Calling mine a skincare "routine" is really too generous; we’re talking Dr Bronner’s soap on my face and then whatever cream happens to be in my medicine cabinet at the moment. As I stared my 35th birthday in the face, I figured it was time to start being proactive (no pun intended there) about my skin. I read about the benefits of facial oils and figured they would be a good way to dip my fingertips into the world of (actual) skincare.
"Facial oils can do a variety of wonders for the skin," says Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified dermatopathologist in the Boston area, including treat inflammation, hyperpigmentation, and redness, along with other skin conditions. She recommends facial oils with omega fatty acids and oleic acid for dry skin, squalene, argan, and jojoba for normal skin, and jojoba or grapeseed oil for their astringent properties on oily skin. Frieling also advises that you avoid facial oils that contain artificial fragrances, and for someone who gets their face kissed by a tiny human all day, that is important to me, too!
I was hesitant to put oil on my face because I assumed it would make my skin more greasy, but surprisingly it didn’t (#themoreyouknow). They fit into your skincare routine after cleansing and after any serums but before your moisturizer. Facial oils penetrate deeply into the skin, which is why they are best absorbed before any additional layers of moisturizing goodness.
After a few months of using facial oils, I can honestly say that I notice a difference in my skin. I have had less breakouts, my skin tone is more even and my makeup goes on a lot smoother (when I actually have the time to apply it).
Here are my top five favorites out of all the brands I tried, in no particular order.
Indigo Wild Zum Face Nourishing Face Oil
I know I said these were in no particular order, but I do have a clear-cut favorite and this is it. I love love love the way this oil smelled. I wanted to rub it all over my body (and some days I did, tbh). It has a really bright, fragrant smell, which I can only assume comes from the jasmine flower extract. It wasn’t as heavy as some of the other oils I tried and I never felt greasy using it. I would use one drop in the morning and then two to three at night before bed, as I found that when I went to bed with an emolliated face, my skin was super glowy the next day. I also loved that there were few ingredients and they were all clearly labeled. 10/10 would recommend!
Go-To Face Hero
This is another really pleasant-smelling oil. I know that doesn’t really matter in terms of efficacy, but I like rubbing something that smells good on my face first thing in the morning. The consistency is on the lighter end, as it’s marketed for all skin types. I actually started mixing a drop or two of this into my foundation and I found that it went on a lot smoother and left a more glowy and natural finish than just foundation alone.
There are no silicones, parabens, PEGs, sulfates, GMOs, mineral oils, petroleum products, or synthetic colors, and Go-To is also cruelty-free, all of which makes me a huge fan.
Masqueology 24K Gold Facial Oil
This oil really just gets a spot on this list because it has tiny gold flecks in it and it made me feel fancy AF to put it on. It was one of the lightest oils I tried as far as consistency and I liked that, as someone whose skin gets greasier as the day wears on — I felt that this one did not make me feel like I had any additional oil. There is no real scent to speak of, and I wasn’t really sure if the gold had any actual benefits, but according to the Masqueology website, ”Gold has been used in skincare for hundreds of years due to its anti-aging properties.” Further, “24k gold can reduce the breakdown of elastin and collagen, increasing the elasticity of the skin.”
True Botanicals Calm Pure Radiance Oil
This was the first oil I tried and the directions really threw me for a loop. It says on the back of the bottle to “apply 2-10 drops,” which in facial oil terms is a *huge* spectrum. Since my usual motto for things is “go big or go home,” I went right for 5ish drops and boy was that a mistake. I spent the day feeling like I had a thick layer of oil over my skin and since it was hot out I was sweating underneath it — not the best introduction to facial oils. But, I did not give up hope and the next day went for the minimum two drops — this was way better.
It is a little bit on the thicker side, so definitely better if your skin tends to be dryer overall or if you're looking for something to use in the colder months. The smell is light and somewhat herby/earthy, which I liked, and the ingredients are super clean.
Revitage™ Replenishing Squalane & Argan Oil Serum
First off, I had to google “what is squalane” and found that it is “ a hydrogenated version of squalene, a compound produced naturally by our sebaceous glands” as Mary L. Stevenson, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, told SELF previously. Apparently it used to be sourced from shark livers (ew) but is now mostly derived from plant-based sources.
I felt like this oil was pretty light and good for every day, all-season wear and did really notice an improvement in my overall complexion when I was using it.
Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified dermatopathologist in the Boston area