The Complete Guide To Facial Oils

by Gio

guide to facial oils

Remember the good old days when you’d be running in the opposite direction when someone dared suggest you use an oil on your face?

Now you’re rushing to Sephora to buy the latest (and super expensive) bottle of facial oil.

What the heck happened?

Well, marketers got better at making oils sound awesome, that’s for sure. I guess the popularity of all things natural helped, too.

But facial oils are good for the skin. They may be hyped out of all proportions now, but their old bad rep wasn’t deserved either.

So, what’s the deal with facial oils and should you use one?

Let’s investigate:

What the heck are facial oils?

Any oil that you use on the face.

And most oils can be used on the face. You’ve been doing that for years.. Just take a look at the labels of your skincare staples. They’re laden with oils.

It’s just that now brands have started packaging these oils in their own pretty bottles. And charging a lot of money for them.

Don’t get me wrong. These oils are good for the skin (most of the time). But you can get the same thing at your local health food store, and for a fraction of the cost, too (no, do NOT use your cooking oils. They’re not safe for skin).

Apart from the price, there really is no other difference between a bottle of argan oil sold at Sephora and a bottle of argan oil sold at Whole Foods.

By the way, don’t believe those who say facials oils are all natural. Some of them are. But synthetic stuff still sneaks its way inside others. Check the labels carefully!

a'kin rosehip oil with vitamin C 01

What do facial oils do?

Facial oils are multi-taskers:

  • They’re super moisturizing: they create a barrier on the skin that locks moisture in so that your skin stays soft and supple all year round (yep, even in winter).
  • They have antioxidant properties: they help prevent wrinkles.
  • They cleanse skin: oils are great at removing makeup.

P.S. In this post, we won’t focus on their cleansing properties. Yes, you can use that pricey $45.00 bottle of argan oil you just bought at Sephora to remove your makeup, but you probably won’t want to “waste” it like that, will you?

Related: Why You Should Try The Oil Cleansing Method

What can’t facial oils do?

Facial oils are said to do everything, from fighting wrinkles to soothing rosacea and vanishing dark spots.

It’s true that some facial oils have antioxidant and soothing properties that can help with these issues. But, no facial oil contains everything skin needs to fight them properly.

For wrinkles, you also need glycolic acid, retinol, niacinamide, vitamin C…. Even if your facial oil contains vitamin C, for example, is it high enough to do the job? And what about all the other stuff you need to tackle them? No ingredient alone can do miracles.

And I still have to come across a facial oil that can single-handedly reduce dark spots. For that, you still need hydroquinone, kojic acid, glycolic peels… There are more effective ways to deal with those than a facial oil.

Related: The Battle Of The Skin Lighteners: What Are The Best Alternatives To Hydroquinone?

mad hippie cleansing oil

When Should You Use A Facial Oil?

When your moisturiser alone isn’t doing the job.

Most of the year, my skin is perfectly fine without a facial oil. A moisturizer is more than enough to keep it healthy.

But come the freezing London winter and my skin gets as dry as the desert. The harsh winds and low temperatures break up its protective barrier and suck all the moisture out of it.

That’s when I bring in a facial oil.

First, I apply a hydrating serum with hyaluronic acid to replenish the moisture that’s vanished into thin air. Then, I put on moisturizer and seal in everything with a facial oil.

Works like a charm. Bye bye, Sahara!

I know some people use a facial oil as moisturizer. That’s good too. Personally, I prefer to use a separate moisturizer because facial oils alone don’t contain everything skin needs.

Oh, if your skin’s oily, I think it’s best you use facial oils only to remove makeup. Chances are, your oil-free moisturizer is enough to do the moisturizing job anyway.

Related: What Are The Best Facial Oils For Oily Skin?

Moisturizer not doing its job? Add a few drops of facial oil to give it a boost Click to Tweet

But, wait! Won’t Oils Clog Your Pores?

That depends on the oil, your skin type and how much you’re using. 

Let me explain.

