11 Best Facial Oils of 2021: Dry, Oily, Blemish-Prone Skin
For most of my life, facial oils were never really on my radar. My skin
For most of my life, facial oils were never really on my radar. My skin care routine involved cleansers, moisturizers, spot treatments, and the occasional mask. But rubbing oil all over my face seemed like an unnecessary — and problematic — step. And I wasn’t alone.
“Every skin care campaign of my youth made oil out to be the enemy,” says Jenna Levine, founder of LINNÉ. “Every product was oil-free and formulated to strip acne-prone skin of all sebum present.”
Kelly Gold, the spa and fitness director at The Club at Rancharrah and a licensed aesthetician, had the same aversion. “When I first entered the skin care field over 20 years ago, the words ‘oil’ and ‘skin’ used together in the same sentence made me cringe.”
Of course, we all eventually learned otherwise. Facial oils are like magic in a bottle. And, after taking a crash course in facial oils (courtesy of experts, like Levine and Gold), I can promise you this: You probably need one, no matter how dry, oily, or blemish-prone your skin may be.
The hard part is deciding which one is right for you. But don’t worry — I found 11 of the best facial oils to help you get started.
As the name implies, a facial oil is, indeed, an oil designed for your face. It’s a workhorse, capable of tackling all kinds of issues.
Facial oils can “help to seal in moisture, restore the skin’s lipid barrier, regulate sebum production, and provide vital nutrients to the skin — including a concentration of reparative and regenerative fatty acids,” Levine says.
That’s not all. “Facial oils can also provide a protective layer from the daily elements, seal in a serum, smooth lines, and soothe skin,” Gold says. “A therapeutic-grade facial oil can penetrate deeper into the skin, delivering its already natural infusion of properties, like omega fatty acids, polyphenols, and antioxidants, for instant results.”
Facial oils can be used by anyone. “They act as a great base for makeup and can be great for facial hair care,” adds Melissa Medvedich, a certified aromatherapist and the founder of Supernal.
All this, and facial oils feel amazing, too. Just a few drops absorb quickly into your skin, leaving you glowing and perfectly hydrated.
If you’re worried, as I was, that rubbing oil into your skin will make you greasy, shiny, and ripe for breakouts, fear not. I was pleasantly surprised that all the facial oils I tried soak right in. There wasn’t any glaring shine, greasy leftovers, or suspicious breakouts in the days to follow.
The key is finding a well-made oil that’s right for your skin type. I have a few tips for that.
“Not all oils are curated in the same way,” Gold says. She advises looking for facial oils that are certified organic, raw, cold- and fresh-pressed, and unrefined.
“Those steps give you the most beautiful, nutrient-rich benefits topically on the skin. Oils that are beautifully hued and have an unmistakably fresh and earthy fragrance are usually good indicators that they are pure and unrefined.”
Commercial oils that are chemically refined or altered lack these features. They also have far lower levels of antioxidants, enzymes, and nutrient loads — all the good stuff that benefits your skin.
“These essential ingredients are vital for skin health, including clarity, hydration and protection against environmental damage that accelerate the aging process of the skin,” Gold notes.
Typically, your skin type should inform your choice of oil. There are facial oils made with all kinds of ingredients, and they’re chosen for specific benefits.
Generally speaking, lighter oils work best on oily skin, while dry skin benefits from rich, occlusive oils.
“Know your skin type,” Levine advises. “If you are blemish prone, you will want to skip comedogenic oils, such as coconut, soybean, palm, and flaxseed oil. Dry skin may benefit from more occlusive oils. But oily and acne-prone skin should choose anti-inflammatory, oil-regulating oils, like hazelnut, jojoba, and perilla.”
Levine says all skin types should avoid synthetic oils. These can create an illusion of nourished skin — but they don’t actually help skin on the cellular level. She also suggests staying away from mineral oils.
Check the label to see what’s included. Many companies highlight the benefits of the ingredients in their formulas and indicate the skin conditions they seek to remedy.
“Make sure to pay attention to which ingredients work best for your skin and you’ll be in good shape,” Gold says.
Keep in mind that virtually all skin types will benefit from adding a clean facial oil to their daily skin care routine, including oily, acne-prone skin.
“It’s a myth that oily skin should avoid oil,” Levine says. “The right oils, such as jojoba and hazelnut, can help regulate sebum production. Oils also help lock in moisture, leaving your skin hydrated and nourished.”
Levine also says that some people with acne could have lower levels of linoleic acid in their skin’s surface lipids. Adding omega-6 fatty acid-rich oils, such as black cumin seed, may help.
Of course, adding anything new to your skin care routine takes some care. “Face oils can be a great addition for any skin type, but, as with any new skin care product, it’s always best to proceed cautiously and do a test patch, Medvedich says. “Adding a few drops of face oil to your regular moisturizer is also a great way to experiment with incorporating an oil into your regimen.”
