Whether they’re a fundamental part of your skincare routine, or strike fear into your heart, should you actually be using a face oil, and if so, how?

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A decade or so ago, adding face oil  to our potentially already shine-prone complexions would have been akin to committing beauty heresy, in the same way that including more fat in our diet would have seemed nuts (pun intended). Yet, here we are in the teens of the 21st century, buying more avocados than oranges according to The Grocer, and dabbling in facial oils more than ever (currently ELEMIS Superfood Facial Oil,  £45). The facial oil category reported double digit growth last year according to the NPD Group Inc, surging by 30.8% compared to 2014, with sales doubling over a four period (from £2.3million in 2011 to £4.9million in 2015). According to Teresa Fisher, NPD UK Senior Account Manager, we’re all becoming a lot more open minded where facial oils are concerned:

“The recent growth in the face oil market is important in a number of ways. Firstly, it’s boosting the prestige skincare market by increasing sales, and it also demonstrates the enthusiasm with which consumers adopt new rituals into their skincare regime. We are witnessing a new consumer who is increasingly turning to their peers for advice on products and take the lead from social media and bloggers. As a result they are willing to try new products and innovations, incorporating them into their beauty ritual.”

We’re an experimental lot, it seems, but it’s not just the oil texture that we’re absorbing (sorry), but also the pure, antioxidant and emollient power that an oil delivers, and the wellbeing enhancing ritual of application. Just as we’re becoming more and more conscious of the provenance of our food, quality of our downtime and preservation of our environment, so we’re paying more heed to the ingredients in our skincare and cosmetics. What’s good for your body on the inside very often follows through to the external (although not always...do your research before applying food to face), and Shannon Romanowski, Category Manager of Health, Household, Beauty and Personal Care at Mintel, reveals that feeding your face is finding a new meaning in the modern skincare market:

“Consumers are embracing healthy, holistic living, and our research shows that these lifestyle changes are driving the facial skincare and anti-aging market. In such a saturated marketplace, products featuring natural formulations are standing out to consumers who trust identifiable and natural ingredients.”

“The link between diet and skin is evident, and as consumers increasingly associate their lifestyle with their skin’s appearance, product formulations with added food-based ingredients and vitamins stand out among the competition.”

Many of us subscribe to the idea that superfoods offer superior nutritional benefits, thus a natural oil that harnesses the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants derived from plant extracts has surely got to be good for our skin. Enter ELEMIS’ latest launches on the market. Packed with the likes of broccoli seed oil, rice bran oil and daikon radish oil, it certainly sounds virtuous and wholesome, but does ‘you are what you eat’ really apply in skincare stakes? Here’s some food for thought…

What’s so good about a natural oil?

In this day and age, the marriage of science, botanical expertise and sophisticated textures means that natural products don’t pale in the face of chemically enhanced alternatives, or at least not in the facial oil sector. As Noella Gabriel, co-founder and creator of ELEMIS highlights , substance and style aren’t mutually exclusive where oils are concerned:

“There’s a strong emphasis on nutrient rich minerals, and we’re seeing more complex, top notch antioxidants delivered with sensuality.”

Thought that a namby pamby oil couldn’t deliver serious anti-ageing action? Noella urges you to think again:

“Minerals re-energise the skin at a basal level, which in turn stimulates cell renewal and as a result makes mineral rich oils a great anti-ageing skincare step  to include.”

As for the natural element, plant extracted oils deliver their own set of unique antioxidants, fatty acids and soothing, skin barrier reinforcing vitamins, and it’s pretty hard for synthetic alternatives such as mineral oil to compete on the ‘nutrition’ level. Think of an oil as a vitamin rich shot- not the basis of your diet, but an add-on that could make all the difference to both the health and condition of your skin.

The ELEMIS team describe the new Superfood Facial Oil as a ‘personal trainer for the skin’, and that pretty much sums up the effects of a well thought out, expertly blended natural oil. They can whip skin into shape fast, with visible results (read, radiance, a distinct lack of fatigue, that ‘glow’ that everyone goes on about) in just a few sessions. An investment, and not necessarily an essential, but extremely valuable, especially if you’re going through a bad patch in terms of the state of your skin, sleep pattern and stress levels (no other product I’ve tried makes such a perceptible difference to skin in just one application).

What does a face oil do?

Noella has some compelling reasons for adding a facial oil to your regime. Hear her out:

“Different product textures are absorbed and penetrate into the skin at different levels, to use this to our skins advantage is to layer products. Begin with the lighter consistency as this will absorb into the skin first, then layer your moisturiser on top. A facial oil can then be used as a booster to enhance the performance of your moisturiser and add that ‘extra touch’ by absorbing quickly into the skin, sealing in the beneficial ingredients of any treatments you’ve applied.”

