Bio-Oil is a go-to body product for many, but have you considered using Bio-Oil for the face? This beauty cupboard staple has been around for a while, with loads of people loving the hydrating oil, but few have dared to slather it any higher than shoulder level. Dermatologists Dr. Morgan Rabach, Dr. Rachel Nazarian, and Dr. Marie V. Hayag weigh in on Bio-Oil and its benefits. Keep scrolling for all the reasons you should make this peach-colored oil a routine staple for your face.
Meet the Expert
- Dr. Morgan Rabach is a board-certified dermatologist at LM Medical in New York City who also serves as a clinical instructor in the Department of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital and an assistant professor of Dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
- Dr. Rachel Nazarian is a board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology specializing in cosmetic treatments, skin cancer, and dermatologic surgery.
- Dr. Marie V. Hayag is an NYC-based board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic and medical dermatology, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and an Assistant Clinical Professor at Mount Sinai Hospital.
What Is Bio-Oil?
This vitamin-rich oil promises huge benefits for your skin, from helping to fade stretch marks and scars to soothing sun-blasted or wind-whipped dry skin. This means there may be plenty of pros to dabbing it on our faces, too. And guess what: The experts agree.
Dr. Hayag explains that Bio-Oil is made of various vitamins and essential plant oils, including lavender oil, sunflower oil, and rosemary leaf oil. It also contains sunflower oil, "which is a great ingredient for the skin," she says. "It acts as an emollient and makes skin feel soft and smooth, and it’s even been shown to enhance recovery from damage to the skin barrier." Dr. Rabach adds that Bio-Oil also contains purcellin, which is lighter than other oils and non-greasy.
Despite being an oil, the formula is actually non-comedogenic, so you don’t need to worry about it clogging your pores. In fact, one of the oil ingredients is soybean oil, which is rich in several different fatty acids, according to Dr. Hayag. "The oils all work in conjunction to effectively moisturize the skin and reduce inflammation," she says. "It also has tocopheryl acetate, a form of vitamin E, which is a great antioxidant and protects the skin from aging and damage by free radicals," she adds.
Can You Use Bio-Oil on Your Face?
Fans of Bio-Oil's skincare oil know that the formula is geared heavily towards minimizing the appearance of scars and stretch marks. Quite gloriously, it may also do the same for acne scarring, even on the delicate skin of your face.
Dr. Rabach says, "If you have overly dry and flaky cracked skin, this oil may help if other lotions or creams aren’t moisturizing enough."
So does it work? The formula contains high quantities of vitamin A (which is the precursor to retinol) along with vitamin E, both of which are widely known for their regenerative properties. Dr. Hayag claims, "It’s generally safe to use Bio-Oil on the face and doesn’t come with side effects unless you are allergic to any of the ingredients in it."
Retinol is a type of retinoid, which is a derivative of vitamin A. It is an antioxidant used in anti-aging skin care products.
While Bio-Oil can be a great addition for some skin types, if you’re accustomed to the magical powers of high-performance retinols, peptides, and hyaluronic acid serums, then you may be disappointed if you switch to nothing but Bio-Oil for your face.
The Benefits of Using Bio-Oil on the Face
Whether you are dealing with sun damage, or it’s fluctuating hormones that are upsetting the balance, using the Bio-Oil on your face may help to regulate hyperpigmentation (aka darker spots or patches). It all comes back to the blend of vitamins and botanical extracts (which include calendula, rosemary, and chamomile) found in Bio-Oil and their ability to replenish UV-damaged skin cells. Bio-Oil can also help with acne scarring and inflammation.
The proof? A 2011 clinical study found a “statistically significant improvement” in the appearance of uneven skin tone for 86% of its testers, who each applied Bio-Oil twice a day for 12 weeks.
In their 2012 study on people with newly formed acne scars, 84% of participants reported an improvement in the condition of their scars after applying the oil twice daily for 10 weeks and 90% of testers also confirmed that using the oil reduced the redness of their scarring.
Another clinical study done in 2008 found that the occlusivity level of Bio-Oil is very similar to the vernix caseosa, the viscous biofilm (aka white stuff) that protects the skin of babies while they're in the womb. (Fun fact: Scientists often use this as the ultimate benchmark for skin moisture and hydration levels.)
Occlusivity is the way in which a product can trap water and moisture in the deeper layers of the skin, acting as a barrier to prevent the rapid moisture loss that can lead to the cyclical nature of dryness. "It is moisturizing and if used over other serums, it may help seal them in," Dr. Rabach adds.
Potential Side Effects
If you like to reach for the Bio-Oil when your skin’s feeling dry, you’ll be happy to know you can reap the same rewards for the dehydrated skin on your face. But Dr. Nazarian warns that while Bio-Oil is wonderful for the skin because it offers antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients, "it also contains a lot of botanical ingredients and may be somewhat irritating for people that have allergies or have sensitive skin."
Just like any product, some bodies may be more sensitive to it than others, so the experts recommend proceeding with caution if you have a known sensitivity to any of the ingredients. "The ingredients that are derivatives of vitamin A or vitamin E have really great benefits for skin by acting as calming agents for inflammatory skin conditions, and improving hydration," says Dr. Nazarian, "but those who are acne-prone or who have sensitive skin should probably look elsewhere and limit Bio-Oil to neck-down body application."
Dr. Hayag adds that another important factor to consider is the fragrant components in essential oils. "If you have sensitive, acne-prone skin or have allergies to perfumes, it’s best to avoid using Bio-Oil," she says.
How to Apply Bio-Oil to Your Face
If you plan on adding this hydration station to your face routine, we would suggest applying it twice a day to clean skin. As far as amount, a few small drops will go a long way—just make sure to pat them in instead of rubbing for maximum absorption. You can also use Bio-Oil after your moisturizer if you prefer oiling up after. "You can use it twice a day after washing and leave it on overnight," Dr. Rabach adds.
Alternatives to Bio-Oil
Some people have sensitivities to the essential oils and fragrance used in Bio-Oil. So if you're looking for alternatives, you'll want to find oils that have rich occlusive properties. Since Bio-Oil's base is safflower oil, so you can also use straight up safflower oil, which is rich in antioxidants and also non-comedogenic—so it won't cause any breakouts.
Other options include rosehip oil, squalane oil, and even castor oil. All of these provide a lightweight feel and offer amazing moisturizing and hydrating benefits.
The Final Takeaway
All in all, we can definitely say that Bio-Oil is a key product to keep on your shelf. Whether it's for your body or your face, it's a glorious multitasking product.
Lin T-K, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oils. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70.
Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012;4(3):308-319.
Bio-Oil Professional. Bio-oil clinical research.