Face oils are the new moisturizers. Think they'll leave your skin greasy and splotched-up with zits? Try radiant and hydrated. They can even combat over-oily skin. Mmmhmm, sister.
Here's what you need to know about using face oils, with advice from natural beauty badass Kathryn Murray Dickinson, founder of AILLEA natural beauty boutiques and online shop.
Face Oils One-up Moisturizers
Why switch to a face oil when your moisturizer pump runs dry? "If you look at most creams and moisturizers, the majority have oils in them, but they are watered down—the first ingredient on the product label is water—and emulsifiers are added to give them that whipped look," Murray Dickinson explains. Because they contain water, moisturizers are prone to grow bacteria and need preservatives to combat that growth. In the "non-clean" beauty world, that means the addition of a naughty paraben or something similar to preserve it. Most face oils, on the other hand, don’t need water, so don’t need preservatives and aren't "watered down." Bonus!
With natural face oils, you get a purer formula that only consists of these lovely, hydrating oils, such as rosehip (good for anti-aging), prickly pear (very hydrating and restorative), willow bark (helps with clarity and brightening) or squalane (great for acne-prone skin). Some also include essential oils instead of toxic fragrance for a pleasant smell and aromatherapy benefits. Plus, face oils last you a LONG time—you're only using a few teensy-weensy drops at a time!
What If You Have Oily Skin, Tho, Yo?
"People work hard to dry their skin out, but doing so actually causes the skin to go into oil overproduction. Whether you have dry skin or oily skin, face oils help restore the natural barrier of the skin to maintain a good, healthy oil production," Murray Dickinson says. What's more, if you're currently using a conventional cream, it may contain mineral oils, which are pore-clogging.
So Is a Face Oil and a Face Serum the Same Darn Thing?
Good question, mi amore! No, they are not. "Serums have smaller molecules and penetrate deeper with active ingredients, and absorb into the skin much faster than an oil," explains Murray Dickinson. These active ingredients target things like your annoying fine lines and sun spots that seem to be multiplying by the day or pimples. Face oils, on the other hand, are meant for hydration. You know one of the things that causes wrinkles? Dehydration. So they are helping to keep skin firm and smooth, too.
The New Order of Your Beauty Routine
It goes like this for both day and night... Cleanser, toner, serum, oil. Add sunscreen on top of the oil for daytime. "The oil helps lock in the treatment that the serum provides. You want the products to go in order of lighter to heavier molecules," Murray Dickinson explains. Light bulb moment: It's kind of like wine pairings...start with the lightest; end with the most full-bodied.
With the exception of certain active ingredients in some serums that make skin sun-sensitive, such as brightening vitamin C or natural retinols, and therefore should be applied in the evening, "everything you use in the morning can also be used at night," Murray Dickinson says.
The Best Way to Apply Face Oil
Now that you have your new partner in dewy skin in hand, know the best way to use it. For starters, read the product's instructions. Some may say all you need is literally one drop since it'll spread like wildfire over your skin; others may require four to six drops, depending on the oil's viscosity. No matter the brand or type of oil you choose, Murray Dickinson suggests using the push-press method that Vintner's Daughter recommends for its super-charged Active Botanical Serum to help stimulate circulation and help the product penetrate the skin. That method looks like this:
Apply drops to the palm of your hand.
Rub hands together to spread the product.
Press hands on cheeks and then all over face, neck and décolleté.
Keep doing that pressing for 30 seconds.
What's a Good Oil for Beginners?
Start with the plant oil squalane. "It comes from an olive and is almost bio-identical to what our skin produces through our mid-20s. It makes your skin baby soft," Murray Dickinson advises. "I like to start people who are new to face oils off with something simple like this with squalane as the only ingredient." Here's the one I'm currently using and love for its super light feel and hydration: Indie Lee Squalane Facial Oil.
But Do a Spot Test
Remember: Just because it's a plant-based oil doesn't mean it isn't powerful and potent. Has your skin become sensitive and reactive over the years? "Unfortunately, so many people are allergic to the world these days," says Murray Dickinson, who highly recommends a spot test before slathering anything new all over your visage.
The Cost of Face Oils and Serums
You can get a great natural face oil that suits a tight beauty budget or splurge on something more exotic. Serums may cost more because they have a more complex and targeted formula.
For example, I love this Teddie Organics Rosehip Seed Oil, which costs less than $20 and only has one ingredient. But you can also buy a rosehip oil that costs four times that amount from another brand. Why the price discrepancy? It often comes down to where and how the ingredients are sourced. That more expensive brand may be sourcing its pure rosehip oil from Bulgaria for $1,000 per liter.
A serum example: Vintner's Daughter's serum (a cult favorite, for good reason!) is a mixture of 20+ different plants and undergoes a highly specialized process to create this gorgeous product that targets the gamut of skin needs, hence the significant price tag.
Younger, Happier, Healthier Skin
Just like Murray Dickinson, I'm a big believer in face oils and serums, and no longer use a "traditional" moisturizer. I love the way they make my skin look and feel. Give one or two a try and see what you think!
Here are the three I mention above that I use and love:
Good beginner oil, light for summer and works well for acne-prone or highly reactive skin: Indie Lee
Basic, budget-friendly anti-aging and hydrating oil with one ingredient: Teddie's Organics
Anti-aging, highly active face serum with super-charged ingredient list: Vintner's Daughter
Any questions about using face oils?
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