Beauty Tips and Tricks

Skin Care

Everything You Need to Know About Face Oils, Explained

13 Feb, 2018
By Daniela Massenz
Face oils have been around since Cleopatra was the It girl, and they've been super-hot property for the past few years - but not without controversy. We try to get a not-so-slippery/firm grip on the truth... the risks, rewards and which ones are best for your skin type.

The Pro and Anti camps are pretty vocal in their beliefs, and the truth (naturally!) is somewhere in between. We do our best to give you guidelines on the risks, rewards and the best oils for your specific skin, whether it be oily, acne prone, dry, aging or sensitive. Then it's up to you to choose...

Firstly, understand the basics.
  • Not all oils are the same. Their composition and texture determine which skin type can use them. And there’s a difference between essential oils and unscented fixed oils. Essential oils can be tricky when used on skin… if not used correctly, while fixed oils are very unlikely to cause any adverse reaction.
    • Essential oils are powerfully concentrated, volatile scented oils extracted from the flowers, leaves, seeds, bark, stem, fruit and roots of plants, such as rose, lavender, orange and sandalwood oils. Essential oils need to be diluted in a fixed/carrier oil before use.
    • Unscented fixed oils include jojoba, almond, argan, marula, olive, kukui, coconut, sunflower, and so on. These are full of nutrients like essential fatty acids and vitamins. Fixed oils can be used alone or as carrier/blending oils for essential oils.
  • Where they come from, what's in them and how they're made. As with any skincare, oil quality differs. Quality of raw ingredients, if other ingredients have been added, how they are treated when manufactured, all play a part in the quality and effectiveness of the treatment.
  • How you use them. Some treatments are better for certain skin conditions than others. So choose the correct ones to treat your skin needs and, in that way, hopefully avoid irritation and breakouts.

A Thorny Issue? What You Need to Know

Things are about to get a bit technical, but it's worth the effort to understand...
  • What are the risks?
    While we’re crushing big time on facial oils, there’s also been negative feedback, especially about those containing essential oils - from bloggers, skin-care professionals and even some scientific studies. Reading the contradicting arguments from both sides can be confusing, so we decided to speak to our own expert, respected cosmetics scientist John Knowlton, to give us a balanced view. 

    'The risk of any reaction on our skin from fixed oils (e.g. marula, olive, rosehip, borage oil) is negligible. However, essential oils, by their very nature, contain a lot of allergens. It makes sense that if many more people are using facial oils now, that there may be more adverse reactions', says Knowlton.

    But, if the manufacturers of the oils follow industry guidelines, the risk of a negative reaction is significantly reduced. He explains: ‘The amount of essential oil used in a product is important and this is strictly regulated. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) issues a toxicity threshold limit about the safe concentration levels for essential oils – above these limits, you shouldn’t go.’ Bergamot oil, for instance, is very beneficial, and safe – discloses Knowlton – ‘unless it is used above 0.2 percent toxicity level, when it can cause skin photosensitivity if exposed to the sun.’ 
  • So how do you know that the oil you're using is following the safety rules? 
    Knowlton advises, ‘Do your research about the brand and product ingredient list, and choose reputable brands that have scientifically based formulations’. This is especially important for face products.

    Another reassurance, he points out, is that allergens (ingredients known to potentially cause allergic reactions, such as limonene and linalool) have to be listed on the bottle if used in a concentration of over 0.01%. 

    Then, as with all substances, no substance is 100% guaranteed not to cause a reaction. ‘If you happen to be allergic to limonene, for instance, if you use lemon or orange oil (which contains it), you will get a reaction.’ 

    Bottom line - do your homework.
  • Do dilute!
    If you are going to use essential oils, they can’t be used neat - not even lavender or tea tree oil. 

    This is powerful stuff you’re dealing with here and, if you’re going to make your own blend, you need to use between 1 and 5 drops per tablespoon of a fixed carrier oil like sweet almond, jojoba, olive, etc. Dis-Chem has a pure sweet almond oil and Soil Pure Organic a jojoba oil in their ranges. 

    It’s easier than playing a guessing game with essential dosage in making up your own facial oil and risking irritation if you get it wrong, use a reputable, pre-mixed oil that has the right balance of ingredients, at the right dose.

    You can read up on recommended dosages and facial oil recipes online, but make sure the recipes come from reputable sources. If in any doubt, do a patch test, applying a dab of the mix on the skin behind your ear and wait for 24 hours to see the reaction. 
  • You're pregnant. Now what? 
    Some essential oils should be avoided completely during pregnancy, and some are safe. This site gives a good overview of both safe and to-be-avoided oils while you’re pregnant. 

