People all over the world have been using plant-based oils to keep their hair, skin, and nails healthy and nourished since the days of Cleopatra (
no, seriously). But somewhere in between then and now, the once-prized oils — rose, argan, jojoba, even argan — became the focus of a smear campaign blaming them for breakouts and clogged pores, and an oil-free ingredients list became a selling point. We know now that oil is not the enemy; in fact, it’s an essential.
“The skin’s natural oil production decreases as we age, causing the moisture barrier to break down,” explains Noella Gabriel, beauty expert and co-founder of luxe skin-care brand
Elemis. When water is lost, the skin dries out, which can lead to both dehydration and increased oil production — the kind you’ll need to carry blotting papers for. Facial oils, however, help to maintain and strengthen the moisture barrier to lock in hydration and leave skin better hydrated and more resilient. Bonus: When the barrier is restored, the skin is better able to absorb the replenishing nutrients in the active plant extracts that reduce signs of premature aging.
Yes, this also applies to oily skin… even if you’re not quite sure how it works. “It can be a very difficult concept to relate to a client with an oily skin type, but oil-on-oil results in stabilizing the oil flow, which calms the skin,” Gabriel says. Consider that the all-clear you need to make like Cleopatra and add an oil to your routine. Ahead, the low-down on the most popular picks, and the formulas you need to try.
"Argan oil's main fatty acid content is made up of oleic acid and linoleic acid," says
Deciem co-founder Nicola Kilner. "It can be worked through damp clean hair or pressed into skin across the face and body. The oil supports healthy skin and reduces the appearance of skin flaking; when used through the lengths of hair, it will add a soft sheen while promoting hair strength."
We're huge fans of anything from Tata Harper, but this luxurious number contains softening argan oil alongside jojoba and calendula.
Tata Harper Beautifying Face Oil, $68, available at Nordstrom.
We pour Caudalie's multipurpose formula into baths for a little bit of luxury, apply to the ends of hair to revive flat, dull strands, and massage onto skin when winter weather hits.
Caudalie Divine Oil, $49, available at Sephora.
"Pomegranate oil is the ultimate skin cell protector," says
Pai founder Sarah Brown. "It's rich in a rare form of omega-5 and the only organic source of the most powerful known antioxidant, punicic acid. Thought to support the skin's collagen and elastin layers, combined with its antioxidant effects it makes a great choice for skin that's under stress or showing signs of aging." So how much should we be using? "It has a slightly heavier texture than some oils, making it a great choice for the body. Use it as part of a massage oil blend for best results."
This cult-favorite facial oil hydrates while balancing sebum production. Pomegranate oil, along with blueberry and chardonnay grape seed oils, deliver antioxidants and protect from free radicals.
Sunday Riley Juno Hydroactive Cellular Face Oil, $90, available at Dermstore.
Made up of cold-pressed oils, this powerful little vial can be layered under moisturizer or used solo.
Odacité Pomegranate-Rose Geranium Hydration Serum Concentrate, $42, available at Nordstrom.
"Rose oil is a concentrated extract [from fresh rose petals] that delivers a lot of nourishing phospholipids to the skin," says Gabriel. "Rose is suitable for all skin types as all skin needs to be nourished, hydrated and desensitized — particularly dry, sensitive, and combination complexions. One of the golden rules is never strip or alter the pH balance of the skin, and rose doesn't do that."
This little bottle from Neal's Yard smells divine and contains damask rose, ideal for applying before your daily moisturizer.
Neal's Yard Remedies Rehydrating Rose Facial Oil, $52, available at Neal's Yard Remedies.
Sisley's entire Black Rose range is indulgence with results. We love the night cream and mask, too, but this oil is combined with Bulgarian rose and magnolia to leave skin especially radiant.
Sisley Paris Black Rose Precious Face Oil, $235, available at Neiman Marcus.
"Not just great on toast, avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D, and E. It softens and conditions lackluster skin, helping to maintain its moisture barrier, so it's ideal for skin prone to dehydration and dryness." Brown explains. "It's also a great source of palmitoleic acid, which naturally depletes as we age."
This divine face treatment from Antipodes boosts collagen and treats dry skin with nutrients galore.
Antipodes Divine Face Oil Organic Avocado Oil & Rosehip, $24.80, available at Beauty Bay.
The avocado and jojoba oils in this sensitive skin-friendly day cream help to boost the skin's natural moisture barrier and hold onto water for plumper, softer skin.
Pai Avocado & Jojoba Hydrating Day Cream, $55, available at Pai.
"Marula oil is mostly composed of oleic acid and linoleic acid, but also contains procyanidin, catechins, and flavonoids," Brown explains. In other words: "It is extremely rich in antioxidants. It also restores a radiant tone to the skin and offers hydration."
This antioxidant-rich oil from The Ordinary works just as well alone (press a few drops into skin) or combined with your night cream.
The Ordinary 100% Cold-Pressed Virgin Marula Oil, $9.90, available at The Ordinary.
Even the most sensitive skin types will find a savior in every bottle of this pure marula oil — you can practically feel your thirsty skin drink it up.
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, $72, available at Sephora.
Brown says that, because the molecular structure of jojoba oil is remarkably similar to the skin's natural protective sebum, it absorbs easily and feels lighter and less greasy than some other plant oils — which also makes it perfect for oily skin types.
Hyperpigmentation, acne scarring, or dark spots? Massage over skin nightly or pour a few drops into a cream face mask weekly, and you'll see a noticeable difference.
The Jojoba Company Natural Pigmentation Oil, $39.95, available at The Jojoba Company.
Yes, rosehip and rose oil are two different things: While rose oil is extracted from the petals of rose plants, rosehip oil comes from a plant commonly found in Chile. "Rosehip oil is renowned for its skin-healing properties," says Brown. "It contains high concentrations of omegas 3, 6, 7, and 9, plus antioxidant carotenoids help soothe and protect the skin against environmental stresses and visible damage."
"Rosehip oil is known to reduce the signs of photo-aging. The skin is also able to pick up pigment from the oil, leaving you with a natural glow," Kilner explains. "The oil can also be mixed into foundations to provide a dewy effect."
Rosehip oil is packed with vitamin C, and this wonder cleanser not only frees your skin of the day's dirt but ensures moisture is retained. It's particularly good for those with rosacea.
Indie Lee Rosehip Cleanser, $32, available at Indie Lee.
The prettiest bottle our bathroom shelf ever did see, Kypris has cult status for a reason. Steam-distilled from 1,000 Bulgarian rose petals, this skin-soother is pure luxury — and priced accordingly.
Kypris Beauty Elixir I: 1,000 Roses, $225, available at Kypris.
We trust Ouai to repair our hair, but this two-in-one oil is equally good on skin as it is for bringing frazzled ends back from the brink.
Ouai Rose Hair & Body Oil, $32, available at Sephora.
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