Fashion & Beauty

Facing Up to Oils

January 20, 2015


WITH COLD, DRY WEATHER, the timing couldn’t be better for this sudden gush of hyper-hydrating yet ungreasy facial oils.  Even if your skin is on the oily side, there’s a product for you that will turn your complexion into velvet dewiness overnight.

Indeed, whether using an oil on its own or in conjunction with your regular moisturizer, the best time to experiment is at night, when your skin is resting and can handle a change.

While a few brands have featured facial oils for years–Clarins, for example–everybody else has now hopped on that botanical bandwagon. It’s a different way to moisturize, a tiny bit of oil goes a long way (most bottles come with glass droppers) and the products smell and perform great. Just not near the eye area, though.

I checked in with Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, co-director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery in Washington, D.C., to get a medical perspective on these facial oils and see what they’re all about. And then we’ll explore which ones are best for your skin type.

GA: We’ve seen a surge in popularity in facial oils, both for day and night use, though many lines have offered them for a while. What do you make of this?

ET: Since dry skin is so prevalent in winter, it makes people naturally turn to more emollient products.

GA: How do facial oils differ from regular moisturizers?

ET: They both moisturize the skin quite well, but the oils have the advantage of leaving a sheen on the skin, which can make the face look more luminous. That’s a good thing for someone who has dull, dry skin, but not so good for combination or oily skin because it will look like a grease slick by the end of the day.

GA: What are the anti-aging and other benefits of botanical oils such as argan, passion fruit, African marula, olive and coconut?

ET: All of these essential oils can soothe the skin because they have some anti-inflammatory properties, too. Tea tree oil, for example, naturally helps to reduce irritation in the skin.

GA: Are there certain skin types that should duck oils?

ET: I find face oils are best for people with either dry, normal or combination skin. For very dry skin, olive or coconut oil is best. For normal skin, argan and marula are good to maintain moisture levels. For combination skin, grapeseed oil is helpful to regulate excessive oil in the T zone.

GA: If an oil says it’s for hair, face and body — do you buy that, or should we avoid it because it may be too heavy only for the face?

ET: I like specific oils for hair versus those for the face. I don’t think there is a “one size fits all” type of product.


My mom, whose age is “somewhere between 20 and death,” visited for the holidays. Between the two of us, we tested dozens and dozens of facial oils. Her skin is normal; mine’s more oily. We narrowed it down–seriously, this is narrow–to these faves.

Dry skin

Clarins Santal Face Treatment Oil ($52) Derived from pure plant extracts–hazelnut oil to nourish, sandalwood to tone, cardamom to soothe–this golden cult oil can be added by the drop to your daily moisturizer in the morning to add a boost of hydration during the harsh winter months. At night, generously apply it by itself on damp skin to give your skin a good hydration boost.

Kat Burki Power Trio Radiance Oil ($125) Miz Burki’s not kidding about power. This bottle should get you through two long winters. Tamanu and kukui nut oils, both mega-hydrators; and raspberry seed oil, a natural salicylic acid, are said to condition and improve the texture of even the driest skins.

Orico London Superico Vitamin Rich Face Oil ($50) This fuss-free and truly organic British brand provides excellent hydration thanks to rose and bergamot oils. A must-have for all green gals.

Renée Rouleau Pro Remedy Oil Intensive Skin Repair for Air, Land and Sea ($72.50) It’s no secret that I love Renée Rouleau and her spa-quality products. And I know Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi prefers face-targeted oils for the face. But this ethereal new multi-tasker might change her mind. Use it on your face during airplane travel, after a chemical peel, on your pregnant belly, on dry hands, cuticles, neck and chest, or just, you know, on your flaky face. The mega-oils do all the heavy lifting: evening primrose, safflower seed, passion fruit seed, pomegranate seed, rosehip and cranberry.

Tarte Maracuja Oil ($46) Ideal for super-dry types, this vegan oil is heaven at night. Maracuja is a hand-pressed Amazonian “superfruit” rich in essential fatty acids and Vitamin C, which provide instant comfort, brightness, and softer skin.

Dull skin

Clarins Blue Orchid Face Treatment Oil ($52) This daytime treatment addresses sun damage, dehydration and pollution with peanut, pineapple and orchid extracts; and helps with elasticity, radiance and makeup application with shea butter, cucumber and horsetail extracts.

Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil ($72) If the name doesn’t grab you, the African oil will. Chemical-, sulfate- and fragrance-free, this ultra-pure, anti-microbial oil heals and revives blah skin overnight. It also attacks the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, redness and blotchiness.

Oily or combination skin

Clarins Lotus Face Treatment Oil ($52) It sounds counterintuitive–oil for oily skin?–but this lovely stuff is highly antiseptic, calming and actually reduces oiliness while you sleep, with extracts like rosemary to refresh, chamomile to ease swelling and geranium to purify.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil Light ($16-$96) If you’re oily and you’re scared to try a facial oil in the morning, this will convince you that you should go for it. Featherweight, it leaves a semi-matte finish, and is particularly groovy for sensitive and breakout-prone skins.

Jurlique Skin Balancing Face Oil ($50) Renowned for its all-natural, farm-to-face approach to beauty, this Australian brand has the most gorgeous scent ever, like falling into a field of flowers. The oil is ideal for skins with uneven texture in search of hydration sans grease. Avocado, macadamia seed and soybean oil do that job; daisy flower, carrot root and calendula flower calm and refine.

Normal skin

BareMinerals Mineralixirs 5-Oil Blend ($50) The company’s newest product is a slam dunk. Infused with litchi fruit extract and five nourishing botanical oils, including apricot kernel seed, this absorbs instantly and hydrates with zero residue.

Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil ($46) Light but hardworking, this Japanese oil is an anti-aging botanical blend of cold-pressed tsubaki (camellia) oil; protein-rich wakame (sea kelp); and rice bran oil, among many other good ingredients that replenish, smooth and also reduce the appearance of dark spots. Great for a.m. or p.m.

Fresh Seaberry Moisturizing Face Oil ($50) It smells like a luxury spa and, to my mind, provides equal results. The combined oils–seaberry (aka seabuckthorn), cranberry seed, and sweet almond–are full of antioxidant-rich omega fatty acids and Vitamin E to protect, moisturize and soften.

Josie Maran 100% Pure Argan Oil ($16-$96) Like Tarte’s Maracuja, this single-ingredient organic cult Moroccan wonder does wonders by melting into skin and leaving it supple and happy.

Kate Somerville Dilo Oil Restorative Treatment ($65) If a facial oil can be perfect, this one comes close. Weightless as water and super-slidey, it disappears into damp skin, making it feel firm and look luminous. Its oils (coconut, sunflower seed, lemon peel) and its extracts (pumpkin seed, rice bran, rosemary leaf) are why.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate($46-$120) As the name implies, this overnight elixir is a fixer of pretty much any skin issues. Its beaucoup botanicals–cucumber fruit extract and a host of awesome oils (evening primrose, jojoba seed, coriander seed, lavender and rosemary leaf)–will make you a convert.

–Gigi Anders
Follow Gigi Anders, a frequent MyLittleBird contributor, on Facebook and @gigianders.

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