What is it about facial oil that’s so polarizing? Either it’s denounced as snake oil, or it’s hailed as a miracle. Either it costs five hundred dollars, or one penny. Either it’s touted as a universal solution, or only suitable for a handful of people. Maybe it’s just the simple concept of adding oil that’s troubling—oily skin needs deep cleaning, dry skin needs moisture, and facial oil does neither of those things. But it does do lots of other things—and in fact, there’s probably an oil that does exactly what you need it to, for every different skin type. Not all oils are created equally, and choosing the right one may be the difference between a breakout and clear skin. Here’s the perfect match if your skin is...
While you might think it’s counterintuitive to add oil to oily skin, there are a few reasons why it’s actually a good idea. First off, it’s possible that your skin seems oily because it’s overcompensating. Squeaky-clean cleansers, a too-strong cocktail of acids, and drying clay masks may feel good in the moment, but strip away natural oils the skin uses to protect itself. Your skin doesn’t know you’re just trying to help! Instead, it thinks that because all of those oils are gone, it needs to produce more. Treating oily skin with a light oil helps fortify your skin’s protective barrier, so it doesn’t feel the need to pump up the production itself. Supplementing your skin’s natural oil might be extra helpful if you’re oily and prone to breakouts. As this study notes, subjects with acne were observed to have imbalanced levels of oleic and linoleic acids, two fatty acids that make up sebum. Face oils high in linoleic acid are ideal for oily skin.
Trilogy Rosehip Oil: This pure, organic rosehip sinks in quickly to soothe and balance oily skin. It’s one of the highest in linoleic acid, is full of antioxidants, and has shown to be anti-inflammatory.
It’s ideal if your skin falls on the side of sensitive, since it doesn’t have any added essential oils.
Leo Oil: This cult favorite oil combines rosehip with blue tansy, a derivative of chamomile that’s been shown to have pretty good antibacterial properties. The base of meadowfoam seed oil, a light oil similar in composition to natural sebum, ensures that the oil is absorbed quickly with no greasy residue.
Klei 2% Salicylic Oil: The base of this clarifying oil is grapeseed, similarly high in linoleic acid. Black cumin seed oil functions as its antibacterial capacity, while two-percent salicylic acid makes this the most active oil in the bunch. Have frequent breakouts but still want the nourishing, glowy effects of a face oil? This one’s for you.
Dry skin is dry when your skin doesn’t produce enough oil. And, while you can certainly have dehydrated skin when you’re oily, skin that lacks oil will also let your skin’s natural moisture evaporate more quickly. With dry skin, you’re more likely to notice flakiness, irritation, and visible fine lines. Dry skin loves oils full of rich oleic acid, which will supplement its protective barrier and lubricate areas where wrinkles are starting to form.
The Ordinary Marula Oil: This single-ingredient oil is high in oleic acid and antioxidants, making it a good place to start if your skin tends to be reactive. It’s also naturally high in vitamin C—regular use can help brighten and even your complexion.
Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil: The peridot-hued oil you’ve been seeing on Instagram feels just as lovely as it looks, thanks to a rich blend of camellia seed, baobab, and squalane oils. High up on the IL is amla oil, extracted from gooseberries—like marula oil, it’s full of natural vitamin C. Plus, the formulation has a drop of blue tansy, which not only gives it its signature green color, but also has soothing, antibacterial effects.
Herbivore Lapis Oil: Herbivore’s oil is catered to those who are mostly dry and also tend to break out. It acts as a gentle antibacterial, thanks to the inclusion of blue tansy. The name of the game with dry, acneic skin is soothing inflammation, which blue tansy does brilliantly. Kukui oil is soothing, but not too rich for daytime. A budget dupe is the Acure Blue Tansy Oil—both have supporting casts of kukui, jojoba, and tocopherol oils.
Nazan Schnapp Celestine Oil: High levels of azulene, another name for blue tansy, gives this oil its inky blue hue. It’s richer than the Herbivore oil, thanks to high oleic camellia and sweet almond oils, and best for extra dry, irritated skin. Tocopherol and elderberry extracts make this a potent antioxidant.
While beautifully scented, many essential oils can be sensitizing to skin and cause a red, burning reaction on skin—particularly citrus extracts, like neroli, lemon, and bergamot. If you’re worried about a bad reaction, or know you’re sensitive to essential oils, opt for single-ingredient facial oils instead.
Biossance Squalane Oil: Squalane oil mimics the oil naturally found in sebum—sounds gross, but it means that the oil will be readily absorbed and put to good use. Its high oleic percentage makes it comforting and soothing, and it’s antibacterial and noncomedogenic, making it good for skin sensitive to breakouts. This Biossance one is good to use from tip to toe.
Josie Maran Argan Oil: Argan oil might have been your gateway oil—and luckily, it’s still good. This Josie Maran version is non comedogenic, full of antioxidants, and single-ingredient, but you can also pick one up at your local grocery store. It’s the lightest oil on this list.
A little dry, a little oily, and not particularly reactive—a face oil could be what’s standing between your skin and a lit-from-within glow. Really, you could use any oil we’ve mentioned, but why not try the lushest, richest, best-smelling ones, just because you can?
Circumference Pure Balancing Face Oil: A mix of jojoba, argan, and meadowfoam seed oils make this one light enough for where you’re oily, and rich enough for the places that need a little extra nourishment. Prickly pear helps brighten, while evening primrose soothes irritation—it does a little bit of everything, basically.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum: Even if you don’t know much about facial oils, you’ve heard about Vintner’s. Its magic recipe includes grapeseed oil, evening primrose, rose and rosehip, calendula, and 17 other active plant oils. Use sans or over makeup for a glowy, golden tint.
Photo by Tom Newton