Key plant oil components include triglycerides, free fatty acids, tocopherols, sterols, phospholipids, waxes, squalene and phenolic compounds. According to leading dermatologists, facial oils may be the missing step in standard beauty routines. Derms also caution that not all facial oils are the same. Some can nourish the skin, while others can be potential irritants, so consumers must choose wisely. Consumers are also drawn to ingredients sourced from nature, which may explain, in part, why in the past few years, facial oils have become staples in beauty cabinets everywhere, although the trend originated in South Korea, according to Teresa Fisher, NPD Group.
With age, skin moisture levels decline, causing skin to become dry and dehydrated, and making fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable. Oils not only hydrate the skin, but because they are rich in antioxidants, they also fight free radical damage to cells, thereby preventing further aging. The global cosmetic oil market size is expected to top $72 billion by 2025, a CAGR of 5.2%, according to Grand View Research Inc. Increasing use of beauty oils by the hair and skin care industries is the key factor driving the growth of the market. In the US, emollients are forecast to achieve the fastest growth during the period of 2018-2023, according to Nikola Matic, director of the chemicals and materials practice at Kline & Company. Oils provide occlusion, which means they help seal-in moisture that is already there, imparting a glowing, plumped and refreshed facial look. They provide skin with essential nutrients like fatty acids, that help maintain moisture and increase its ability to protect itself against the environment. Oils are excellent for spot skin applications delivering desired skin benefits. Oils easily pass through the lipid layers of the skin, preventing water loss and creating an immediate plumping action.
Lipids are produced by cells in the stratum corneum, the protective outer layer of skin that functions as the skin’s primary protection against water loss. The oils keep skin layers soft, seal in hydration, and protect against allergens and pathogens, by keeping the stratum corneum intact. Hydration is really a function of water balance, so oils help keep water in, and prevents the environment from stripping water out, according to Dermatologist Tyler Hollowig. Oil is critical to maintain the barrier and minimize water loss; both are essential for healthy, hydrated skin, and prevent irritants from entering the skin. Emollient in nature, oils easily fill in the spaces between the cells in the upper layer of the skin. By replacing these essential lipids, face oil products smooth, lubricate and moisturize the skin. Hydration is essential in diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, and making skin supple and smooth.
Oils may be skin-friendly, but some are not so kind to the wallet or purse. Big name brands with facial oils include consumer favorite Vintner’s Daughter, a 22-oil serum that retails for $185; meanwhile, Kjaer Weis and Kypris both sell facial oils for $225. But price doesn’t always match performance. Good Housekeeping blind-tested 56 face oils by 1,112 volunteers to narrow the field to 16, which were then lab-tested for moisturization. The winner? Laura Mercier Infusion de Rose Nourishing Oil. It is combination of 10 natural oils including rose hip and sunflower oils. It kept skin hydrated for six hours. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil provided the best value, according to GH. It contains exotic oils like argan, camellia and coconut. It made skin look plumper and smoother. For sensitive skin, there’s Jurlique Purely Age-Defying Firming Face Oil. It contains safflower, macadamia and avocado oils. It diminished red, splotchy areas and made skin balanced, even and clear, according to GH.
For glowing skin, the publication recommended Tatcha Gold Camellia Beauty Oil. This oil is light and quickly absorbs into the skin. The best scent? Lancôme Bienfait Multi Vital Daily Replenishing Oil. It is a mixture of evening primrose, rose, and geranium oil, and scored highest in softening the skin. For hydration, Good Housekeeping recommends La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Dry Oil. It scored highest for diminishing fine lines including crow’s feet and improving skin texture. Another top brand with excellent moisturizing properties is Skyn Iceland Arctic Face Oil. It contains 99% camelina oil plus sunflower oil and vitamin E. Finally, Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil, was voted best overall. It moisturizes, boosts elasticity, nourishes, soothes, evens skin tone and reduces the signs of aging, including fine lines and wrinkles. It absorbs quickly leaving no residue, according to the brand.
Oils should be applied on clean damp skin by gently pressing them on the face. Wet skin will lock-in the moisture. According to Cecelia Wong, a holistic skin care expert, tea tree is the best oil for acne. Studies have found that 5% tea tree oil is as effective as 5% benzoyl peroxide. Dermatologist Leslie Bowmann recommends tea tree oil as a gentle natural acne treatment. For oily skin, grape seed oil helps regulate natural oil production. It is rich in vitamin C and antioxidants.
Wong’s entire anti-aging skin care line is based on argan oil. Rare and expensive, it smooths fine lines and wrinkles while moisturizing skin. Argan oil contains high concentrations of vitamin E and fatty acids, which are more stable in sunlight than other antioxidants, which is ideal for daily wear products. so you can wear all day. Wong’s favorite reparative treatment is black currant oil, which is rich in fatty acids and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is even said to improve eczema. For sensitive skin, chamomile oil calms skin, reduces redness and soothes irritation in a matter of seconds. It has amazing anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for rosacea patients. Rose hip seed oil has healing power and improves skin discoloration.
