In high school, when I first started exploring skin care to heal my relentlessly shiny skin, I carefully avoided any products with oil — the last thing I wanted was to make my already oily skin oilier. So I slathered on oil-free acne treatments and matte foundations, spending every five minutes in between high-school classes blotting my face with powder. But no matter how many pore-refining primers I tried, I’d come home at the end of the day to skin that looked (and felt) wet.
Over the years, I tried what felt like every single “mattifying” skin-care and makeup product on the market to no avail. That all changed when living in humid Bangkok, when I decided — mostly out of desperation — to give in to my Asian, Ayurvedic roots by patting some pure sesame oil into my skin as a final step in my nighttime routine. To my immense shock, I woke up with grease-free skin for the very first time in my adult life. Turns out I had been completely drying out my skin for years. It was compensating for dryness by overproducing natural oils. Since then, oils have become a permanent, essential part of my skin-care routine, and my skin’s never looked better. My acne has nearly disappeared (other than the occasional hormonal breakout), and I almost never wear foundation, instead relying on face oils for glowing skin. In my arsenal, I have favorite standbys — some are better for carrying me through a breakout, while others are ideal for days I want a bit of added coverage.
Ahead, the nine face oils I use on a near-daily basis (and the ones I’m planning to buy next).
Best overall face oil
The best face oil I’ve found is this one from honey-focused brand Farmacy. Not only is it packed with nourishing, nongreasy flower oils like hibiscus, rose hip, and sunflower, but it also has antioxidant-rich buckwheat honey and omega-rich sea-buckthorn oil. The honey extract makes for an instantly glowy complexion right after patting it onto your skin during the day, and the omegas protect the skin against free-radical damage. At nighttime, I let myself get a bit more heavy-handed with how much I put on my face, to really let the hydrating flower oils seep into my pores — it’s a staple for nights I want to wake up with super-glowy skin.
Best face oil for acne scars
This Biossance oil is one of the most lightweight formulas on this list, so it’s a great one to start out with if you’re just as oil averse as I used to be. When my skin is recovering right after a hormonal breakout, I’ll use this twice a day, both during the day and at night, because the vitamin C treats preexisting acne scars while preventing new ones from getting worse. The squalane, meanwhile, is super-hydrating but has a waterlike consistency that feels (and looks) practically unnoticeable under makeup.
Best face oil for redness
I have the somewhat masochistic hobby of eating large amounts of glutinous carbs, even though this manifests as irritable red patches all over my face. After an evening of luxuriating in pasta, I end my night with this equally opulent oil. Too slippery to wear during the day under makeup, this formula works like a magic eraser overnight. The lavender essential oil almost instantly calms the redness in my skin, and primrose oil enhances radiance overnight. I also happen to love the smell — after patting this into your skin, hold your hands in front of your face, take in a deep, aromatherapeutic inhale, and thank me later.
Best face oil for sensitive skin
When my skin is feeling extra-dry and sensitive to breakouts or redness, I grab this. No matter how rough my skin texture is, this leaves it pillowy soft and supple. Rose hip and omega are traditionally used to treat fine lines and wrinkles, but my favorite side effect is its way of making my skin feel instantly softer. A little goes a long way with this oil, so I find that it’s best to use sparingly and really pat it into the skin. The texture-evening quality makes this great for day or nighttime use.
Best spot-treatment oil
Though this aptly named oil is mostly touted for its brightening and hydrating benefits — which it does have — I mostly love this for its first ingredient, anti-inflammatory grape-seed oil. You know when you can feel a pimple emerging from underneath your skin? I haven’t yet built up the confidence to wear my white-clay spot cream out in public, so that’s when I’ll dab a bit of this on my skin during the day to make sure the spot either decreases in size or has completely dissipated by the end of the day. Its convenient packaging makes it a purse and air-travel staple for me.
Best face oil with the cleanest formula
Though my years of overdrying, oil-free products made me cynical about any product catered toward acne-prone skin, this extra-clean formula features just three high-quality ingredients: clarifying cumin seed, antiseptic cajeput, and nourishing vitamin-E oils. I’ve recommended this to several friends, all with different skin types, and every one of them has loved it.
Best face oil for some coverage
For the days I want to fake eight hours of sleep and a spa day without wearing a full face of heavy makeup, this tinted face oil with medium coverage is my go-to. The nongreasy texture feels lightweight on my skin, and the sheer coverage blended with jojoba and avocado oils gives my skin a glow that’s sparked hundreds of selfies. I wouldn’t recommend this for oily skin types, but for dry and combination skin, it works great. The shade range is great, too — as an Indian woman with medium skin tone and mixed undertones, it can be hard for me to match my skin, but my shade (5.5) is a perfect match for my skin.
Best face oil with CBD
Until I actually met influencer turned CEO Shea Marie, I didn’t buy into all the CBD hype. I thought it was all a gimmick — and then I actually tried the Feelist’s facial oil. This isn’t just any CBD oil. It’s packed with antioxidant-rich jojoba and rose-hip oils, which instantly make my skin feel super-plump. It almost looks like I have makeup on when I wear it. Plus, I’m a sucker for gorgeous packaging, so I love displaying this on my bathroom counter. I also usually dislike the smell of CBD, but the evening-primrose and rose-hip oils in this give it a light, fresh scent I love wearing during the day. It’s no wonder the wait-list-inducing oil sold out in nearly a month.
Best face oil for breakouts
I’ve been an advocate of retinol for years, so finding this blend that combines a clean, natural form of it with a laundry list of oils featuring all 20 known amino acids felt like striking gold. When I’m experiencing a hormonal breakout along my chin and jawline, the retinol in this speeds along the process of cell turnover, while fermented green tea prevents future breakouts. I wear this right after cleansing and toning my skin at night, or I’ll blend it with a thick moisturizer for nights I’m craving even more hydration. Retinol increases sun sensitivity, so I don’t recommend using this during the day, but when I use it at night, I wake up with practically new skin, and even find I need to wear less makeup throughout the day.
The face oils I want to buy next
I’m a huge believer in FUBU (for us, by us) skin care. As an Indian woman, I know that my skin responds really well to South Asian–founded brands. I’ve been eyeing this face oil for a while for its blend of oils based upon the principles of Ayurveda. It also contains frankincense, which is rare to find in skin care but is an oil I’ve heard a lot about from my grandmother for its brightening benefits.
If this even has a one-percent chance of making my skin look like KORA founder Miranda Kerr’s, I’ll try it. But I’ve also seen this all over my Instagram feed, with lots of skin-care and beauty influencers raving about the instant glow this gives. And while I usually like to stay away from products that have long ingredient lists, I love this one because it exclusively features natural fruit oils and flower extracts. I’m guessing that given the inclusion of lavender, rose, and jasmine, it must smell amazing too.
This oil seems like the all-in-one multivitamin of skin care. It contains retinol alternative bakuchiol, vitamin A, and vitamin C: the holy trinity of skin-loving ingredients. I’ve even heard that the lightweight consistency has a nongreasy enough feel that people use it all over their bodies and that it’s the ultimate treatment for dry hands, too. I feel like this would be a great oil to take on vacation if I wanted to pack light.
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