As I went down the facial oil rabbit hole, I started wondering about the difference between oils and serums. Both seemed to be concentrated, oily products packaged in similar glass bottles. Are they really different? Is one better than the other?
As it happens, there are some similarities, but there’s also an important distinction.
“Oils help deliver nutrition to skin and help seal in hydration. Serums are generally used to address specific skin concerns, such as fine lines or hyperpigmentation, and [they] are usually lighter in molecular weight,” Medvedich explains. “That said, I think there can be hybrids between a face oil and a serum.”
Think of serums as booster products. “A serum shouldn’t be used as a moisturizer,” Gold notes. Rather, it’s “a boost to combat dull or lackluster skin, pigmentation, fine lines, or wrinkles, or to protect from future damage.”
If you’re using a facial oil and serum in tandem, use the serum first. Then apply the facial oil to help seal in the serum, so you get the full benefit of its ingredients.
Here are a few facial oils I tried and liked.
- $ = under $40
- $$ = $40–$75
- $$$ = over $75
Bathing Culture Outer Being Face & Body Oil
I’m a longtime fan of Bathing Culture for their body wash, hand sanitizer, and face mist, as well as their commitment to sustainably harvested ingredients.
I liked Bathing Culture so much, in fact, that I took a leap of faith on their Outer Being Face & Body Oil.
It was my very first experience with a true facial oil, and it didn’t disappoint. The vibrantly hued oil has a mix of vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants. And it smells appealingly earthy and natural.
I was hesitant to put it on my face the very first time — It’s so oily! It’s bright orange! — but a few drops rubbed in smoothly and absorbed effortlessly.
A minute or so after application, I was looking dewy and hydrated, and I stayed that way all day. Cue my newfound infatuation with facial oils.
Supernal Cosmic Glow Oil
Supernal’s Cosmic Glow Oil is a silky oil packed with vitamin C and omegas 3, 6, and 9. The formula is hand-blended in small batches, and it’s made with natural, organic ingredients.
The oil in my bottle is pale green, but colors can vary from one batch to the next because of the nature of the ingredients. It smells like it’s literally just harvested and pressed: fresh, earthy, and mildly herbal.
The oil is formulated for just about any skin type: normal, dry, oily, or combination.
My skin veers toward the dry end of the spectrum (and the high desert climate of my home state doesn’t help). But every moisturizer I’ve ever used leaves me overly shiny — even when I apply it sparingly.
However, Supernal’s oil is a great hydrating product to use after cleansing, when my skin’s still slightly damp. It gives me that perfect dewy finish without the glaring gleam.
Beekman 1802 Dream Booster Bakuchiol Beta-Retinol Serum
I’m a huge fan of anything from Beekman 1802, a famed purveyor of clean goat milk skin care.
I was particularly excited to check out the brand’s new booster serums. These are true serums with specific skin benefits.
The Dream Booster is a bakuchiol beta-retinol serum. Bakuchiol is a plant-based retinol alternative that may be able to help smooth skin texture, diminish the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and minimize the appearance of pores.
Plus, it’s gentler than retinol, which may be irritating to sensitive skin.
I find the serum to be light and gentle with a mild fragrance.
Beekman 1802 Golden Booster Amla Berry Vitamin C Serum
The Golden Booster is supercharged with vitamin C derived from amla berry.
I really like this serum. It has a slightly thicker, more concentrated texture than a facial oil, and it’s a bright sunny yellow.
Both the Dream Booster and the Golden Booster are designed with personalized skin care in mind. By mixing a few drops of either serum with the Beekman 1802 Bloom Cream Probiotic Moisturizer, you can create a customized skin care cocktail that absorbs beautifully to deeply nourish the skin’s microbiome.
Dr. Brent Ridge, one of the founders of Beekman 1802, explains that the root of all skin issues boils down to imbalances in the skin’s microbiome. It’s affected by any number of internal and external stressors.
Because goat milk has a similar pH to our skin, it’s inherently gentle. That’s why blending the Bloom Cream with the booster serums — or any serum — is so effective.
I find the serum-boosted moisturizer perfect before bed, and I’m thrilled with my bright complexion come morning. This is a great option for anyone who has ultra-sensitive skin.
LINNÉ BALANCE Face Oil
LINNÉ is a botanical skin care line that safely promotes healthy, radiant skin. I love that their products are free of synthetics, carcinogens, environmental toxins, and fillers.
The brand is all about transparency. Both their ingredients and the purpose of those ingredients are out there for everyone to see.
LINNÉ BALANCE Face Oil is made with seed and essential oils chosen for their ability to manage oil production, clear pores, encourage cellular regeneration, and reduce inflammation.
The oil in my bottle is light in both color and texture, and it absorbs quickly and easily. It has a clean, green, herbal aroma that I find surprisingly appealing — it gives you the feeling that this product is incredibly potent, vibrant, and fresh.
