Skin Science and Face Oils

Curious about face oils? We can help. Here's the science behind facial oils

Learn the science behind facial oils

No doubt about it, face oils are trendy right now. We are seeing them all over Pinterest and other social media platforms, and nearly every skincare company has marketed new ones targeted at every skin type in the last several months. But what is the actual science behind the best face oil products being (literally) thrown in our faces? How does a face oil work, and why do we need one? Are they meant to be used in addition to a moisturizer, or to replace one?

What is the science behind face oil?

What Makes the Best Face Oil Products so Popular?

Beginning back in early history—such as ancient Egypt—oils have been used in cosmetics and skin care as a means of supplementing or replacing the natural oil that our skin produces. Skin oil, or sebum, is essential in keeping a barrier in place to help our skin to retain moisture. When that barrier is compromised, the result is too much water evaporation, leaving dry skin. The skin barrier is also necessary to keep bacteria and environmental factors out of our skin.

What makes face oils so irresistible is a combination of factors. First of all, nothing seems to say “Moisturizing” like oil. People believe that an oil leaves out all the middle men found in face creams and goes right to the heart of the matter. Oil is more readily absorbed into the skin than creams.

The second thing that draws those concerned with skin improvement toward oils, are the fact that the vast majority of face oils are plant-based, giving them immense appeal for those who like natural, organic, and botanical products that they can feel good about putting on their skin. Many of the best face oils are single ingredient botanicals like coconut, argan, evening primrose, and jojoba oils. Or they are available in beautiful blends of plant oils.

What do Dermatologists Have to Say About Today’s Best Face Oils?

According to dermatologists, while people hear, “moisturizing,” when they hear “oil,” it’s actually a myth that oil moisturizes. You can’t have moisture without water. Most skin care products, like creams and lotions, contain a crucial combination of four key ingredients: water, humectants, occlusives, and emollients. Humectants, such as glycerin and hyaluronic acid, draw moisture from the air, and water from the lotion itself, into the skin to hydrate. Moisturizing is only possible through hydration of the skin cells. The emollients added to these products soften the skin’s surface and the occlusives serve as a layer to trap the water, humectants and emollients onto the skin’s surface to make the benefits longer-lasting.

Dermatologists tell us that an oil—even the best face oil—can only serve as an emollient and occlusive. It does not function as a humectant. Oil doesn’t add any water or draw any water into the skin, and it can’t encourage the skin to absorb water from the atmosphere as a humectant does. In short, it cannot hydrate the skin. Oil can only add a surface layer to seal in what moisture already there.

The Two Important Functions of the Best Face Oil Choices

While it’s true that oil doesn’t hydrate the skin, plant-based face oils do have other benefits. One of the benefits of using a face oil is free-radical fighting. The best face oils contain powerhouse plant-based antioxidants. Antioxidants are unbeatable for fighting the age-accelerating free radical cells which develop in our skin due to sun exposure and other environmental factors. Rosehip oil is especially packed with vitamin C, one of the best antioxidants for fighting free radicals.

The other major benefit of using one of the best face oil options is to encourage a strong skin barrier. Dermatologists recommend using a face oil as the final step in your nightly skin care regimen; preferably immediately after a shower, bath, or a simple face wash in warm water. At that time your skin is already in its most hydrated state, thanks to the warm water and steam. Your skin should absorb the hydration from cleansing, and then the skin-nourishing antioxidants, retinol, hyaluronic acid, and other important ingredients in your moisturizer and/or face serum before you add a face oil as your final step.

Finishing off your skincare regimen with one of today’s best face oils will ensure that all of the benefits of your other products—especially the critical hydrating humectants— are safely sealed into your skin for maximum absorption.

According to skincare experts, those who are prone to dry skin should be reaching for the best face oils on the store shelves. People with chronic dry skin, or those suffering from winter-dried skin, will find relief from the moisture barrier protection offered by a face oil. Those made with avocado, sunflower, and sweet-almond oils, are especially rich and fatty, and highly beneficial for dry skin, especially when used after a shower or bath.

Those with oily skin should not be afraid to use a face oil — we promise, it won't cause pimples! The best face oils for oily skin are those made with jojoba, which is close in composition to natural human sebum, meaning using it can signal to your skin to reduce the amount of sebum it’s producing, making this a face oil that can actually reduce oily skin and help to restore balance.

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