Sometimes, it’s less about what you’re using and more about how you’re using it. Such is the case with facial oils. They hardly get a bad wrap, but knowing which ones work best for you is key to harnessing their many benefits.
Like with most skin-care products, the best way to go about choosing one is considering your most prominent struggles, be it dryness, excess oil, or fine lines that you wish were a little less … fine. Ahead, board-certified dermatologist and founder/CEO of Curology David Lortscher, M.D., shares which oils are best for each one.
If wrinkles and fine lines aren’t your cup of tea, oils with antioxidants, a.k.a. the teeny substances that guard against damage, should be on your vanity. “Oils, especially those with protective antioxidant activity, may counter the appearance of fine lines and dark spots, as antioxidants can boost collagen production and improve skin elasticity,” says Dr. Lortscher.
Try This: Mad Hippie Antioxidant Facial Oil, $24.99 at Mad Hippie
Dealing with flakiness or dry patches? Oils may be just what you need, but be mindful of how you apply them. This will determine the lasting power of whatever you choose to use.
“For those with dry skin, the humidity outdoors and inside can be very low in the winter, and our skin loses moisture to the environment,” says Lortscher. “For example, you can use a shower oil—apply only after your skin has been thoroughly wetted—or apply an oil while your skin is still a little wet after showering, to ‘seal in’ the water.”
Try This: Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil, $52 at Fresh
Lortscher recommends looking for an oil that is lightweight and noncomedogenic—tea tree oil is a favorite. Be aware that a 100-percent-tea-tree-oil solution is very irritating and should be diluted. As a spot treatment, dilute one part tea tree oil with three parts oil of your choice, such as sunflower, castor, jojoba, or hemp oil—just not coconut oil.
Try This: Sunday Riley U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Face Oil, $40 at Sephora
Contrary to popular belief, most oils are well-tolerated on acne-prone skin. However, Dr. Lortscher advises against using coconut oil since it’s extremely clogging to the pores and only worsens when used on a breakout. Instead, he recommends using something more lightweight with anti-inflammatory properties, such as tea tree oil.
“Patients with acne have been shown to exhibit inadequate levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs). Using omega-3 and omega-6 EFAs such as found in rose hip oil may provide anti-inflammatory effect, which can help improve acne,” he says. “Note that the current guidelines for acne treatment published by the American Academy of Dermatology do not advise topical EFA for the routine treatment of acne. Although more research is needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn, we currently have no objection to the use of rose hip oil by our acne patients.”
Try This: Mario Badescu Rose Hips Nourishing Oil, $22 at Mario Badescu
Lastly, if your skin is prone to infection in the slightest, avoid essential oils altogether, which may cause irritation or induce contact allergies. This typically happens because poor-quality ones are widely sold.
“The difference in quality can be attributed to the addition of foreign substances, unintentional contamination by other substances, inadequate production, or improper storage conditions,” says Lortscher. “When stored under too-warm conditions or exposed to light and oxygen, a chemical process occurs, changing the composition of the oil, which can produce strong allergens.”
In general, however, essential oils are considered to have a good safety profile, and when toxicities do happen, they are generally mild and limited to the skin. In short: tread lightly.
Try This: Biossance 100% Squalane Oil, $58 at Biossance