natural beauty: facial oils

October 21, 2015

facial oils natural beauty reading my tea leaves
Face oils. Serums. Secret Potions. 

Not to get too witchy on you, but it is the season and we could all use a little extra dose of magic.

Face oils are all the rage, thank goodness. I spent a lot of years trying to find the perfect moisturizer. Too thick and I’d feel greasy all day. Too thin and my face would feel taut and itchy before I even left the house in the morning. With the exception of the most brutal days of winter, face oils solved all of that for me. I’m not a face oil expert by any means, but as an enthusiastic convert to the world of rubbing golden oils into my mug, here are a few of my thoughts.

Not all face oils are created equal: I prefer mine made in small batches by trusted folks in the business. Like most things, I have found that you have to be a little bit leery of greenwashing when it comes to oils. One of the main appeals of oil for me is that they don’t need a whole lot in the way of preservatives to stay fresh, so I usually steer clear of any oil that has ingredients that stray from the most basic: fruit and nut and essential oils. 

Like a lot of this natural beauty stuff, there are beautifully blended oils that you can buy from the experts and a fair number of ways to take the process into your own hands. If you’d prefer to leave your skin care to the professionals, the biggest appeal of going this route is that these magic elixirs often actually contain a whole variety of oils that would be cost (and space) prohibitive to keep yourself. Sea buckthorn oil? Wildcrafted coffee oil? Evening primrose oil? Yes, I’d love to slather all of these on my cheeks, but I don’t want a bottle of each taking up space in my medicine cabinet.
facial oils natural beauty reading my tea leaves

Do It Yourself:

Rosehip Seed Oil 
Many of my favorite face oils feature rosehip seed oil which has the dual benefit of being sweet-smelling and full of vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. It’s touted with being able to correct dark spots and hydrate skin, while also reducing scars and fine lines, and restoring elasticity. And despite all the moisturizing it does, it’s light enough to use on your face without it getting too greasy.

Jojoba Oil
Another frequent ingredient used in face oils for its similarities to the skin’s natural oils. Compared to some of the other precious oils found in facial oil and serum formulations, jojoba is relatively affordable.

Argan Oil
Sometimes refered to as liquid gold since the price point is high and the demand for it, mighty. Used for everything from makeup remover to hair treatment, argan oil is a true workhorse. I need only a very little (and indeed any more is too much) to feel hydrated.

Coconut Oil
I’m just going to get it right out in the open and say that while I adore coconut oil for all manner of other uses, as a moisturizer for body or face, it does not do the trick for me. It’s not super absorbent, so it kinda sits on the skin’s surface, and worse, it actually feels like it dries out my skin. Not great for me, personally.

Have Someone Else Do It For You:

Badger Balm Rose Face Oil
I think of this as a great gateway oil for folks who aren’t sure whether facial oils are the route for them. The first ingredient is jojoba oil which is probably responsible for its lower price point. Effective and nice-smelling.

Herbivore Botanicals Phoenix Facial Oil
I’ve never used this facial oil from RMTL sponsor Herbivore Botanicals, but it sounds like something that a newly over-thirty year-old should have in her arsenal. Nourishing fruit and seed oils meet the very scientific sounding, CoQ10 oil. Herbivore Botanical oils come in two sizes in case you’d prefer to start small.

Marble and Milkweed Nourishing Serum With Rose
Another RMTL sponsor, Briar always has the perfect answer to seasonal needs and her Nourishing Serum with Rose sounds as lovely as everything else she makes. She recommends applying this serum before bed for a healthy glow. Maybe best of all, Briar sells a one-ounce sample for folks who aren’t sure they’re ready to commit.

Odacite Green Tea Lemongrass Serum Concentrate*
These super-concentrated serums are lovely. It might be that I’m just terribly susceptible to marketing, but I do indeed feel radiant after using this serum. It’s concentrated, so you can add it to other oils or moisturizer to help it last longer.

One Love Organics Love Springs Eternal Serum*
I love the scent of this oil. It’s floral but not overly so. And without sounding like a crackpot who spends all of my time inspecting the progress of my crow’s feet, I’d say that I feel like I’ve seen a noticeable reduction in their visibility since giving myself a nightly rub down with this stuff.

Portland Apothecary Replenishing Rose Serum
One of my very favorite oils out there. The smell is sweet but not cloying. I went through a bottle last spring and it was the best $32 I spent.

