Face Oils: The Dry, The Oily, The Acne Prone and Your Skin Barrier

Face oils.

Does that send shivers down your spine just thinking of putting oil on your face? Maybe you’re curious about why this subject keeps popping up?

Some skincare gurus swear by using face oils, even those with acne prone skin, but it seems like there is still some debate on the subject. On one hand you’ll find oils as a main ingredient in many great quality and recommended moisturizers. So, is adding oil(s) to your skincare routine really that wild? We’ll leave that up to you to decide, but hopefully this article will provide some insight on the subject and help you decide if oils are for you. 

If you’ve already been thinking about adding an oil to your skincare routine, you may have already come across something called an oil profile or fatty acid profile that shows the different ratios of fatty acids like linoleic (an omega-6), linolenic (an omega-3), oleic (an omega-9) and lauric acid (saturated fatty acid mainly found in coconut oil) to name a few.

Finding a higher percentage in certain fatty acids can help you find the right oil for your skin. For example, there have been some studies that suggest acne prone skin has a tendency of being deficient in linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid. This deficiency is thought to contribute to thicker or more viscous sebum, which is more likely to clog pores and become a blemish. It is important to note that yes, oils can work wonders for people, and yes you’ll find them in many of your favourite creams. But, if you go on to read some of the studies on linoleic acid (or omega-6 fatty acid) and acne prone skin, you’ll notice that the studies are typically using a concentrated form of linoleic acid in a solution rather than a regular old cold pressed oil. That’s not to say oils are useless, I’m just saying that you won’t be getting that isolated concentration that was used in the studies from a cold pressed oil. Like most skincare, you don’t know if it’s a match until you try, right?


With that said, when oils are used properly, they can help support your skin barrier and help your skin stay moisturized and soft.  Why is that important? Besides helping to keep your skin healthy and hydrated, your skin barrier is typically what gets disrupted if you over exfoliate, live in extreme climates, or overuse strong actives (like Benzoyl Peroxide or retinol). So yes, you want to support your skin barrier which is responsible for protecting you from water loss and bacteria. To help make sense of this -- let’s quickly cover a very brief explanation of what makes up your skin barrier.

There are two major parts:

  1. Skin cells (bricks)
  2. Natural lipids (mortar) - think brick wall, this is the part holding the bricks together.

The natural lipid part (mortar) holds the skin cells together (so you can have a beautiful, stable brick wall a.k.a your skin). Other key substances that make up your skin barrier are ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids (what this post is mostly about); these are key ingredients to keep in mind when looking for a lotion/cream when your barrier needs some extra TLC.


Now let’s talk about a few common signs that let you know your skin barrier is damaged. Suddenly having sensitive skin when you’ve never had sensitive skin before, you might even notice that products you used to use without a problem are bothering your skin. Some other signs are stinging, blemishes/sudden breakouts, blotchiness, and inflammation. Typically, when your skin barrier becomes compromised it is the natural lipid part (ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids) that have been stripped away. This is why using facial oils (the free fatty acid part) in a simple skincare routine can help rebuild and support your skin, not to mention it’s great at breaking down make-up and sunscreen at the end of the day.


Now for some suggestions for each skin type!


Keep in mind oil profiles or ratios can vary slightly depending on where it was grown and how it was processed. Here are a few oils for Oily/Acne prone and Dry skin types. If you have normal skin, lucky! You should be able to get away with most oils, so it comes down to preference and what you want out of your oil. In general, choose an oil that works best for your skin, you’ll know once you use one.


Acne Prone Skin:

Acne prone skin tends to produce sebum that is:

  • Goopy
  • Greasy
  • Thick
  • Higher tendency to clog pores which can contribute to blemishes


You’re going to want to find an oil with a ratio higher in linoleic acid. Oils that have a higher ratio of linoleic acid tends to be considered lighter and drier. So it absorbs easier into the skin and helps to balance out that thick, gloopy oil your skin might be producing. 


There are tons out there but here are some common ones:


Oils for Acne Prone Skin: Deficient in linoleic acid on the skin


      • Cold Pressed Sunflower Seed Oil
      • Rosehip Seed Oil – Super popular and great for mature & acne prone skin naturally high in Vitamin A
      • Tamanu Oil – especially good for wound healing, antibacterial and is commonly used as a spot treatment for hyperpigmentation (like sun spots and post acne scarring)
      • Grape seed oil
      • Hemp Seed Oil
      • Evening Primrose Oil
      • Jojoba Oil – Great for congested skin and is very similar to our natural sebum
      • A perfect serum for blemish prone/Mature skin is the Étymologie Bakuchiol Cannabis Sativa Serum it has an oil base that is blemish prone skin friendly. 

Dry Skin:


    • Moringa Oil
    • Marula Oil (Some normal-oily skin types like this one too)
    • Argan Oil (Normal-oily skin types sometimes like this one)
    • Avocado oil
    • Sweet Almond Oil
    • Camellia Oil/Tsubaki Oil
    • Sea buckthorn Oil: Especially great for mature skin types. Naturally high in Vitamin C (Can stain clothing so you might want to mix this one in with a cream or other oil)
    • Macadamia Oil
    • Green Tea Seed Oil
    • Corpa Flora  Eclat Citrouille is a great option


These are just some suggestions, guidelines and categories; Your skin is unique, so as per usual the best advice is trial and error. Some oils may surprise you and work wonders, while some just don’t work for you, even if it falls into your ‘skin type’ category. Each oil has more to it than its fatty acid ratio such as its mineral and vitamin content, different antioxidants and how nourishing/occlusive it is. If you’re new to oils, check out the previous post on how to use and add oils into your skincare routine. It might not always be the most travel friendly but with all the benefits, finding the right oil for your skin is worth it.




(Donald T. Downing, Ph.D.*'Correspondence information about the author Ph.D. Donald T. Downing, Mary Ellen Stewart, Ph.D., Philip W. Wertz, Ph.D., John S. Strauss, M.D. 1986) (LETAWE BOONE PIÉRARD 2002) (Darmstadt GL1, Mao-Qiang M, Chi E, Saha SK, Ziboh VA, Black RE, Santosham M, Elias PM. 2002) (Donald T. Downing, Ph.D.*'Correspondence information about the author Ph.D. Donald T. Downing, Mary Ellen Stewart, Ph.D., Philip W. Wertz, Ph.D., John S. Strauss, M.D. 1986) (Michelle 2017)



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