Facial oils

Oils that don’t tend to clog pores or cause breakouts

6 minute read

We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

Face oils can be a soothing, skin-nourishing treat at any time of year, but that often depends on which ones you use. It may be counterintuitive, but some oils may actually work well for oily and acne-prone skin. On the other hand, certain oils can potentially clog pores—or just sit on top of your skin, leaving you with more of an oil-slick look than that dewy glow you’re going for.

This guide is for those who are interested in facial oils and might have questions about them, but facial oils are by no means necessary for happy, healthy skin. 

Face oils, serums, and oil-based moisturizers

Contrary to popular belief, many oils may be well-tolerated by acne-prone skin. Many of the oils used in skincare are loaded with skin-nourishers like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E. In fact, acne has been associated with low levels of essential fatty acids in some studies, so smoothing the right oil on your face can likely benefit your skin beyond the pampering, treat-yo-self experience.

Keep in mind, the American Academy of Dermatology does not currently advise topical essential fatty acids for routine acne treatment. More research is still needed, but we don’t object to using non-comedogenic oils as part of your skincare routine. Just make sure to start slow to see how your skin reacts. You might try starting with an oil underneath your moisturizer or sunscreen.

Oils your skin might love

Here’s a list—in no particular order, and by no means complete—of oils that are non-comedogenic and commonly used in skin treatments. You can find combinations of these in face oils and serums that can hydrate and help infuse your skin with essential fatty acids and beneficial nutrients. We’ve included some products where you can see these oils in action, but the best options for your skin may vary.

Jojoba oil

A popular ingredient in face oils and serums, jojoba oil is a great carrier oil with anti-inflammatory properties. It can be used as a cleansing oil or moisturizing treatment that might help with acne, irritation, and skin aging. 

  • Desert Essence Jojoba Oil

Rosehip seed oil

Packed with omega-3 and -6 essential fatty acids, vitamin A, and vitamin C, rosehip oil has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which in turn may help improve acne., It’s found in many face oils, but you can get it on its own and add a drop or two to your everyday moisturizer for extra hydration. 

Marula oil

Marula oil is rich in beneficial fatty acids and can help restore your skin’s suppleness without tending to clog pores. It also offers antioxidant benefits and can help hydrate your skin.

Raspberry seed oil

Raspberry seed oil comes from—you guessed it—raspberry seeds and is sometimes included as an ingredient in skincare because of its anti-inflammatory properties. It contains vitamin E and essential fatty acids omega-3, -6, and -9. Plus, it moisturizes and tends to absorb well.

Hemp seed oil

With a combination of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, hemp seed oil is another anti-inflammatory ally that’s generally non-comedogenic, meaning it’s usually suitable for acne-prone skin. On its own, it can also be found fairly easily—in stores like Whole Foods Market, for example—and it’s often formulated into skincare products.

Evening primrose oil

Evening primrose oil is a source of omega-6 fatty acids, which have an anti-inflammatory effect. Any decrease in inflammation may conceivably help with acne!

Argan oil

Argan oil is a popular choice for a number of reasons. Since it’s rich in vitamin E and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, it may be helpful for hydrating and healing the skin. It also doesn’t appear to clog pores, so it could be a good choice for those with acne-prone skin. 

Avocado oil

This oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and several other nutrients—it’s like avocado toast, but for your face. It tends to have a richer texture than some other oils, so this one is often a good choice for dry and acne-prone skin types. While you can reach for pure avocado oil to apply to your skin, it’s frequently seen in hydrating masks.

🚫 Pore-clogging oils to avoid 🚫

If you’ve read our other guides, we probably sound like a broken record by now, but coconut oil is one oil you want to avoid applying to your face. Also called “Cocos nucifera oil” in some ingredients lists, coconut oil is a common culprit in clogged pores and acne—despite being used in many skincare products.

Avoid soybean oil too. Yes, soybean oil (aka glycine soja oil) can clog pores. It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and it’s a polyunsaturated fat, which can help lower cholesterol. But we think you should leave this oil in the pantry because it has the potential to aggravate breakouts.

Another oil to avoid: wheat germ oil. It can potentially clog pores, so be sure to look out for this pore offender in the ingredients label of any oil-based skincare products you consider using.

Labels can be misleading, so be sure to read the ingredients list on any skincare product before you use it. Even easier: you can always use CosDNA.com to check the acne and irritation ratings for any product. Check out our easy how-to guide!

A little drop will do ya

Face oils can feel like a luxurious way to pamper your skin, especially in the winter. The downside is that they can cost a pretty penny. Thankfully, a little oil goes a long way! One small bottle can last up to 6 months if you only use a few drops at a time, which is typically the recommended amount.

As a somewhat less expensive alternative, some people buy bottles of pure oils they like for their skin and make their own blend at home. 

Keep in mind that oils may have an expiration date and can go rancid—you can usually tell by a change in smell. Face oils and serums that come in opaque containers (such as ultraviolet glass) often maintain their properties longer since their contents are protected from light exposure.

Think you might be allergic to oils?

Some oils can irritate your skin if you’re allergic to the plants they’re extracted from. We recommend doing a patch test on your skin (such as on your inner forearm) before using them on your face to help make sure you won’t have an allergic reaction.

Yep, you can use oils with Curology

Got the Curology cream, cleanser, and/or moisturizer? If your skin feels in need of extra hydration, you might want to try smoothing on 2–3 drops of a face oil or oil-based serum underneath your Curology moisturizer to give dry skin a well-deserved boost. At night, you can try an oil or serum before applying your custom Curology cream for an overnight hydration sensation. And if you’re new to Curology, sign up for a free trial to get your first bottle on us—just pay $4.95 to cover shipping + handling.

• • •

We did the research so you don’t have to, but if you’d like to do some additional reading on facial oils, feel free to check out our sources:

  1. Downing DT, et. al. Essential fatty acids and acne. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (1986).

  2.  Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. (2017, Dec 27)

  3.  Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  4.  Michalak, M., & Kiełtyka-Dadasiewicz, A. Oils from fruit seeds and their dietetic and cosmetic significance. Herba Polonica. (2018).

  5.  Vermaak, I, et. al. African seed oils of commercial importance — Cosmetic applications. South African Journal of Botany. (2011).

  6.  Michalak, M., & Kiełtyka-Dadasiewicz, A. Oils from fruit seeds and their dietetic and cosmetic significance. Ibid. 

  7.  Callaway, J.C. Hempseed as a nutritional resource: An overview. Euphytica. (2004, January). 

  8. Bayles B, Usatine R. Evening primrose oil.American Family Physician. (2009, December 15).

  9. Guillaume D, Charrouf Z. Argan oil. Monograph. Alternative Medicine Review.(2011, September).

  10.   Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. Ibid.

  11.  Types of Fats. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aa160619 Gavney, D. (n.d.). Which Colored Glass is Best for Essential Oils? Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.carowpackaging.com/blog/which-colored-glass-is-best-for-essential-oils

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