Even though I was afraid of face oils, I remember using The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil, $10, as a blemish spot treatment when I was in high school. It feels and smells more like an astringent than an oil, so it doesn't have the same ick factor that turned me off with the others. And tea tree oil really works: Studies have found that 5 percent tea tree oil is as effective at treating acne as 5 percent benzoyl peroxide. Miami dermatologist Leslie Baumann recommends it as a gentle, natural alternative to harsher acne treatments.
If you have oily skin -- even if you don't have acne — you're probably as averse to oils as I was. In the middle of the afternoon I needed blotting papers or pressed powder — definitely not more oil on my already shiny forehead. But grapeseed oil (like peppermint oil, which I mentioned earlier) can actually help regulate your natural oil production, says holistic skin care expert Cecilia Wong. Plus, it's packed with antioxidants, including skin-brightening vitamin C. Still not convinced? "I often tell people who are interested in skin care oils to start using it on your body, and if you like the results, try it on your face," Wong says.
When I think about Argan oil, supermodel and skin care guru Josie Maran immediately comes to mind. Her entire line is based around this miracle ingredient — and her perfect complexion is proof of how well the stuff works. The oil contains a high concentration of vitamin E and fatty acids, and it's more stable in sunlight than other antioxidants — so it's perfect to wear during the day. It's also very rare and expensive — so it's a good thing that you only need a tiny amount for it to be effective. "If you see 1 ounce of Argan for $15 that's not right," says Wong. She adds that these cheaper versions may have added ingredients that make them less effective.
I asked Wong what she would recommend for a client whose skin had been traumatized in some way — like after a laser treatment, too much time in the sun, or even wind-burned from skiing. Her answer? Black currant oil. It's her favorite reparative treatment because it's rich in fatty acids and has anti-inflammatory properties. It even works on eczema.
The same way you can drink chamomile tea to relax, you can use chamomile oil to calm your skin. It soothes redness and irritation in a matter of seconds. "It has amazing anti-inflammatory properties that make it ideal for patients with rosacea," says Baumann.
Just be sure to dab some on your wrist and wear it for a day to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction, she says. And be especially careful with organic versions. Since organic ingredients are treated with fewer chemicals, they're often growing alongside weeds and other allergens, which means organic essential oils are more likely to have traces of those allergens than conventionally farmed varieties. The result? They're more likely to cause allergic reactions on the skin.
I remember when Bobbi Brown Extra Face Oil, $65, first launched. I was working at a magazine at the time, and the skin care oil trend was blowing up — all the mainstream brands were clamoring to get one on the market.
The Bobbi Brown version came in a hefty glass jar, smelled appealingly earthy (patchouli and lavender oils will do that), and was luxurious in that classic Bobbi Brown way. I dabbed some on the back of my hand; it felt lovely. However, despite being curious about face oils, there was absolutely zero chance I was going to put it on my face. Oil on my acne-prone skin? That seemed like a terrible idea.
One of my co-workers routinely rubbed a few drops between her palms and patted it on — like a man applies aftershave — right over her makeup. I was disgusted — I could just imagine the oil mixing with her foundation and clogging her pores. However, I never saw any evidence of that happening — her skin was amazing, and the oil made her makeup look refreshed and more luminous.
It wasn't until I came across Sundari Essential Oil for Oily Skin, $66, that I dared to try a skin care oil for myself. The formula is extremely light, the instructions call for only two drops (how much damage could that do?), and the website explains that peppermint helps control skin's oil production. Of course I was hesitant the first night I used it, but when I woke up to glowing, more even skin I knew it was the oil — and I haven't looked back since.
I've been using face oils regularly for at least five years now, and I'm hooked. In fact, I'm such an oil fanatic that I also use cleansing oils, body oils, and hair oils -- all of which used to scare me as well. My skin isn't as likely to break out as it used to be, so I've swapped out peppermint and tea tree oils for anti-agers like Argan and antioxidants like rose hip seed.
Despite the popularity of face oils, I realize that there are still plenty of people who are as intimidated as I was. Here's the key: You have to figure out which face oil is right for your skin, and start slowly with just a drop or two. These seven skin care oils are some of the most popular, and they come highly recommended by experts. Read on to find out which one you should try.