Facial Oil: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

There’s nothing more bothersome than dry, unnourished skin. But what do you do when normal lotions just don’t seem to work? Introduce facial oils into your daily regimen and watch as your skin turns glowy and hydrated. The silky, gloss-like oil is derived from various plant sources and applied directly to the skin to help clean, moisturize and fight inflammation. Facial oils are different from essential oils which are usually a concentrated form of oil from the plant that shouldn’t be put directly on the skin but rather diffused in the proper way. Facial oils are mixed in a way that is beneficial to place on the skin. They are mostly non-fragrant, though some contain fragrant plant oils (essential oils) for fragrance purposes. Despite the name, facial oils can be used anywhere, including on the face, neck or body; some can even be used for your hair and nails. The use of facial oils can be traced throughout ancient history, including Egypt and Bethlehem, and most notably, in Ancient Greece and across the Roman Empire. So what do these iconic oils have to do with today’s moisturizing routine? Let’s take a closer look at why facial oils are quickly becoming the next must-have item on your beauty to-do list.

Just A Drop = Big Benefits

One of the best reasons to try facial oil is because such a little bit goes a long way. Within those little drops of oil, you’ll find a slew of fabulous benefits. Facial oils are barrier reinforcing which means the oil helps to pump up your natural lipid barrier, protecting your skin from the harsh effects of the environment, like wintry air, toxic pollution or the drying effects of the sun. Various skincare oils are also bursting with antioxidants like vitamin E, which help fight free radicals that increase and damage your skin as you age. Another amazing benefit of facial oils is that they contain anti-inflammatory properties that help to calm redness and irritation of the skin. If you’re skin tends to be dry, oils can also help moisturize red and chaffed cheeks. Facial oil is a natural moisturizer that nourishes the top layer of your skin without extra oil buildup. In fact, some oils, like Tea Tree Oil, can actually prevent breakouts and help your skin stay clear without drying the skin too much. There’s also the added bonus of facial oils that are lipophilic, meaning they hold in your skin’s moisture while fighting toxins and free radicals and keeping them out of your skin. It’s really like magic protection for your skin. Some facial oils also contain humectants, which can help heal broken or irritated skin. If that’s not reason enough to add facial oils to your daily life, facial oils also reduce the appearance of wrinkles, help soothe rashes and can even serve as an awesome makeup primer.
Win, win, right? Well, it’s not quite that simple. Read on to figure out while finding the perfect oil for your face, might come with a little bad and a little ugly before you find your perfect type of facial oil.

All Oils Are Not Created Equal

Though it may seem simple—Buy a facial oil packed with antioxidants and BAM, reduce wrinkles just like that; you actually need to know your own skin type and what’s in your oils to reap the full benefits of a great oil. You’ll want to start by knowing the differences in facial oils. There are three different types of facial oils.

Single Oil

Single oils are straight from the source and contain only one single ingredient. For example, pure Argan oil, Marula oil, and Rose Hip oil. These facial oils tend to be cheaper than their counterparts and come packed with the benefits of being completely all natural. However, they are limited in the lipids and antioxidants that they offer because these oils only give you the beauty benefits from one source. In addition, some single oils may not be applicable to everyone, for instance, coconut, flaxseed and avocado oils will make acne-prone or overly oily skin breakout.

Multiple Oil

A multiple oil blends different types of oils, lipids, and antioxidants to up the benefits ante, like mixing chamomile with rosemary. These may contain a combination of antioxidants like vitamin E with other natural extracts that form a superpower oil. Though this sounds like a great idea, there are three potential caveats for these types of oils. First, most of the products in this category are not formulated for oily or acne-prone skin. Second, many multiple oil products contain a number of synthetic fragrance or essential oils which can be potentially irritating to the skin. For example, the Lotus Face Treatment Oil from Clarins contains Citronellol, Linalool, Geraniol, Limonene, Citral, Coumarin, and Benzyl Benzoate—all of which are synthetic fragrances and could irritate the skin. In addition, some essential oils, such as basil and rosemary can cause complications during pregnancy and should be avoided. Third, in many cases, the added beneficial ingredients besides oil don’t actually provide any added benefits, not even marginal benefits. Unlike facial cream, facial oil does not contain chemical penetration enhancers and conditioners. This means that added ingredients to increase benefits actually have to be able to penetrate the lipid barrier on their own to provide an extra boost of benefits. Small, lipophilic properties are a must. For plant extracts, they will have to be extracted using the right solvent in the right way.

