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Once upon a time, not so long ago, “oil” was a dirty word in the skincare world, something meant to be removed, not added to your complexion. But that was before we understood just how beneficial the right facial oil can be and the important role one can play in pretty much anyone’s skincare routine. The secret to success? Ensuring you choose the right oil for your particular skin type and goals since, breaking news, not all oils are created equal. Lightweight oils, for instance, are almost traceless once blended in and feature anti-inflammatory properties—making them an excellent choice for pimple-prone and oily skin.
There’s a veritable cornucopia of options out there that can do everything from seal in moisture to balance out excess oil production and ward off breakouts (it’s true). Some single-ingredient oils are perfect for mixing into your moisturizer or applying under your makeup for a dewy glow (great for dry skin). Other bottles feature a blend of cold-pressed oils to create a luxe, almost spa-like experience that—guess what?—won't break the bank yet can leave you with a "yes, I just got a facial" glow.
Here we've rounded up some of the most primo picks available in our ultimate guide to the best face oils for every skin type.
Best Overall: Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil
The Byrdie team sings this oil’s praises time and time again; it’s a staple for many of our editors, including a top pick for Associate Editor Holly Rhue. What makes it such a crowd-pleaser? Well, for starters, there’s the fact that it contains only virgin marula oil—no silicones, fragrances, or other unwanted additives. Couple that with the fact that marula oil is packed with protective antioxidants to keep skin healthy and youthful, and is naturally anti-microbial, too. It absorbs quickly without leaving behind any tell-tale residue and works beautifully on all skin types (hence the crowd-pleasing part).
What Our Editors Say
"This was my gateway to face oils, sinking into my oily, acne-prone skin with ease, and sealing in moisture for lasting hydration. It's non-greasy, doesn't break me out, and is that perfect, neutral boost moisture when my skin is irritated or sensitive." — Kathryn Vandervalk, Editorial & Strategy Director
Best Budget: The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
We’ve already mentioned that rosehip seed oil is a particularly great skincare ingredient, thanks to the high levels of vitamin A for plenty of youth-boosting effects. So what could be better? Getting a pure, cold-pressed, organic version of it for less than the cost of lunch, duh. It even comes in a special UV-protective packaging so that you don’t have to worry about sunlight oxidizing the oil.
Best for Dry Skin: Elemis Superfood Facial Oil
Yes, pretty much any kind of face oil is a good pick if you have dry skin. But if you’re dealing with super, ultra, dehydrated skin, reach for this guy. Along with deeply hydrating sweet almond and flaxseed oil, it also touts a litany of (as the name suggest) superfoods, think broccoli and daikon radish. They’re loaded with antioxidants and omega-rich fatty acids, all the things your lackluster complexion needs in order to both look and feel better.
Best for Oily Skin: Biossance Squalane + Tea Tree Balancing Oil
Believe it: You can use oil even if you have oily skin. How, you ask? The base here is squalane, a plant-derived compound that mimics squalene, a fat the oil glands in our skin naturally produce. In a nutshell, squalane acts very similarly to the oil already in your skin, locking in moisture, but without leaving your complexion feeling greasy. There’s also purifying and naturally anti-bacterial tea tree essential oil in this formula, ideal for keeping breakouts at bay. It’s no wonder that it’s a must-have for Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Viva Naturals Organic Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is a natural oil produced from the seed of the Chinensis plant, a drought-resistant shrub native to southern Arizona, California, and Mexico. It mimics natural sebum and conditions and seals moisture in the skin without clogging pores or exacerbating acne.
There’s only 100% natural jojoba oil to be found in this bottle, a serious skin-saver when it comes to calming and soothing redness and sensitivity. Credit myristic acid, a saturated fatty acid that’s an excellent anti-inflammatory, perfect for quelling irritation. Jojoba oil also mimics our skin’s natural oil very closely, so it absorbs quickly and won’t clog pores, either.
