Yes, Oils Can Help With Acne—These Are 9 of the Best
Don’t be quick to write off oils for acne.
If you’ve got oily, acne-prone skin, doubling down on hydration might be the last thing on your mind. After all, if your skin’s already producing enough oil then there’s no need to give it more, right? Not so fast. Excess oiliness often indicates a skin imbalance where your skin goes into overdrive to produce more moisture because it’s not getting enough.
“I always recommend that patients moisturize daily, which can help regular sebum production and minimize the overproduction [of oil]” says Corey L. Hartman, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Ala. “When paired with acne-treating products, this can actually help reduce breakouts.”
Dr. Hartman adds that using the right oils for acne can help balance out your skin, minimize breakouts, and even reduce redness and inflammation caused by acne. The key is to choose a lightweight, non-comedogenic oil with anti-inflammatory properties. You can even find oils formulated with acne-fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid and tea tree oil.
Keen on giving this approach a go? Here are nine of the best oils you can use if you have acne.
Rich in antioxidants and fatty acids, camellia oil is a lightweight, “dry oil” that absorbs quickly and is supremely gentle on skin. It's also a non-comedogenic oil, meaning it's unlikely to clog pores. Along with protecting the skin against free radical damage, it can also help minimize the look of acne blemishes and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from pimples.
Try It: Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum’s formula ($20; Amazon) is one of Dr. Hartman’s favorite oils for acne-prone skin. In addition to camellia oil, it also also contains sea buckthorn extract to help reduce redness and prevent moisture loss. “The formula also uses vitamin E and sodium hyaluronate that helps further hydration,” Dr. Hartman says. “The finish isn’t greasy, so you can easily layer it underneath sunscreen and makeup.”
Rosehip Seed Oil
For a gentle, non-comedogenic hydrating oil, look no further than good old cold-pressed rosehip seed oil. This “dry oil” is quickly absorbed and promotes a balanced complexion, soft skin, and healthy glow. Plus, its anti-inflammatory benefits can help with redness and irritation.
Try It: Good Molecules Pure Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil ($10; Ulta) is a pure, 100% Chilean rosehip oil that you can apply directly to your skin. You can also use it as a carrier oil for tea tree or peppermint essential oils.
Tea Tree Oil
Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, says that tea tree oil is one of the best types of oil for acne you can use, and it’s one of her personal favorites. Known for its fresh, camphoraceous scent, tea tree oil is heralded for its antibacterial properties that can help keep skin clear.
Try It: Tea tree oil is naturally quite strong, so it’s best to use a formula that’s already diluted—like The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil ($12; Ulta)—or dilute it in a non-comedogenic oil such as jojoba, rosehip, camellia, or argan oil.
Black Cumin Seed Oil
You might think of cumin as a kitchen staple, but this oil can also work wonders for your skin. Scientific research shows that black cumin seed oil has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and studies have demonstrated its ability to target acne and keep skin clear.
Try It: Cleanical brand Odacite is known for its ability to seamlessly harness the powers of natural ingredients while celebrating clinical formulations. The brand’s BL + C Black Cumin-Cajeput Pimples Serum Concentrate ($36; Nordstrom) is specifically formulated for acne-prone skin types, and it helps soothe, hydrate, and combat congestion.
Pomegranate Seed Oil
Pomegranate seed oil boasts a handful of anti-acne benefits. It’s antibacterial, which can help ward off acne caused by bacteria, and also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. What’s more, it can hydrate the skin and prevent premature signs of aging.
Try It: Along with black cumin seed and pomegranate seed oils, Sunday Riley’s U.F.O. Ultra-Clarifying Acne Treatment Face Oil ($40; Ulta), is packed with 1.5% salicylic acid, which is considered one of the most effective ingredients you can use to treat acne. This medicated oil absorbs quickly and unclogs congested pores. Dr. Nazarian notes that using salicylic acid with an oil base makes it “more tolerable, as oftentimes acne regimens can be somewhat drying and irritating.”
Peppermint Essential Oil
Known for its minty scent, peppermint oil is heralded for its antibacterial and antiseptic benefits, both of which can benefit acne-prone skin. Further, science has found that when applied topically, it can have a soothing effect on skin which is a nice bonus for people dealing with irritation and redness.
Try It: Ulta Beauty Collection Pure Peppermint Oil ($10; Ulta) includes a simple list of ingredients and is intended for topical usage.Like tea tree oil, peppermint oil must be diluted before applying to skin. This one should also be diluted, and you only need a tiny amount in a carrier oil.
Blue Tansy Oil
Congested complexions will enjoy the soothing, skin-clearing benefits of beautiful blue tansy oil. It helps calm irritated skin and minimizes inflammation and redness, all while lending some hydration for a balanced, glowy complexion.
Try It: Blue tansy is the hero ingredient in Herbivore Botanicals’ Lapis Blue Tansy Face Oil - For Oily & Acne-Prone Skin ($74; Sephora). It’s also formulated with vegan squalane to lock in moisture and kukui nut oil to help regulate sebum production for those with acne-prone skin types.
Another one of Dr. Nazarian’s favorite oils for acne is jojoba oil, which she says is noted for its calming, anti-inflammatory properties. It's suitable for a range of skin types—including the most sensitive—which is why you'll find this hydrating oil in all many skincare formulations. An interesting fact about jojoba oil is that its consistency and composition is similar to human sebum, which may help balance complexions and prevent the overproduction of oil.
Try It: Blume Meltdown Acne Oil ($28; Ulta) combines a variety of different oils, including jojoba, black cumin, blue tansy, and rosehip. It hydrates, soothes, and balances your complexion while warding off pimples and improving the look of acne scarring.
Dr. Nazarian is also a big fan of argan oil for acne, noting its hydrating and calming benefits. Studies have also found that this non-comedogenic oil does a bang up job of skin barrier repair. The stronger your barrier is, the less susceptible it is to environmental damage and breakouts.
Try It: For pure, high-quality argan oil, try The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Moroccan Argan Oil ($8; Ulta). It has all kinds of beauty uses, including skin moisturizing. You can also use this product as a carrier oil to dilute tea tree or peppermint essential oils.
Oils To Avoid If You Have Acne
Not every oil is approved for acne-prone skin types. Here are some types of oils to avoid if you have oily skin or breakouts. When in doubt, purchase a well-formulated product that indicates it’s suitable for oil and acne-prone skin.
Cotton seed oil
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