The Best Oils for Your Skin Type

It could be a case of trial and error to find the right combo for you, which may seem daunting – it’s your face, right? But our suggestions should see you right.
  • Oily, combination and acne-prone skin

    While it may sound little strange, using a facial oil on oily skin shouldn’t cause a breakout; it can actually help balance your oil problem out. But it’s best to avoid oils like wheatgerm oil and oils that are solid at room temperature like coconut oil, which rank quite highly on the pore-blocking (comedogenic) rating. Look for oils with a low rating that are also rich in omega-6 linoleic acid, such as grapeseed oil or rosehip oil, which are light and easily absorbed, without feeling greasy.
    Readymade oils for oily skin: Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil contains pure rosemary and geranium oils, lotus extract on a base of nourishing hazelnut oil to rebalance and purify skin.
    Blending oils for oily skin: Jojoba oil’s molecules are very similar to the skin's natural protective sebum (oil), so it absorbs easily and feels lighter and less greasy than some other oils. Both Soil and Dis-Chem have jojoba oils in their ranges. Rosehip oil blended with tea tree oil helps exfoliate and deep clean the pores which is good for acne prone skin. Find both in the Soil range. Grapeseed, safflower and black cumin oils are also recommended.
    Essential oils for acne and oily skin: Rosemary, tea tree, lavender, lemongrass and thyme are useful for oily skin, research has shown. Big but: make sure you use them blended in the right dose or they could cause irritation. Try Thursday Plantation Tea Tree Oil or Soil Organic Essential Oils in tea tree, lavender and rosemary.
  • Dry/dehydrated skin

    Your dry and dehydrated skin will love just about any plant oil as it will help the skin maintain its moisture barrier to prevent moisture escaping.
    Readymade oils for dry skin: Payot Ultra Nourishing Silky Dry Oil with Oleo-Lipidic complex includes sweet almond virgin oil, raspberry seed oil, meadowfoam oil and vitamin E.
    Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil uses essential oils of sandalwood, cardamom, and lavender to soothe and comfort dry skin, along with hazelnut oil.
    Blending Oils for dry skin: If you want to reduce dryness, use oils like sweet almond, olive and avocado-based oils, which are oleic acid-rich. We recommend Dis-Chem Pure Base Oil - Sweet Almond and Soil Organic Carrier Oil – Avocado.
    Our own marula oil is brim-full of omega fatty acids and powerful antioxidants, so it’s a genius at hydrating and soothing dry and irritated skin, without being greasy. It’s perfectly suited to sensitive skin too.

    Essential oils for dry skin: Neroli and evening primrose essential oils, which must be diluted with one of the fixed carrier oils.

Read More. Want Glowing Skin? You Need to Exfoliate Like A Pro
  • To treat ageing and wrinkles

    We want to stimulate the natural regeneration process, help it against environmental stresses and visible damage sun damage as well as addressing loss of moisture in skin that’s showing signs of ageing.
    Cosmetics scientist John Knowlton recommends 'jasmine, neroli and rose essential oils. They are very beneficial for skin. Blackcurrant, borage and rosehip fixed carrier oils have excellent omega 3 and 6 fatty acid content, and other properties that will improve the skin’s barrier function.'
  • Readymade oils for aging skin:
    • L’Oréal’s Age Perfect Extraordinary Face Oil contains 8 essential oils known for their anti-ageing and anti-oxidant properties, including lavender, rosemary, geranium, rose and Roman camomile, as well as jojoba oil.
    • African Extracts Rooibos Advantage Daily Repair Facial Oil 30ml tackles dryness, sun damage and uneven skin tone with chamomile, jojoba seed oil, vitamin C, vitamin E, green rooibos, neem seed oil, olive squalene, geranium oil, rose oil and lavender.
    • Eucerin Elasticity + Filler Face Oil contains milk thistle oil, vitamin E and argan oil to improve elasticity, firm skin and support its natural resilience.
    • Busby Oils Natal Bon Liquid Gold Pure Tissue Oil 100ml contains 100% organic rosehip, avocado and grapeseed oils plus vitamin E.
    • Sh’zen PhytoExquisites Facial Essence uses rose, neroli and jasmine to stimulate, nourish, oxygenate and revitalise skin, while apricot oil hydrates, and rosehip, camellia, blackcurrant and baobab oils feed skin and help to minimise the appearance of fine lines.

    Blending oils for aging skin: Blackcurrant, borage and rosehip oils which are full of omega fatty acids. Rosehip oil is also rich in a form of vitamin A, which helps cell turn over and stimulates collagen production. Our pick is Soil’s Organic Rose Hip Oil. Argan oil is rich in anti-ageing polyphenol antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. Try Radha Argan Oil which is USDA Certified Organic and 100% Pure.

    Essential oils for aging skin: Jasmine, neroli and rose essential oils. Jasmine oil has long been used in skin care for its nourishing and healing properties, making it especially beneficial for dry (and sensitive) skin. Neroli is best known for calming and soothing irritated skin, but also contains powerful anti-aging antioxidants. Aside from its rich hydrating and moisturising properties, rose oil improves the skin’s tone and elasticity, making it look glowing and smooth. Try Windrose Rose Blend Oil.
  • Sensitive and reactive skin

    If your skin is sensitive or reactive, you need to know which oils can be tricky. Best to avoid citrus oils and warming oils like cinnamon, ginger, unless you know you will be able to get the right concentration in a carrier oil. When shopping, go for reputable brands that are 100% pure and preferably organic. 