Rodin Olio Lusso Luxury Face Oil
If money wasn’t an object, I’d be tempted to try the cult-favorite Olio Lusso from Rodin. The bottle enough is pretty to tempt most anyone, but if rave reviews are any indication, there’s more than just hype and sweet packaging behind this oil’s popularity.

S.W. Basics Oil Serum*
Everything Adina makes has the homegrown quality that makes it trustworthy and accessible. I recently had the chance to test-drive her oil serum which is like superfood for your face. It’s a blend of four nutrient-rich oils: avocado oil, geranium oil, turmeric oil, and wildcrafted coffee oil. I’m not always a fan of the smell of avocado oil, but this serum is pleasant-smelling and moisturizing without feeling heavy.

facial oils natural beauty reading my tea leaves
How to Use It

I love to apply facial oils an hour or so before bed. In what’s developed into something of a ritual for me, I’ve started to do an evening face cleanse (more on this later!), followed by applying an oil or serum. If you’re like me, it’s easy to feel skeptical about a lot of beauty product claims, but I’ve found that facial oils really leave me waking up looking refreshed and glowy. If I feel like I need another hit of moisture after showering, I use another small pump in the morning while my hair is still wrapped in a towel to avoid getting my bangs overly lubed-up.

If face oil alone doesn’t do it for you, you can add a few drops of these oils and serums into your regular moisturizer for an extra dose of nutrients while also getting the extra moisture kick you might need from a heavier cream.

A word to the wise: Start out slowly. Too much oil at first and you’ll swear yourself off it before it’s had a chance to work its magic. Most oils are sold in glass bottles with small droppers. That’s because you really only need a drop or two to get the moisture you need. 

Any fellow oil-enthusiasts out there? I’d love to hear what you guys are using (and enjoying).

Disclosure: I am sometimes sent beauty products to review for this series. When I love them and think you might too, I write about them. Items that were sent to me for review are marked with an asterisk. All opinions are my own. 

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  • Reply Kimberly October 21, 2015 at 8:07 am

    I’m pregnant with our second and my face is, once again, a weird and confusing combination of pimply, yet quite dry, with a substantial eczema patch to boot. Loveliest of lovlies. I just tossed all manner of conventional moisturizers aside and started using a bit of coconut oil instead and am FINALLY seeing my face clear up after months of this facial mayhem. While un-pregnant, I completely agree with you that it is too, well, oily. But it is just the solution to my pregnacy woes, of all things.

  • Reply Elizabeth October 21, 2015 at 8:49 am


    its the best serum and I love all their products, fyi

  • Reply Beth October 21, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I’m a really big fan of using oils as a moisturizer, especially for my face. As someone who has had a long history of dealing with out of control blemishes and scarring, oils were the only thing that truly helped to clear up my skin. For a while, I only used tamanu oil for my face, and it did wonders to help with healing my skin. Now, I’ve moved on to using rose hip oil, but I’m interested in using a blend, like the ones you listed above. Thanks for the post! I’m excited to venture outside of just one oil at a time.

  • Reply rose October 21, 2015 at 9:37 am

    I’m a huge fan of facial oil and have been using this one ( every night. It smells woodsy and fresh and makes my skin feel well nourished, especially in cold winter weather.

  • Reply Kate October 21, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I love the idea of using natural oils as moisturizer. And I am a sucker for anything smelling of roses. Thanks for the list!

  • Reply Alex October 21, 2015 at 10:18 am

    oils are such saviors! i use one love organic’s vitamin c serum to help with my hyperpigmentation, but i also love just straight jojoba oil. oh and the sw basics makeup remover doubles as an AMAZING face oil.

  • Reply Theresa October 21, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Erin, I’m so glad to read your sentiments on coconut oil because I feel the same way! I love its taste and smell, but it doesn’t work well for my skin topically–especially my face. I do love argon oil in the summer and rose hip seed oil in the winter though–they are lifesavers!

  • Reply Mary October 21, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Face oils are my jam! For moisture I like to use a mix of rosehip seed oil, vitamin e oil, and assorted eo (geranium, grapefruit, cypress, and bergamont). Are you familiar with the oil cleansing method? I’ve been usi

  • Reply Mary October 21, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Ahem… Apparently I shouldn’t be using my phone to leave a comment. As I was saying… I like coconut oil to “wash” my face. It’s been the best thing for my combination skin! The oil wash and moisturizer totally works for me!

  • Reply Megan October 21, 2015 at 11:31 am

    I use rosehip seed oil with a few drops of tea tree oil mixed in it. I find that the combo moisturizes and fights breakouts.

