People have been using facial oils for centuries: the Australian aborigines used emu oil as a moisturizer, and ancient Egyptians used castor, olive and sesame oils on their skin, and treated sunburn with fenugreek oils.
Now, there is a new interest in facial oils among people searching for natural alternatives to chemicals. But are they right for you? These facts can help you decide.
Types of Oils
There are two types of oils: essential oils and carrier oils. Essential oils are distilled from plant leaves, bark or roots. They have very high concentrations of antioxidant, nutrients, and even scent, but can irritate the skin if they are applied in pure form. To prevent skin reactions, they are mixed with carrier oils. Carrier oils are usually derived from the seeds, nuts and kernels. They are rich in skin-enhancing omega fatty acids and have a neutral smell.
Plant vs Mineral Oils
The most effective facial oils are derived from plants: African marula oil, argan oil grapeseed oil, tea tree oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and more. Avoid mineral oils, which are byproducts of petroleum and moisturize only by locking in moisture on wherever they’re applied. Unlike facial botanical oils, these have no nutrients and can aggravate acne.
So can you use the olive or sunflower oil in your kitchen? Theoretically, food-grade oils can be safely used on the face, but they may have a strong smell. If you love olive oil but would rather not smell like a salad, choose a cosmetic-grade oil.
Benefits of facial oils
Facial oils are lipophilic (or “fat loving”) which means they can dissolve or pass through your skin’s fat layers very well. Like creams, they moisturize and plump your skin (reducing the appearance of fine lines). However, oils with very small molecules can also absorb deeper and more easily, and are natural humectants which trap and lock in moisture.
Facial oils offer different benefits, and you can choose which one works best for your skin concern. Some are powerful antioxidants with high levels of fatty acids that can help prevent and heal damage caused by exposure to sun and pollution. These “free radical fighters” include African marula oil, grapeseed oil, passion fruit oil, argan oil, macadamia wheatgerm oil, sunflower oil, and olive oil. The immortelle oil, extracted from a very hardy flower that does not fade even in the winter, is said to be a powerful anti-aging ingredient. The Skin Pharmacy’s Serum No. 6 combines several anti-aging oils to keep fine lines and wrinkles at bay.
Other oils (like argan, sunflower and yangu) have anti-inflammatory effects that can soothe the skin. If you use retinoids – a very powerful but potentially irritating anti-aging ingredient – these can be the “skincare sidekick” that calms any redness or sensitivity.
If you struggle with breakouts, African marula oil and tea tree oil are both anti-bacterial.
How do I use a facial oil?
Cleanse and tone your face, then pat the oil into your skin to lock in moisture. You can apply your serum and eye cream after. (However, if your serum or eye cream has a thinner formula than your oil, apply those first – always apply skincare products in order of consistency.)
Some face oils can be used both day and night, although you may want to stick to your regular moisturizer during the day, especially if it offers SPF protection.
Will facial oils feel greasy on the skin?
Oils will feel oily, but there are some that absorb faster or feel lighter on the skin. If you want to try it but are turned off by the texture, try mixing some into your cream or applying only before going to sleep.
Should I use facial oils if I have oily, acne-prone skin?
Oils are still oils and can aggravate acne, but if you’re a firm believer in natural oils, adjust your use to your skin type. Use very light oils such as macadamia and wheatgerm, apply a very thin layer once a day, or even just every other day. Don’t use it as frequently as people with dry skin.
Can I use facial oils as a cleanser?
Facial oils can be used to wipe off makeup, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are removing all dirt. Cleansers contain ingredients that can break down grime and residue you can’t see in the bathroom mirror. If you wear a lot of makeup, you can use a cleansing facial oil to take off all traces of your long-wear foundation and waterproof mascaras, and follow up with a cleanser or toner.
It’s “oil” up to you!
Facial oils can be very good for the skin, due to their antioxidant and moisturizing effects. They offer a choice to people are looking for a natural alternative to those chemical-based skincare, or simply enjoy the luxurious feel and relaxing scents.
However there are some who don’t like texture or may have skin that is sensitive to pure plant extracts. Skincare is both personal and experiential. What’s important is that you benefit from the product and you enjoy using it. Choose what works for you!
Mei Hui is the Managing Director and Pharmacist of The Skin Pharmacy. She is not a natural writer (please excuse the spelling and grammatical errors!) but she is very passionate about The Skin Pharmacy, anything related to health and wellness and life, in general. These articles are her own views which may not always be shared by others. Please feel free to comment below the articles if you wish. Happy reading!