Face oils and serums are having a moment in skin care. The key to making the most of an oil-based anything in your routine is to move past slathering any old oil everywhere and taking an informed approach. Top of the list to go… coconut oil.
Using oils make sense for anyone with drier, sensitive skin, but adding the right oils to your daily routine is perfect for almost all skin concerns. This includes fine lines, wrinkles, aging and definitely anyone with oily, acne-prone or combination skin.
As with most things a more customized approach is best though, because not all face oils work for all skin types.
Whatever your skin type, here’s what you need to know.
Face Oils: All the Benefits, Naturally
Face and body oils date back to the ancient Egyptians, who wrote the first book on skin care. Literally... They used oils to fight the dry, desert climate but this was only the first step.
The Egyptians quickly moved on to creating specific recipes for specific skin concerns. These were all based on the properties of the plant's natural ingredients. They must have been on to something because Cleopatra was reportedly one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. Of course this had everything to do with her natural skin care routine and badass attitude...
High quality plant-based oils are simple, minimalist, and effective. They’re also naturally stable and reach deep into the different layers of skin. This means they absorb better because they match the skin’s natural lipid barrier. This is when the real magic happens.
Quality oils are naturally full of antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. They’re so effective in skin care because they deliver these essential ingredients deep into the layers of the skin. As an added bonus, they also increase the absorption (and effectiveness...) of other steps in your skin care routine.
Not All Face Oils Are Equal
The quality of face oils can range from liquid gold to barely appropriate to use for a squeaky door. It all depends on the oil chosen, its origin, and handling from source to your skin.
The trick is to choose a quality oil from a respectable source that works for your skin. To do that, you need to dive a little deeper into what makes up plant-based oils, and what you need for your skin type.
We’ve already covered that plant-based oils are packed full of vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants to help the skin function at its best. But, they’re also made up of fatty acids that determine how the oil interacts with the fatty acids in our skin.
Essentially, the top layer of the skin consists of dead, flattened skin cells held together by fatty acids, ceramides and other lipids. This layer forms the protective layer, called the moisture or lipid barrier. Technically, it’s called the stratum corneum. The more you know...
This barrier can easily be stripped from the skin, exposing the sensitive layers of the skin beneath. This makes it tough for your skin to hold on to moisture and hydration, so lines and wrinkles become worse. Skin can also become sensitive and irritated, so redness is an issue. And it means the skin isn’t able to fight off infection, so acne can become worse.
Similar to our skin, plant oils have a mix of different fatty acids. Using an oil with too much of the wrong kind of fatty acid can throw off the balance of fatty acids in our skin. This makes it hard for the skin to work the way it should.
And probably why some people are so scared of using oil in their skin care routine…
There are two kinds of fatty acids to pay attention to when choosing a face oil for your skin type: oleic acid and linoleic acid.
To get the best results, here’s how to choose which oil is best for you based on what your skin needs.
Face oils for oily, breakout prone or combination skin
Massaging oil into oilier skin types has stopped many in their tracks. And that’s completely understandable. Why risk making the issue worse?
“I want to shine like an oil slick!” — said no one ever.
But, the ingredients we’ve used don’t clog your skin but deliver needed ingredients instead. These help control and balance sebum production, giving the skin a soft glow instead of oil slick vibes.
Besides being anti-inflammatory, the right oil can help keep your skin clear and manage blackheads and enlarged pores that are common with this skin type.
Research shows that acne-prone skin usually has low levels of linoleic acid. So, face oils and serums with high concentrations of this fatty acid work best for acne-prone skin.
They add missing linoleic acid back and balance the fatty acid profile. This means less oil throughout the day and pores are kept clear because dead skin cells shed more easily.
Our Kalahari Melon Facial Serum is perfect for this! It has a high percentage of naturally occurring linoleic acid, and it’s a lighter oil serum that absorbs quickly. Think a “dry” face oil.
It helps balance oil production and promotes cell turnover so skin heals quickly. Hello smooth, supple and blemish-free skin.
Other ingredients work to support the skin in doing what it’s supposed to do, so you’re less prone to breakouts in the future. And any breakouts you do get—thanks hormones—heal quicker.
Face oils for dry or sensitive skin
Dry and sensitive skin usually means flakes, tightness, lines, and sometimes painful cracks.
Often, this skin type can be confusing. The slightest winter breeze, beauty products, medications and even the odd dirty look from a coworker (jk!) can cause a reaction.
It might seem like any ol' oil would be perfect for this skin type, but nope! Certain oils are definitely meant more for dry or sensitive skin.
For example, stay far away from anything containing castor or grapeseed oil. These are usually too harsh for more delicate skin types.
Instead, choose something with a high concentration of oleic acid (also known as omega-9). Oils rich in oleic acid deliver more protection compared to oils higher in linoleic acid.
An issue here though is that many oils high in oleic acid can also feel heavy and greasy. And they can take a while to sink in.
In this case, our Marula Facial Serum is your go to. With over 70% oleic acid plus high concentrations of Vitamin E, this serum will stop redness and calm dry skin. And! It does this without the heavy or greasy feel associated with other oils high in oleic acid, like avocado oil.
Use it over your favourite hydrosol or toner, and the serum will help lock in moisture and hydration as well.
If you have dry or sensitive skin but are prone to breakouts, Baobab Facial Serum is more your style. It has high levels of both types of major fatty acids to seal in moisture but keep things balanced.
High concentrations of naturally occurring Vitamin A, D and E improve skin elasticity and cell turnover, which helps the skin heal from any trauma.
Face oils for normal or balanced skin types
Considered not too dry and not too oily with only a few breakouts, normal skin can still need a little attention to keep it level, especially in harsher climates or during winter.
The Mongongo Facial Serum has high concentrations of essential fatty acids perfect for normal skin types. These help maintain the healthy moisture barrier function of skin. It also has naturally occurring zinc, which stops redness and is anti-inflammatory.
A few extra ingredients fight environmental pollutants, making it perfect for daytime use. And, there is natural UV protection to supplement your usual SPF.
Our Baobab Facial Serum has both high linoleic and oleic acid concentrations so it feels a little heavier than the Mongongo serum. It's perfect to use at night to calm things down and lock in everything for smooth skin in the morning.
The balanced approach of the Baobab serum also works with combination skin. But, you can easily mix and match a few different serums to create the perfect routine.
When we formulated them, we wanted something that can mix and match with each other and the rest of your routine without causing any irritation or reactions.
How do you know if you have the right facial oil for you?
The next part is a little tougher.
Once you’ve chosen what face oil is best suited to your skin type in theory, it’s time to test it out. This is where things get a little more personal - the right oil-based serum for you depends on how it feels when applied.
Ideally, a few drops of the face oil you choose should sink into your skin completely in a minute or two. If it sits on top of the skin and makes you feel shinier than before then it’s not the right oil for you.
If the oil absorbs after a minute though, you're on the right track! You’re on your glowing, healthy skin.
Still unsure which one is right for you? Feel free to send us your questions and we’d love to help. Or if you’re curious about all of them, check out the full set in convenient travel-sized bottles.
You can also learn more about choosing the right face oil for your skin type from the skin care queen Renee at Gothamista, below: