Facial Oils


Yes I said I’d be coming at you with Vitamin C next, but as I was pressing some marula oil into my face I says to myself, I says, “Self, other people are probably feeling that tight dry thing around the mouth-ish area and surely they could stand to hear about the grease treatment, no? Be timely!”

So now I will tell you about how you too can effectively grease up your face. It’s a more refined and modern version of smearing rendered bear fat on your exposed skin before heading out into the teeth of winter. Although side note: I never tried bear fat, maybe it’s way better than argan oil, wtf do I know? (Prediction: within 5 years, GOOP will be selling artisinal bear fat at $90/oz, accompanied by ad copy that reads like, “All natural, non-toxic, the beauty wisdom of our ancestors cannot be surpassed.” Et cetera.)

Anyway, I just mean it’s a very handy tool to fight the harsh winter air, so let’s get into it.


People need to calm tf down about facial oils. They get a lot of hype (god help us, especially from those Essential Oils devotees - which if you happen to be one: not today, satan) and you’ll see celebrities and beauty gurus swear by them. But they’re really not any more miraculous than many other skincare products - and quite a bit less useful than most. They’re just one more tool, and can be useful in conjunction with the rest of a solid routine.

Unless you have some extremely rare and unusual skin needs, you do not have to anoint yourself daily on a regular basis to achieve gorgeous skin health. Oils are an extra. An adjunct.

Because allergies and reactions are A Thing, it is entirely possible for your skin to hate an oil Just Because. I mention this as a caution because so many people think that oils are a nice, simple, easy thing, as they tend to be one natural ingredient. But your skin can still surprise you, I promise.

Also, when I say “use a facial oil” I do not mean “coat your face in oil,” okay. Even on my fat Irishish mug, I typically use 2-3 small drops. You should not look like a cake pan awaiting the batter.

Which oils?

So bear with me while I give you some sciencesque background, I will keep it short and move on to the bottom line soon enough.

The thing I learned is that apparently there are two kindsa acids in our natural seeeeeeebum (that’s how I pronounce it in my head) and those are: Oleic Acid, and Linoleic Acid. In skin that tends toward oiliness/acne/generally clogged pores, the seeeebum is typically deficient in linoleic acid. In skin that tends toward dryness, the seeeebum is typically deficient in oleic acid.

So apparently - and logically! - you should use an oil that is making up for the deficiencies in your natural oil production. HOWEVER. The oil that you choose - if say, you are a naturally dry-skinned person - should be proportionately higher in oleic acid. I mean, if you take the step of researching an oil’s acid composition before you use it, you should not discount an oil just because it has 20% [Non-preferred acid] to 60% [Preferred acid]. All plant oils have both acids (afaik) and a larger differential does not necessarily make it better or more powerful or whatever. It’s closer to a Pass/Fail system, if you get my meaning.

Also, this is just a guideline to help you narrow down which oil might work well for your skin. And though that this oleic/linoleic business is true overall and in a daily-use kinda way, it’s important to be open to adjustment. I keep a few different oils on hand, personally, because it just really depends on why (and where) I’m using it. And you can get a blend, which can be a little like spinning the acid-content roulette wheel - and see how it works for you. Why not? LOTS of people have had success just grabbing some Physician’s Formula oil at the drugstore and watching their skin turn from sad to happy! Just look out for unnecessary fragrance or other irritants, go for it.

So let’s get on with the actual oils, and many of these you probably could guess by texture that they’re better for one skin type over another. More oleic acid usually means an oil that feels heavier.

Popular oils with a higher percentage of Linoleic Acid:
Evening Primrose

Popular oils with a higher percentage of Oleic Acid:

Balanced-ish oils:
Argan (slightly higher in oleic)
Jojoba (slightly higher in oleic)
Castor* (slightly higher in linoleic)
Kukui (slightly higher in linoleic)

*Straight castor oil is a cult fave for improving hair growth/strength. It is also thicker than Karo syrup so it is not what we’d call a luxurious spa experience to apply.