As such, the oil is your ‘bodyguard’, protecting skin and preventing moisture loss. As bodyguards go, they are also very flattering, adding a sheen, plumping out fine lines and smoothing out texture. Fatty acid rich oils such as ELEMIS Superfood Facial Oil (you’ve got the omegas in flaxseed oil, macadamia oil and rosehip seed oil especially to thank) can also go some way to bringing down inflammation and reducing redness, which generally makes for happier, better behaved skin.

Will an oil suit my skin type?

Almost certainly, but the type of oil you go for is crucial. Don’t go slathering on olive oil ( or indeed the feted coconut stuff ) willy nilly. While drier skins do need richer, thicker oils such as good oil avocado and almond oils, oily and combination skins thrive after an application of lighter textured jojoba, grapeseed or hazelnut oil, while just about everyone stands to benefit from a dose of rosehip seed oil, which is also high in juvenating vitamin A. The best oils blend a cocktail of complimentary oils for a higher antioxidant, mineral and omega yield, just as ELEMIS Superfood Facial Oil consists of a whopping nine nourishing plant oils. The inclusion of cucumber seed oil makes it a particularly soothing option if you’re sensitive of skin or a first timer. Noella also reassures oil avoidants that oily skin can drink up facial oils, in a good way:

“Believe it or not, oily skin needs oil! It can be a very difficult concept to relate to a client with oily skin, but oil on oil results in stabilising the oil flow calming the skin. Stripping it or washing it vigorously doesn’t help and can feed the problem.”

“Look out for ingredients like Brazilian Babassu Oil, Moringa Oil, Lavender, Myrrh, Willow, Nettle and Silver Birch which all stabilize the oil flow and reduce shine – great to heal blemishes.”

“Even if you don’t have oily skin, grease and shine are a woman's greatest fear when considering a facial oil, but keep in mind that facial oils are very different in texture, results and feel compared with 5-6 years ago.”

How and when should I be using an oil?

Many people prefer to use an oil within their nighttime routine, and incorporating an oil can be a great way to unwind after a long day, especially if you’re prone to holding tension in your jaw. A relaxing, natural scent can also wonders when it comes to melting stress too, which will serve your skin well in the long term, but is also quick acting in terms of elevating your mood in the short term, as Noella relates:

“Don’t underestimate the power of aroma; the body responds within seven seconds.”

You should probably spend slightly longer than that working a facial oil into your skin for maximum holistic benefit, however. See the diagram below and follow Noella’s step by step how to for facial oil application:

“Apply 3-4 drops in palm of the hands, warm quickly and inhale the beautiful aroma. Cup hands and place on the face, avoiding eyelids. Pat onto the face, neck and décolleté.”

“Gently place hands on to the chin and sweep alternate hands along the jawline to the ears. Slide hands to the nose and glide across cheeks to the temples.”

“Slide fingers under the eyes to the bridge of nose and then to the forehead. Glide from the centre to the temples.”

“Glide hands down the side of the face and apply from the base of the neck to the tip of the chin using upwards, sweeping strokes. Return to the temples to finish.”

Obviously after that level of DIY TLC you will feel ready to hit the hay, but if you’d like to enhance the impact of your moisturiser or foundation during the day, the silky textured Superfood Facial Oil won’t disturb makeup or end up in an oil slick circa 4pm. I’ve even worn it to the gym, and felt beaming rather than overly slick.

Aside from skin type, if you feel that you’re not into the ‘anti-ageing’ bracket quite yet, it could be worth assessing your skin from a different point of view and considering adding in bespoke nourishment where you need it:

“It is important to highlight that we no longer classify skin with age. It is now classified according to lifestyle, for instance we now have accelerated premature ageing in the early 20s. We have the upsurge of the mature acne in the mid 40s into the 50s and we have acne rosacea in all skin types. Nutrition is important to maintain skin radiance and health, and vitamins are a catalyst that ensure the skin is functioning well. In short, nutrition plays a key role in skin health."

We think that’s probably from an inside-and-out point standpoint, so if you’re wondering what kind of foodie fodder could be of benefit to your skin, add these to your shopping list .

Should I replace my serum or moisturiser for an oil?

Probably not. An oil can’t transmit moisture to your cells in the way that, say, hyaluronic acid can, but a good quality plant oil will strengthen skin against external aggressors, and keep that moisture where you want it (plumping up your skin, ideally). It’s a sort of Batman and Robin situation. Both superheros in their own right, but they work best together. One may have been slightly overlooked over the passage of time, but no longer…

This feature was written in partnership with  ELEMIS

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