Beauty Oils 101: The Beginner's Guide to Skin and Hair Oils

Photo: Chris Gramly/E+/Getty Images

Photo: Chris Gramly/E+/Getty Images

As cold weather nears, it gives us all the more incentive to add oils to our beauty routine. The highly-concentrated formulas lock in moisture when cold, dry air depletes hydration in both the skin and hair. To make the addition of beauty oils to your routine as seamless as possible, we sought the help of experts to provide easy-to-follow tips on application and finding the right formula for you.

“Facial oils are helpful for sealing in skin moisture by preventing moisture loss,” says dermatologist Dr. Adebola Dele-Michael at Radiant Skin Dermatology and Laser in Manhattan. Because they glide onto the skin, they also encourage facial massage, allowing the antioxidants and nutrients to penetrate deeper into the skin. Regardless of the oil type, the effect is dewy, radiant skin. However, Dr. Dele-Michael offers one stipulation. “Those with oilier skin should use them sparingly so as to avoid clogged pores.”

The key with facial oils for any skin type is to take a ‘less is more’ to prevent a greasy finish or cause acne. “After cleansing the skin, apply a few drops onto the skin and then follow with your moisturizer or sunscreen.” If you use a daily serum, dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman recommends applying oils over the serum to lock in moisture. “They’re also good to use at night, so apply before going to sleep,” says Dr. Jaliman. They can easily replace a thick night cream as a source of hydration sans heaviness.

With countless oils on the market, it can be overwhelming to find your fit. “Choose fragrance-free oils with the consistency that you find most esthetically pleasing,” says Dr. Dele-Michael. “Coconut oil is heavy and is best suited for dry winter months while argan or jojoba oils are lighter and work better for humid summer months.” Also keep in mind the antioxidants infused in each oil. “Argan oil is a very popular oil because it’s moisturizing and is high in vitamin E, which is a great antioxidant so some people tout its anti-aging benefits,” says Dr. Jaliman. “Grape seed oil is another good source of vitamin E.”

Los Angeles dermatologist Scott Rackett recommends using oil on the body, too. “Oils are fabulous for the skin on the body, specifically for treating dry wrinkled skin on the arms, neck, and torso, and even mild cases of eczema or psoriasis,” he says. Apply your oil of choice directly after stepping out of the shower and toweling off, when the skin is still warm and damp. “Pat your skin dry with a towel and apply generously while the skin is still damp, as this aids the absorption. After about 15 minutes the oil will absorb into your skin and not feel greasy anymore.”

“I have always recommended to my clients to use natural oils, like olive, coconut, or almond for a ‘hair detox’ when your hair is feeling dry,” says hairstylist and salon owner Julien Farel. “It will make your hair look and feel healthier overall.” Try oil as a conditioner, or as a spot treatment to nix frizz and flyaways. “For a deep treatment, massage a generous amount through your hair to nourish and protect the scalp and strands. Apply it right before bedtime or for a few hours on a Sunday and wash out.” He adds, “There are many hair oils that you can leave in throughout the day. While the common thinking about oil is that it ‘makes hair greasy,’ it can do the opposite if you’re using it correctly. A little bit goes a long way: Apply a pinch to dry or wet hair.” Not only will it condition and reduce the appearance of rough texture, but it will also enhance shine.

“As far as choosing the right oil for your hair type, it’s like choosing a shampoo or conditioner. The finer your hair is, the lighter the oil should be,” says Farel.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About Facial Serums