The 7 Best Oils to Add to Your Skincare Routine
With olive oil popping up in countless skin and hair care products, you have to wonder if it’s easier to just smear the oil directly on your skin and hair to save a bit of money. And it may be more effective, too, since it’s more concentrated.
This is what I do. Each night, I apply a healthy dose all over my face with the hopes that I won’t ever see a new fine line or loose patch of skin again. I’ve also used hemp oil directly on my skin, which I find equally effective at moisturizing.
But each night, I wonder if the olive oil is really working (though it seems to be), and I worry that I might be disrupting my skin’s natural moisture content by using it so often.
It’s not like I’ve consulted a professional about it.
Would it be better to drop far more cash on formulated products? Or is that even necessary?
“Many women use oils exclusively and have beautiful complexions,” says Stacey Shillington, N.D., a naturopathic doctor who specializes in the treatment of skin and hair. “I think it is absolutely possible.”
But despite their touted benefits, natural oils might present problems for people who have acne-prone skin.
“If a patient has fungal acne I would suggest they avoid all oils, as the yeast that causes fungal acne actually feeds off oil,” says Shillington. “My favorite oils for non-fungal acne are jojoba oil or argan oil.”
If you’ve ever wondered what the many natural oils out there can do for your skin, we’ve done our research for you.
Many natural oils that help keep your skin hydrated and protected from cellular damage have same properties, specifically fatty acids like oleic and linoleic acids, as well as antioxidants, including vitamins A, C, E, and K.
Despite these similarities, there are still a few differences between each oil. Check out the below list details on each one.
Argan oil hair products have been all the rage in recent years given their ability to keep hair silky and smooth, without any frizz. But this oil has a demonstrated ability to increase elasticity in the skin.
What gives argan oil its anti-aging power is its high concentration of vitamin E, as well as fatty acids and antioxidants. It’s a light oil that can penetrate deep into the skin, and given its lighter texture, it is useful on many different skin types.
To use, you can add a few drops to your daily moisturizer, or just add a few drops directly to your skin.
“I think simple oils can be a great addition to moisturizing routines. For moisturizing the face, I recommend oils like argan and hemp seed oil,” says Antonia Balfour, Founder of Yin Yang Dermatology in Pacific Palisades, California.
Balfour is an herbalist and acupuncturist who specializes in the holistic treatment of skin disorders using traditional Chinese medicine.
“For the body, oils like coconut oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil are great choices.”
Studies have shown that avocado oil has similar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as olive oil, which stems from high concentrations of vitamins A, C, and E, along with strong concentrations of polyunsaturated fatty acids like linoleic acid, and monounsaturated fatty acids, including oleic acid.
“For anti-aging, my first choice would be avocado oil. It’s rich in vitamins and omega 3 fatty acids and benefits dry skin,” says Balfour. “The nourishing and hydrating properties of avocado oil can be a great addition to a moisturizing routine, particularly for mature skin.”
But there are some studies that point to its beneficial qualities. A 2001 study from the journal Dermatology found that vitamin B-12 cream that included avocado oil helped relieve symptoms of psoriasis. And a 2013 study found that it could help with wound healing.
Though the research on anti-aging benefits is still limited, the vitamins and fatty acids present in the oil have been proven to have anti-aging effects by strengthening collagen.
Unlike many oils on this list, coconut oil is high in saturated fats, not unsaturated fats. It contains the saturated fatty acids capric, caprylic, and lauric acid, which can help prevent and heal microbial (bacterial) infections, including acne.
It also has a lower molecular weight than other oils, but not as low as rosehip oil or argan oil. Its viscosity can help it penetrate the skin well, but some people might not appreciate the heavy feel of it on the skin.
Your best bet is to try it out and see how it feels and how you respond to it. Still, it has powerful moisturizing and anti-aging benefits, thanks to its fatty acids and its vitamin E and K content.
Hemp Seed Oil
Though derived from the marijuana plant, hemp seed oil is not a cannabinoid, so it isn’t the same thing as CBD oil. It’s made from crushing the seeds (technically nuts) of the cannabis sativa plant.
The same properties that give most of the above oils their anti-aging and hydrating power are also found in hemp seed oil, including linoleic acid and vitamin E.
But the real power in hemp seed oil lies in its ratio omega fatty acids, namely a three to one ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, which is very similar to the ratio naturally found in our bodies. This makes it an exceptional oil to use to rejuvenate the skin.
It’s been proven to help ease symptoms of eczema on patients, and, as with most oils on this list, can penetrate through the outer skin layer deep into the epidermis, which gives it potent moisturizing effects.
Of all the oils on this list, jojoba oil is one that’s often talked about and included in skincare products. It has many powerful benefits, including the capacity to soothe irritated skin due to its anti-inflammatory properties, which result from its high volume of liquid wax.
Jojoba oil creates an oily barrier on the skin, trapping moisture inside the deeper layers, which keeps skin hydrated. If you want to stave off wrinkles and sagging skin, you have to keep your skin hydrated on a regular basis. Jojoba oil also contains antioxidants vitamin A, D, and E, along with omega 6 and 9 acids, which can prevent cellular damage in the skin.
You can apply a few drops of this oil directly on the skin as it’s a light oil, one that the skin actually detects as its own sebum.
Legend has it that Cleopatra was a big fan of olive oil to keep a radiant, youthful appearance, and many plastic surgeons and dermatologists have lauded its antioxidant and moisturizing powers. Given it’s included in so many products, it’s easy to assume it’s safe and effective at moisturizing the skin.
This isn’t necessarily true — studies have been mixed.
A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatric Dermatology found that regular use of olive oil damaged the skin barrier over time, resulting in thinner skin and a loss of moisture, so both you and I may want to use other oils to decrease signs of aging.