Best for Anti-Aging: Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil
You already know that retinoids are one of the best anti-aging ingredients out there. Here, you’re getting all the youth-boosting effects of retinol from rosehip seed oil, which delivers a type of natural retinoic acid via a high concentration of vitamin A. Still, there’s much less likelihood of any irritating side effects, particularly given how hydrating this is (it is an oil after all). Not to mention that the formula also controls excess oil, and has a lovely floral scent derived from natural ylang-ylang, too.
Best for Glowing Skin: Ghost Democracy Softglow Facial Oil
By definition, any type of oil will impart a gorgeous radiance, but this particular pick, one that Byrdie’s Associate Social Media Editor Star Donaldson loves, really takes the cake. It boasts a trio of oils (cloudberry, cottonseed, meadowfoam seed) that are especially high in antioxidants, the ingredients responsible for warding off spots, discoloration, and dullness. So yes, you’ll get a glowy effect instantly, but it also works overtime to leave even your bare skin more radiant.
Best Drugstore: Burt's Bees Complete Nourishment Facial Oil
There aren’t a ton of face oils to be found at the drugstore, but luckily this one great pick is all you need. 99.9% natural, it relies on jojoba, rosehip, and evening primrose oils, all loaded with essential vitamins and antioxidants, and ones known to have great anti-aging effects. Also nice: A little goes a long way, so you only need to use two to three drops to reap all of these benefits.
Best Natural: NakedPoppy Revitalize Organic Facial Oil
Clean beauty queens will appreciate that most face oils have a fairly minimal ingredient list, though there are some formulas that will add in chemicals. Not the case here. All your skin gets is four certified organic oils: rosehip seed for all those anti-aging benefits we mentioned, plus jojoba, argan, and poppy seed oil.
Try using it solo, under makeup, or layered over moisturizer—you really can’t go wrong.
Best Multipurpose: Drifter Organics Gold Mine Face Oil
With over seven superstar organic oils, this lightweight oil is great for a myriad skin solutions. It has prickly pear seed oil to stimulate collagen production, jojoba oil for quick absorption, carrot seed oil to detoxify, and the list goes on. Users report more even skin tone and a compliment-worthy dewy glow.
Best for Dull Skin: Beauty Bakerie Wake & Bake Face Oil
Marula oil is a naturally-occurring oil derived from the marula tree. It's lightweight and non-comedogenic—the specific profile of fatty acids in marula oil is very similar to the oils naturally found in the skin.
Nourish and perk up your skin with this multitasking oil. This formula features 11 oils that are quick to absorb and hydrate your face. Made with marula oil, a favorite ingredient in skincare, this oil delivers vitamins, nutrients, and fatty acids for healthy and radiant skin. This lightweight formula will brighten dull skin without leaving it greasy.
Best for Non-Oil Lovers: Glossier Futuredew
If you simply can’t wrap your head around using a facial oil, try this formula, another one of Rhue’s favorites, and watch as your mind changes with just one use. Yes, it’s packed with oils, but they come in a water-in-oil emulsion, making this more of a serum-oil hybrid. Not in the least bit greasy, it soaks into skin lighting fast, leaving your complexion insanely glowy and hydrated.
Best With CBD: Josie Maran Skin Dope Argan Oil + 100 MG CBD Oil
Argan oil is lauded for being full of skin-loving essential fatty acids, namely omega 3, 6, and 9s. This oil contains a pure form of that oil, and combines it with cannabis sativa hemp extract for a dose of CBD to boot. No, it won’t get you high, but topical CBD may offer everything from anti-inflammatory to oil-balancing properties. Also nice: You can use this option on both face and body.
Best Tinted: Kosas Cosmetics Tinted Face Oil
We’ve often seen pro makeup artists either layer a face oil directly under foundation or mix the two together; it creates a gorgeous finish and radiance on the skin that you really can’t get from makeup alone. This skincare-makeup hybrid does the hard work for you, marrying the coverage you get from foundation with the hydration and luminosity of an oil. While it does use six botanical oils, it has more of a serum-like feel and delivers sheer coverage in 16 different shades.
