This is a cover image on choosing the right face oil for acne prone oily skin

How to pick and use the right facial oil for acne prone oily skin

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My skin already produces its own oil, so why do I need an additional oil on my face? I have oily skin, so won’t a face oil make my skin oilier? My skin is prone to acne, so is a face oil safe to use? These are common questions that are heavily misconstrued when it comes to using a face oil on oily or acne-prone skin. Whereas the truth be told - face oils are a life-saving treatment for all skin types including acne-prone or oily skin! While it may seem counterproductive, using a face oil helps replenish the skin’s natural oils, balance oil levels and keep acne at bay. However, that being said, it is vital to choose the right face oil to avoid clogged pores, excessive greasiness and breakouts.

What are the skin’s natural oils? How are they produced? 

The skin produces its own natural oils which help moisturise and hydrate it. These are:

Sebum: Sebum is an oily, wax-like substance that is produced from the body's sebaceous glands that coats and moisturises the skin. It creates a preventive barrier that protects against water evaporation and moisture loss. It is what we associate with ‘greasiness’ and ‘oiliness’ on the surface of the skin.

Natural lipids of the skin barrier: On the outermost layer of the skin, there is something called the ‘skin barrier’. This is like a brick and mortar structure, where the skin cells are the ‘bricks’ and the glue that holds them together are the natural lipids (the ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids). These oily materials provide lubrication to the skin. When we say that the skin has been stripped off its natural moisture, it is this layer that has worn off.

Why does oily skin suffer from greasiness and excessive breakouts?

Oily skin is usually a result of high sebum production which either occurs naturally or takes place when the skin is dehydrated. Those with oily or acne-prone skin have a tendency to reach out for products that are oil-free or mild in nature. However, these can dehydrate the skin, causing it to overcompensate and produce more oil which eventually leads to breakouts like acne, pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, etc. Sometimes, acne treatments contain irritating ingredients that strip your skin of natural oils, leading to dryness or inflammation which may lead to increased oil production and breakouts too.

In terms of the skin’s water and oil balance, those with oily skin usually suffer from skin dehydration which reduces their natural water content, and as a result increases their oil content. Higher levels of oil lead to clogged pores, stickiness and a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria. Acne is usually our skin’s way of telling us that its water content is low and it needs hydration from within.

Enter - face oils!

What differentiates a face oil that’s good for oily, acne-prone skin from one that’s good for dry skin?

Just like every human being, every oil differs in nature too. Understanding the fatty acid profile of each oil is essential, to understanding why each oil may possess certain characteristics. Some oils are more nourishing and moisturising whereas some are drier and get absorbed quickly into the skin. Every oil also has different nutritive properties in terms of antioxidants, minerals and vitamins which work differently for different skin types and skin concerns.

The major difference between a face oil that can do wonders for oily, acne-prone skin and one that may not is the content of Linoleic acid. 

  • Linoleic acid is an essential Omega-6 fatty acid that is the building block for ceramides - the main moisturising elements of our body. 
  • Since our body is unable to produce it on its own, we need to either consume it or topically apply it to the skin. 
  • It is absolutely vital for the skin’s health, as it strengthens and forties the skin’s barrier, allowing it to effectively keep the water in and provides plumpness to the skin while keeping the irritants out. Moreover, it protects the skin from harmful UV rays and other environmental stressors that cause free radical activity. 

This is an image of consistency of Linoleic acid in Sebum of face.

How does Linoleic Acid affect oily, acne-prone skin?

For acne-prone skin, Linoleic Acid is a wonder ingredient because those who suffer from acne usually lack Linoleic Acid in their sebum. This means that their Oleic Acid content is higher - which is a non-essential Omega-9 fatty acid. Oleic acid locks and retains moisture in the skin but gets trapped in the pores when it is not properly balanced with Linoleic Acid. When the skin is deficient in Linoleic acid, the sebum becomes thick and greasy and congests the pores, leading to breakouts.

Using a face oil helps to nourish and heal the skin by helping it rebuild and sustain the skin's outermost lipid layer which consists of the fatty acids, ceramides and cholesterol. If you have oily or acne-prone skin, it’s best to opt for a face oil with a high content of Linoleic acid which is lightweight, drier, and fast-absorbing with a thinner consistency. It will not sit on the skin or leave any residue behind.

What are the benefits of face oils for oily, acne-prone skin? Which oils are the best for oily acne-prone skin?

The key to controlling oil production and reducing breakouts could be slathering your face with the right face oil. Certain oils have the ability to nourish the skin, as well as heal it from within. They act as astringents which stabilise and regulate sebum production, and their skin-identical nature makes them super effective in providing hydration, calming the skin and replenishing its barrier with essential nutrients.

Here are our top picks:

1. Rosehip Oil: It is great to boost overall skin health and deeply hydrate the skin, as well as reduce redness, inflammation and face scars. Moreover, it has a bioactive form of Vitamin A called Retinoic Acid which helps in cell renewal and reversing the signs of aging. Talk about two birds, one stone!

