You used to have to go to a specialty health food store to find facial oils, but recently these skin elixirs have gone mainstream, with ready-made blends available at beauty boutiques and drugstores. And there are plenty of reasons why these oils are everywhere: They provide major hydration, smell lovely and give your skin a youthful, dewy glow. So with countless products to choose from, how do you decide?
Blends with anti-aging properties are some of the most in demand. “To support and nourish the skin, I like rich oils like sesame and avocado, which have a heavier consistency,” says Kristen Ma, a certified esthetician and co-owner of Pure + Simple spas and skincare products. She also recommends sea buckthorn oil, which contains vitamin C to brighten the skin, increase collagen production and fight sun damage. Plus it’s loaded with vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help fight off wrinkles. Another ingredient to look for is rosehip oil, a botanical that encourages cell turnover, because it contains vitamin A, a natural retinol, says Benjamin Barankin, co-founder and a medical director of Toronto Dermatology Centre.
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But these incredible multi-taskers aren’t just for warding off crow’s feet. They’re also a good option for parched complexions, especially if you’re travelling or dealing with winter dryness, says Julia Carroll, a medical and cosmetic dermatologist in Toronto. “It’s amazing—you can watch your skin soak it right up.”
Facial oils can be used alone, or in addition to your existing skincare routine. This extra boost of moisture can help foundation and concealer go on more smoothly, too. Here’s how you do it: Apply oil to your face, concentrating on dry patches, then use your regular moisturizer overtop. Follow with makeup. Try facial oils at bedtime as well for maximum overnight hydration, suggests Barankin.
You don’t need to fear this beauty trend if you have oily, acne-prone skin, either. Ma touts the power of coconut oil when it comes to promoting a clear complexion, “because it’s light, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.” She also recommends jojoba, because the texture is very similar to the skin’s natural sebum so it won’t clog pores. Blends created to treat acne often contain one of these two bases, plus essential oils that will target breakouts. “Peppermint oil is antimicrobial, and it also has a nice cooling effect,” says Ma. Tea tree oil is another to look for; it’s a natural must-have for busting blemishes, due to its powerful antiseptic properties.
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As with any new skincare product, choose a formula that targets your complexion concerns, then slowly introduce it to your skincare regimen, beginning with one or two drops, once a day. If you have highly sensitive skin or are susceptible to allergic reactions, avoid oils that contain more than one botanical ingredient, and patch-test it on the inside of your arm for several days before applying to your face. “Follow the less-is-more rule,” says Barankin. “And, if possible, have a dermatologist select the products right for you.”
Tip: Give your skin an extra boost of moisture—and your complexion a pretty glow—by gently patting one or two drops of oil right over your makeup, midday.
Product we like, from left to right:
Burt's Bees Anti-blemish Solutions Targeted Spot Treatment, $15, walmart.ca
Boscia Tsubaki Beauty Oil, $55, sephora.com
Vitamin E Overnight Serum-in-Oil, $26, thebodyshop.ca
Nourishing Vata Face Oil, $84, pureandsimple.ca
A version of this article appeared in our April 2014 issue with the headline "Beauty oils," p. 32.
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