Best Fair Trade: 54 Thrones Luxury Face Oil
This lightweight restorative face oil brings together 14 curated botanical oils for a luxury experience. Each oil is grown in partnership with local African cooperatives and hand-selected to soothe and repair skin. Ideal for dry to normal skin, you can expect to experience a brighter, healthier complexion.
Simply put, the Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Facial Oil is an absolute must for all skin types, oily included. A Byrdie-editor favorite, the formula contains nothing but virgin marula oil—no additives or fragrance—which lends a potent antioxidant boost and healthy glow, sans greasy residue. Speaking of pure oils, The Ordinary’s 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil is another top choice for its high levels of vitamin A that provide plenty of youth-boosting benefits. Plus, it’s extremely affordable. And finally, the Ghost Democracy Softglow Facial Oil is a great choice for anyone seeking radiant glow. (Who isn't?) It’s formulated with a trio of antioxidant-rich oils that ward off spots, discoloration, and dullness.
What to Look For in a Face Oil
Targets Your Skin Concern(s)
First and foremost, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick recommends shopping for a face oil based on what will target your specific skin concerns. “For example, certain oils may be better for anti-aging, such as argan oil or rosehip oil, while other oils may be best for dry skin such as maracuja, olive oil, and coconut oil,” she says. First decide on which concern(s) you’d like to address, then search for formulas accordingly—many oils on the market are blends, and may be able to target multiple of your concerns at once.
When it comes to oily or acne-prone skin types, Dr. Garshick stresses the importance of looking for formulas that are non-comedogenic. “It’s best to avoid oils that will clog the pores and potentially lead to more breakouts,” she says.
Fragrance-Free When Possible
Dr. Garshick also recommends shopping for face oils that are fragrance-free whenever possible, avoiding both added synthetic fragrance and natural fragrances such as essential oils if your skin is especially sensitive. “Many oils contain natural fragrance and extracts, and it’s important for those with sensitive skin to remember that some of these fragrances may be irritating on the skin.”
Can you use face oil on oily skin?
Believe it or not, but you can use face oils on oily skin, it just depends on the type of oil. “It’s important to select an oil that won’t clog the pores or worsen breakouts,” says Dr. Garshick. “Oils with a larger molecule size can be considered comedogenic, but those with a smaller molecule size, such as squalene and argan oil, penetrate the skin a bit better.”
Do face oils cause acne?
According to Dr. Garshick, face oils don’t necessarily cause acne. “A concern around facial oils has been that, as the name states, they contain oil which traditionally is thought to clog pores and lead to breakouts—however, not all oils are created equal,” she says. “There are oils that won’t clog the pores and as such, won’t cause acne. Additionally, oils such as tea tree oil, may even have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits and may be helpful for those with acne.”
How do you apply face oil?
When it comes to applying face oil, Dr. Garshick says that less is more. “Only a few drops are needed, and then it can be patted into the skin,” she says. “Because the oils are very concentrated, a little goes a long way. For those that prefer to rub or massage it in, it’s best to do so in an upward and outward motion.”
When should you apply face oil?
Dr. Garshick says it’s best to apply face oil after a moisturizer—and more importantly, to not necessarily treat it as a replacement for your traditional cream and lotion moisturizers. “It’s important to note that face oil does not necessarily replace a moisturizer, especially for those with dry skin,” she says. “Moisturizers may help to draw moisture in, while the oil helps to create a barrier for the skin to trap moisture in, creating a seal. Although oils may be a thinner consistency than a moisturizing cream or lotion, it’s generally best to apply them after moisturizer as they'll help seal in moisture. If oils are applied too early in a routine, they may even prevent subsequent products from getting absorbed. It’s also best to apply them at nighttime to help repair the skin while you’re sleeping.”
Meet the Expert
Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS: Medical Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery Centers and is the Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Cornell University.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. Her skin is dry but combination in parts, so she’s judicious about oils, but feels strongly that there’s a good option for every skin type, which is why she loved writing this article so much.