  • Reply Stacy October 21, 2015 at 11:43 am

    Love all the recommendations! I recently made my first foray into facial oils to replace moisturizer (at least for my evening routine, I prefer a lotion for day time) and picked up the SW Basics oil serum. The smell isn’t my favorite, but it’s not bad, and it really does make my skin look great. My face is naturally a bit oily, but I’ve found that oils even everything out wonderfully. Your natural beauty series has helped tremendously while I move my skincare routine to a more natural one. My face has never looked better.

  • Reply laura_s October 21, 2015 at 11:44 am

    I make my own (with an argan, almond and rose oil blend) but I also LOVE the calendula oil from Avena Botanicals here in Maine. Deb Soule is a genius. Everything is from her garden and its one of the only beauty products I wholeheartedly trust.

  • Reply Mandy October 21, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    Discovering face oils was life changing for me. I started using straight jojoba oil in high school on my face, and I finally started to see clear skin (removing allergins from my diet really sealed the deal). I haven’t used “moisturizer” in almost a decade. My mom makes a great rose face oil that’s still a little too heavy for my daily needs, but it’s the best in the winter. Thanks for sharing Erin!

  • Reply anon October 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    As a sidenote, my (limited) understanding is that it’s pretty common to develop allergies to the plant products in the scented oils. As far I’m aware (but I’m not an expert!), pure petroleum jelly (or vaseline), may be the most soothing for patients who might react to the scented or plant oils. Sorry Erin! I’m guessing mixtures of hydrocarbons (the ingredients in petrolatum) are not philosophically consistent with this post!

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 21, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      True! I definitely avoid petroleum products as much as possible!

    • Reply Mo November 24, 2015 at 9:58 am

      Pure petroleum jelly/vaseline (and mineral oils in general) is not always the way to go for sensitive skin though. Petroleum jelly makes me break out in hives, which is ironic since it’s an ingredient in so many hypoallergenic products.

      Or maybe I’m just weird, cocunut oil is another oil that makes me break out in hives, though not as badly as petroleum jelly.

  • Reply Hannah October 21, 2015 at 1:42 pm

    I LOVE rosehip seed oil. I purchase a 4 oz. bottle from Mountain Rose Herbs for $15.75 and I apply it on my face, neck, chest and even the back of my hands before I go to bed. (I use it on the back of my hands because I’ve noticed that many of the women in my family have sun spots there, and I hope the rosehip seed oil acts as a bit of a preventative.) Rosehip seed oil isn’t too heavy, and it’s a beautiful peach color. I call it my “Elixer of Youth,” haha,

  • Reply Paula October 21, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I just discovered the magic of massaging coconut oil into my hair. Left it in overnight and washed it…it really transformed the feel of my hair.

    Along the way I’ve appreciated the feel of oil on my skin also!

  • Reply Ann October 21, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Jojoba oil. WOW. I wish I’d discovered it 10 years ago. Been using it on my face for only a month or so and I’m happier with my skin than I’ve ever been before. It’s calmed and cleared things up beautifully. I can’t say enough about it. Just a little bit after washing my face at night and post-shower in the morning. I also use sweet almond oil as a body moisturizer. Very light but effective. Good stuff.

  • Reply Julia October 21, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    I recently started using True Nature Botanicals Pacific Balancing Face Oil, and it seems to have cleared up the cystic acne that I’ve had since high school (now 30), so I am officially a face oil convert! I find that I still need to use a moisturizer over the top of it otherwise I feel that tight/dry feeling, but I’m hoping as I ease off of my acne face wash and my skin continues to get used to using oils that I’ll be able to wean myself off of the moisturizer.

  • Reply Kristina October 21, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    The Herbivore Botanicals face oil is wonderful, as is their body oil, which is essential for Swiss winters. I love all their products and cannot recommend them highly enough : )

  • Reply Kim October 21, 2015 at 3:59 pm

    So excited to try out some of the oils you’ve recommended in this post! I laughed out loud about your comment about getting your bangs all oily! I totally know that problem!

  • Reply ann October 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Do you know the French store A goldmine!

  • Reply Monique October 21, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    For your Canadian readers, I have had a skin revolution with skincare products from (For Torontonians and travellers, check out their facials!). I have used their pitta oil and am currently enjoying the seabuckthorn oil. Their products are a bit $$ but worth it to me! (PS I do not work for P&S, am just a dedicated face oil convert!). Love the new look of your blog Erin! xo

  • Reply Traci October 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    A wonderful source for oils and natural products is Made in pure small batches. Wonderful!

