I’m a self-professed skincare and makeup junkie, yet when face oil surged in popularity in 2014, I let out a groan of disgust: I wasn’t interested in participating in this trend. Unlike many other people’s rationales, my reservations weren’t fear-based, and I completely believed face oils could be excellent for skin. The science made sense. Oil is similar in consistency to sebum, and the skin recognizes this surge in similar hydration and reduces its production of natural oils. As a result, regularly using face oil can deliver a radiant complexion, not pore congestion or breakouts. I simply wasn’t interested because of the sensorial aspect — I didn’t want to feel greasy or slimy.
I was pretty firm on my self-imposed oil ban for years. However, as time marched on, I began experimenting with heavy-duty chemical exfoliators. The freshly-revealed skin under the sloughed-away cells needed deep moisture to look its best, and I started to bend my rule and experiment with oils. Fast forward to today, and I have found a selection of formulas that I truly love — although I would still never say that I love the oil category as a whole. It’s just that I found enough products with textures that absorb well, don’t leave me feeling greasy for hours, and deliver other perks beyond hydration, like delicious fragrances and powerful skincare benefits. If you, too, have resisted the nourishment of facial oils due to icky texture avoidance, read on. From retinol-infused formulas to ones that smell good enough to eat, I’ve rounded up my favorite facial oils, below.
[Editor's note: Retinol shouldn't be used by women who are pregnant, considering getting pregnant, or nursing. Please consult with your doctor before use.]
If you like honey — the smell, the color, the texture — then you need to get your hands on Farmacy® Honey Grail™ Ultra-Hydrating Face Oil ($48) ASAP. The consistency of this product is syrupy (just like honey), but don’t let that scare you off. Once you warm it in your hands and apply it, the oil melts into your skin. The formula contains real honey (antioxidant-rich buckwheat honey, to be exact), as well as fatty acid-packed sea buckthorn oil, and evening primrose, rosehip, and hibiscus oils. Plus, the unique texture lends itself well to application in other areas, including dry elbows and heels, and even split ends and flyaways.
Sunday Riley® Luna™ Sleeping Night Oil ($55) was my first foray into retinol, and I admittedly tried it because the oil itself is a stunning sapphire hue. The color comes courtesy of blue tansy and German chamomile, both of which are loaded with azulene, an organic compound that helps naturally soothe and condition. These ingredients are perfectly paired with retinol, the vitamin A-derived, skin-smoothing powerhouse, and help counteract retinol’s standard side effect of irritation. (And, no, the formula will not turn your face blue!)
Le Prunier® Plum Beauty Oil ($72) is derived from (you guessed it) plum pits. It’s naturally high in antioxidants, fatty acids, and nourishing vitamin E, leaving your skin ultra soft. The completely organic oil is surprisingly lightweight and absorbs very quickly, making it an ideal choice for applying during warmer months or under makeup. The reason I love it, though, is its natural fragrance: it smells like a plum-marzipan galette.
Biossance® Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil ($72) is technically not an oil, as there is no oil in the formula; squalane, however, is a hydrocarbon-based lipid and a derivative of squalene, which is naturally present in our skin. The consistency mimics sebum, which is why so many complexions tend to drink it up. The squalane in this particular formula is derived from sugarcane, and is paired with vitamin C and damascus rose extract to help brighten as it hydrates. I recommend applying this as one of your only skincare products: I find that when mixed with other, creamier formulations, it can pill up on the skin.
When I want to feel extra comforted before bed, I reach for Kiehl’s Since 1851® Midnight Recovery Concentrate® ($125). The heady lavender scent — courtesy of lavender oil, naturally — helps lull me off to sleep, while evening primrose oil and squalane help nourish and hydrate my skin. Bonus: it comes in a petite half-ounce size ($27), which is perfect for travel (which matches up when I tend to have the most trouble sleeping).