A couple years back (like 12 for you sticklers) Barry Schwartz, author and psychologist, gave a TED talk about the paradox of choice. Salad dressings. Phones. Clothes. Creams. Too much, he said, wasn’t enriching our lives. Choice, he said, had made simple decisions more difficult – a burden of modern life.
Razors. Creams. Balms. Gels. A quick scan of the skin care aisle and his argument is obvious. As quickly as we shed our skin (apply that metaphor however you wish) we see product designed to better hydrate, sooth and rejuvenate it. So in an age of more is more, what’s the simplest way to keep skin looking clean and fresh?
Hello, face oil. Goodbye, cluttered cabinets.
Here’s why every gent wanting nourished, healthy looking skin should have a go:
- Oils occur naturally on your face. If you don’t have enough, on account of being stripped away from washing, your face will look more, not less oily. True story.
- Facial oils can stand in for moisturizers altogether. In a pinch, the more viscous ones also kill it for moisturizing beards, too.
- Facial oils are packed with essential oils – Japonica seed, sweet almond, rose – that can keep skin deeply nourished, even younger looking.
The Main Benefits Of Using Facial Oils
By now, we’ve all heard about them. If you wear some face, applying beard oil in the morning is already part of your day-to-day. But are you washing and moisturizing your skin with oils, too? More to the point, is oil actually good for your skin?
Face oils have been around for hundreds if not thousands of years. People have used blends of natural, castor and olive oils to wash and moisturize skin since way back. And thanks to science, we now know why (thank you, Science).
Oil breaks down oil. It’s as simple as that. When your face has none on it, it makes and distributes its’ own, often times creating too much. (This is what makes your face look like a Saudi oil rig – natural oils are often stripped away with cleansers and creams, specifically the ones rich in chemicals and perfumes). Counter to every advert you’ve ever seen, oiling up morning and night balances things out by introducing oil to your face. (Don’t doubt science.) This means your face doesn’t need to produce any oil of it’s own, which actually makes it look less, not more slick. (Moisturizers can do this temporarily. But long term, certain types will dry your skin, which then tells your skin to get to work.)
Why Are Face Oils A Thing?
“Supply and demand is probably the quickest answer,” says Beard and Co. managing director, Harrison Stocker. What culture has delivered by way of abundant beards has produced a greater need to moisturize them and the skin underneath, “a demand to keep men healthy and handsome,” he adds.
Men’s grooming regimens have evolved considerably in the last five years. And while beard oils opened the door to applying oil to a man’s face, availability of concentrated, vitamin-rich facial oils and washes cracked it wide open. With smoother, softer whiskers and cleaner, better looking, healthier skin as the by product, it’s no wonder they’ve taken off.
How To Use Face Oils
What are you looking for in a facial oil? Coconut, jojoba, vitamin E, olive, almond, grape-seed, tea tree, argan, marula, rosehip, castor – good quality oils will contain some of the above ingredients. Of the ones we looked at, some of these ingredients prove effective for nourishing skin, promoting elasticity and turning back the clock on aging (if that sort of thing appeals). (When shopping around, look at the oil’s intended purpose. Like everything else, they too have become specific and segmented.)
Application is pretty straightforward. The ones we tested for this article all came with a dropper or dispenser. Get 6-8 drops in your palms, rub them together to warm it up and apply to a freshly washed face, neck and beard. Everywhere. One of the pleasures of face oils is their scent. The aromas are intoxicating, particularly the one’s from Malin + Goetz and Aveda. Applying them feels like a facial massage which might quickly become the highlight of your grooming routine. Trust us.
Here’s a list of face oils we liked based on some commentary from experts and personal testing. The best thing about facial oils is their versatility – from shaving to moisturizing, cleansing to rejuvenation – there’s one for you that’s destined to transform tired skin.
Clear your cabinets, friends. Most will take over where creams have failed.
Aveda Moisturizing Oil
Best for: radiant skin + antioxidant against everyday environmental stresses
What you should know: Aromatic, nourishing oil for body, bath and scalp – while this oil is marketed for a number of uses, it shines as an everyday face oil – perfect for moisturizing, especially for fiends of Aveda’s special brand of “stink.”
The verdict: Rosemary, lavender, bergamot and other pure flower and plant essences – Aveda has captured all their trademark scents is this bottle. It is among the strongest smelling oils on test, so if you have a sensitive schnoz, look elsewhere. However if you go for strong smells and all-around oils, this one’s got your name on it. (Doubles as a decent massage oil, too.)
$30.00 at Nordstrom.com
Malin+Goetz Facial Cleansing Oil
Best for: balancing out your skin
What you should know: Malin + Goetz’s facial cleansing oil absorbs quickly and smells like food for your face. Heavenly. If your skin is combination to oily, it will help “balance” the oil and prevent skin from over-producing oil on its own.
The verdict: Say no to high-lathering soaps, which can strip skin of natural oils and make an already slick situation even worse. Just massage a couple pumps onto dry skin, rinse off with warm water, and marvel at how awesome your skin looks and feels afterwards. It offers an intensive, natural way to address age concerns like lines and wrinkles and is full of antioxidant essential oils that perform (evening primrose, argan, and jojoba oils soften lines and strengthen moisture barrier).
$42.00 at Amazon.com
Jack Black Epic Moisture MP10 Nourishing Oil
Best for: shaving, eliminating bumps and razor burn on your neck and moisturizing
What you should know: This is simple, natural formula is made of only essential oils, notably Moroccan argan and grape seed which are packed with fatty acids, minerals and antioxidants. A triple threat to the face and beard.
The verdict: A real multi-tasker, there’s little this sheer, silky formula can’t do. Use it as a pre-shave to lubricate skin and cushion against razor irritation. Use it on damp skin as a quick-absorbing moisturizer. Use it on hair to tame frizz and pump up the shine.
$32.00 at Amazon.com
Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing Oil
Best for: washing your face. Yes, your face.
What you should know: Oils are also resurging as facial cleansers. Truth. And while you have every reason to be skeptical, don’t be. There’s magic in this bottle. Oil lifts and sticks to oil. So as a first step to clean skin, cleaning it with an oil cleanser actually makes sense.
The verdict: The best thing about washing your face with oil is that it’s oil. Your face needs em and the feeling of using one is clean, moisturized skin.
$60.00 at Nordstrom.com
Kiehl's Daily Reviving Concentrate
Best for: deep, restorative facial treatments
What you should know: This is not an everyday oil. This little bottle packs a big punch and goes a long way at changing the general appearance of your skin. Use in combination with another everyday moisturizing oil, if desired.
The verdict: This is another highly viscous, scented oil. Our opinion: use this guy as often as you like. It’s killer and works as advertised to smooth out and replenish skin. Ginger root, sunflower and tamanu are the active ingredients that give it its pleasing scent. This may quickly become your favourite.
$46.00 at Nordstrom.com
L'Occitane Almond Supple Skin Oil
Best for: firming and moisturizing skin
What you should know: Formulated with more than 50% almond oil, this skin oil smells as good as it moisturizes.
The verdict: This stuff gets so much Internet love you’d think it’s made of ground up Patek Philippes. Where it shines though is it’s performance as a firming oil deeply nourishes your face. We use it as directed – twice daily, morning and night – and our skin feels very well re-hydrated (particularly after a night out).
$52.00 at Loccitane.com
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Mark Cohen is a contributing writer to a number of sites including AskMen, primarily on style, cycling and sometimes both. He currently lives in the UK. Connect with him on Instagram @mcohensays.