When I was a teenager I had a very oily T-zone. I used to struggle with teen acne and enlarged pores. My skincare routine consisted of harsh and drying products that promised to get rid of sebum, imperfections, and blackheads. Don't judge me! I dreamed of clear and matt skin. Often, I would just wash my face with a harsh cleanser and walk out the door. YIKES!
As years went by I learned about skincare and what different ingredients could do for my skin, but I was still reluctant to put creams or oils on my face as it always felt counterproductive. That went on until my skin changed in my early twenties. I developed rosacea in my nose and cheeks, with breakouts of hormonal acne all over my jawline.
I tried different treatments (even antibiotics), yet no particular product seemed to help with both conditions in a sustained manner. I then started going down the rabbit hole, researching, reading, and learning from dermatologists and skincare experts. I was determined to find a routine that would help clear my skin out.
I read a bunch of books, of which I recommend "The Skin nerd" as a good read for beginners. And then I encountered Liah Yoo's profile. Actually, I found a video of hers that immediately grabbed my attention: CLEAR ACNE WITH OIL! • BEST Oils for Acne Prone Skin (which I highly recommend watching right now).
In a nutshell, the video says: Often, when people experience acne, it comes from a skin imbalance. When you're not providing enough moisture to your skin, it overcompensates by increasing sebum production and lowering its quality, which can lead to clogged pores and therefore acne. The right kind of oil can help regulate your sebum production, restoring balance within your skin barrier and therefore, reducing acne.
I was shocked. I had tried many many different things to improve my complexion but had never even remotely considered oils. What's more, I was often doing the exact opposite: over-exfoliating and looking for harsh ingredients to get rid of my natural sebum no matter what, damaging my skin and its barrier in the process.
Even Liah admits in the video, she would have never dared to try facial oils herself before, but she went into the scientific details of why it works, which oils we should actually aim for, and asked for trust. What? A stranger on the internet is asking me to rub my face in oil? Let's do it! I was young and desperate.
Facial oils weren't really a thing in Europe back in 2017. I picked The Ordinary Rosehip oil, which was affordable and widely available at the time. In just a few weeks I noticed:
My skin was more plump, elastic, and radiant
I developed way less acne
My acne marks were disappearing faster
Redness was reduced
I didn't have the need to use foundation so often
Rosehip Oil smells DISGUSTANG
Since then, I've tried several others and to this day, oil remains the only product I consistently see results from. Even if you don't specifically suffer from acne or rosacea, I promise you, there's an oil (high in linoleic acid) out there than can help improve your complexion (from dryness, hyperpigmentation, and many others). What's more, if used consistently, they can also improve the appearance of fine lines or wrinkles, supporting well-aging.
So...how to find the right oil for you?
I recommend trying different oils before settling for one. The good thing about facial oils (unlike retinol or exfoliators), is that it's difficult to go wrong. I would just recommend sticking to oils that are high in linoleic acid to avoid breakouts.
Facial oils I would avoid are Coconut, Olive, Marula, Apricot, Avocado, Macadamia, Argan, or Karité (Shea butter) oil. Since those are all quite high in oleic acid and often comedogenic, it's likely they won't absorb easily into your skin and might end up clogging your pores. I would instead start with Squalane, Rosehip, Tamanu, Blue tansy, Neem, or Hemp seed oil.
Here are my favorites:
The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane (30ml around 9€)
Pai Skincare Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil (30ml around 22€)
The Ordinary "B" Oil (30ml around 11€)
Sublime Oils Clarifying Night Oil (50ml around 60€)
Hervibore Emerald Hemp Seed + Adaptogens Deep Moisture Glow Oil (30ml around 60€)
Hervibore Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil (50ml around 80€)
Now, I am aware the above prices might be scary but please don't freak out and trust me on this one! You are only meant to use 3 to 5 drops of oil each time you do your skincare routine, so a bottle of around 50ml can last for months.
Some good news...
Aaand this is how you can include a facial oil in your skincare routine:
Because some oils can be photosensitive or oxidize with sun exposure (like Rosehip oil), it's safest to use them during your nighttime routine. If you've already read our previous article "The nighttime skincare routine you didn't know you needed", you already got a sneak peek of how to incorporate oils as the last step in your routine to lock in moisture at night.
After you've thoroughly cleansed and applied serums, you can either apply 3 to 5 drops of oil directly onto your skin (in a patting motion), or you can mix 2-3 drops in the palm of your hand together with a pea-sized amount of moisturizer, and then apply it to your face. It's key to mix both products in the palm of your hand right before applying it to your face instead of adding the oil directly into the moisturizer container. If you do so, you risk reducing the effectiveness of both formulations in the long term or altering their consistency.
If you decide to go for a facial oil that's safe to use under UV exposure, I would recommend mixing just 1 or 2 drops with your morning moisturizer, to ensure it sits well under makeup, and you look just the right amount of glowy (but not oily).
Let us know in the comments if you decide to try!