  • Reply Julianne October 21, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    I have been using MV Skincare products for a few years and I love them.! They’re from Australia but you can get them at detox

  • Reply amanda june October 21, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    yes yes! I was always afraid oil would clog pores, but I started hearing good things and, especially after having dry skin from taking accutane for adult hormonal acne, I picked up some Boots Organic facial oil from Target. inexpensive, not too strongly scented, not too heavy or too light. I love it! I live overseas so I brought it with me, but when I run out I do have some jojoba oil that I usually use to remove eye makeup and have thought about trying that as my next oil moisturizer! incidentally, I also use an oil cleansing balm instead of a regular cleanser (again, it’s the Boots line from Target) at night and love that. I don’t usually use the oil after that since I feel like it’s pretty moisturizing so I use a lighter cream instead, but I’ll use the oil in the morning (when I just rinse, not wash, my face) or anytime I use a regular cleanser. love!

  • Reply willow October 21, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    I had pretty severe cystic acne with very oily but flaky dry skin after graduating high school… looking back it was very likely a combination of poor diet (lots of sugar and refined flours) and proactiv. I started the oil cleansing method a few years ago with sunflower seed oil and castor oil, then transitioned to coconut oil, and now I rarely cleanse my skin at all and my skin is the best its ever been! I have found that coconut oil is very drying, so I no longer use this for my face, and instead use pasture-raised organic tallow. Tallow and lard have the closest chemical composition to human sebum and I find that the tallow is supremely luxurious and deeply moisturizing. I rarely have acne, and the breakouts I do have are minimal whiteheads with no more cysts. For anyone interested in tallow, give it a try! I am in love!!!

  • Reply Swissrose October 22, 2015 at 3:00 am

    Since I read Dominique Loreau a couple of years ago (perhaps the best known French minimalist writer) I have been using plain almond oil, which you don’t mention. It’s good for everything, face, body, hair. And it smells good!
    I found one that costs pennies being sold as a baby oil in a French supermarket – everywhere else I’ve looked, even the baby oils have other things added, unfortunately. So now my routine is simpler than ever. Cheaper, too – I hate to think of the money I have spent over the years and my – difficult – skin has never been better.

    • Reply Erin Boyle October 22, 2015 at 8:54 am

      Yes: I love almond oil. For me it’s especially nice as a body oil (I wrote a bit about it in my last beauty post!) nbut a little greasy all by itself for my face. Glad you’ve had good luck with it!

    • Reply eva January 2, 2020 at 9:06 am

      Hi, would you mind sharing what kind of baby oil you’re using? Thanks a lot and a happy and healthy 2020!!

  • Reply Lucero October 22, 2015 at 9:21 am

    I use my friends product Skin Remedy. Her face oil is wonderful, it has transformed my now 50s skin. Also, her products are made from her garden in Sausalito. Getting a facial is divine!

  • Reply Anna October 22, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I have very dry skin, and in the fall and winter once the heat is on and the air is dry, every few days I mix my facial oil in my palm with just a little dab of raw shea butter and use that on my face before bed – it’s too heavy for daily use, but just a couple of times a week it’s magical.

  • Reply Tori October 22, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Love the simplicity of oils, but I’ve found it can take a bit of trial and error to find your best match. My favorites are rose hip for face and almond for body. I just picked up some vitamin e to use for occasional marks as well and so far so good. And I agree re coconut oil, love it but not for personal care it just doesn’t seem to absorb (though back in the day I would put some in my hair, put my hair in a bun and secure a sock over it to sleep with lovely results-now married with a newborn its too much fuss).

  • Reply Ashlynn October 22, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Facial oils have been my moisturizers exclusively for one year now. I l really love what they have done for my skin! I use Argan oil rosehip seed oil, I have used tamanu, and also pumpkin seed oil currently for cleansing. Rosehip is by far my favorite! I used to have combination skin until I realized that my diet and skin care was making it this way. When I switched to using oils, my skin balanced out and I no longer have a “skin type” anymore. I do have some cystic acne though and it has helped that a bit, but honestly, my acne isn’t affected much by skincare and more by my diet and lifestyle, so working on that 😉

  • Reply Naurnie October 22, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Just chiming in to say that Beauty Counter also has a face oil that closely mimics the Rodin one. Easier on the pocketbook, too.

  • Reply Sherri October 22, 2015 at 7:47 pm
    Everything about this company (out of Berkley, CA) is lovely and I believe in alignment with your values. I have tried a few other facial oils out there but theirs is the one that works for me.

