Everything You Need To Know About Choosing A Face Oil Or Serum
There's more to choosing the best oil for your skin type...
Here's what you need to know to get the best out of your face oil.
Oils are having more than a moment in skin care. They’re here to stay. The key to making the most of them is moving past slathering any old oil everywhere towards a more customized approach. But how do you know what works for your skin type?
While using oils seems almost intuitive for those with drier, sensitive skin, adding oils to your daily routine is perfect for combating all skin concerns, including fine lines, wrinkles, aging and those with more oily, acne-prone or combination skin.
Whatever your skin type, here’s what you need to know.
All of the benefits, naturally.
Face and body oils date back to the ancient Egyptians, who literally wrote the first book on skincare, and who used plant-based oils as a defense 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 based on the inherent properties of their natural ingredients. They must have been on to something since Cleopatra was supposedly one of the most beautiful women who ever lived. (Clearly, this had everything to do with her natural skin care routine…)
Compared to more recent, conventional skincare, quality face oils are simple, minimalist, effective, and naturally stable without the use of added, potentially toxic ingredients. For example, plant-based oils are able to penetrate deeply into the skin and are more easily absorbed since they can closely 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, and the ability to deliver these essentials deep into the skin makes oils so much more effective. They also have the added benefit of increasing the absorption and effectiveness of other serums, hydrators or moisturizers that are applied after them, making them the perfect complement to your routine.
Not all oils are equal
Depending on the oil chosen, it’s origin, and handling from source to your bathroom, the quality of oils can range from liquid gold to barely appropriate to use for a squeaky door.
The trick is to choose a quality oil from a respectable source that works for your skin based on its inherent properties to give the skin exactly what it needs. To do that, you need to dive a little deeper into what makes up pure, plant-based oils, and what you need for your skin type or concern.
We’ve already covered that pure, quality plant-based oils are packed full of vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants that help the skin function at its best. But, they’re also made up of fatty acids that determine how the oil interacts with the skin.
Essentially, the top layer of the skin is comprised of dead, flattened skin cells that are held together by fatty acids, ceramides, and other lipids. This layer forms the protective layer of the skin and is often called the moisture barrier or lipid barrier. Technically, it’s called the stratum corneum.
When the moisture barrier is compromised, it can lead to a host of skin concerns including moisture loss and dehydration (making lines and wrinkles worse), sensitivity, irritation (redness), and infection (acne).
By delivering essential fatty acids to this layer of the skin, plant oils help strengthen and reinforce 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 one kind of fatty acid can throw off the balance in our skin, which works against the moisture barrier.
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 its fatty acid profile and 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, most oils geared for the face are non-comedogenic (nonclogging, unlike coconut oil) and deliver emollients and soothing nutrients that help manage and balance sebum production, giving skin a soft glow instead of oil slick vibes. They can also help manage the blackheads and enlarged pores common with this skin type, helping to keep the complexion clear.
Research shows that acne-prone skin often doesn’t have enough linoleic acid so oils and oil blends with high concentrations of this fatty acid tend to work best. Introducing linoleic acid back into the skin helps balance the fatty acid profile of the moisture barrier, which means more balanced sebum production. It also means pores are kept clear as dead skin cells are shed more easily.
Kalahari Melon oil is perfect for this! With a high percentage of naturally occurring linoleic acid, it’s a lighter oil that is absorbed easily but helps balance sebum production. It also plays a role in promoting effective cell turnover, increasing skin suppleness while working to bring back blemish-free skin.
If you have dry or sensitive skin
Dry and sensitive skin is characterized by cracked, painful skin that inflames at the slightest winter breeze with fine lines that appear out of nowhere, all made worse by soaps, cosmetics, medications and even the odd dirty look from that coworker.
While it seems that oils are perfect for this type of skin, certain oils are more suited to dry or sensitive skin than others. For example, stay far away from Castor or Grapeseed oil as they are generally too astringent for more delicate skin types.
Instead, choose something with a high concentration of oleic acid (also known as omega-9) to deliver soothing emollients and heavier protection than oils higher in linoleic acid can provide.
In this case, Marula oil is your go to with over 70% oleic acid along with high concentrations of Vitamin E to reduce redness without a heavy greasy feel associated with other oils high in oleic acid, like olive oil for example.
If you have sensitive skin but are prone to breakouts, Baobab oil might be more suited to you, since it has high levels of both oleic and linoleic acid, to deliver emollients to seal in moisture, but linoleic acid for balance. It also has high concentrations of naturally occurring Vitamin A, D, and E that improve skin elasticity and skin regeneration.
If you have a normal or balanced skin type
Considered not too dry and not too oily with none or a few imperfections, normal skin still needs attention to keep it on the level, especially in harsh climates or during winter.
To maintain and strengthen your moisture barrier, Mongongo oil has high concentrations of essential fatty acids, plus naturally occurring zinc, which reduces redness and is anti-inflammatory. It also helps fight environmental pollutants and has natural UV protection to supplement your SPF, helping keep signs of aging at bay.
Baobab oil is in the middle of the spectrum between linoleic and oleic acid concentrations, containing roughly 30% of linoleic acid and 35% of oleic acid. This makes it perfect for those looking to maintain their moisture barrier. It is also high in naturally occurring vitamins, so it helps to increase skin elasticity and the renewal of skin cells.
Combination skin also benefits from this middle of the road approach with baobab oil, but you can easily mix and match a few different oils to create the perfect routine, without worrying about adverse reactions.
Choosing your perfect face oil
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 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. If it sits on top, only partially absorbs, or makes you feel shinier than before in the case of oily or combination skin types, then it’s not the right oil for you.
If the oil absorbs after a minute though, makes your skin feel nourished, protected, dewy and supple, then you’re on the right track to glowing, nourished, protected and balanced skin.
Skincare is such a personal thing, what works for someone else might not necessarily work for you, even if you have similar skin types. We offer samples of everything so that you can test something out before committing to a full-size product.
Also, if you have questions or concerns, send us an email! We’d love to help!