Coconut oil is very comedogenic. If you have oily skin, I wouldn’t go near it. Unless there’s so little coconut oil in the cream (1% or less). That little won’t probably bother your skin at all.

If your have dry skin, chances are you can use a higher dose and get no pimples at all. Not even a tiny little one.

Argan, jojoba and sunflowers oils, on the other end, should be fine for all skin types.

Related: Do Comedogenic Ingredients Give You Pimples?

inlight beauty face oil

How Do You Use A Facial Oil?

There are a couple of ways.

  • After you’ve put on moisturizer, you can just pour a few drops on your hands and pat them onto your face. Easy peasy.
  • Or, you can mix it with your fave moisturizer or serum to give them a boost.

Whatever you do, never mix it with your sunscreen. Don’t even mix it with any other skincare product with SPF. It’ll just dilute the effectiveness of your SPF.

What’s the best facial oil?

Argain oil? Emu oil? Olive oil?

None. Every company will tell you they make the most amazing and miraculous oil out there, but the truth is, no oil is better than another.

Each oil has its own unique composition, so it’s more about finding out what works best for your skin. And that one is unique for you too. So, how do you find your perfect match?

Just experiment to find out what works best for you.

I’ll give you a tip. Usually, the more saturated fat the oil contains, the heavier it feels on the skin. So, if you want something lightweight, skip coconut and go with jojoba.

What oils should you avoid?

There are a few oils that I personally prefer NOT to use. That’s because some of their fragrant components (those things that make them smell so good) can be irritating.

Of course, that also depends on the concentration. If there’s only a tiny drop of them in my moisturizer, it’s not a problem. But I’d rather not use the pure, concentrated type on my skin, just in case.

The oils I avoid are:

  • Citrus oils (this is so hard for me, they smell heavenly!)
  • Essential oils
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Rose

What facials oils are worth investing in?

You can totally buy your facial oils at your local health food store. It’ll save you  a ton of money.

But, if you prefer to do your shopping at Sephora, there are a few facial oils that are worth the splurge. They all have one thing in common: they contain lots of different oils so you can get the best of different worlds. That works much better than using one single oil alone.

The Bottom Line

Facial oils are amazing for dry and flaky skin. They give their skincare routine that boosts it needs to nurse your skin back to health. But don’t go looking for that magical facial oil that’ll solve all your skin woes. A combination of oils always works best.

Do you use facial oils? Share your favourites in the comments below.



Sherry G October 10, 2016 - 5:09 pm

I have oily skin and like Sweet Almond oil. It doesn’t make my pores bigger and doesn’t break me out, unless it’s rainy and humid. I live in the Phoenix desert. My favorite is actually Paula’s Choice Resist Antioxidant Serum. Not an oil but it works better. I use Sweet Almond Oil when I’m out of the serum.

Gio April 9, 2017 - 11:30 am

Sherry, I love that Paula’s Choice serum, too. I think oils are better in winter when your skin’s on the drier side. 🙂

Barbara October 11, 2016 - 5:02 pm

I love facial oils!!! Hehehe, but you already know that. Sad to read that they only contain SOME antioxidants. I´m experimenting with new oils again. Argan and soy to start with. And also geranium essensial oil which is said to reduce wrinkles. I´ll let you know how it goes! At least it should smell good 🙂

Gio April 9, 2017 - 11:33 am

Barbara, I think geranium is heavily fragranced so not the best thing to put on skin. My problem with plants and essential oils is that each one of them contains different things. Some of their compounds are good, other not so much. Some are richer in an antioxidant, some in others. I personally prefer to buy an antioxidant serum that has plenty of different antioxidants and use oils as a moisturizer for when my skin’s dry.

Laurie October 12, 2016 - 1:23 am

I add Paula’s Choice oil booster to my moisturizer each night. I feel it adds a little extra plumpness to my skin and it just feels luxurious. Even though I have combination/oily skin, my face has responded well to it! I’ve also had good luck with Tatcha Camellia Oil cleanser, although due to the price that’s more an occasional treat than an everyday staple. I’m definitely interested in exploring more oils for face and body.

