As a category of grooming products, face oils can be confusing. After all, doesn’t our own skin produce oil—and wouldn’t many of us prefer to look less oily than we already are? Why would anyone want to add more oil to the mix?
Good question, but face oils, which can do everything from nourishing the skin and making it brighter to helping clear up acne, aren’t nearly as heavy as anything you’d cook with. Plus, these products pack specific nutrients that help skin stay firm and resilient, even more so than the sebum secreted by your own pores. It’s true that those of us with oily skin may not need face oils as evidently as our dry-skinned friends, but even then, a bedtime application of face oil is easily absorbed overnight and should have little impact on you the next day as you navigate humid weather or poorly ventilated offices. (In other words, oily skinned people get the most benefit if they apply face oils in the evening, when their pores aren’t working overtime.)
And speaking of those benefits: Each oil offers its own perks. For example, argan- and rosehip-based face oils are terrific anti-aging agents, while jojoba and argan both offer nourishing and hydrating benefits. Meanwhile, tea tree oil is perfect for oily skinned people, because it helps neutralize bacteria that gather inside the pores and in turn neutralizes acne.
Face oils won’t replace your moisturizer, which creates a defensive layer over top the skin (to keep toxins out and protect your skin from the sun if it has an SPF). Instead, face oils boost moisturizers to help lock in moisture while adding nutrients like vitamins, fatty acids, lipids and antioxidants. And if you’re in the mood for a little radiance, face oils can help skin glow—and no, that’s not the same as oily forehead shine.
How to Apply Face Oils Properly
You can apply face oils at the end of any skincare regimen, or even mix them into your moisturizer for a nourishing, moisture-trapping boost. If you wear a facial sunscreen, then you should apply face oil prior to SPF, and let it set into the pores fully before applying your SPF.
A couple of drops are typically enough for a single application. You can target problem areas with a single drop, too. Some people apply oils twice a day—morning and night—but if your oil feels too hefty or leaves your skin too shiny, you need to consider one of two things: Either swap it for something lighter or only apply it in the evening.
Applying oil at bedtime allows the product to fully absorb into the skin (for all of its moisture-trapping and skin fortifying benefits) without having to worry about forehead shine in your morning meetings. And don’t worry that you’ll leave behind residue on your pillowcases: the right face oil for you should absorb within minutes. You might also consider putting one or two drops in your night cream if it doesn’t already provide you with the targeted benefits you so desire. (But on that note, you might be surprised to learn that your favorite night cream, or even your daytime moisturizer, contains some oil ingredients like jojoba, argan, tea tree, moringa, rosehip, etc.—perhaps you’ve been applying oils to your skin all this time).
Some oils are applied with rollerballs, while others are applied with your own fingertips. With either option, a little goes a long way. Below, a group of our favorites—and the conditions they’re designed to help address.
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The Best Face Oils
Olivier Midy Éclat Midy Face Oil
For overnight rejuvenation: Nineteen (!) oils and a few additional extracts give Olivier Midy’s formula supreme power against antioxidants, stress, and malnourishment. Apply a couple of drops of this French brand’s oil before bed to give your rejuvenation cycle a boost, and you’ll wake with firmer, brighter, youthful skin. Regular use will help perpetuate that youthfulness for the long haul, too.
Augustinus Bader The Face Oil
For day-long radiance: Terrific for day or night, this lightweight product utilizes oils of babassu and karanja (to bounce toxins), argan and hazelnut (to trap moisture), and pomegranate seed (to firm and renew).
Maison Made Extrait de Maison Face Oil
For a defensive antioxidant boost: This blend utilizes more than a dozen oils to nourish skin and help defend it against antioxidants. By upping your defenses, you prevent toxins and pollution from “aging” your skin. Instead, it stays resilient, even-toned and firm.
Herbivore Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil
For overwashed, oily, and acne-prone skin: Sometimes the oiliest skin is the driest—since it’s so overwashed and stressed out. This creates a cycle of hyper oil production in the skin, which leads to more washing and breakouts… a never-ending cycle. Use this blue tansy oil to help the most distressed skin rebound and retain balance, whether it’s naturally or momentarily dry—or after each wash if you’re oily, in order to train skin to produce less sebum on its own.
Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Balancing Oil
For spot-checking blemishes: Squalane restores hydration to stressed-out skin, while tea tree oil neutralizes the bacteria in pores that cause breakouts. Use it as an all-over remedy for mass breakouts, or as a spot-checker for one-offs.