Despite the fact my own complexion is oily and I’m no stranger to a breakout, the most effective beauty product I’ve ever used to both moisturize my skin and control congestion is a bottle of pure jojoba oil. Many dermatologists have warned me about using face oils, but expensive creams and serums often cause my skin to break out (using one well-known expensive tub of moisturizer spurred the worst chronic cystic acne breakout of my life!). Meanwhile, this humble—and cheap—face oil keeps my skin glowing, hydrated, and relatively blemish-free.
Since making this discovery a few years ago, I’ve broadened my regimen to include more oils. Some nights I’ll layer rosehip or passionfruit seed oils on top of jojoba for their powerful anti-aging properties, and I rarely get on a plane without a small tub of tea tree oil to address any spots that pop up while traveling. I’m not the only person who swears by this natural elixir, either—before Tazorac became the topical anti-acne cream of choice, and we started shilling out hundreds of dollars for retinol creams; natural, plant-based oils were the ointments of choice. In fact, some cultures still use the holistic skin-care treatment to fix all kinds of issues, and it’s only relatively recently that Western beauty brands and dermatologists have started catching on.
However, not every oil is created equal, and you should be looking at different types to address various issues. Some are antiseptic and will help stave off acne, while others are both hydrating and have aromatherapeutic qualities that can help you manage stress. Click through to learn which oil is right for your skin.
In addition to pairing well with a Caprese salad, olive oil can help fight the signs of aging. “Extra- virgin olive oil is rich in polyphenol antioxidants, giving it anti-inflammatory and antiaging benefits,” explained Dr. Debbie Palmer, dermatologist and creator of Replere.
Olive + M All Natural Renew + Repair Face Oil
As its name suggests, this oil comes from the nut inside the marula fruit, and it also happens to be a powerful antiaging ingredient and safe for skin that’s no stranger to a breakout. “It contains antioxidants and essential fatty acids such as omega-6 and 9. It is anti-inflammatory, noncomedogenic, and antimicrobial—making it great for acne and skin rejuvenation,” explained Dr. Palmer.
Insta Natural Organic Marula Oil
Tamanu oil comes from the ati tree, native to the South Pacific Islands, and can help slow down the aging process. It’s actually also been used for generations by Polynesian women to clear acne and reduce the appearance of scars and in Pacific folk medicine to accelerate wound healing.
“Tamanu oil is high in oleic-acid-rich in coumarin calophyllolide, a class of phytochemicals with powerful antibacterial and antifungal activities and anti-inflammatory properties,” said the founder of natural beauty brand Raw Is Everything, Jess Assaf. “A recent study showed that tamanu oil exhibits high antibacterial activity against the bacterial strains that cause acne,” she added. Tamanu is a little thicker than some other oils and greenish in color.
Kate Blanc Tamanu Oil
Because neroli comes from the oil of orange blossoms, it’s often used in beauty products as a fragrance, but it can also hydrate the skin and may even help with anxiety. “In one aromatherapy study, this oil helped reduce blood pressure and pre-procedure anxiety for those people undergoing a colonoscopy,” explained Dr. Palmer.
Kerstin Florian Rehydrating Neroli Oil
Native to the Amazon and extracted from the seeds of the passionfruit, this fruit-scented oil has been used for centuries as a powerful moisturizing emollient. “Passionfruit-seed oil has high levels of the omega-6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid, which is essential in skin hydration and elasticity,” explained Assaf, adding that studies have even shown that this fatty acid also helps to lighten UV-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin.
Passionfruit-seed oil is rich in polyphenols, which Assaf said contain anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and DNA-repair properties. “It’s also rich in tocopherols, one of the two classes of naturally occurring vitamin E, which prevents skin damage caused by free radicals,” she added.
In addition to smelling great and, like most oils, hydrating your skin, tangerine peel oil also has antiseptic qualities that can help fight acne.
Milk Makeup Sunshine Oil
There’s a reason why you see arnica popping up as an ingredient in moisturizing lotions that promise to ease muscle tension—it’s widely used to remedy bruising and muscle soreness. Some brands even use arnica oil as an ingredient in eye cream to get rid of dark circles.
