9 Natural Oils and What They Do

Photo: Henry Leutwyler

Oil, once feared by women everywhere, has been warmly embraced and then heartily celebrated over the past few years. From Barneys to Duane Reade, shelves are stocked with hair, face, body, and cleansing oils that promise you nourished skin, shiny hair, and an overall glow. Buy them, and you’re buying a mix of oils, blended in a lab to fulfill the label’s promise. Natural oils, however, have been used for beauty purposes for centuries. Almond, jojoba, coconut, and many more boast skin-soothing properties that work wonders regardless of where you apply. Here’s a breakdown of the most common oils and what, exactly, each does.

Almond Oil

The short version: almond oil is rich in monosaturated fats, making it super hydrating for both skin and hair. For more, read this.

Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil comes from the desert shrub of the same name; it does well in rough climates. More surprising is its chemical structure, which is strikingly similar to our body’s own natural oils. Yes it moisturizes hair, skin and nails, but it’s also a great cleanser and lip conditioner and a safe carrier oil, meaning you can add essential oils.

Grapeseed Oil

Grapeseed oil boasts antioxidants and fatty acids that can help stop acne. Its astringent qualities can also tighten the skin, especially under the eyes, making it a natural option for dark circles and anti-aging.

Geranium Oil      

You’ll find this geranium oil, a natural astringent, in chemical-free deodorant. It doesn’t just reduce body odor though, it also treats oily skin and acne (including scars), calms inflammation, and can boost circulation.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil’s the most anti-bacterial on this list. It also earns top billing on most aromatherapy blends thanks to its ability to soothe headaches, aid sleep, and calm the nervous system.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is the ultimate deep conditioner for your hair, thanks to Oleuropein (which is also found in argan oil) and squalene. The former’s full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories—which is why olive oil’s also surprisingly good for your skin. It can help soothe eczema, repair collagen, and it even has anti-microbial properties.

Rosehip Oil

Rosehip oil, from the flower’s seeds, is full of beta-carotene, retinoic acid, and omegas-3 and 6. What does that mean? That it works wonders on sun burns, scars, and eczema. It can also strengthen and heal brittle nails, so rub it onto your cuticles nightly.

Coconut Oil

If you buy one oil, make it coconut. Click here to read why.

Eucalyptus Oil

Pressed from the eucalyptus tree’s dried leaves, you’ll often find the oil in cough drops or aromatherapy blends. But it also has topical uses. A study in American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that it can actually relieve physical pain.