Oils are everywhere, but how are you supposed to know which ones you need? There’s an oil for dry skin, sure, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an oil for dandruff, one for fading dark spots, and even one for pimples. And while using oils in the quest for beauty is ancient practice, they’re having a moment in the spotlight right now. You’ve probably noticed almost every celebrity we interview has one in her routine: Ginnifer Goodwin washes her face with coconut oil, Kourtney Kardashian uses that same oil as a scalp treatment for stronger hair, while her sister Kourtney slathers avocado oil on her face. Even Sophia Loren adds olive oil to her bathwater for suppler skin.
You can buy pure oils at your local health food store—look out for words like extra virgin and unrefined—or you’ll find them listed among the ingredients of a surprising number of products. To help guide you, we’ve assembled a handy guide detailing what oils do and how best to use them.
Grapeseed oil’s both hydrating and nourishing, thanks to omega-6s and vitamin E, but light enough to use on sensitive and oily skin.
Uses: As a makeup remover and toner. Grapeseed oil balances the moisture and oil levels in skin, while removing dirt and makeup.
Almond oil may be in numerous body products, thanks to its warm and nutty smell, but it also fades dark spots and hydrates skin.
Uses: Apply to damp skin post-shower or pour into your bathwater.
Native Americans used jojoba oil hundreds of years ago for everything from treating wounds to hydrating hair. Why? It’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and non-comedogenic.
Uses: Heat a tablespoon or two and apply as a hot oil treatment to your hair in the shower. For skin, press it into your damp face in place of lotion, or massage into dry cuticles for hydration.
Thanks to very high levels of fatty acids, coconut oil is incredibly hydrating. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties, plus it smells amazing.
Uses: For hair, use it as a deep conditioner, frizz-fighting serum, or as a scalp treatment. (Kardashian applies it to her scalp, combs it through to her ends, and shampoos it out one hour later.) It will also replace your richest body cream, lip balm, cuticle oil, and makeup remover. It’s very thick, so a little goes a long way.
This oil’s rich in brightening vitamin C and nourishing fatty acids, plus it has a non-greasy finish and anti-inflammatory benefits, so it soothes redness and irritation.
Uses: Use in place of, or before, your nightly serum.
Moroccan women have been using argan oil for its moisturizing fatty acids and soothing vitamin E for thousands of years.
Uses: Apply to damp hair to fight frizz, create shine, and make a blowout much easier, then dab on your face to replace—or boost—your night cream.
Sunflower oil is a natural emollient with calming and soothing properties. It also has antioxidants like vitamins A, C, D, and E for younger-looking skin.
Uses: Apply to damp skin post shower in place of lotion.
A natural emollient with omega-3s—plus vitamins A and E—avocado oil is a great anti-aging moisturizer.
Uses: Lightly apply to dry patches of skin on your body, or press a few drops onto your face at night. Avoid if you’re prone to breakouts: it’s one of the heavier oils.
Olive oil is incredibly hydrating, thanks to fatty acids and vitamin E. It also has vitamin A, an anti-aging antioxidant.
Uses: Dab onto dry elbows and knees at night, or follow Sophia Loren’s lead and add it to your bath.
Essential fatty acids make this oil hydrating and nourishing, but the texture is closer to a serum, so it soaks in quickly.
Uses: Have an itchy scalp or dandruff? Part hair and massage onto your scalp, working a light amount through the length and ends of your locks. Let it soak in overnight, then shampoo in the morning.
Antioxidants like vitamins C and E give this oil anti-aging benefits, plus, like many on our list, it hydrates with essential fatty acids.
Uses: Warm a few drops between your hands and press onto your face and neck as a nightly face treatment. Or try adding a drop or two to your foundation.
The fresh-smelling essential oil is found in everything from candles to lip balms to desserts, thanks to high levels of invigorating and tingling menthol. It also calms red skin and makes hair shinier.
Uses: It’s too strong to apply full strength, so try adding a few drops to your shampoo or body oil to get the benefits.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene give carrot oil anti-aging properties, plus it’s a natural emollient, so it locks moisture into the skin. (Like all essential oils, dilute before using.)
Uses: Mix into your bathwater or add a few drops to a lighter oil, like jojoba or almond, then rub onto damp skin.
Prone to acne? Tea tree oil is a natural antiseptic with a non-greasy finish. It’s also has antifungal properties.
Uses: It’s a natural way to treat acne, burns, athlete’s foot, minor cuts, and fungal nail infections.