Best Oils for Skin

Moisturizing is an essential part of every skincare regimen, even for those with oily and combination skin types. There’s evidence that many natural oils, like coconut oil, can provide not only moisture to parched skin but other benefits, too. Without moisture, your skin would shrivel up. You’d end up a human raisin.

selective focus of bottles with coconut oil near cracked coconuts on green palm leaves

LightFieldStudios / Getty Images

Types of Oils for Skin

Here are some natural oils that can benefit the skin. 

Coconut Oil

Research suggests that coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. It can also help with skin barrier repair.

Almond Oil

There’s some research suggesting a link between topical application of almond oil and anti-aging effects. Almond oil may also help with skin barrier repair.

Grapeseed Oil

Studies suggest that grapeseed oil has anti-bacterial, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. It may have possible anti-inflammatory and anti-aging effects as well.

Olive Oil

According to animal and human studies, olive oil may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound healing effects when applied topically. There’s also a possible link between topical application of olive oil and anti-aging effects.

Sunflower Seed Oil

There’s evidence that sunflower seed oil may help with skin barrier repair. Research also shows that it has anti-inflammatory effects and may help with wound healing.

Argan Oil

Argan oil is a popular skincare oil that can help with skin barrier repair. Studies suggest that it has anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects. Topical application has also been shown to have an anti-aging effect on skin by improving skin elasticity.

Rosehip Seed Oil

Rosehip seed oil may help with skin barrier repair. There’s also evidence that it can help fight signs of aging and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Jojoba Oil

There’s promising research on jojoba oil that suggests it can aid in skin barrier repair. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and wound healing properties. Jojoba oil can also improve the absorption of topically applied medications. It may have anti-bacterial effects.

Marula Oil

Research shows that marula oil has significant moisturizing benefits for the skin. It’s also non-irritating and may help the skin retain moisture.

How Oils Are Used for Skincare

Cosmetic and skincare companies frequently use natural oils as ingredients in their products. Natural oils are popular because many are gentler on the skin than synthetic ingredients. You’ll find natural oils in all types of products, including cleansers, moisturizers, face masks, soaps, face oils, serums, and more. 

Many natural oils, like coconut oil, can be directly applied to the skin. Although, you should be careful when using oils directly on your face—especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin.

Note that natural oils are not the same as essential oils. Essential oils should be diluted with a carrier oil because they are very potent and can cause irritation. Do a patch test on your skin when using any product for the first time to check for potential allergic reactions. 

Best Way to Apply Oils

Most research looks at the effects of topically applied oils. Topical application means that they're directly applied to the skin. That said, soaps and moisturizers are still an effective vehicle for natural oils, especially if you’re not comfortable slathering unrefined oil on your skin.

Composition

Why are natural oils so effective for the skin? It’s because they contain a host of ingredients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, including:

Benefits

Natural oils have a variety of research-backed benefits. Many natural oils: 

  • Moisturize (keep the skin from losing moisture)
  • Soothe the skin (have an emollient effect)
  • Have antioxidant effects (prevent damage from free radicals)
  • Have anti-bacterial properties
  • Have anti-inflammatory effects 

Barrier Repair

Evidence shows that many natural oils have a barrier repair effect. Oils with more linoleic acid than oleic acid may do a better job at repairing the skin barrier. Oils with more oleic acid may irritate the skin.

Reduces Scarring

Some natural oils, like rosehip oil, help with wound healing and may also reduce the appearance of scars.

Reduces UV Damage

Sun damage can seriously impact the look of your skin. Natural oils won’t protect your skin from sun damage (you need sunscreen for that) but some may help reduce UV damage. One 2007 animal study found a link between topically applied almond oil and the prevention of structural damage due to UV radiation.

More Research Needed

There’s a lot of research on natural oils for skincare out there. A lot of it is promising. However, more research is needed to better understand the role of natural oils have on aging and skin health. More research on the potential adverse effects, like irritation, is also required.

Risks

Natural oils are great because they often don’t pose the same risk for irritation as synthetic chemicals in cosmetics and other skincare products. However, that doesn’t mean that using natural oils doesn’t pose a risk.

Because the skin on your face is more sensitive than on other parts of your body, you may experience irritation when using oils directly on your face as opposed to your arms and legs. Applying oils to your skin before going out in the sun can also increase your risk of sunburn.  

Allergy Concerns

There’s always a possibility for allergic reactions. If you notice redness or irritation after topically applying a natural oil, stop using it right away. Get emergency help if you experience swelling or hives and have trouble breathing. Those symptoms are signs of a dangerous anaphylactic reaction. Immediate treatment with epinephrine is needed as there is a risk of death, so call 911.

A Word From Verywell

There’s a lot of promising research about the potential benefits of natural oils for skin health. That said, a skincare regiment that works for someone else may not work for you. If you have easily irritated skin or a skin condition like eczema, talk to your dermatologist before adding natural oils to your skincare regimen. 

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