10 Face Oils that Can Make Dry Skin Glow
A good face oil can help soothe, hydrate, and moisturize dry skin. Here's what to look for—and the top products for glowing, healthy skin.
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What is face oil?
If you have dry skin, you’re probably on the hunt for a face oil product that will lock moisture into your skin. (And if you have oily skin, you’re probably staring at the words “face oil product” with a look of genuine horror. Prepare to be shocked: you, too, can use face oil.)
Just as the name suggests, face oil is an oil or combination of oils formulated to be used on the face as a moisturizing agent.
Slathering oil on the skin isn’t a new concept. In fact, face oils have been used historically in many cultures. But these days, they’re seeing something of a resurgence.
Dermatologist Kristina Collins, MD, co-founder and CEO of Austin Skin, a boutique dermatology practice in Texas, believes that the increase in popularity of face oils is a result of consumers becoming more eco-conscious and savvier about the ingredients in the products they are using.
“Oil-based skin care products typically have less or zero preservatives or chemical additives and fewer dyes or potentially toxic ingredients, and many oil-based skin care companies are operating with more rigorous environmental and sustainability standards than typical skin care companies,” she says.
And it’s not only people with dry skin who are smoothing oil on their face. (See, oily skin types? We said you wouldn’t be left out.) “There are face oils for every skin type, even acne-prone or oily, and they feel [like a] luxurious part of a self-care ritual,” Collins says.
How face oils differ from humectants
First, let’s talk about that scientific-sounding term: humectants. These ingredients, often found in moisturizers and serums, are water magnets. They draw water to the top layer of the skin, keeping your skin moisturized.
Face oils can make sure that moisture is locked in your skin.
“Most oils have emollient and occlusive properties, and so they are able to support the skin barrier and lock in moisture,” explains Hadley King, MD, a New York City-based dermatologist who specializes in medical and cosmetic dermatology.
But while they can keep your skin hydrated, they don’t draw water to the skin.
“They generally don’t have humectant properties, like hyaluronic acid and glycerin [do], so they should be applied on damp skin or after a product containing humectants,” says Dr. King, who is also a clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University.
Benefits of using a face oil
Face oils provide a plethora of skin care benefits. Here are the most notable:
They nourish dry, cracked skin.
Oil-based skin care reigns supreme at reducing dry, chapped, red, or inflamed skin, according to Dr. Collins.
“Many oils, like almond oil, are enriched with moisturizing fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help lock in moisture and soothe the skin,” she says. “Oils also help improve the barrier function of the skin, which is so important for inflamed or dry skin.”
They lock in moisture under makeup.
“Dry skin can cause flakiness, but applying a face oil before makeup application combats this and work to improve the overall appearance of using powders and foundations on the skin,” explains Marina Peredo, MD, a dermatologist in New York City and Dix Hills, Long Island.
Yes, you heard that right: apply oil under your makeup. You’re probably thinking, “But wait, won’t this make my makeup runny?” Not if your skin is really dry. Instead, it’ll prevent your makeup from flaking and caking over dry skin. The result: you look positively glowing.
“The makeup goes on more smoothly, and face oil helps to keep the skin moisturized throughout the day,” says Dr. Peredo, who is also an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.
They reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
“Because these products are lipophilic, they can often penetrate the skin deeper and more efficiently than aqueous-based products, helping to plump the skin and bring nutrients into the skin where we need them,” says Dr. Collins.
Not only that, but they may contain ingredients that protect against age-related damage. “Many of these oils, like moringa oil, grapeseed oil, marula oil, rose hip, and plum oil, are loaded with antioxidants that help protect our skin against wrinkle-inducing [ultraviolet] UV damage and environmental exposures,” she says.
They help combat dryness from acne medications.
Face oils are great for those who take acne medications that dry out the skin, such as spironolactone, retinol, or Accutane, notes Dr. Peredo.
“Working a face oil into your routine can counteract the drying effects from these medications,” she says.
What to look for in a face oil for dry skin
Dr. Peredo recommends looking for face oils that have ingredients such as argan, squalene, and jojoba.
“These oils have a smaller molecular size, which means they will sink into your skin without clogging pores,” she says. “When the molecular size is too big, it won’t penetrate through the top layer of the skin, which in turn clogs pores.”
If you have allergy-prone or reactive skin, Papri Sarkar, MD, a dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts, recommends using oils that are fragrance free.
If you have acne-prone or oily skin that doesn’t have a broken skin barrier, she recommends a tea tree oil-containing face oil, as it is antimicrobial and can decrease the numbers of bacteria, yeast, and dermatophytes (a type of fungus) on the skin.
Dr. King recommends avoiding potentially comedogenic (pore-clogging) oils, like coconut oil, because they can contribute to acne. Also worth skipping: face oils containing essential oils that commonly cause allergic contact dermatitis.
(Check out more skin care tips dermatologists follow themselves.)
The best face oils for dry skin
Here are some of the best face oils to try to nourish your dry skin.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
Dr. Peredo is a big fan of The Ordinary’s face oil because it is cruelty-free, gluten-free, vegan, and alcohol-free, and it possesses qualities that can be hard to come by in a skin care product.
