I first learned about oil cleansing almost a decade ago: I was deep in the throes of a long struggle with acne, and I was willing to try anything. Except putting oil on my face. Far too risky. Instead, I just kept going in the exact opposite direction, which was to try to dry out and exfoliate away all my oily, acne-prone skin until, hopefully, new perfect skin could be revealed underneath. Eventually (no thanks to my misguided efforts), my skin did clear up, but what was left was not perfect skin: instead, my face was dehydrated, sensitive, with a persistent bumpy texture across the surface of it.
As I faced my newfound issue of a damaged moisture barrier (from all that exfoliating), I finally learned my lesson: your skin is, above all, an organ of your body with a job to do, and you should maybe be nice to it. I stripped back my skincare routine to only the most gentle basics, and in that process discovered my one true love: argan oil. For the past 6 months, argan oil’s been pretty much the only thing to touch my face, and it’s never felt better: my skin feels healthy and balanced, my hormonal breakouts are minimal, and my texture has smoothed out.
From me and my picky skin to you and yours, here are my carrier oil recommendations for every need and skin type (all available behind the bulk counter at Eco Collective!). At the end of the day, everyone’s skin is individual and unique, and what works for one person may not work for you. As with anything skin-related, a patch test first is recommended. Luckily, these oils are pretty versatile, so if one isn’t right for your face, it could be right at home on another part of your body.
How to choose your oils:
First, a little bit of science! While each oil has its own unique mix of vitamins and fatty acids, there’s one major distinction to look for: the concentration of Linoleic Acid (Omega-6) or Oleic Acid (Omega 9). Research shows that acne-prone skin tends to have a lower concentration of linoleic acid in surface lipids, so oils higher in linoleic acid can be particularly helpful for acne-prone and oily skin. Oils higher in oleic acid are more moisturizing, and are best for dry or sensitive skin. Here are our recommendations for oils based on your particular needs and skin type.
PS - Comedogenic ratings measure how likely the product is to clog pores. Lower numbers (on a 0-5 scale) correlate with a lower chance of causing breakouts.
Best All-Around: Argan Oil
High in both Linoleic and Oleic Acid; Comedogenic rating: 0
Argan oil is a favorite of the Eco Collective team! And a great place to start - it has a balanced profile between linoleic and oleic acids, making it beneficial for most skin types, and it’s non-comedogenic, meaning it likely won’t break you out. We’ve found it to be a great solution for both dry and acne-prone skin. Not only does it help regulate the production of sebum (helping prevent further breakouts), but it also contains Vitamin E, which helps fade scars and smooth skin texture. For hair, it helps with scalp health and fighting dandruff, while antioxidants make it beneficial for color-treated hair.
Best Lightweight/ Daytime Oils:
Hemp seed oil
High in Linoleic Acid. Comedogenic Rating: 0
Hemp seed oil is another great oil to start with: it’s a lightweight, non-comedogenic oil that sinks in soon after application, making it a particularly good daytime moisturizer and a safe choice for oily and acne-prone skin. Hemp seed oil has softening and moisturizing properties and helps reduce redness and inflammation, making it beneficial for sensitive skin types. It contains Vitamins D and E, which can help reduce inflammation, dryness, and uneven texture without clogging pores.
Apricot kernel oil
High in Oleic Acid, 2
Apricot kernel oil is a lightweight oil rich in polyphenols (aka antioxidants) and oleic acid, making it a good daytime option for drier skin types. It soaks into skin quickly, with Vitamins A, C, and E which improves cell turnover, helps the skin maintain moisture balance, and helps heal damaged skin or breakouts.
Best Cleansing Oils:
High in Ricinoleic Acid, 1
Castor oil is a great oil for oil cleansing, due to its high ricinoleic acid content, which gives the oil detox properties. However, due to that ricinoleic acid, castor oil is also a very drying oil, and should be diluted with other oils before being used on the skin. Castor Oil is anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-fungal. It helps increase cell turnover, making it a good oil for acne treatment, and can also help with seborrheic dermatitis, one of the causes of dandruff.
