Choosing A Serum for Your Skin Type

As original humans, we know that what works for some might not work for us. Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision on what might work best for you!

Oil-based serums are having more than a moment in skin care. They’re here to stay. The key to making the most of an oil-based anything in your routine is to move past slathering any old oil everywhere… here’s looking at you, coconut oil.

Using oils might be intuitive for those with drier, sensitive skin, but adding oils to your daily routine also happens to be 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 oils work for all skin types.

Whatever your skin type, here’s what you need to know.

All The Benefits, Naturally.

Photo by  Aiony Haust  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aiony Haust on Unsplash

Face and body oils date back to the ancient Egyptians, who wrote the first book on skin care (literally...). They used oils as a defence against the dry, desert climate. Battling a dry, harsh climate was only the first step though.

The Egyptians quickly moved on to creating specific recipes for specific skin concerns. These were all based on the inherent 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 also happen to be naturally stable without any added, potentially nasty ingredients. They reach deep into the different layers of skin and absorb better because they match the skin’s natural lipid barrier. This is when the real magic happens.

Quality plant-based oils are naturally full of antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. They’re so effective in skin care because they’re able to deliver these essentials deep into the layers of the skin. As an added bonus, they also increase the absorption (and thus, effectiveness...) of other steps in your routine.

Not All Oils Are Equal

The quality of 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 or concern.

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 of the skin, called the moisture or lipid barrier. Technically, it’s called the stratum corneum.

This barrier can be easily stripped from the skin, exposing the layers 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 can also open the skin up to infection, making acne worse.

By delivering essential fatty acids to this layer of the skin, plant oils strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. Much like our skin though, 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 moisture barrier to work the way it should.

There are two kinds of fatty acids in particular that determine what oil works best 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.

If You Have An Oily or Combination Skin Type

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 are all non-comedogenic (non clogging) and deliver emollients and soothing nutrients deep into the skin. These help control and balance sebum production, giving the skin a soft glow instead of oil slick vibes. Besides containing anti-inflammatory ingredients, the right oil can help keep the complexion clear and help 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, serums with high concentrations of this fatty acid work best for acne-prone skin by adding missing linoleic acid back into the skin and balancing its 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. It helps balance oil production and plays a role in promoting cell turnover so skin heals quickly. This means smooth, supple and blemish-free skin. Other ingredients work to support the skin’s natural moisture barrier, meaning you’re less prone to breakouts in the future, and any breakouts you do get (hello hormones) heal quicker.

If You Have Dry or Sensitive Skin

Dry and sensitive skin is usually characterized by 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 certain oils are more suited to dry or sensitive skin than others. 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 soothing emollients and more protection compared to oils higher in linoleic acid. An issue here though is that many oils high in oleic acid can 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 reduce redness and calm dry skin. It does this without the heavy or greasy feel associated with other oils high in oleic acid. 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. It also has high concentrations of naturally occurring Vitamin A, D and E that improve skin elasticity and cell turnover, helping the skin heal from any trauma.

If You Have A Normal or Balanced Skin Type. 

Considered not too dry and not too oily with only a few breakouts, normal skin can still need a little attention to keep it on the level, especially in harsher climates or during winter.

...normal skin can still need a little attention to keep it on the 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 reduces 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 for evening use to calm things down and lock in everything for smooth skin overnight.

Combination skin also benefits from the balanced approach of the Baobab serum. 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.

How Do You Know if You Have the Right Serum 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! Hello glowing, healthy and protected 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 learn more about choosing the right face oil for your skin type from the skin care queen Renee at Gothamista, below: