The Ultimate Guide To Oil & Your Skin

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "oil?" It’s weighed down with many different connotations, both positive and negative: There's a fine line between oily and greasy, you know? We’ve got oil for energy, oil for cooking, and now, like many cultures way before us, we've finally wrapped our heads around the idea of oil as skin care — even for those with oily skin.

Predictably so, as soon as oil lost its gross-for-your-skin stigma stateside, a plethora of products began to flood the market. We’ve got different kinds and different blends — it’s a lot to absorb. So, we reached out to oil expert, founder, and CEO of Uma Oils Shrankhla Holecek for a quick Oil 101 lesson.

Carrier oils (think: coconut, argan, jojoba) are the big guns, so today, we’re focusing on them. They have strong penetrative abilities that make them super-effective on their own, as well as allow them to
carry botanically derived essential oils (think: lavender, peppermint, amber) into the skin. They are usually cold-pressed from fruits and nuts (essential oils are distilled from leaves, bark, and roots), and each has unique benefits for the skin.

Here, we take a look at some of the major (and soon-to-be major) players in the carrier-oil game, who and what they work best for, and most importantly: their ultimate superpowers. Check out our favorite oil products — some 100% pure, and some blends.   
1 of 12
Marula Oil
This oil is extracted from the marula fruit of Southern Africa and contains four times more vitamin C than an orange. (Yep, four times!) “It’s packed with antioxidants,” says Holecek. “They help fight off harmful free radicals that cause visible signs of aging, and enhance the skin’s natural healing process to reduce discoloration from sun damage and acne. I also use this oil to soothe aggravated summertime skin. But, don’t forget, SPF is still key!”

Superpowers:
Its extremely high levels of vitamin C make marula oil particularly beneficial for those with mature skin on a mission to fight signs of aging like sun damage, discoloration, spots, and fine lines.
Advertisement
2 of 12
Rosehip-Seed Oil
Derived from one of our favorite and sweetest smelling flowers, this oil is packed with vitamin C and vitamin A. The latter can have a natural retinol-like effect, which means it stimulates rapid cell turnover while protecting your skin from environmental damage.

Superpowers: Rosehip-seed oil is celebrated for its scar-healing abilities. It's also great for those suffering from sun damage.
3 of 12
Argan Oil
This oil is extracted from the kernels of the Moroccan argan tree, and is chock-full of fatty acids, antioxidants, and vitamin E, which give it serious moisturizing and restorative powers. It's great for more than just skin, but hair and nails, too. “It’s called 'liquid gold' for a reason,” says Holecek. “It’s also ultra-absorbent, and doesn’t leave the greasy residue of some of its heavier counterparts.”

Superpowers
: The vitamin E is the “power ingredient” in argan oil, and is great for helping heal scars, eczema, and dry scalp. Oleic acid helps regulate sebum production, and linoleic acid promotes healthy skin turnover, which can be good for acne control.
4 of 12
Coconut Oil
It's no wonder that coconut oil was one of the first beauty oils to hit the mainstream and had (and is still having) such a major moment. It is rich in three fatty acids — capric, caprylic, and lauric — that have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. They not only make the skin instantly smooth and soft (you have to try coconut oil on your legs!), but also prevent it from losing moisture. Not to mention, it's one of the least expensive oils out there and can be used to make a variety of homemade toiletries, including deodorant and eye cream.

Superpowers
: Coconut oil is a dry-skin savior. The fatty acids can moisturize the most parched skin and help it retain moisture. As one of the richer oils in this round up, it is also great for chapped lips.
5 of 12
Grape-Seed Oil
The power of the grape plant goes way beyond its fruit and wine-producing abilities. The oil derived from its seeds is rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, and is especially effective in the fight against acne. Counterintuitive and crazy-sounding, we know, but applying oil on the skin actually helps to minimize your own oil production. And, the grape-seed variety is one of the best options. “It’s an excellent anti-inflammatory to soothe skin that’s already breaking out,” explains Holecek. “And, it limits excess oil production to prevent acne from forming.”