Sweet Almond Oil
High in Oleic Acid; Comedogenic Rating: 2
Sweet Almond Oil helps the skin retain moisture and boosts collagen production, making it a good oil for drier skin types. It is an excellent cleansing oil because it contains stearic acid, which helps to purge dirt, sweat, and excess sebum from the hair and skin. It contains vitamins A and E, which help increase cell turnover and even skin tone. Avoid if you have a nut allergy.
Best for acne-prone skin:
High in Eicosenoic Acid, Comedogenic rating: 2
Jojoba oil is one of the best lightweight oils out there, and it is often recommended for acne-prone skin. It mimics the consistency of the skin’s natural sebum, making it great for regulating the amount of oil your skin produces. Jojoba oil is also a humectant, meaning it pulls moisture from the air into your skin. It’s got antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties, making it great for killing acne-causing bacteria, calming the skin, and fighting free-radical damage. For hair, it can be particularly helpful for itchy and dry scalps.
Organic Oil Blend for Oily Skin
A blend of jojoba oil, rose hip seed oil, organic rosemary extract, and organic grapefruit essential oil.
The organic oil blend brings the qualities of jojoba oil and rosehip seed oil together, adding a drop of rosemary extract and grapefruit essential oil for their added anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibacterial qualities.
Best for brightening: Rosehip Seed Oil
High in Linoleic Acid, Comedogenic rating: 1
I first heard about Rosehip Seed Oil from my dermatologist; she recommended I use it as a serum to help with my acne and scarring. Rosehip seed oil has a high concentration of vitamin A (natural retinol) and vitamin C, which increase cell turnover, helping reverse hyperpigmentation, signs of aging, sun damage, stretch marks, and scars. Its high antioxidant content also helps improve texture. A little goes a long way!
Also - vitamins A and C make you photosensitive, so it’s best to use this product at night and remember your SPF in the morning!
Best for antioxidants:
High in Linoleic acid, comedogenic rating: 1
Antioxidants help your skin protect against free radical damage and premature aging. And the unique polyphenol compounds in grapes make grapeseed oil (and wine, bless) a particularly good source of antioxidants. Grapeseed oil is also rich in Vitamin E, another antioxidant which helps moisturize and even out skin tone. Grapeseed oil also helps reduce inflammation and redness and accelerates the healing of acne. It’s a thick but lightweight oil which absorbs quickly into the skin.
Vitamin E oil
Vitamin E oil is rich in antioxidants which help prevent free radical damage to the skin. By keeping cell membranes moist and encouraging cell regeneration, Vitamin E oil is also used to help with wound healing. It’s helpful to mix vitamin E oil with another oil containing oleic acid, to help make the skin more permeable and able to hold in the moisture.
How to use your oils:
Oil cleansing is a great way to remove makeup and sunscreen. Rub a few drops of the oil into your skin to help break down the products. You can finish off the cleanse with your usual facial cleanser, or simply wipe off the excess oil with a warm, damp washcloth. Oil binds with other oils, and so an oil cleanse can not only break up thicker products on your skin surface, but it can also reach into your pores and help cleanse any buildup of your natural sebum. (Crazy, right?)
I do a deep oil cleanse once a week, massaging argan oil into the skin (gently!!) for a few minutes.
Oil as moisturizer
You can also use the oil as a facial moisturizer, placing a few drops onto bare skin, following your cleansing or toner. However, while the oils will help deliver moisture and nutrients to your skin, you may find (especially if you have drier skin) that you still want to top it off with your regular moisturizer, to help seal in the moisture and nutrients.
You can also add a few drops into your usual moisturizer or lotion.
Warm the oil and massage it into damp hair. Oils can help bring moisture to the length of your hair, but they can also be good to massage onto your scalp! Many oils have properties that help with the issues underlying dandruff and itchy scalp. Leave on overnight, and then wash off in the morning with shampoo (you may want to double shampoo). If you want some more guidance, Genevieve wrote a great blog post with some recipes!
You can also add a few drops of the oil in with your conditioner, or rub a drop or two between your palms and put it on the ends of your hair.
Sources/ Further Reading:
Note: Little clinical research has been done on the topical use of carrier oils. Claims are based on the research done on ingredients within the oils.