“While it’s great for all skin types, it’s specifically great for dry skin because of the benefits of rose hip seed oil,” she says. “It is rich in pro-vitamin A and essential fatty acids, which support healthy, hydrated skin.”
Another all-star from The Ordinary is its 100% Plant-Derived Squalane, which is light and won’t clog pores.
(These are the vegan skin care products dermatologists like.)
Drunk Elephant Virgin Marula Luxury Face Oil
If you’re looking to splurge, another one of Dr. Peredo’s go-to face oils is this one by Drunk Elephant, which is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, as well as omega 6- and omega 9-fatty acids.
“Marula seed oil is highlighted in this product because it is super absorbable and works to moisturize and nourish the skin while giving a youthful glow,” she says.
Because it is fragrance-free, it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin as well.
Elemis Superfood Facial Oil
You can feed your skin food to boost hydration with this facial oil from Elemis.
This formula contains nine superfood oils. Broccoli seed oil is high in antioxidants and vitamin C, which help soften the skin and give it a healthy glow. Daikon radish (from radish seeds) is able to penetrate to lower levels of the epidermis to nourish the skin. And flaxseed oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, helps seal in moisture and boost hydration.
Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum
Looking for a luxe face oil that feels like you’re spoiling yourself with every drop? Dr. Sarkar recommends this cult classic from Vintner’s Daughter.
“A few drops of this warmed up between my palms, inhaled, and then massaged onto my face makes me feel like I just had a mini spa moment,” she says.
The oil is formulated with nutrient-rich botanicals like nettle, lavender, carrot seed, and lemon, which help brighten skin and get rid of dullness and dryness.
It’s suitable for all skin types and contains free radical-fighting antioxidants as well as moisturizing omega-3, 6, 7, and 9 fatty acids.
(Here are the best serums to use this summer.)
Sunday Riley C.E.O. Glow Vitamin C + Turmeric Face Oil
This face oil from Sunday Riley is infused with a powerful blend of skin-nourishing ingredients that leave your skin brighter and give it a natural glow.
“Not only is this face oil great for dull or uneven skin and redness, but it is amazing for dry skin because of the added antioxidant vitamin C,” says Dr. Peredo. “Accompanied by turmeric and evening primrose oil, this face oil instantly absorbs into the skin, leaving it brighter, hydrated, and glowing.”
Ladybug Potions Seriously Glowing Face Oil
Ladybug Potions’ moisturizing face oil helps soothe, calm, and hydrate dry skin with organic and natural ingredients, such as almond sweet, lavender essential oil, and orange sweet essential oil (to name a few).
It goes on light and doesn’t leave any oily residue after application. It also works to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
To reap the most benefits of this face oil, wash your face and apply moisturizer and SPF. Then drip one to two drops of the face oil into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands to warm, and then pat the oil onto your face.
Carter+Jane The Everything Oil
“This oil contains ingredients that hydrate, moisturize, and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, including organic prickly pear seed oil, organic avocado oil, organic sweet almond oil, and organic aloe vera,” says Dr. King.
Carter+Jane’s face oil is ideal for those with dry skin and for those with acne-prone skin because the prickly pear seed oil can help reduce blackheads.
“This oil is also vegan, organic, and cruelty-free and is formulated without water, alcohol, or silicone, which is a major plus for consumers,” Dr. King.
GoodJanes Best Facial Oil
Dr. King loves to recommend GoodJanes‘ face oil to patients with dry skin. “It is super nourishing and contains a unique blend of safflower, coconut, argan, and jojoba oils to moisturize and smooth the skin,” she says.
It also contains alpine rose stem cells, which have antioxidant properties that can help fight against free radical damage that leads to premature signs of aging.
The Jojoba Company Ultimate Serum
In addition to jojoba oil, one of the most powerful ingredients in this face oil from The Jojoba Company is hyaluronic acid, a humectant that contains up to 1,000 times its weight in water.
“For maximum moisturizing effect, a humectant like hyaluronic acid needs to be combined with emollients and occlusives like jojoba oil, which has both emollient and occlusive properties,” says Dr. King.
Naked Poppy Revitalize Organic Facial Oil
“This face oil is rich in antioxidants and features a high-quality rose hip seed oil,” says Dr. King. “It absorbs quickly, helps to lock in moisture, is certified USDA organic, and is sourced from a women-led sustainable farm in Patagonia.”
Naked Poppy’s face oil is suitable for all skin types and helps give off a dewy complexion with ingredients like rose hip seed oil, jojoba oil, argan oil, and poppy seed oil. Together, these ingredients provide moisture, lock in hydration, and help balance sebum production to keep the skin clear.
Next, try these dry skin food remedies.
- Hadley King, MD, board-certified dermatologist specializing in medical and cosmetic dermatology and clinical instructor of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medicine
- Kristina Collins, MD, board-certified dermatologist and cofounder and CEO of Austin Skin, a boutique dermatology practice in Texas
- Marina Peredo, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist in New York City and Dix Hills, Long Island and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York
- Papri Sarkar, MD, board-certified dermatologist in Brookline, Massachusetts