What Goes First: Moisturizer Or Facial Oil?

by Gio
should you apply moisturizer or facial oil first

Should I apply moisturizer or facial oil first?

Oils take ages to absorb. I don’t want to wait 30 min before putting on moisturiser, so maybe I should start with that.

But then my fave blogger uses moisturizer after facial oil and her skin looks amazing. Ok, she’s in her 20s, but still…

What the heck goes first – and does it even matter?!

What’s The Difference Between A Moisturizer And A Facial Oil?

First things first. Before you go crazy trying to figure out what goes first, are you sure you need both a moisturizer AND a facial oil?

I know that facial oils are all the rage now and you’re feeling like you’re missing out if you don’t use one. But what if I told you that a moisturizer and a facial oil do the same job?

Both moisturizers and facial oils moisturize skin. The main difference is that oils are always occlusive. They create a barrier on the skin that locks water in.

Moisturizers come in different forms. Oil-free moisturisers, for example, work thanks to humectants, i.e. clever little molecules that attract water from the air into the skin. For oily skin, they’re the bomb.

But most moisturizers out there do contain a mix of humectants and occlusive oils, so they can attract water into the skin and keep it there. If your moisturizer already has them, do you really need a separate facial oil?

Related: The Complete Guide To Facial Oil: What They Are, What They Do And How To Use Them

Shop Facial Oils

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Do You Really Need A Moisturiser And A Facial Oil?

That depends on your skin type. 80% of people need only a moisturizer.

Oily skin? An oil-free moisturiser is all you need. Thanks to your workaholic sebaceous glands that insist on pumping out more oil than you need, your skin’s protective barrier is intact.

You know what that means? You can just add moisture to your skin, and your natural barrier will keep it there. No need for oils.

I’d go as far as to say that oily skin should stay away from oils. Sure, there are oils that are suitable for your skin type. But oils tend to close pores, so be careful when adding them to your skincare routine. If you don’t need them, don’t risk it.

Dry and sensitive skin? You need either a moisturiser or a facial oil. Your skin’s protective barrier is damaged. Moisture keeps evaporating through the cracks, turning your skin into a dull, flaky red mess. Ouch.

Both a moisturiser and a facial oil can patch up your skin’s protective barrier. One isn’t better than the other. It just depends on personal preference.

Oils take longer to absorb and they don’t always layer well under makeup. That makes them a better choice for night time. In the morning, a lightweight moisturizer is the best option.

Keep in mind that if you use a facial oil, you need to slather on a hyaluronic acid serum first. You need to add moisture into your skin if you want oils to trap it in. Hyaluronic acid is great at this. It can hold up to 1000 times its weight in water.

(FYI, you can use a hyaluronic acid serum even with a moisturizer. But a lot of moisturizers have it built-in so depending on how dry your skin is, a separate serum may not be necessary. Listen to your skin here.)

Only when your skin’s so dry, a moisturizer alone can’t do the job, you need to add a facial oil to the mix. But when is it the right time to apply it?

Related: Why Oil-Free Moisturizers Are The Best For Oily Skin

Shop Oil-Free Moisturizers

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Should You Apply Moisturizer Or Facial Oil First?

Moisturizer always goes before facial oil.

Oils are sealants. They lock in everything you’ve just applied onto your skin. So it makes sense to use them last.

Plus, they take ages to absorb. Who wants to wait 20 minutes for the oils to sink in before slathering on moisturizer? Heck, if you’re anything like me, you’ll probably forget to apply moisturizer at all!

Related: How Long Do You Need To Wait Before Applying The Next Skincare Product?

Shop Moisturizers For Dry Skin

the ordinary granactive retinoid 5% in squalane 01

The Exception To The Rule

Have you noticed those new hybrids between a facial oil and a serum? The Ordinary Retinol 1% In Squalane is the perfect example.

Retinol is an active that needs to be applied as close to clean skin as possible. The more layers are in the way, the harder it is for it to get through. And if it can’t penetrate your skin, how can it work?

Yet, the base is an occlusive oil. It’s there to counteract the drying effects of retinol and moisturise skin. So, where does it go, before or after moisturizer?

Before. If you’re using an oil with active ingredients that need to penetrate skin, apply it as close to the skin as possible.

Then, apply moisturizer on top. It’s not ideal, but you’ll still get some extra hydration. It’s not like moisturizers completely stop working if you use them on top of facial oils…

Shop Oily Serums

The Bottom Line

Most people DON’T need both a moisturizer and a facial oil. If you do, apply the facial oil last. The only exceptions are serums disguised as oils. They need to be as close to the skin as possible.

Do you apply moisturizer or facial oil first? Share your routine in the comments below.

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10 comments

Alan April 22, 2019 - 7:41 pm

Hi Gio, great report as usual. I am currently using the peter Thomas roth retinol fusion pm (remember a year ago I told you I can never use retinol because it broke out my face like it’s the end of the world, but now after the bad purging, my skin can take retinol now and enjoy the benefit) and it’s retinol + squalane. I often wonder if I apply it right after toner then the squalane will create a barrier to prevent all my other nice serums (niacinamide, vitamin C…etc) that I am apply after to penetrate into my skin and waste the good serum and money. what do you think?

Reply
Gio April 25, 2019 - 6:54 pm

Alan, glad you’ve found a retinol products that work for you. Oils like Squalane have big molecules. When they create a barrier on the skin, these molecules don’t create an even layer. There are still gaps here and there where smaller molecules can get through. It may reduce their effectiveness a little but it won’t make them useless. Or you can use them at different times of day. For ex, vitamin C in the morning and retinol at night,

Reply
Ann April 22, 2019 - 9:36 pm

I mix a few drops of oil into my moisturizer.

Reply
Gio April 25, 2019 - 6:37 pm

Ann, that’s a great way to get the best of both worlds.

Reply
Cheryl Mandell April 22, 2019 - 11:25 pm

Hi Gio. Love your blog!!!! If you go with moisturizer & oil, when do you put on the hyaluronic acid serum? After or before the moisturizer?

Reply
Gio April 26, 2019 - 9:30 am

Cheryl, before moisturizer.

Reply
agassi57 June 13, 2019 - 4:06 am

hi gio! love from indonesia! i already use hyaluronic acid hada labo then essence with HA and then moisturized with natural moisturize factor the ordinary but i still get dry skin? could you tell me what’s wrong with this?

Reply
Gio July 6, 2019 - 1:13 pm

Agassi57, are you sure your skin is dehydrated and not dry? Or are you suffering from any illness? Sometimes, dryness can be a symptom of a disease or a side effect of a treatment.

Reply
Cathy October 5, 2019 - 5:25 pm

If my skin needs extra moisturizing, like in the winter months, I’ll pat on some oil after moisturizer at night or I’ll mix a few drops into my moisturizer. I only do this at night time.

Reply
Marija October 7, 2019 - 11:21 am

After developing a sort of allergic reaction to salicylic acid which left my combination skin painfully dry and flaky, I ended up layering squalane oil over a very light moisturizer with snail mucin. Worked like a charm, much better than moisturizer or oil by themselves. The circumstances were very specific, though 🙂

Reply

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