Gio April 9, 2017 - 11:34 am

Laurie, I agree, they can feel very luxurious. I like mixing them with moisturizers too so your skin just gets that extra oomph. 🙂

audrey March 8, 2017 - 7:30 am

I have dehydrated skin and rosehip seed oil (not res oil!) is such a life-saver!

Gio March 15, 2017 - 1:45 pm

That’s one of my fave oils too. So moisturizing and soothing.

Laura March 30, 2017 - 11:00 pm

Okay, first of all…just discovered your blog and I cannot stop reading!!! As a skincare junkie (and as someone in the advertising industry who knows not to believe all the hype), I have found my new favorite blog! 🙂

So I started using the Peter Thomas Roth retinol serum about 8 weeks ago on a nightly basis, but before that I used jojoba oil nightly and loved how it made my skin feel and look. But since using the retinol, I’m not sure where to incorporate the jojoba oil in my routine. I worry that the jojoba oil will defeat the purpose of the retinol. Any recommendations? Should I use the jojoba oil after or before the retinol, if at all?

I’m American (from NYC) but living in London for the past year and have found that the water here is much harder and has made my skin drier so I definitely want to bring jojoba oil back into the mix.

Thanks! 🙂

Gio April 2, 2017 - 8:41 pm

Laura, thanks so much for your kind words. So glad you’re enjoying my blog.

I hear ya, girl. London is the most amazing city in the world but it’s so bad for your skin and hair. My first winter here completely destroyed my skin. Bringing back jojoba oil is a great idea, but only if you use it as the last step of your skincare routine. Oils create a barrier on the skin that would be hard for retinol to penetrate. But if you apply it afterwards, you’ll be sealing both retinol and moisture in.

Piou-piou May 25, 2017 - 6:48 pm

Hey sweetie!
I love my oils ??? For a moment, I had fun customizing my own sunscreen/ makeup remover oil blends. The most spectacular results was 60% coconut + 30% apricot kernel + 10% black cumin: my skin was sooo glowy and luminous… even though that stuff get washed away with a cleanser!

As a treatment, I’ve tried Nice Huile Prodigieuse but my face broke out furiously … I suspect either safflower or, more likely, perfume to be the main culprit!

Other than that, have you tried Pai’s rosehip oil?
That’s so great for combination, eczema prone skin like mine. Contrary to Luna Oil that adds colorant in order to emulate blue tansy, that rosehip oil is naturally orange from all the natural anti-oxydants it contains… and may stain your clothes.
Since it’s difficult to spread (even on pre-mist skin), I prefer to mix 2 or 3 drops with a nice carrier night cream/ sleeping mask, which gives a rich, delightful consistency ?
I use it as an extra boost to my evening routine, twice a week, say the day after some BHA treatment.
My skin is left radiant and supple immediately.
I wake up with such a glowing, smooth skin that irradiates for the full day.

Since you need so few drops, I also can afford to indulge my over dry hands to seal some HA goodies.

Thanks for your nuanced article, as always Gio xxx

Gio June 3, 2017 - 4:20 pm

Piou-piou, oils are great, aren’t they? Rosehip oil is my fave too. It’s a natural source of retinol so it’s great for anti-aging, too. 🙂

Lucy June 22, 2017 - 9:21 pm


Loving your blog – you talk about everything i’m interested in – i just wish i could find something that works for me!

I am super confused with my skincare. I decided i would start dedicating more time to researching and looking at more organic products so i avoided the harsh chemicals but it feels like a minefield!

I wouldn’t say i have acne but i have a new blemish everyday and its so frustrating. I have always religiously taken my makeup off and am now using oils to do that (cleanse). I tried coconut oil as everyone was raving about it, which was an awful decision for my skin with a comedogenic rating of 4, so i then tried argan oil and i also use rose water as a toner but i’m still finding i wake up every day with either a blemish or bumps and i don’t understand whats causing it. i’ve tried a tea tree oil toner, diluting it to 1 part for every 9 parts of water to avoid and irritation but that still stings my skin.

