Question: What oils are best for acne prone skin?


Oils are not all bad for people with acne-prone skin. How your skin reacts to oils is largely individual. For some people, oils are moisturizing while for others, oils are breakout city.

The following is a list of oils that are generally safe for acne-prone skin:

  • Mineral Oil -

    • Inert oil
    • Used in petrolatum products (i.e. baby oil)
    • Seems to be a hit or miss with most people.
    • Some people (like me) can tolerate mineral oil just fine while others seem to breakout from it
    • Clear in color
    • Has a very light liquid texture
    • Can be moisturizing

  • Jojoba Oil -

    • Not actually an "oil" but rather a wax that has remarkable similarity to human sebum
    • Can be moisturizing
    • Slightly astringent
    • Offers slight UV protection
    • Feels somewhat heavier than mineral oil but spreads easily
    • Easily absorbed by skin

  • Safflower Oil -

    • Moisturizing
    • Shouldn't cause breakouts
    • Anti-inflammatory
    • Can be used for hair care
    • Light texture
    • Easily absorbed by skin

  • Grapeseed Oil -

    • Astringent type of oil
    • Has antioxidants
    • Heavier than jojoba oil
    • Can be healing
    • Light texture and odorless

  • Castor oil -

    • Common base oil for homemade cleansing oils
    • May cause hair growth
    • Used in many lash "grow" treatments
    • Very thick in texture
    • Anti-inflammatory and healing

  • Argan oil -

    • Moisturizing
    • Good for anti-aging
    • Sinks quickly into skin
    • Helps soften skin
    • Good for hair

The above oils can be considered carrier oils. They serve as a base for cleansing oils, makeup removers, homemade concoctions, etc. Carrier oils are basically plain oils with no frills attached. Essential oils, on the other hand, are usually considered "treatments" of some sort. For example, tea tree oil is an essential oil that can be used to treat acne. Rose hip oil is another essential oil that is used to soothe irritated skin. Most essential oils cannot be used straight on the skin without causing unnecessary irritation and must be diluted by carrier oils.

Out of the above listed oils, jojoba oil and grapeseed oil are "drier" because they are more astringent than the other oils. Therefore, even though these oils sound like they should be very moisturizing, jojoba oil and grapeseed oil can actually be the opposite for some people when used long term.

I think oils are great for your skin, but you just have to find one that agrees with it. Many people erroneously assume that oils = breakouts. However, just because you use an oil (either straight up or in another product) doesn't mean that that particular oil will break you out.

In my experience, oils cause acne eruptions when your skin is already irritated (improper pH, itchy, overly dry, etc) to begin with and when you apply the oil to your unhealthy skin, it sits on the surface and prevents your skin from doing its every day job of clearing pores and shedding dead cells. But, if you think about it, the same thing can happen with any product you put on your skin.

Again, oils are largely individual so it really just depends on how your skin handles them. The above list of oils, however, is generally safe for acne-prone skin (based on researching hundreds of product reviews and personal experience). You can also check out this website for a comprehensive list of skin-safe ingredients.

Last updated: September 17, 2012

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