    Readymade oils for sensitive skin: Victorian Garden Rosehip Healing Facial Oil from Faithful to Nature and Weleda Sensitive Skin Facial Oil, a blend of sweet almond oil with extract of fragile blackthorn blossom.

    Blending oils for sensitive skin: Use grapeseed oil as a carrier – try the one from Soil Organic Oils. Marula oil is also perfectly suited to sensitive skin. It’s full of omega fatty acids and powerful antioxidants, so is perfect for hydrating and soothing irritated skin.
    Essential oils for sensitive skin: Rose oil, extracted from rose petals, has rich nourishing, hydrating and soothing properties. Suitable for all skin types, particularly dry, sensitive, and combination. Our product pick is Windrose Rose Blend Oil. Geranium (from Windrose), lavender (Soil), chamomile (Soil) and sandalwood oils are recommended to calm inflammation.
  • Universal heroes:   

    Grape-seed oil is rich in antioxidants and linoleic acid. It won’t clog pores, and even the most sensitive skin can use it. Our pick is Soil Grape Seed Oil.
    Baobab oil, extracted from baobab seeds, is rich in vitamin D and omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Try Soil Organic Baobab Carrier Oil or Eco Products Baobab Oil.
    Olive oil. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil at your grocery store – look for First Cold Pressing on the label as it’s richest in antioxidants. It’s super-moisturising and rich in skin-essential polyphenols, squalene, and fatty acids.
    Local site, Still Pure, has pretty much every cold-pressed oil (fixed and essential) you need. Another well-known homegrown source is Faithful to Nature.

Read More. These Powerful Ingredients Are the Secret to A Better Skin

The ‘How-To’ of Face Oils

  • Use facial oils at change of season and to boost your moisture routine if your moisturizer just isn’t cutting it. Layer it on underneath, or mix a couple of drops in your moisture cream.
  • Where do they fit into your routine? Go from lightest to heaviest texture – cleanser, serum, oil, moisturiser or balm.
  • A pro tip: First hydrate your skin with a moisture mist such as a rosewater mist or mineral water spray (Uriage, Vichy, Avène, La Roche Posay) just before you slather on your face oil. Face mists we like: Sh’zen PhytoExquisites Floral Hydrating Mist and Argan Green Pure Rose Water Skin Toner.
  • Alternate facial oil with your face cream either at night or in the morning. 
  • You can put a drop or two in your foundation or BB Cream for an extra dewy skin.also 
  • With any oil, store them in a cool, dark place, and use them up within a few months, to prevent the oil becoming rancid with exposure to air.

Read More. The Best Serums Will Help You Reach Your Dream Skin (Yes, Really)

Cleansing with Oil

Oil cleansers are divine as they make your skin feel luxurious while cleaning it thoroughly of make-up, oil and dirt, because oil melts oil. This makes them great for oily skins, dry and dehydrated skin and sensitive skin. No more of a squeaky clean, tight feeling from a stripped moisture barrier, which can happen with harsh cleansers and soaps.
  • Good for acne-prone skin: Cherish Oil Cleanser for oily skins from Faithful to Nature contains grapeseed, jojoba, castor, apricot kernel, geranium and frankincense oils.
  • Good for all skins: Vichy Pureté Thermale Cleansing Oil is a cleanser/make-up remover that gently dissolve impurities. It contains Vichy spring water, vitamin E and nourishing camellia oil. Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil & Makeup Remover is also a good non-comedogenic option.

  • Good for dry and sensitive skin: Elizabeth Arden Ceramide Replenishing Cleansing Oil with emollient, antioxidant apricot, safflower and olive oils and repairs the skin’s barrier layer. The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil contains soothing camomile oil as well as soybean, sweet almond, sunflower and sesame seed oils to cleanse and remove make-up.

  • Good for very dry and eczema-prone skin: Avène Xera Calm Cleansing Oil for both the face and body. Contains synthetic oil and Avène Spring water.

There are hundreds of different oils out there so this is by no means an exhaustive list of the ones you can use. But their benefits to the skin, if used properly, can be so far reaching that it’s worth giving them a try to see what all the hype is about – even if you start off with just a cleansing oil (which BTW is one of the big beauty trends of 2018). 

We are huge fans of oils – they’re an essential part of our daily regimens. Maybe it’s time...

Read More. How to Multi Mask to Really Improve Your Skin's Healthy Glow

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Bon Liquid Gold Pure Tissue Oil

Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil

Dis-Chem Pure Base Oil - Jojoba

Dis-Chem Pure Base Oil - Sweet Almond

Soil Organic Carrier Oil - Rose Hip

Soil Organic Essential Oil - Tea Tree

African Extracts Rooibos Daily Repair Facial Oil

Avene Xera Calm Lipid Replenishing Cleansing Oil

Payot Nourishing Silky Dry Oil

Thursday Plantation 100% Pure Tea Tree Oil

Vichy Pureté Thermale Beautifying Cleansing Micellar Oil
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