Your Face Oil Soul Mate Exists—Here’s How to Choose the Best Formula


It could be said that face oil is one of the most controversial skincare products on the beauty market. Walk (or scroll) through any beauty retailer, and you’ll find hundreds of options featuring all sorts of oils, actives, and other credit card–tempting ingredients. Some people swear by its efficacy for hydrating and healing thirsty skin while others condemn face oil with fearmongering threats of congestion, clogged pores, breakouts, and more. So what are we to believe?

I’ll admit that for years I wouldn’t touch face oil with a 10-foot pole. I have sensitive, acne-prone skin, and I was as terrified of face oil as I am of spiders, heights, losing A.C. in 100-degree heat… You get the idea. But then, the tide started to change. I began talking to more and more dermatologists and facialists who told me face oil is largely misunderstood. In fact, pretty much every person with any type of skin can benefit from it. That said, there are some important caveats and things to know when shopping for the best face oil for your unique complexion. As with all skincare, face oils are not one size fits all, and there is some strategy and skill involved in choosing the right one.

To clear the muddled air surrounding face oils, and in order to gather more intel and advice on whether they’re the worthwhile investment the industry wants us to think they are, I reached out to two amazing experts: Sunday Riley, master formulator, CEO, and founder of her namesake skincare brand, and board-certified dermatologist Shari Sperling, DO. Keep scrolling for everything you ever wanted to know about face oil and to shop some of the best options for every skin type.

Are Face Oils a Truly Effective Way to Moisturize?

Yes, yes they are. That said, there is one *very important* caveat to this, which is the quality and formulation of the face oil you use. For instance, the oils hanging out in your kitchen cupboards or bodycare collection are (or should be) vastly different from what you’re putting on your face.

“Face oils are specifically formulated to sink in and moisturize without leaving an oily finish,” says Riley. “You might also find they have oil-soluble esters in them, which reduce the greasiness of the other oils and leave a very velvety, dry finish on the skin. Face oils are also one of my favorite ways to get oil-soluble actives, like retinoids, salicylic acid, or vitamin C esters, into the skin.”

Can Everyone and Every Skin Type Use and Benefit from Face Oils?

According to both Riley and Sperling, everyone can, indeed, use and reap the moisturizing benefits of face oils. But again, it comes down to using your oil correctly and choosing a formula catered toward your skin type or your major concerns. For example, someone with very dry skin probably won’t use the same oil as someone with very oily skin. And yes, even folks with oily skin can use face oil. The right mixture of ingredients can actually help stabilize and regulate the skin’s sebum production, which, in turn, will help curb excessive oiliness.

“Remember, applying a face oil should not make you produce more oil—quite the opposite,” Riley confirms. “If you have oily skin, look for an oil with oil-soluble esters, which help the oil to sink into the skin and disappear.”

But Won’t Face Oils Clog My Pores and Make Me Break Out?

Yes and no. High-quality, strategically formulated face oils should not clog your pores, but not every oil is suitable for your face or every skin type. Steer clear of highly comedogenic oils (like coconut oil), and mind how much oil you’re applying. A little goes a long way.

If you’re especially prone to grease or are worried about congestion and breakouts, however, Riley suggests looking for a face oil that contains an ingredient like salicylic acid that will dissolve the sticky, oily buildup loitering around your pores. (Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil, $80, is a great option.)

Of course, if you were to slather your body oil onto your face, it very well may result in clogged pores or a fresh set of blemishes. According to Riley, these types of products usually feature heavier oils that can be too much for the complexion to handle, ultimately trapping bacteria and leading to unwanted congestion.

What’s the Most Effective Way to Apply Face Oils?

As a rule, your face oil should pretty much always be the very last step in your routine since oils have a larger molecular size. If you apply it too early, anything you put on afterward won’t be able to penetrate the skin.

“An oil with active ingredients in it (like retinoids, vitamin C esters, or salicylic acid) is more like an oil serum, whereas a pure oil with ingredients like argan oil or jojoba oil is really just a nurturing moisturizer,” explains Riley. “I like to…



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