  • Reply Anon October 25, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Erin, this post has me thinking about baby skin and hair care. I would love to see a post about skin care, shampoos, sunscreens, and soaps for little ones. Expecting my first in January and would love to learn from others’ experiences! Thanks as always for sharing interesting information!

  • Reply Geeta October 27, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Hi Lovely write up, So Pure Skincare offer a selection of facial oils which cater for many skin types/conditions.
    Al of them are packed with high performance actives and botanicals. 🙂 X

  • Reply kd November 5, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I may just have to try rosehip seed oil! I heard that the beautiful Rose Byrne uses it, too!

    I’ve always wanted to try the facial oils that Amy Karol sells on etsy ( ). She uses organic oils and the ingredients sound intriguing!

  • Reply Emily December 8, 2015 at 7:22 pm

    Is the Rodin Oil called “Lusso” or “Russo”? I can’t find Russo.
    Thanks for any help.

    • Reply Erin Boyle December 8, 2015 at 10:19 pm

      Yes! Lusso. Link’s still good, but fixed the copy!

    • Reply Emilie May 24, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      After reading your recommendations, Erin, I ordered Portland Apothecary’s Replenishing Rose Serum and like it very much. I have *very* sensitive, mostly dry skin. However, toward the end of January it was uber dry, windy and freezing cold here, it wasn’t enough. I read about Olio Lusso after you mentioned it, and the vast majority of reviews are very good; a small minority were not good. So two friends and I decided to order a bottle, decant it into 2 other bottles, each getting 1/3 of the oil and the price, to see what we thought of it.

      I have *very* sensitive, mostly dry, skin, and a keen sense of smell. The scent is quite strong at first but, on my skin, settled into a
      lovely floral scent within an hour. The oil absorbs well. My skin tolerated Olio Lusso without any problems, and I really do have
      picky skin. Perhaps best is that my skin feels and looks great … I mean, it didn’t take away the wrinkles …. but …. I think O.L. is a
      good product. Will I/we buy it again? We all had a similarly positive experience. I like Linda Rodin from what I’ve read about, and seen in interviews. Still, I kinda prefer to support smaller businesses, so will continue to experiment and see what I find. But I think both Portland Apothecary’s Serum and O.L. are very fine products.

      Just wanted to follow-up on my experience with these two products.

    • Reply Emilie May 24, 2016 at 9:39 pm

      After reading your recommendations, Erin, I ordered Portland Apothecary’s Replenishing Rose Serum and like it very
      much. However, toward the end of January it was uber dry, windy and freezing cold here & it wasn’t enough. I read
      about Olio Lusso, and the vast majority of reviews are very favorable; a small minority were not. Two friends and I decided to order a bottle, decant it into 2 other bottles, each getting 1/3 of the oil and the price, to see what we thought of it.

      I have *very* sensitive, mostly dry, skin, and a keen sense of smell. The scent is strong at first but settled into a
      lovely floral scent within an hour. The oil absorbs well. My skin tolerated Olio Lusso without any problems, and I really
      have picky skin that reacts to poor quality. Perhaps best is that my skin feels and looks great. Based on that, I think O.L.
      is a good product. Will I/we buy it again? We all had a similarly positive experiences. Still, I kinda prefer to support
      smaller businesses, so will experiment more and see what I find. But I’ve been very pleased with Portland Apothecary’s
      Serum and O.L.

      Just wanted to follow-up on my experience with these two products.

  • Reply Erin January 14, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    There are several oils I love (coconut isn’t one of them- it makes my face dry and oily at the same time).
    When my combo skin is really dehydrated, avocado oil is great. I buy the extra virgin avocado oil and it’s a good price per ounce. It’s also my favorite oil for oil cleansing and a pre-shampoo hair mask. I use it on my body, too.

    For general face use, marula oil is lovely. It sinks in well and gives more of a glow than argan does and is higher in antioxidants. I think it hydrates a little deeper than argan. I sometimes use a drop of it in my hair ends.

    If my skin is irritated or inflamed, perilla oil is amazing! It really helps with redness and breakouts.

  • Reply GalyaB January 24, 2016 at 5:16 pm

    To keep my combo skin out of blackhead trouble I use grape seed oil as the safest choice for oily skin. But I don’t leave it on. Just use it for cleansing my skin with a brush (idea that I borrow from you, thank you Erin). I feel my skin gets what it can without getting to oily while I cleanse and massage my face with the oil.
    However I have a question – what do you do for sunscreen?

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