Jan 15, 2019 · 8 min read
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 on 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.
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. Smoothing the right oil on your face may benefit your skin beyond the pampering, treat-yo-self experience.
Here’s a list 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. Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, for example, offers deep hydration and antioxidant benefits.
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.
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 in skincare products like Sunday Riley JUNO Antioxidant + Superfood Face Oil.
Packed with omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, rosehip 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. Pai Skincare Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil is a great option, at $40 per 30ml bottle.
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 in stores like Whole Foods Market.
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, glowing, and hydrated. It’s an effective carrier oils as well, used in serums such as Sangre de Fruta Solis balancing serum.
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.
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 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.
It can be good in moderation. Tea tree leaf oil has anti-inflammatory properties. It also acts as an anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, and astringent agent. This makes tea tree oil helpful in treating acne and seborrheic dermatitis. You can usually find tea tree oil in the skincare aisle at your local drugstore. Keep in mind 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!). Don’t 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 help 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.
We know we’re sounding like a broken record by now, but ICYMI, coconut oil is pore-clogging ingredient. Also called “cocos nucifera oil," coconut oil can be 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. Be sure to look for this pore-clogging ingredient in the label of any oil-based products you consider using.
Labels can be misleading. Read the ingredients list on any skincare product before you use it, and find out which ingredients might cause acne breakouts.
Face oils can feel like a luxurious way to pamper your skin, especially in the winter. The downside is that they can be expensive. But 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”) often maintain their properties longer since their contents are protected from light exposure.
Essential oils could irritate your skin if you’re allergic to the plants they’re extracted from. You might want to do 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.
Yes! Face oils can be used with your 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 take the guess work out of your skincare routine. Complete a quick skin quiz, snap a few selfies, and one of our dermatology providers will review your info. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send a bottle of your Custom Formula for your unique skin concerns, plus any of our recommended skincare products (like our cleanser and moisturizer).
Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C