The name alone implies an other worldly glow. But finding the right facial oil for your skin type has historically been the Rubik’s cube of beauty.
The good news is, sometime over the past few years, face oils ceased to be of the snake variety. They shrugged off their bad reputation as pore-clogging and spot-causing and became cleaner, more refined and, in some cases, a delivery system for high-tech ingredients.
Here, we call on the experts to reveal how they should best be applied by different skin types...
What is a face oil, and what does it do?
Sound the myth-busting klaxon. Contrary to popular belief, face oils are not moisturisers.
Even the best face oils are not humectants so can’t actually hydrate the skin. What’s more, the fatty acid molecules that make up an oil are too big to skink into the skin.
Instead, they act as a good occlusive barrier to help protect the skin.
‘Face oils are effective at preventing water loss when they sit on top of the skin,’ explains aesthetic doctor Dr Barbara Sturm.
How do you use the best face oils?
The occlusive nature of a face oil means you should apply it as the last step in your skincare routine. For example, an oil applied over the top of a hyaluronic acid serum will seal all that water-attracting goodness into your skin cells.
Dermatologist David Colbert, founder of Colbert MD Skincare, also highlights the benefits of using an oil alongside your anti-ageing night cream.
‘Oil molecules behave like tiny Trojan horses. They trick the skin into letting active ingredients deeper into the skin,’ he says.
Stem cell scientist Professor Augustinus Bader has created one of the most high-tech oils on the market right now. The Face Oil is designed to be either applied on top of, or blended with, The Cream.
To turbo charge the results and add another layer of comfort to dry skin, he has bedded his famous TCF8 complex (vitamins and amino acids) among several cold-pressed oils and other botanicals.
The Face Oil provides added nourishment from lightweight grapeseed oil; babassu oil, which is high in anti-inflammatory lauric acid and licorice root extract, which can help reduce skin pigmentation.
Is putting oil on your face good?
When you consider you skin’s moisture levels and protective barrier become compromised after the age of 30, the benefits of a face oil extend beyond just a pretty glow.
Drier skin literally feeds off heavier oils - particularly ones rich in fatty acids and oleic acid, like marula oil.
The debate surrounding oils for oily skin, however, is still raging. The overriding advice remains, approach with caution.
But, according to Kiehls, blemish-prone skins don't need to avoid all oil completely.
The Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate contains hemp seed oil, known to be an anti-inflammatory, as well as green oregano oil, which was traditionally used as an antiseptic. All of which makes it ideal for keeping breakouts under control.
Best face oils for dry skin
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Facial Oil, Cult Beauty
Drunk Elephant's offering is so lightweight that you'll barely realise it's an oil. The cold-pressed formula is nourishing enough for dry skin and is naturally antimicrobial to reduce redness for an all-round smoother complexion.
Best face oils for glowing skin
Augustinus Bader The Face Oil, Space NK
According to Bader, his patented TCF8 complex acts like a 'skin GPS', steering the vitamins and amino acids to where they are needed to regenerate skin cells. Add in moisture-locking oils, and it's no wonder this face oil keeps selling out.
Best face oils for oily skin
Kiehl’s Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate, Space NK
Hemp seed and oregano oils are ideal for soothing skin when it freaks out. Even better, the formula is non-comedogenic, and so light that it almost doesn’t feel like anything on your skin.
Read on to see more of Marie Claire's favourite face oil buys...
More of the best face oils for dry, sensitive and oily skin
Developed to speed up blemish recovery time, salicylic acid unclogs pores while tamanu oil calms and reduces redness. As an oil, the quicker pace of the healing process isn’t compromised by the dryness and irritation so often associated with traditional spot products.
This oil combines mega moisturiser squalane alongside rose extracts and oil-soluable vitamin C to leave your complexion pillowy soft with a brighter tone.
Packed with the goodness of broccoli, radish and flax seeds, it's a good all-rounder and a hit with vegan beauty lovers.
Blue orchid, geranium and lotus work to purify and balance sebum levels, while hazelnut oil seals in moisture. Sponsored
When you squeeze it out of the pipette it's incredibly fluid - a testament to how lightweight this oil actually is. Even oily skin will lap it up thanks to a 1.5% concentration of salicylic acid to help decongest pores.
Suffering from stressed out, 'meh' skin? Cannabidiol - aka CBD - is a naturally-occurring and completely legal compound in hemp plants that can take down code red inflammation. This dry oil combines the benefits of hydrating hemp seed oil with CBD oil to soothe away dullness and dehydration. Plus it's made from 99.9% natural origin ingredients. Win-win.
Darphin's range of Aromatic Care makes the link between stress and skin. It covers all bases, from the calming scent of chamomile to the more uplifting tangerine and Orange Blossom. One of our favourites is this soothing Rose option.
Lightly scented with the heavenly aroma of Rose Otto, this concentrated oil packs an anti-ageing punch with essential fatty acids and antioxidant vitamin C.
Moringa Balm fans, meet your new Emma Hardie obsession. Grape seed and apricot oils calm things down when redness flares up while the light-reflecting finish is a nice touch, especially when mixed into your day cream.
Pumped full of potent botanicals - 22 to be exact - it pretty much works on every skin concern you can think of. It helps with loss of elasticity, pigmentation, hydration, fine lines, luminosity. Basically, the whole role call of skin complaints for 30 plus skin.
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Fiona Embleton has been a beauty editor for over 10 years, writing and editing beauty copy and testing over 10,000 products. She has previously worked for magazines like Marie Claire, Stylist, Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health. Beauty journalism allowed her to marry up her first class degree in English Literature and Language (she’s a stickler for grammar and a self-confessed ingredients geek) with a passion for make-up and skincare, photography and catwalk trends.
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