Our recommendation: Sukin Certified Organic Rosehip Oil

This is an image of Certified Organic Rose hip oil from the brand Sukin used for acne oily skin



2. Jojoba Oil: This lightweight and breathable oil has a huge similarity to our natural sebum in terms of wax composition and its fatty acid profile. This allows it to break down and dissolve sebum, clogged up active blackheads, whiteheads or any other congestions. It works except for those with eczema, rosacea and cysts too. 

This is an image of non-comedogenic Immortal face oil from the brand Coccoon proved good for oily acne prone skin

3. Grapeseed Oil: It is a natural astringent that mattifies the skin, soothes it and lowers inflammation. It also has an antimicrobial effect which reduces the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation. This oil is also a great spot treatment for acne.

4. Squalene Oil: Olive derived Squalene is highly biocompatible in our skin sebum that easily penetrates into the skin. After it undergoes hydrogenation, it becomes a very stable and saturated oil with a thin, lightweight texture that softens the skin, increases its elasticity while leaving no residue behind. It works well for all skin types and concerns, including fungal acne!
This is an image of Turmeric and Olive Squalene elixir from the brand Neemli Naturals good for acne prone skin.5. Tamanu Oil: This anti-inflammatory and antioxidant-rich oil regenerates and rejuvenates the skin as it has the ability to get absorbed by all three layers of the skin, which helps control both acne and its scars. It is a wonder oil for hyperpigmentation too!

Our recommendation: Vaunt Tamanu + Cranberry Seed Face Oil

This is an image of Tamanu and Cranberry Seed oil from the brand Vaunt popular for Acne prone oily skin


6. Tea Tree Oil: Its antimicrobial, disinfecting and anti-inflammatory properties kill harmful bacteria in your pores, and help to cleanse and purify the skin. Great as a spot treatment too. However, never use pure Tea Tree oil on your skin, and always mix it in a carrier oil to avoid getting burned!

7.Hemp Seed Oil: This not only regulates sebum production but also makes the sebum more fluid, thinner in terms of consistency and less sticky. It reduces redness associated with acne and its scars, as well as improves the skin’s natural balance and overall texture.


When should face oils be used? In the morning, night or at both times?

At what point of the day you choose to incorporate a face oil in your skincare regime is totally dependent on your skin type. It is important to note that the skin produces its own oil or 'sebum' through the day on its own. However, the rate at which it produces it differs through the day. The sebum cycle below explains how the rate of production changes over the course of the day.

  • Sebum secretion increases through the night and morning.
  • Sebum secretion is at its highest in the middle of the day.
  • Sebum secretion declines from midday to evening.
  • Sebum secretion is at its lowest in the evening, before bedtime

This is an image showing the rate of production of sebum during the day

This is why if you have oily or acne-prone skin, the best time to use face oils is at night when the skin is producing the least sebum as it will allow the skin to effectively absorb all the nutrients in.

When do you apply them in your skincare routine?

Every skincare product differs in terms of molecular structure. The order in which you layer your skincare usually depends on the thickness or viscosity, which is why we always apply skincare products from the thinner to thicker ones. When it comes to face oils, they are best used on a well cleansed and toned face after a serum and moisturiser. This allows them to effectively penetrate into the skin, hydrate it and seal the moisture in.

Layering rule:
Cleanser > Toner > Serum > Ampoule > Eye Cream > Moisturiser > Face Oil

This is an image of adding face oil in skincare routine for acne prone skin.

It is important to remember that the skin needs a moisturiser as well as a face oil for optimal health, and needs 70% water and 30% oil to maintain its balance. While neither can deliver water content to the skin, we must note that if either are used without a hydrator, it can create a barrier against hydration that causes breakouts to occur. An oil helps the skin retain water that is put into it, while the moisturiser protects it from free radicals, sun damage and other environmental stressors.

Read more on how to choose a moisturiser for oily, acne-prone skin here.

The wrong way to use a Face Oil for oily/acne-prone skin

If you are prone to acne or have excessively oily skin, you definitely want to avoid replacing your usual moisturiser with a face oil, or mixing a face oil in your moisturiser/lotion, as it becomes too heavy for your skin to absorb. This is as your skin is in need of hydration and not more oil! When your skin is experiencing acne or is prone to breakouts, it is more likely to become a breeding ground for bacteria, which exacerbates the problem or may even instigate it further. This is why we recommend using face oil after a moisturiser, and testing it for a few days to see how it works on your skin. If it is doing more damage than good, it is best to discontinue using it and finding another suitable alternative.

The Bottom Line

While you may have feared using face oils for a long time, there’s no need to skip out on using them now! They are not only beneficial in improving the skin’s complexion and texture, but also are a wonderful tool and remedy to cure stubborn acne and excessive oiliness. But remember, consistency is key, and you need to diligently apply it everyday to see a remarkable change. It is time to try a new approach to skincare, which will lead your skin to a healthier, new direction that you will never want to turn back from. 

- By Krisha Jhaveri

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