Every year, there comes a point when the charm of winter has worn off and you just want to be warm and hydrated. Face oils are a soothing, skin-nourishing treat at any time of year, but it depends which oil you use. It may be counterintuitive, but some oils are actually great for oily and acne-prone skin. On the other hand, the wrong oils can clog pores — or just sit on top of your skin, leaving you with more of an oil-slick look than that dewy glow you’re going for.
Face oils, serums, and oil-based moisturizers
Contrary to popular belief, most oils are well-tolerated on acne-prone skin. For example, mineral oil is usually fine. Many oils used in skincare are loaded with skin-nourishers such as omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. In fact, acne has been associated with low levels of essential fatty acids (EFAs) in some studies, so smoothing the right oil on your face can benefit your skin beyond the pampering, treat-yo-self experience.
Start with an oil underneath your moisturizer or sunscreen to make sure your skin really soaks in all the goodness and glows all day.
Oils your skin will love
Here’s a list — in no particular order, and by no means complete — of oils that are non-comedogenic and popularly used for skin treatments. You can find combinations of these in face oils and serums that can hydrate and infuse your skin with essential fatty acids and beneficial nutrients.
A popular ingredient in face oils and serums, jojoba oil has been shown to be a great carrier oil with anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used as a cleansing oil or moisturizing treatment that might help with acne, redness, and irritation all in one. Desert Essence Jojoba Oil is available at many stores. It’s also a key ingredient in face oil blends and serums, such as Sangre de Fruta Solis balancing serum.
Rich in omega-9 and -6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamin C, marula oil helps restore skin’s suppleness without clogging pores. The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil is available at $9.90 per 30ml bottle. Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil is also a popular option, available at Sephora and other beauty stores.
Distilled from the small white flowers of the bitter orange tree, neroli oil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s great for acne-prone as well as dry or aging skin — it’s thought to be beneficial for scars, stretch marks, and wrinkles. For one example, African Botanics Neroli Infused Marula Oil is a blend that’s packed with vitamin E, vitamin C, and essential fatty acids, and won’t clog pores.
Red raspberry seed oil
Another essential oil known for its anti-inflammatory properties, red raspberry seed oil contains essential fatty acids omega-3, -6, and -9, as well as vitamin E. It’s found, for example, in Sunday Riley JUNO Antioxidant + Superfood Face Oil.
Rosehip seed oil
Packed with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, rose hip oil provides anti-inflammatory effects, which can help improve acne. It’s found in many face oils, but you can get it on its own and add a drop or two to your everyday moisturizer for extra hydration. The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is available at stores such as Sephora for about $9.80 per 30ml bottle.
Hemp seed oil
With a combination of omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acids, hemp seed oil is another anti-inflammatory ally that’s non-comedogenic, too — meaning it’s safe for acne-prone skin. It may even help balance your skin’s oil production. You can buy hemp seed oil online at Amazon and even in stores like Whole Foods Market.
Meadowfoam seed oil
Made from a flower native to Northern California and Oregon, meadowfoam seed oil is lightweight, non-comedogenic, and sinks right into the skin. It’s great at locking in moisture, leaving skin supple, glowy, and hydrated. It’s an effective carrier oils as well, used in serums such as Sangre de Fruta Solis balancing serum.
Sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties: it’s rich in anti-inflammatory omega fatty acids, including omega-3, -6, -9, and -7. A 2010 study of sea buckthorn fruit extract applied as a cream showed a decline in sebum (oil) production — this may point to some anti-acne benefit separate from fighting inflammation. It may be helpful for inflammatory skin conditions like acne, rosacea, and eczema.
Sweet almond oil
Rich in vitamin E, vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants, sweet almond oil is a lightweight skin-food made by pressing almonds. It’s also believed to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, so it can work well for acne-prone skin. You can cook with it, too — as long as you’re not allergic to almonds!
Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil is a source of gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acid, which has an anti-inflammatory effect. Any decrease in inflammation would conceivably help with acne!
Rich in vitamin E, carotenes, squalene, and antioxidants, argan oil is a popular choice for hydrating and nourishing skin and hair. It doesn’t appear to clog pores, so it seems to be a good choice for acne-prone skin.
Avocado oil is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin E, A, and D, and several nutrients — it’s like avocado toast, but for your face. It’s deeply nourishing for hair, too (smooth it on your split-ends!). It’s got a richer texture than some other oils, so this one is great for dry and acne-prone skin types.
Tea tree oil: great in moderation
Tea tree leaf oil has anti-inflammatory properties, and also acts as an antifungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and astringent agent. This makes it helpful in treating acne and seborrheic dermatitis. You can usually find tea tree oil in the skincare aisle at your local drugstore. Just remember that tea tree oil can be very harsh and irritating to the skin if it isn’t diluted with a carrier oil (sunflower, castor, jojoba, or hemp oil are good choices!), so you don’t want to apply pure tea tree oil directly to your skin.
As a rule of thumb, 1 part of pure tea tree oil should be diluted with 3 parts of a carrier oil. For example, 1 drop of tea tree oil can be added to 3 drops of jojoba oil before applying the mixture to the skin.
Tea tree is included in skincare products to help keep pores clear, and can even treat and prevent ingrown hairs in men’s beards. It’s also found in Fur Oil, which was designed to help prevent ingrown hairs in the beard area as well as the bikini area.
🚫 Pore-clogging oils to avoid 🚫
We know we’re sounding like a broken record by now, but ICYMI, coconut oil is one you want to avoid. Also called “cocos nucifera oil” in some ingredients lists, coconut oil is a culprit in clogged pores and acne, and is used in many skincare products.
Wheat germ oil can also clog pores, so we recommend avoiding that one as well. It’s found in products such as Dr. Hauschka Clarifying Day Oil, so be sure to look out for this pore offender in the ingredients label of any oil-based products you consider using.
Labels can be misleading, so be sure to read the ingredients list on any skincare product before you use it. Even easier: you can always use CosDNA.com to check the Acne and Irritation ratings for any product. Check out our easy how-to guide!
A little drop will do ya
Face oils can feel like a luxurious way to pamper your skin, especially in the winter. The downside is that they can cost a pretty penny. Just remember: a little oil goes a long way! One small bottle can last up to 6 months if you only use a few drops at a time, which is typically the recommended amount.
As a somewhat less expensive alternative, some people buy vials of oils they like for their skin and make their own blend at home. Just remember, essential oils can have an expiration date. Face oils and serums that come in opaque containers (such as “ultra violet glass”) maintain their properties longer since their contents are protected from light exposure.
Think you might be allergic to essential oils?
Essential oils could irritate your skin if you’re allergic to the plants they’re extracted from. We recommend doing a patch test on your skin (such as on your inner forearm) before using them on your face to make sure you won’t have an allergic reaction.
Yep, you can use oils with Curology
Got the Curology set? If your skin feels in need of extra hydration, you can smooth on 2–3 drops of face oil or oil-based serum underneath your Curology moisturizer to give dry skin a well-deserved boost. At night, you can try an oil or serum before applying your custom Curology cream for an overnight hydration sensation.
New to Curology? Sign up for a free trial to get your first superbottle on us.