Facial oils are non-comedogenic, non-greasy and are highly effective for removing makeup and are the best sources for cleansing dry, dehydrated, or sensitive skin. Dermatologist Mona Gohara recommends oils as facial cleansers, as they are especially good at removing silicone and synthetic makeup ingredients. Unlike soap, when you rinse an oil cleanser, it won’t strip skin. Also, the carrier oils, which are antioxidant-rich, neutralize free radicals that cause signs of aging. Avoid cleansers that contain harsh detergent like ammonium lauryl sulfate, which can dry skin. It is better to use washes enriched with oil such as argan, jojoba or sunflower seed, which clean and moisturize.
Facial oils help regulate the skin’s natural oil production system by replenishing lipids, triglycerides and essential fatty acids that can be stripped during washing. Arielle Nagler, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center, notes that facial cleansing oils are best suited for people with dry skin who could use a little more moisture, rather than people who produce a lot of oil. Dr. Debra Jaliman, professor of dermatology, Mount Sinai Hospital, recommends Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil because it contains camellia and rice bran oils. These traditional Japanese oils are said to have anti-aging, softening and deep hydrating properties due to a combination of antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamin E.
Bare Mineral Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil cleanses, moisturizes, softens and smooths dehydrated skin for an overall healthier complexion. Simple Hydrating Cleansing Oil is lightweight, thin, and cleans and moisturizes skin. It wipes off dirt without removing natural oils. Neutrogena Ultra Light Facial Cleansing Oil and Makeup Remover is a non-comedogenic cleanser. Josie Moran Argan Cleansing Oil effectively removes makeup and other impurities.
Oil-based products are one of the best ways to add moisture to the skin, according to Engelman and Bhansali. They are easily absorbed and penetrate deeply. However, they do not recommend coconut oil for the face because it clogs the pores and could cause breakouts, also it ranks very high on the comedogenicity scale. Furthermore, the American Academy of Dermatology warns that acne-prone skin should avoid using products containing coconut oil.
“Dry oils” is a fairly broad term that applies to any fast-absorbing oil, and it refers specifically to cold-pressed nut or seed oils. The waterless formulas don’t evaporate. This is helpful because microbes grow in water, but not in oil, so pure face oils don’t need to be formulated with preservatives. The right oils help balance out oily skin according to Shrankhla Holecek, a practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine.
Naturopathic Doctor Nicole Egen Berger has classified several oils based on their uses. For example, jojoba is the dry oil suitable for body and face use. Most people find this oil very fast absorbing and similar to natural sebum, which makes it very popular as a face and body moisturizer for most skin types. It is virtually odorless, so it could be ideal for an unscented body oil. It mixes well with essential oils. She recommends rose hip oil for sensitive skin. For acne and eczema, Nicola Weir, a esthetician, recommends kiwi seed oil. Kiwi seed oil is high in omega 3 fatty acids, alpha linoleic acid and vitamin C. It calms inflammation and retains moisture. Cold-pressed borage seed oil is high in gamma linolenic acid, and is a proven anti-inflammatory oil for people suffering from eczema and psoriasis. It really helps reduce redness, too. Camellia seed oil has been shown clinically to increase collagen production and help improve skin’s ability to stay hydrated.
Among luxury dry oils, Jo Malone absorbs well, has a long-lasting scent and is recommended by Dermatologist Michelle Greene. Although dry oils are light and are absorbed quickly, you might want to consider a spray if you are looking for a less greasy application.
Oil may be king, but no data exists to prove that any of these products provide any therapeutic benefits beyond moisturizing skin. The popularity of facial oils may be due, at least in part, to their natural positioning.
Navin M. Geria
Chief Scientific Officer
AyurDerm Technologies, LLC
Navin Geria, former Pfizer Research Fellow is a cosmetic and pharmaceutical product development chemist and the chief scientific officer of AyurDerm Technologies LLC, which provides Ayurvedic, natural and cosmeceutical custom formulation development and consulting services to the spa-wellness-dermatology industries. He has launched dozens of cosmeceutical and ayurvedic anti-aging products. Geria has more than 30 years of experience in the personal care industry and was previously with Clairol, Warner-Lambert, Schick-Energizer, Bristol-Myers and Spa Dermaceuticals. He has nearly 20 US patents and has been published extensively. Geria edited the “Handbook of Skin-Aging Theories for Cosmetic Formulation Development” focus book published in April 2016 by Harry’s Cosmeticology. He is a speaker, moderator and chairman at cosmetic industry events. Most recently, he is author of the soon-to-be-released “Aging Well: Advances & Treatments” published by Chemical Publishing Company.