Generally i have combination/spot prone skin but i feel it is getting more sensitive the more i try things that don’t work but i keep changing because products aren’t working or are making my skin worse! Next i am planning on trying The Body Shop camomile cleansing oil, The Body Shop aloe vera toner and The Body Shop tea tree overnight lotion – whats your thoughts on these?

If you could offer any suggestions i would hugely appreciate! I usually aim for affordable and as natural/organic as possible. I’m trying so hard to find something that works because i am going travelling in a few months so i need something really simple but effective and also ingredients/products i can get abroad, which is obviously tricky!

Gio June 24, 2017 - 9:31 am

Lucy, thanks for your kind words. So glad you love my blog. 🙂

I understand your decision to go down the natural route, but natural isn’t always best. You can read my thoughts about that here:

Going down the natural route, as you discovered, is particularly tricky for oily skin because most natural substances are rich oils or butters that can clog pores. Another thing no one tells is that plants are made up of tens of thousands of compounds, some of which give them their moisturizing, antioxidant and soothing properties, while others are irritating. That’s cos all plants contain toxins to protect themselves from predators. When you use a plant extract or oil you get everything – the good and the bad – so you need to do more research to figure out which plants are higher in goodies and lower in the bad guys and which ones are more suitable for your skin type. This may be the reason why your skin is becoming more sensitive.

For oily skin, I’d recommend jojoba oil. It’s the oil that most resembles human sebum so it shouldn’t cause any side effects (unless you use too much). Tea tree oil is great for blemishes but, frankly, I would use it only as a spot treatment. It’s too harsh for use all over the face. That’s why it’s found only in trace amounts in most skincare products. The Body Shop Tea Tree Overnight Lotion is the perfect example. It contains only a drop of tea tree oil instead of the 5% concentration you need to fight blemishes. Don’t bother with it. Same for the toner. There’s barely a drop of aloe vera in there! The cleansing oil, instead, is good.

I also wouldn’t limit myself just to natural products. An exfoliant with salicylic acid (BHA) is the best thing to keep the pores clear and both prevent and treat breakouts. The key is to choose a leave-in exfoliant as SA works best when left on the skin for hours. Pick one that has at least 1% SA.

Hope this helps.

Yulia October 8, 2017 - 8:00 pm

Hello!) Thanks for your post! It’s very helpful. I’m going to try oils in my skincare and considering Clinique Smart Treatment Oil and Caudalie Vine[Activ] Overnight Detox Night Oil. But I’m little confused about one point: could I use it alone without a moisturizer at night? Because I don’t use anything at night, just a serum maybe or even nothing except toner. And I also have heard that oils can dehydrate the skin after a time if to use them alone. But I think, maybe such products as Clinique or Caudalie oils will give a different effect because they consist not only of oils?

Gio October 14, 2017 - 10:26 am

Yulia, yes you can totally use oils alone without a moisturiser at night.

Some oils can dehydrate your skin tbut that depends on the type of oil you use and weather it agrees with your skin type. Some oils are better for oily skin while others are godsends for dry skin so you want to make sure you’re using one suitable for your needs. In my opinion, it is best to use a product with a mixture of different oils. Each oils has its own unique properties so using a combination will give you the best of different worlds.

petro October 9, 2017 - 9:37 am

Hello. Nice and informal knowledge about oils and how to use them. Thank you and I share the same opinion as you.
I like to make my own oil serumy. My ingredients are green tea oil, pomegranate oil, cranberry oil, rosehip oil, blueberry oil, avocado oil, calendula oil and vitamin e.
My thoughts are, when do u know when ur oil got “expired” ?

Gio October 14, 2017 - 10:39 am

Petro, you know it has experienced when something changes. Usually the first alarm bell comes from the smell. If it is rancid or simply different, it means it’s going bad.


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