“My favorite oils for anti-aging are rosehip seed oil and argan oil,” says Shillington. “Some women find that olive oil and coconut oil are good for anti-aging as well, but they have a high molecular weight and can contribute to breakouts in some women.”
Because olive oil has high amounts of the antioxidant oleic acid, it’s often touted as a powerful anti-aging and moisturizing oil. Though there may be anecdotal data that shows its moisturizing power — my face always feels uber hydrated when I use it — the study shows that it can seep deep into skin tissue, thereby moisturizing, but it also dehydrates the skin’s upper layers.
The fatty acids in olive oil, which include oleic, palmitic, and linoleic acid are thought to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and its shown to reduce rates of dermatitis among patients receiving radiation treatment.
Olive oil’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers have been proven safe and effective when consumed as opposed to topical application. So if you want to err on the safe side, just drizzle some onto your salad instead of smearing it on your skin.
Rose hip Oil
Similar to the above oils, rosehip oil is full of antioxidants, fatty acids, and vitamins A and C, which rejuvenates the skin.
In addition to using a few drops on your skin, you can take rosehip powder, which has proven to reduce crows feet and have other anti-aging benefits, including an increase in skin elasticity and a decrease in wrinkle formation. Taking rosehip powder was also proven to block the breakdown of collagen.
Rosehip oil is also rich in polyphenols (plant chemicals that act as antioxidants), and the antioxidant anthocyanin, which gives blueberries their superfood powers. It has anti-inflammatory properties and can protect the skin from cellular damage, which results in wrinkles and a loss of skin elasticity.
Rosehip oil can also aid in the fading of scars and prevent sun damage.
Sunflower oil might not sound as sexy argan, rosehip, or hemp seed oil, but it’s actually a powerhouse when it comes to skin regeneration.
“Sunflower oil can be highly beneficial for people with sensitive skin when the skin is reactive and prone to inflammation,” says Balfour. “It is one of my favorite oils for patients with eczema that is dry in nature.”
A 2003 study found sunflower oil strengthened the skin barrier in infants. The health of our skin barrier is vital to protect us from all kinds of pathogens as well as to keep our skin looking young and healthy.
As with most of the oils on this list, sunflower oil is also loaded with vitamin E and linoleic acid, which improves moisture and also may have an antimicrobial effect, preventing acne and other skin infections.
Since sunflower oil isn’t the new, hottest trend, it might be tougher to find skincare products with it listed as an ingredient. Don’t be shy to just use a few drops on your face before bed and allow it to work its magic overnight.
So, what oil is best for you?
Given the similarities between these oils, it can be tough to decide which ones are best for your skin. Ideally, you’d see either a dermatologist or naturopathic doctor to help you decide, but since most are relatively harmless, you can try them out for yourself and see which ones you prefer.
Some are oilier than others, some may or may not irritate your skin, and though many have anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities, it’s best to speak to a dermatologist for sure if you have acne-prone skin.
“If you are not prone to acne, it is totally fine to use these oils on your skin,” says Shillington.
Either way, they offer a reasonably priced and simple supplement to your skincare regime and are especially great to use before bed to help keep your skin moist throughout the evening. They’re also great to use on the stubbornly dry parts of your skin, such as elbows, knees, and cuticles.
As for me, I’m going to drop the olive oil for now and switch to argan oil or hemp oil, just to be safe.
Tracy Chabala’s personal essays and journalism have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, VICE, Motherboard, Salon, and other publications. She holds an MFA in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. Twitter: @TracyAChabala
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The 12 Best Skin-Loving Vitamin E Oils
Find the glow-boosting Vitamin E formula that’s right for your skin type.
Getting your daily vitamins is always important, and that’s true for your skin too. Vitamin E (a.k.a. tocopherol) is an antioxidant with major skincare benefits—in addition to nourishing dry skin, it also helps protect against sun damage. Because it’s fat-soluble, vitamin E is often seen in oil form, for both the face and body. Read on to find the glow-boosting formula that’s right for you, based on your skin’s needs.
In addition to its fast-absorbing, nourishing, multi-purpose properties, argan oil is also rich in vitamin E. (The light variety is especially nice for the face.)
Part powerful serum, part hydrating oil, this vitamin-E-packed bottle does it all (while you sleep, no less).
This three-ingredient moisturizing face oil also contains antioxidant-rich camelina oil, and is great for distressed, dry complexions.
Vitamin E and squalane help nourish skin, while skin-clearing blue tansy works its magic on acne. (Yes, you read that right—a face oil for acne-prone skin!)
You don’t have to be a mom to appreciate this blend of vitamin E, almond, and lemon oils that helps to soften and smooth skin.
This dry body oil smells like ylang-ylang and comes in a handy spray bottle so you can apply it quickly each morning.
Coconut oil meets vitamin E, squalane, and avocado oil in this rich, dew-enhancing blend.
This celebrity-favorite (Kim Kardashian West has called it “lifesaver” for stretch marks during pregnancy) is said to help fade the appearance of scars too.
A rich emulsion of vitamin E and sesame, sweet almond, olive, and jojoba oils is ideal for dry complexions. and has added essential oils for a soothing—but not overpowering—finish.
This new launch from the super-chill brand combines vitamin E-rich grapeseed oil with a (serious) hit of restorative, non-psychoactive CBD. Apply it on your skin or place a few drops under your tongue to feel a little more relaxed.
Like a multi-vitamin for your face, this clean oil also contains ultra-hydrating squalane and avocado oil, as well as anti-aging rosehip oil.
Rosehip oil, omega fatty acids, and vitamin E combine forces to reveal a dewy, bright, youthful glow.