When it comes to healthy skin, "oily" is not often a word we use too often. Sure, our skins have natural oils, but too much of that oil can leave our faces looking greasy, shiny and acne-prone. Too little, on the other hand, can lead to dry, flaky, irritated skin -- and for people who suffer from this type of dry skin, a little bit of oil may be just what the dermatologist ordered.
Using oil as a skin-care product is somewhat controversial: Skin doctors don't often recommend them because they can clog pores and don't always penetrate deep into the skin the way that lotions and creams can, says Cheryl Karcher, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. And because these products are relatively new to the market, there are very few studies confirming anecdotal evidence of their benefits. For people with severely dry skin, though, plant-based oils and extracts are often some of the only products that provide relief by creating a protective layer that locks in moisture.
The key to using oils successfully is to find the right one for your skin, in the right type of product. Maybe you'll like the way oil feels on your body but not on your face, for example. Or maybe you don't like the feeling of straight oil or serum, but you can find a lotion with extracts of essential oils. Experiment with different formulas until you find something that works for you, and use the following five beneficial oils as a starting point.
What to Use
As its name suggests, this oil comes from the seeds of pressed grapes, and it is high in antioxidants. It is beneficial for all skin types, from dry and flaky to greasy, because it helps regulate the body's natural oil production. Grapeseed oil is inexpensive and easy to find in the supermarket, and can be applied directly to the skin (just a few drops at a time) to even out skin tone and help prevent signs of aging. [Source: Van Damme]
This very pricey oil contains high levels of vitamin E and anti-inflammatory fatty acids, and because its antioxidants won't break down in sunlight the way others will, this is a good choice to wear during the day. Made from kernels in the nuts of argan fruit, it can take close to an hour to make enough oil to create a small bottle. Though it's been popular in Morocco for hundreds of years, it's now gaining worldwide attention. Proponents of argan oil, including the supermodel-turned-skin-care-entrepreneur Josie Maran, say that argan oil can be used to fight everything from dry, flaky skin to acne. A small 2-ounce bottle of argan oil should run you close to $50 (although you only have to use a few drops at a time); anything less expensive is likely filled with additives that will make it less effective. [Source: Davis]
You may feel warmth and tingling on your skin when you apply a product that contains peppermint oil; this comes from its natural astringent properties, which help clear out clogged pores and control the skin's natural oil production. (Because of this, it can be helpful for people with both dry and oily skin.) Peppermint oil, like all essential oils, is very potent by itself, and it can irritate the skin if applied directly. Instead, add a few drops to a "carrier oil" like olive or sweet almond oil, place a few drops in your bath or look for commercial products that already contain a blend. [Source: Mae]
Carrot Seed Oil
Carrots are also high in antioxidants, especially the powerful cancer-fighter beta-carotene. That's also true of the seeds of the wild carrot plant (also known as Queen Anne's Lace), which are pressed to create this common skin-care ingredient. Carrot seed oil may help reduce inflammation in dry, irritated skin, and can even help fight off precancerous skin lesions on skin exposed to too much sun. [Source: Annemariegianni.com] Because of this, carrot seed oil is often added to sunscreen as well as to anti-aging creams and serums.
This kitchen staple also has a place in skin-care, although it should be saved for people with very dry skin, says Miami-based dermatologist Leslie Baumann, MD in a interview with Totalbeauty.com. [Source: Davis] Olive oil is moisturizing, full of nutrients and fatty acids, and may even protect against skin cancer, according to one Japanese study done on mice. [Source: Budiyanto et al.] Consider slathering olive oil on dry hands and feet before bed (put on gloves and socks to protect your sheets), or adding a few tablespoons to your bath water. Look for the term "first cold press" on the bottle, which means that the oil hasn't been exposed to high temperatures that can destroy or alter its antioxidant content.
- Anne Marie Gianni Skin Care. "Ingredient Showcase: Carrot Seed Oil, a Moisturizing Skin-Rejuvenator" August 6, 2012. (September 16, 2013) http://www.annmariegianni.com/ingredient-showcase-carrot-seed-oil-a-moisturizing-skin-rejuvenator
- Austin, Phoenyx, MD. "What's In Your Beauty Pantry Doc?... Peppermint Oil!" Natural Chica. September 9, 2012. (September 16, 2013) http://www.naturalchica.com/2012/09/whats-in-your-beauty-pantry-doc-peppermint-oil-by-dr-phoenyx-austin/
- Budiyanto, A, et al. "Protective effect of topically applied olive oil against photocarcinogenesis following UVB exposure of mice" Carcinogenesis. (2000) 21 (11):2085-2090. doi: 10.1093/carcin/21.11.2085 (September 16, 2013) http://carcin.oxfordjournals.org/content/21/11/2085.full
- Davis, Dawn. "7 Oils That'll Change Your Skin." TotalBeauty.com via Today Beauty. July 25, 2012. (September 16, 2013) http://www.today.com/id/47270264/ns/today-today_style/t/oils-thatll-change-your-skin/
- Davis, Susan. "10 Winter Skin Care Tips." WebMD. December 21, 2007. (September 16, 2013) http://www.webmd.com/beauty/ten-winter-skin-care-tips
- Johannes, Laura. "Hard Nut to Crack: Beauty and Antioxidant Oil" Wall Street Journal. June 11, 2012. (September 16, 2013) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303768104577460504019108684.html
- Karcher, Cheryl, MD. Personal interview. September 13, 2013.
- Keville, Kathy. "How to Cure Dry Skin With Aromatherapy." Discovery Fit & Health. (September 16, 2013) https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/problems/treating/how-to-cure-dry-skin-with-aromatherapy.htm
- Main, Emily. "Top 4 Moisturizers for Dry Skin." Rodale.com via Good Morning America / ABC News. March 3, 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/SkinCare/top-moisturizers-dry-skin/story?id=18629073
- Siddons, Sarah. "Is Olive Oil Good for My Skin?" Discovery Fit & Health. (September 16, 2013) https://health.howstuffworks.com/skin-care/beauty/anti-aging/olive-oil-for-skin.htm
- Van Damme, Yvonne. "The Benefits of Grapeseed Oil for Your Skin." DailyGlow. November 11, 2011. (September 16, 2013) http://www.dailyglow.com/the-benefits-of-grapeseed-oil-for-your-skin.html
- Zerbe, Leah. "Lotion Vs. Oil: Which Is Better for Your Bod?" Rodale.com. January 18, 2011. (September 16, 2013) http://www.rodale.com/moisturizers