possible. A friend endured a botched Mohs surgery for skin cancer on her face; the plastic surgeon who fixed it told her there was really no way to avoid some sort of scar. She massaged the spot with oil constantly—whenever she thought of it. The result was no scar, not even a hint of one.
3. Oils feel amazing
Moisturizer formulators spend an enormous amount of time, money, and unnecessary (sometimes toxic) ingredients on texture—how it feels when you actually put the moisturizer on your skin. Texture is important: If you don’t love using a product…you tend not to use it. And definitely tend not to buy it again. Oils have a naturally gorgeous, instantly skin-comforting texture—they need no extra ingredients to make them sink in.
4. Clean face oils are actually better
While conventional beauty companies have (finally) gotten into the face-oil business, the all-natural, pure options are absolutely superior, not just from a clean perspective, but because A. there’s no improving on perfection—adding in extra ingredients often just dilutes the benefits of the base oils, and B. most clean face-oil makers have been making it much longer than the conventional newbies, and they’ve learned what really works on skin.
THE NO-MAKEUP MAKEUP TOUCHUP
Say you’re getting ready to go out after work. Or it’s just 4pm and you’re looking tired and lackluster. Before you add concealer, foundation, liner, et al., smooth a tiny bit of face oil between your fingers and pat it on over your cheeks, under eyes, over lips, and at the temples and forehead. Use as little as possible; you can always add more. You can also use a little bit under the eyes to smooth away any smudged mascara or liner—though it’s important to note that it can make eye makeup run, so don’t put the oil onyour actual eye makeup.
Let the oil settle in for a minute. Apply a little lip color, look at your face, and consider what else you might need—it might be nothing, or just a touch of concealer, or it could be big-night-out full-on eye, cheek, etc. Either way, you’ll need less than you normally use—and your skin will look especially glowy and fantastic.
*One makeup artist we know makes mini (as in, smaller-than-a-thimble size) bottles of face oil for her clients to carry in their evening bags for mid-event touchups. That and lipcolor is generally all you need!
Find Your Perfect Oil
Which oil texture you’re going to end up loving depends on you and your skin. Creamier, heavier-feeling oils are great for people with dry and that tends-to-sting sort of sensitive skin. Lighter, instantly absorbing ones work best for people with oilier or the more breakout-prone type of sensitive skin (or those who simply would rather feel like they’ve got nothing on). Here, the nine best face oils we’ve found (and sourced for you!).