Superpowers:
Not only is this oil one of the best in the fight against acne, but if you apply it daily for a few weeks it will significantly reduce the appearance of dark circles under your eyes.
6 of 12
Jojoba Oil
This oil, which is technically not an oil but a wax ester, is distilled from the seeds of the jojoba tree native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico, and can be found in many products. It has a consistency and molecular structure that is similar to sebum, or the oil your skin produces — making it yet another great acne-fighter. “Mimicking the structure of your skin allows this oil to rapidly penetrate and deliver nutrients sub-dermally,” explains Holecek. “This also means it may be able to ‘convince’ your skin that it has already produced enough oil, thereby preventing excess oil production and greasy skin.”

Superpower:
Tricking your skin into not getting extra oily is pretty impressive, but another quality of note is that jojoba oil has a longer shelf-life than most oils (which can be months for some). If you store it in a cool, dry place, it will retain its nourishing properties for up to a few years.
Advertisement
7 of 12
Castor Oil
You may have heard horror stories about the taste of castor oil, but do not worry, we’re only suggesting topical use (though it does aid in digestion). This vegetable oil, derived from the castor plant, has some incredible benefits for the skin, especially for those prone to infections. It’s a powerful disinfectant with antibacterial properties that is also helpful for acne-prone skin.

Superpowers:
Still kicking yourself about over-plucking your eyebrows all throughout the '90s? Well, castor oil promotes hair growth — simply apply it to your brow area daily and you’ll be at Lily Collins status (or close to it) in no time.
8 of 12
Maracuja Oil
This under-the-radar superstar is derived from the passionflower plant (pretty cool, huh?) and in some cases from the seeds of the passion fruit itself. It’s a non-greasy, lightweight oil that works for all skin types, including combination skin, with rapid absorption and moisturizing qualities.

Superpowers
: Maracuja oil naturally combats insomnia, anxiety, and stress. May we suggest a nighttime face or body massage?
9 of 12
Pomegranate Oil
Cold-pressed pomegranate oil is one of the more expensive varieties of carrier oils — and with good reason. The particularly lightweight oil is great for all skin types, absorbent, and packed with vitamins A, D, E, and K. “It’s rich in punicic acid,” explains Holecek. “Which promotes the production of collagen fibers and slows down the processes that break it down. Not only does this help prevent wrinkles, it also encourages the healing of acne, wounds, and scars.”

Superpower
s: It has anti-inflammatory properties that will naturally reduce redness and brighten the skin.
10 of 12
Avocado Oil
An avocado is like that popular girl who is actually cool and nice – even if you try not to, there is no denying that you like her (or beware of being deemed crazy). Now, we’re learning that it’s good for your skin, too. Ugh, of course. How can something be so perfect? Avocado oil, which is much lighter in scent than coconut oil and some of its other counterparts, is full of vitamin E and great for people with dry skin. “It’s also rich in lecithin, a lipid that helps deliver nutrients directly to the bloodstream and deeper layers of the skin,” says Holecek.

Superpower
s: Avocado is a great anti-aging choice. “It’s high in sterolin, which has been found to soften the skin and reduce the appearance of age spots,” says Holecek.

11 of 12
Almond Oil
Almonds have long been revered as the ultimate healthy snack (sorry, California) for their richness in monounsaturated fats, and nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium. And, these qualities hold true in oil form. It’s a multipurpose oil that is rich in fatty acids and great as a deep-conditioning treatment for dry or irritated skin. It also has plenty of oleic acid, which helps it seal in moisture, making it an excellent nighttime treatment for dry skin.

Superpowers: “Soothing almond oil is a good bet for those with sensitive skin,” says Holecek. “Its natural healing and anti-inflammatory properties can help manage the itchiness and irritation associated with chronic skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema.”
12 of 12
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Advertisement