Is there a purpose and benefit of using a face oil in your routine? The answer is yes.
Skin care products can contain mineral oils, plant oils or both. A mineral oil is petroleum-based and does not absorb into the skin. Instead, it just forms a barrier that keeps in water. Plant oils can be absorbed into the skin. Emulsions (mixtures of oil and water) will penetrate further into the skin by having both oil and water loving properties, just like the cells of our skin, and can provide water to the skin.
The concept behind the oil cleansing method (OCM) is that ‘like dissolves like’. If you put oil onto your skin, it will easily mix with and help pull out the oils, dirt and grease that have accumulated on your skin. The process of oil cleansing involves splashing your face with warm water, applying small amount of the oil-based cleanser to your face, massaging your face with it to collect the buildup, then wiping your face with a very warm wash cloth. This is often repeated multiple times. Finishing with that warm water melts the mixture of oils and dirt making them easier to wipe off.
Pro-tip: mix your favorite face oil with your moisturizer for added hydration during the winter months.
Typically, we all need more skin hydration in the winter months than the summer months. The problem with facial oils is they typically do not penetrate into the skin as well as emulsions. Often in the summer, a face oil will be enough but in the winter, I have people blend their favorite face oil into their favorite heavy face cream.
Will putting oil on oily skin make it oilier? It depends.
Yes, it is true in the most literal sense, you are making your skin oily because of the application of the oil. But your face is making oil to hydrate and protect your skin all day. What it comes down to is what type of oil you are using. Oilier skin should use lighter, less saturated oils to prevent clogged pores.
Regarding oil cleansing, it comes down to how good of a job you do removing the cleansing oil after washing your face. Because like dissolves like, when you remove the cleansing oil, you will also be removing some of your natural oils, which can be a great thing for oily skin, but often this needs to be followed with another cleansing step.
If you have oily skin, how should you use an oil in your routine? What to look for and avoid in a formula.
There’s no scientific data about specific benefits seen when using specific oils. What we do know is the higher the saturated fat in the oil, the heavier or oilier it will feel on the skin. For example, olive oil is made up of about 15% saturated, and 85% unsaturated fatty acids while coconut is about 85% saturated, and 15% unsaturated fatty acids. For oilier skin, coconut oil is NOT a good choice. The size of the molecule can also play a role, with larger molecules sitting on the top of the skin while smaller molecules will better penetrate.
Even though they smell divine, avoid fragrant oils (rosemary, lavender, citrus) because they contain compounds that can irritate skin. For example, lemon oil can increase a person’s photosensitivity.
Is it true that the smaller the molecule size in the oil, the faster it penetrates the skin? And that means there’s no greasy residue?
Yes, our skin is remarkably good at keeping things out. Smaller molecules do penetrate the skin better than larger molecules. However, sometimes larger molecules are good too because they sit on the top layer of the skin and protect it from drying out.
If you have oily skin should you be using an oil that’s non-comedogenic? What common face oils are non-comedogenic?
The Comedogenic List and its Rating does an excellent job outlining which oils are least and most likely to clog pores. As a general rule, avoid oils high in saturated fats such as coconut oil, coconut butter, flax seed oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.
Is it true that face oils can “balance” your skin and make it less oily?
It is true that if your skin is healthy with an intact skin barrier that it will be more balanced. That does not happen just because you are using an oil on your skin. We have growing evidence that over-cleansing and over-exfoliating our skin changes its pH which in turns changes the ratio of organisms living on our skin that make up our biome. Everyone’s skin is unique with different needs and our skin changes as we age. The goal is to give our skin more of what it needs and less of what could hurt it through irritating ingredients or trauma from exfoliation. This is why all my Doctor Rogers RESTORE products only have hypoallergenic, plant-based ingredients. Everything in them is serving a specific purpose to help your skin stay healthy and strong. Oil is one part of that.
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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.