If the word oil throws you off, we get it. Maybe it’s because the idea of putting oil on, say, your acne-prone face seems certifiably insane (it isn’t), or maybe your skin is so sensitive you think you can’t use an oil (you can), or maybe you just think the whole concept of face oils is too confusing for your low-maintenance needs (it definitely is not).
Whatever the reason, we're here to shout from the rooftops that face oil is the one product that can actually treat your skin issues, while giving you the bright, glowy, clear face of your dreams. And yes, every single skin type can use it (according to me, your derm, and your derm's derm). So to prove it to you—and to give you zero further excuses to forego an oil-filled life—we broke down the very best face oils for your oily, sensitive, dry, broken-out, and, yes, even your "normal" skin ahead. Better still, celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau walks us through exactly how to use them for maximum glow.
It sounds counterintuitive, but the right oil can not only act as an astringent to rid your face of excess grease, but will also help stabilize and regulate your skin’s sebum production (i.e. your natural skin oil) to make you less oily overall. And let's get the whole texture issue out of the way: because of their different molecular weights, many oils feel more like a serum or essence so you're not stuck feeling sebum-ridden.
Rouleau suggests sealing in moisture and using the oil as a last step, after moisturizing. "When you use a moisturizer for oily skin, it’s generally lightweight and oil-free so you want these ingredients to absorb into the skin first to avoid any potential blocking or clogging of the pores. Then, you can add a protective layer of oil over your moisturizer to prevent water loss."
What to Use:
Not only is jojoba an incredibly lightweight and breathable oil (making it great for combination skin that still needs some moisture), but, because jojoba actually breaks down and dissolves sebum, it'll also help control your shine.
Grape Seed Oil
If your skin is incredibly oily—as in, you’ve never once felt a dry patch on your face—opt for grape seed oil. It’s a natural astringent (and a bit more drying than jojoba oil), so it’ll help mattify your skin.
You’d think that any face oil would automatically be a Cupid-level match for dry skin, but, like all things in beauty, it’s not that simple. Some oils are naturally more astringent and lightweight than others (like jojoba, grape seed, and pomegranate oil), so drier types want to use a rich oil that’s high in oleic acid—a fatty acid that helps condition skin, lock in moisture, and reduce irritation from dryness.
"Mix 3-5 drops directly in with your nighttime moisturizer, and apply to both the face and neck. You can also smooth over your moisturizer to provide a protective barrier to prevent dry air from pulling moisture out from the skin," says Rouleau.
What to Use:
It’s intensely hydrating and simple and gentle enough for anyone with eczema, dermatitis, or just really, really dry skin. It’s also incredibly high in vitamin A (i.e. the stuff retinol comes from), giving it some line-smoothing and zit-fighting power when used topically over time.
This oil manages to absorb into skin within a few minutes of massaging it on, yet it’s still rich enough to moisturize and calm your dry skin all day—or night—long (thanks to a heavy dose of fatty acids).
What if I told you the key to reducing your breakouts is to slather your face with oil? Too late—that’s exactly what I’m telling you. Most acne treatments on the market are filled with irritating ingredients that strip your skin of natural oils. When your skin is dry and inflamed, it overproduces sebum, leading to pimples and blackheads. Acne-safe face oils, however, work to nourish your skin, so your body can heal the zits you have without causing more. Kill ‘em with kindness, right?
Rouleau suggests following the same routine as for oily skin, as a last step. If you’re still terrified an oil will worsen your skin, try patch-testing one on the most acne-prone area of your face (it’ll be the most reactive spot, and therefore the most accurate) for a week to see what happens. If your skin doesn't break out (any more than usual, anyway), massage a few drops of oil over your skin at the end of your skincare routine at night.
What to Use:
Not only is it naturally antibacterial and anti-inflammatory (so it’ll help fight zit-causing bacteria in your pores while also calming the rest of your inflamed, broken-out skin), but it’s also incredibly lightweight, so it won’t feel like a greasy mask.
When you want to treat irritated, angry, red, zit-riddled skin, you bring in the big guns—i.e. rosehip oil. The innocuous oil deeply hydrates skin (without suffocating your pores) with fatty acids that also fade acne scars and reduce redness. (Don't believe me? This woman went viral for clearing her acne with rosehip oil in only three weeks.)
If you don’t really break out, you’re not super dry, definitely not too oily, probably not sensitive, and your answer to every skincare question is, “Uhh, maybe? I don’t think so...” Then congrats! You have perfectly average, “normal,” I-hate-you-worthy skin. Which means you can use a basic, OG face oil without having to worrying about clogged pores, irritation, or dryness.
"Normal skin is less dry, so less of the oil is needed, compared to a dry skin type," says Rouleau. Try mixing in 2-3 drops into your nighttime moisturizer. Another hot tip from the glow queen: never mix in oil with a sunscreen/moisturizer hybrid, no matter what type of skin you have. "A sunscreen moisturizer is an FDA-approved product and thoroughly tested to ensure that the SPF number listed on the bottle or jar is truly giving protection from damaging UV rays. If you alter its original formula by mixing in an oil, you cannot be confident that you’re getting adequate benefit to prevent wrinkles, brown spots and skin cancer," she specifies.
What to Use:
Meet the only face oil you’ll ever need for your perfectly chill face. It’s rich and soothing, it sinks in quickly, and it’s incredibly high in vitamin E—an antioxidant that helps prevent skin damage, dark spots, and fine lines by blocking environmental damage. Massage it on in the morning or night (or both!) as the final step of your skincare routine.
Okay, fine, this isn't actually a type of oil, but I know how you normies are—you want to see results, or you won't stick with the product. Welp, a gentle retinol-spiked oil will brighten your tone, clear your breakouts, smooth your bumps, and hydrate your skin, all without hardcore irritating your face.
Use one every other night after moisturizing, and if you don't actually use a moisturizer, go get a hydrating one ASAP, since retinols can slowly dry your skin out, leading to legit skin issues.
If you have sensitive skin, you need a face oil specifically designed to wrap your skin barrier in a soothing, nourishing, coddling hug. And that means finding a formula that’s bland, bland, bland, with absolutely zero essential oils—like lavender, peppermint, and rose—which tend to only irritate sensitive skin.
Whichever oil you choose, patch test it first (dab it below your ear near your jaw) and wait 24 hours to check for a reaction. If your skin seems happy, you can massage it on in the morning, at night, or both, as the last step of your skincare routine.
What to Use:
This overachieving oil is packed with antioxidants (to protect your skin from irritating free radicals), fatty acids (to help repair a dry, damaged skin barrier), and anti-inflammatories (to calm irritated skin). It’s also lightweight, yet still moisturizing enough for dry skin, so you can easily layer it under makeup without creating a gunky mess.
Aloe Vera Oil
Just like moringa oil, aloe oil is filled with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants, but it also has the added bonus of being a natural antibacterial and astringent, making it a powerhouse for sensitive skin that’s also oily or acne-prone.