There are obviously tons more than these, I’m just giving you the ones I know, that are easily found. Rosehip (for oily skins) and Argan (for dry skin) are the two I most frequently recommend.

Things to bear in mind

  • Linoleic and oleic acids are not the only things in a plant oil, which is why some are more beneficial than others. Some oils have a ton of antioxidants, or Vitamin A or C or omega 6 or antibacterial qualities or all kinds of things. So your skin may respond more positively (or negatively, for that matter) to one oil over another. You don’t really know til you try them.

  • You probably have someone in your life extolling the virtues of coconut oil. It’s okay to ignore them. It’s far too heavy for most skins, and coconut is a pretty common skin irritant/allergy. I mean it’s delicious and all, but other than that I personally have no use for it.

  • Oils have a shelf life, and linoleic-heavy oils especially don’t last as long - maybe 6 months? So if you get a pure 100% form, best do some research on who you’re buying from and how old it is. That bargain at TJ Maxx might not be such a bargain after all. BUT if you buy one that’s been made more shelf-stable through the addition of antioxidants and/or preservatives, like this rosehip oil, then you can worry less. The good thing is that when an oil turns rancid, you know it. The stench will leave no room for doubt.

  • Yes, cold-pressed is generally considered better as it preserves more of the natural antioxidants. But it also doesn’t get rid of impurities, so insert shrug emoji. My opinion is: try cold-pressed first, and if it really irritates your skin then try a more refined version.

  • Here is a very, very important one: ALL OF THESE are far more likely to clog your pores if you put them on skin that’s not clean. For godsakes, wash your face first. Then apply whatever toners and treatments and serums etc, top it with moisturizer, then press a couple drops of oil on.

Right so like I said, I’ve been turning to my oils more as the winter rolls inevitably onwards and my radiators clunk and clank and hiss along. (Pro-tip: put a humidifier next to your bed or if, like me, you’re too lazy to clean a humidifier all the time, keep bowls of water on your radiator all winter.) As previously mentioned, I prefer to keep a few different oils on hand - and that’s because I have combination skin.

I also almost never use any oil outside of winter, because that’s when my skin gets unbelievably dry. Lately, I’m getting the classic Horrible Awful Dry Tightness in what I like to think of as the Hulk Hogan Zone:

Dryness here is common apparently because the skin grows thinner as it gets closer to the mouth AND because that skin moves a lot more, what with all the chewing and the talking. Adding a drop of oil there is like rubbing a bit of oil into leather so it doesn’t crack, ya know? At least that’s what I think of as I pat on the oil, picturing an old catcher’s mitt as I weep for my lost youth.

I also can get flaky patches on my cheeks in extreme cold/dry weather - and sometimes it just feels like my whole damn FACE needs an extra little bit of grease, honestly. So as someone with an oily nose, acneic chin, and cheeks prone to dryness (my forehead barely exists, much less has an opinion) I have to mix things up. I tend to put grapeseed oil all over, then an extra drop of marula oil on the Hulk Hogan zone & cheeks. Sometimes it’s rosehip instead of grapeseed; sometimes it’s argan instead of marula. Whatevs.

And there’s no need to do it every night, unless your skin protests without it. Like I said, I about never do it in the summer months. And in winter I only do it as needed, which lately is a few times a week. That’s more than previous years - and earlier - because every year my husk gets more husk-like. O cruel time.

NOTE: I think it’s worth it for everyone to keep a good, heavy, oleic-rich oil around for your nails and cuticles and hair, as well as anything else that might get dry and/or brittle. Olive oil is great in a pinch, though I admit I don’t like to smell like a salad on a regular basis. One terrific thing to do is just slather an oil on your sandpapery hands, cover them in cotton gloves if you got em, go to sleep, and wake up to soffffffftness.

Okay, I think that’s all I gots to say on the topic. I hope if you’re struggling with dry tight flakey winter bullshit, that this helps a little. Like I said, it’s just an extra added oomph that might make the difference, but it won’t make up for a substandard skincare routine. But your routine is aces, I’m sure of it. And if it isn’t, then obviously just give that bear grease a chance.

See you later, you gorgeous thing,