Rub in just a little product, and your skin feels instantly nourished.
LINNÉ REPAIR Face Oil
LINNÉ REPAIR oil is vivid orange, and I momentarily panicked the first time when it turned my skin the same color. But, as I massaged it in, something magical happened: The orange disappeared completely, leaving my skin glowing.
It’s a light oil that absorbs easily, yet it leaves me hydrated all day. It has an almost dry oil effect — dewy, but not at all greasy.
LINNÉ’s oils are organic, wild harvested, and unrefined. Their level of care comes across in the fragrance: It’s a woodsy, spicy scent that makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my skin. And — with the blend of powerhouse ingredients chosen for their ability to encourage skin cell regeneration, minimize wrinkles, restore moisture, and improve complexion — that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Freck Beauty LIL PRICK Cactus Seed Dry Serum
This serum is indicative of the Freck brand as a whole — clean for sure, but bold at the same time.
With its potent blend of cactus seed, apricot seed, marula seed, and raspberry seed oils, this oil-masquerading-as-a-serum gives thirsty skin an instant boost of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and antioxidants. The brand also says it has tightening, firming, and toning properties.
It’s described as a dry serum, so I had expectations — and the product delivers. Prickly pear seed oil means this serum absorbs without leaving grease or shine.
The oil leaves me with soft, smooth, radiant skin. And, while it is technically labelled as a serum and not a facial oil, I find it works wonders all on its own.
Lepaar Precious Face Elixir
Credo is a great marketplace for clean beauty products from across the globe. All the brands on the site meet the Credo Clean Standard, which ensures standards for safety, sourcing, ethics, sustainability, and transparency. This is how I found Lepaar, a “wholistic” luxury skin care brand from Australia that creates compositions with whole plant extracts.
The brand’s Precious Face Elixir is a nutrient-rich facial oil designed for all skin types: dry, combination, blemish-prone, and normal.
The ingredient list is impressive, blending sea buckthorn oil, raspberry seed oil, papaya seed oil, and saffron with frankincense, myrrh, and — get this — 24-karat gold.
Lepaar describes the elixir as a nutrient-charged resurrecting oil. Honestly, it’s a fitting description. My skin feels smooth and silky, and it positively gleams just seconds after application.
NakedPoppy Revitalize Organic Facial Oil
A mere six certified organic ingredients pack a surprising punch in this clean facial oil for all skin types. The first ingredient is rosehip seed oil, sourced from a women-led sustainable farm in Patagonia. Rosehip seed oil is high in vitamin A.
I find this antioxidant-rich oil truly delightful. It has an earthy, almost floral scent and a vibrant orange hue. It soaks in instantly, leaving behind the glow and fabulously smooth texture I’ve come to expect from a great facial oil.
MARA Universal Face Oil
MARA is another brand I found at Credo, which means it’s a clean beauty company.
MARA’s Universal Face Oil is truly for everyone. Dry, sensitive, blemish-prone, combination, and normal skin will all benefit from this potent and luxurious oil.
An algae blend, along with antioxidants, phytonutrients, essential fatty acids, and nutrient-rich superfood plant oils, add up to something special.
The green oil is smooth and rich, soaking into my skin and leaving it soft and supple. I can’t pinpoint the fragrance exactly, but it’s light, earthy and wonderfully fresh.
Laurel Antioxidant Serum
The Laurel Antioxidant Serum has the consistency and texture of a facial oil, but it’s technically a hybrid moisturizer, serum, and oil. It’s packed full of potent ingredients — 31 fresh, potent oils and whole plant extracts — that are mindfully sourced from local artisan farms.
These oils and extracts are pressed by hand and infused with essential oils for skin benefits, like barrier support, tissue repair, and more.
The brand says every ingredient plays a role in brightening and restoring radiant skin, and just a drop or two goes a long way.
Laurel’s skin care products are a true seed-to-bottle effort. With this serum, it’s clear from the silky texture, vivid hue, and fresh botanical fragrance. It imparts that telltale glow, and I have zero issues with dryness or irritation.
A good facial oil is a must-have in any skin care routine. Oils are the secret to perfectly hydrated, glowing skin — who knew?! — and that’s really just the start.
Again and again, I read reviews from people who were just as impressed as I was by their suddenly dewy, moisturized, smooth skin — all because they took a leap of faith on a high-quality facial oil.
Yes, many facial oils come with a premium price tag. But a little goes a very long way, and you get what you pay for. There’s no benefit to a synthetic facial oil or one made with low-grade ingredients, so spring for the good stuff if you can. I promise, you’ll be so glad you did.
After adding a facial oil into my nighttime routine, I was impressed by the appearance of my skin upon waking up: bright, soft, smooth, and hydrated.
Turns out, that “I woke up like this” thing is the real deal when you’re using a great facial oil.
Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.