“Arnica is believed to be a natural anti-inflammatory and can be applied topically to the skin for pain and swelling from bruises, insect bites, sports injuries, and arthritis. The actives in it may reduce swelling and pain,” said Dr. Palmer.
Herb Pharm Arnica Oil
Chia provides both antioxidant protection and concentrated delivery of fatty acids that helps hydrate while soothing dry, itchy skin. In a study published by The Annals of Dermatology, chia oil was clinically proven to significantly increase skin hydration, reduce trans-epidermal water loss, and increase skin barrier function, making it an amazing antiaging agent. With regular use, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which chia oil has plenty of, can actually help strengthen the epidermis and build collagen.
Herbivore Phoenix Facial Oil
You may have heard about Kate Somerville’s popular dilo treatment—people obsess over the Fijian oil because of its multiple restorative benefits. It’s believed to help promote healthier-looking skin and is rich in essential fatty acids that can protect and hydrate the skin while improving firmness and elasticity.
Kate Somerville Dilo Oil Restorative Treatment
If you recognize any of the names in this list, it’ll probably be rosehip oil. Native to Alexandria and Persia, it was actually used by ancient civilizations to rejuvenate skin and protect against all signs of aging. “Rosehip oil is high in essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, which are essential to skin structure and function. The omega-6 fatty acids are integral to epidermal barrier function regulating the skin’s hydration and elasticity,” explained Assaf.
“It’s also rich in all-trans-retinoic acid, the bioactive form of vitamin A, which affects cell turnover and collagen production,” she added.
Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil
You probably first heard about argan oil when you discovered Morrocan oil for your hair—but this ingredient is just as effective on your skin. Even more so, perhaps. Jan Pummer, a senior spa therapist at holistic health retreat Gwinganna, explained that the product extracted from the kernels of Morocco’s native argan tree is extremely rich in beneficial nutrients, and is roughly 80 percent fatty acids and vitamin E.
“Argan oil works wonders to hydrate the skin, restore elasticity, and reduce face fine lines and wrinkles,” she said, adding, “It absorbs easily and is nongreasy and nonirritating, which makes it a great moisturizer.”
Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil
The good fats in avocado aren’t just a reason to smother your toast with it at Sunday brunch—there are beauty benefits involved too when used topically. It can do everything from promote collagen growth to moisturize the skin, and even help fade scarring.
Antipodes Divine Face Oil
Amazingly, jojoba oil closely resembles human sebum, which means it has the unique ability to penetrate deep into your skin—more so than other plant-based oils. It also helps kill germs; contains vitamins A, D, and E; and creates a protective barrier for locking in moisture.
“Jojoba is a liquid wax that is most like your own natural oils—is why it is such a great oil for your skin in addition,” explained Believe Organics founders, Valerie Levine and Lawrence Levine.
Awake Human Organic Facial Moisturizer
Native to Europe, this antioxidant oil has been used as a natural remedy for centuries by the civilizations of Greece, Rome, and Anatolia to protect skin against free radicals caused by exposure to sunlight and environmental toxins. “Raspberry seed oil is high in the essential fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, which is integral for skin health and protection against photo-aging. It is rich in a variety of tocopherols and tocotrienols, the two classes of naturally occurring vitamin E, one of the most potent lipid-soluble antioxidants, which prevent skin damage caused by free radicals,” explained Assaf.
Raspberry seed oil has one of the highest levels of antioxidants found in nature, and some believe it even has natural SPF properties, which basically means it’s the MVP of the oil family.
Remember how your mom suggested putting diluted tea tree oil on your acne as a teen (and to stop picking!)? That’s because it has strong antibacterial properties and can help dry out spots. For this reason, you probably shouldn’t apply all over your face except in very diluted quantities.
Era Organics Tea Tree Face Cream
Tsubaki (camellia) oil has been a big part of Japanese beauty rituals for centuries. As a fast-absorbing, hypoallergenic, noncomedogenic (meaning it won’t block your pores) product, tsubaki oil used daily on your face, neck, and chest is believed to be able to help prevent the signs of aging.
Amaki Japanese Tsubaki Anti Aging Face Oil
An original version of this story was published in November 2016.
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