Like Gwyneth Paltrow and Emma Stone (that’s where the similarity ends), I am a convert to facial oils. And, while beauty counters will sell tiny bottles at £20 – £40 upwards, it can be very cheap and so SO simple to make your own – big plus if, like me, you’re in a make-ation / gap year scenario where frugality is a must. What’s more, you can adapt your formula to your skin and know for sure that there are no nasty ingredients.
There is a very large rabbit warren of information by beauty magazines, dermatologists, science nerds and aromatherapists out there, so for the benefit of this post this is my distillation of need-to-knows plus my current go-to formula.
Why use facial oils:
- Protection: In addition to your skin’s natural defence of sebum, a waxy oily substance, facial oils provide an extra barrier to the elements
- Light hydration: Oils are lipophilic (fat loving) so they pass through the fat (lipid) layer of the skin faster, trapping water, and giving a plumping effect
- Nutrients: Oils naturally contain vitamins, fatty acids and antioxidants
- No nasties: Facial oils are natural with no harsh chemicals and, what’s more, some oils like jojoba very closely mimic our skin’s natural sebum
- Stroke-ability: Instance softness and smoothness, also making them a great primer for make-up
- Anti-inflammatory: Some oils, like Aragn, are naturally anti-inflammatory so can help reduce redness, itchiness and counteract harshness of other products you may be using
- Turbo-booster: Oils can help ‘smuggle’ other active ingredients deeper into the skin, like vitamin C, and keep them there – for this reason, if you use a water based moisturiser, a facial oil is a great complementary product
There are many types of oils and, as I learned with cold process soap-making, different oils have different compositions of fatty acids…which, bear with me… are better for different types of skin.
Apparently, people who are acne-prone have a low percentage of linoleic acid in their natural sebum, so for those with oily skin, the advice is to opt for oils with a higher linoleic acid to oleic acid ratio. Lab Muffin does a great job at delving into the science of this here with references to original studies (which I always appreciate).
- Roseship seed (my favourite and a great all-rounder)
- Hemp oil
- Evening primrose oil
- Sunflower oil
- Olive oil (yes, and favourited in the beauty routines of ancient Greek women)
- Avocado oil
- Sweet Almond oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Hazelnut oil
- Camellia seed oil
- Argan oil
Making your own facial oil
The good news is that it’s not rocket science: simply choose your oil or combination of them, combine them in a bottle and use.
- Working cleanly: Ideally, use sterilised bottles with an application mechanism that avoids you sticking your grubby fingers in there to ensure a longer lasting oil
- Check the shelf life: Oils higher in linoleic acid tend to have shorter shelf lives (i.e. go rancid quicker) of 3 – 6 months (this info should be provided when you buy the oils)
- Formulating: The oils fatty acid profile is usually available from the supplier (or wikipedia!) and there are plenty of videos on YouTube about understanding your skin type
- Inspiration: Often, expensive facial oils will TELL you what’s in them, and all you need to do is experiment a bit with the ratios (generally they use a large amount of a cheaper oil like almond oil with smaller amounts of expensive oils like carrot seed and rosehip)
- Scenting: Adding essential oils can add beautiful scents and health properties – make sure you research properly as some can irritate the skin and are not safe during pregnancy. Generally lavender is a good all-rounder and great for a night oil
- Vitamin E: You can boost the vitamin E of your formula – All you need is a few drops of pure vitamin E oil. Vitamin E is also a natural preservative
- Suppliers: You can buy oils very cheaply from cosmetic suppliers, rather than organic shops or Amazon. My favourite supplier is the Soap Kitchen
- Batch making: Getting together with a few friends to make a batch can be a fun way to make it even cheaper
- Labelling: I love the look of a Dymo label which are a waterproof foolproof way to label your oil. I use this one
My super frugal (but luxe) face oil recipe
I love this formula, I’ve been using it for months on my combination skin – it’s dirt cheap, provides long-lasting protection and hydration, and makes my skin look fresh and dewy under my light foundation, without being greasy. Plus, big bonus, all of the ingredients are commonly used in other beauty recipes, so if you over-order you’ll be sure to use these handy oils up in other ways.
- 25% caster oil: Anti-inflammatory, enhances smoothness, low comedogenic score (meaning it’s unlikely to clog pores – so great for sensitive skin) and a natural humectant (source). It is very thick and viscose, hence the 25%
- 75% sweet almond oil: A versatile oil well known for its moisturising and emollient properties, and high in oleic acid (source). A natural source of the anti-oxidant vitamin E. Light in texture, and easily and deeply absorbed
- 1% or less lavender essential oil (optional): Soothing and relaxing. A guide of the correct dilution of essential oils is here and here