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Demystifying Face Oils


Oils have long been a subject of fascination and confusion in the realm of skincare. From squalane and argan oil to tea tree oil, the market is saturated with various options, each claiming to be a miracle worker for your skin [1–4]. However, demystifying oils for skincare involves debunking common misconceptions, understanding the types and composition of oils, and recognizing when and how to incorporate them into your skincare routine.


    1. All oils cause breakouts: Contrary to popular belief, not all oils are comedogenic. The comedogenic scale rates oils based on their likelihood to clog pores although the method of testing is outdated and may not always be reliable [5]. Non-comedogenic oils, such as jojoba oil and squalane, can actually help balance skin oil production without causing breakouts as they are similar in composition to the lipids of the skin barrier [6]. Comedogenic oils include coconut or palm kernel oil which act as emollients or occlusives and can cause breakouts when used too often or in large amounts.  
    2. People with oily skin should avoid oils: People with oily skin often fear using oils, thinking it will exacerbate their condition. However, lightweight oils like grapeseed and rosehip oil can actually regulate oil production, provide essential nutrients, and perform anti-inflammatory functions without making the skin greasy [7,8].
    3. Face oil can replace moisturizer: While they have some ingredients in common, what makes a good face oil doesn’t necessarily make a good moisturizer. Moisturizers have ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin that hydrate the skin while oils help lock in that hydration by enhancing the skin barrier with fatty acids and wax esters [9]. Some active ingredients (like vitamin C) are best delivered in a water-based moisturizer while others (like vitamin E) are more stable in an oil [10]. 


  • Jojoba Oil: Composed of wax esters similar to human skin's natural sebum, jojoba oil is an excellent moisturizer. It helps balance oil production, making it suitable for all skin types [11,12].
  • Squalane: Derived from olives or sugarcane, squalane is a lightweight and non-comedogenic oil. It mimics the skin's natural lipids, providing hydration without clogging pores.
  • Rosehip Oil: Rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, rosehip oil helps in skin regeneration and repair. It is effective in reducing the appearance of scars and fine lines.
  • Argan Oil: Packed with vitamin E and fatty acids, argan oil nourishes and hydrates the skin. It's particularly beneficial for dry and mature skin.


  • Tea Tree Oil (TTO): TTO, derived from the Cheel plant, has over 15 potentially active components, the most prominent one being  terpinen-4-ol that works to reduce acne lesions and severity, likely through antibacterial mechanisms [13,14]. TTO is not particularly occlusive or moisturizing and is generally non-comedogenic. 
  • Chamomile oil: Chamomile oil is renowned for its skin-soothing properties, containing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that help calm irritated skin, reduce redness, and promote a healthy complexion [15].
  • Lavender oil: Lavender oil, with its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, serves as a versatile skincare remedy. Applied topically, it can help soothe acne, reduce skin irritation, and promote wound healing.


  • Cleansing: Some oils, like sweet almond or jojoba oil, can be used for oil cleansing to remove makeup and impurities without stripping the skin of its natural oils.
  • Moisturizing: Lighter oils, such as squalane, work well as moisturizers, providing hydration without a heavy feel. They are suitable for daytime and nighttime use.
  • Treatment: Oils like tea tree oil or neem oil with antibacterial properties can be used as spot treatments for acne-prone skin. These oils can even be diluted with carrier oils and applied all over the face [16]. 

In conclusion, understanding the world of skincare oils involves dispelling myths, identifying the right oil(s) for your skin's current needs, and incorporating them strategically into your routine. Whether you have oily, dry, or combination skin, there's an oil that can cater to your skin's unique needs, providing nourishment, hydration, and a natural glow.


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[2] Vaughn AR, Clark AK, Sivamani RK, Shi VY (2018) Natural Oils for Skin-Barrier Repair: Ancient Compounds Now Backed by Modern Science.Am J Clin Dermatol 19, 103–117.

[3] Ayanlowo O, -Adeife OC, Ilomuanya M, Ebie C, Adegbulu A, Ezeanyache O, Odiase O, Ikebudu V, Akanbi B (2022) African oils in dermatology.Dermatol Ther 35, e14968.

[4] Cunha C, Ribeiro HM, Rodrigues M, Araujo ARTS (2022) Essential oils used in dermocosmetics: Review about its biological activities.J Cosmet Dermatol 21, 513–529.

[5] Draelos ZD, DiNardo JC (2006) A re-evaluation of the comedogenicity concept.Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 54, 507–512.

[6] Moore EM, Wagner C, Komarnytsky S (2020) The Enigma of Bioactivity and Toxicity of Botanical Oils for Skin Care.Front Pharmacol 11, 785.

[7] Shawahna R (2022) Effects of a grapeseed oil (Vitis vinifera L.) loaded dermocosmetic nanoemulgel on biophysical parameters of facial skin: A split-face, blinded, placebo-controlled study.J Cosmet Dermatol 21, 5730–5738.

[8] Lin T-K, Zhong L, Santiago JL (2017) Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils.Int J Mol Sci 19, 70.

[9] Stamatas GN, de Sterke J, Hauser M, von Stetten O, van der Pol A (2008) Lipid uptake and skin occlusion following topical application of oils on adult and infant skin.J Dermatol Sci 50, 135–142.

[10] Poljšak N, Kočevar Glavač N (2022) Vegetable Butters and Oils as Therapeutically and Cosmetically Active Ingredients for Dermal Use: A Review of Clinical Studies.Front Pharmacol 13, 868461.

[11] Blaak J, Staib P (2022) An updated review on efficacy and benefits of sweet almond, evening primrose and jojoba oils in skin care applications.Int J Cosmet Sci 44, 1–9.

[12] Orchard A, van Vuuren SF (2019) Carrier oils in dermatology.Arch Dermatol Res 311, 653–672.

[13] Kairey L, Agnew T, Bowles EJ, Barkla BJ, Wardle J, Lauche R (2023) Efficacy and safety of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil for human health—A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.Front Pharmacol 14, 1116077.

[14] Winkelman WJ (2018) Aromatherapy, botanicals, and essential oils in acne.Clinics in Dermatology 36, 299–305.

[15] Sarkic A, Stappen I (2018) Essential Oils and Their Single Compounds in Cosmetics—A Critical Review.Cosmetics 5, 11.

[16] Herman A, Herman AP (2015) Essential oils and their constituents as skin penetration enhancer for transdermal drug delivery: a review.J Pharm Pharmacol 67, 473–485.