Oil + Clinically Proven Ingredients

Multi-beneficial oil with clinically proven ingredients means exactly that. Oil is combined with items like retinol or other ingredients that have been proven to up the moisture level or fight wrinkles. The best product to represent this category is the Luna sleeping oil from Sunday Riley. This product has received a lot of buzz in beauty magazines. One of the main attractions of this product, however, is the inclusion of trans-retinol ester that Sunday Riley describes as an advanced retinol complex “to correct damage caused by sun, time and pollution.” They claim that the trans-retinol ester, listed as hydroxypinacolone retinoate in the ingredient list, has the benefits of other forms of retinol but with far less irritation. Unfortunately, there have not been many studies evaluating the efficacy of this compound, and based on the product reviews, the benefits people are getting out of this product do not go beyond what oils offer.

Choosing Wisely

With so many different oil choices and with so many different prices, how do you find the right one for your skin type and your budget? There’s a definite checklist of items you want to go through to discover the right oil for the right price. Here’s how to make sure you get the perfect oil match for your needs.

Oil type. If all natural is important to you, make sure you choose an oil that is purely from the source. Make sure it also fits your needs. Do you need jojoba to moisturize, argan oil for your dry skin or rosemary or tree tea to help with breakouts? Knowing what you’re looking for and knowing how it affects your overall health is the key to understanding what virgin oil to choose.

The quality. The cost of an oil is directly related to its quality. Like the olive oil in our kitchen, extra virgin is more expensive than virgin or regular. The quality of the oil depends on where the raw materials are from and how the oil is produced. An unrefined oil is of better quality than the refined oil because in the refinery process, the oil will go through excessive heating, bleaching and deodorizing processes and often be mixed with other filler oils. How can we tell if an oil is refined or not? The easiest way is by color and smell. Oils pressed from nuts normally have a nutty smell and dark color.

The proof. Many products with the name of oil are not actually oil. For example, the Renewal Oil from La Mer. How can you tell if an oil product is an oil or not? Check if you see water or preservatives on the label! Pure oil and oil blends do not need preservatives.

A little extra. For the added benefits, many people tend to choose a multiple oil product. But how do you know if the extra components are worthy of the price tag? Use google and check the fatty acids, unsaponifiables, phenolic and flavonoid contents, vitamins, minerals and proteins in the oils. A good multiple oil product will have a balanced lipids profile and a comprehensive list antioxidants and anti-inflammatory factors.

Once you think about what you need, you’ll be better able to choose a facial oil that works for you. Pure oil, unrefined, no preservatives and no additives? Check. A multi-beneficial refined oil with preservatives and natural additives? Check. Check. A price point that works for either short-term or long-term use? Check. Check. Check. Really knowing your needs will make for more good than bad or ugly when it comes to choosing your facial oil. Facial oils (and other essential oils, too!) have been all the rage this year on beauty blogs and for great reason. When chosen correctly, facial oils help your top layer of skin lock in moisture and block out free radicals and toxins that cause your face to age ahead of time. When used as a cleanser, they help to remove the yucky stuff (called sebum) that clogs pores and leads to those pesky breakouts. In fact, cleansing with oil has been around so long that it’s actually been forgotten about and seldom used today. This means it may be a best-kept secret that will make all the difference to your skincare regimen. As an anti-inflammatory, facial oils can be used to help treat rosacea and hyperpigmentation. They contain antioxidants and fatty acids that help give your skin a radiance and a boost that you can’t get from a face wash and moisturizer alone. And best of all, applying facial oil can leave your skin with a silky feel and a translucent look. What’s not to love about that!

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