5 tips to apply facial oil for optimum benefits

Because of my frequent mentions regarding my addiction to using facial oils, I’ve received some comments and questions over the application. Some of you have indicated that you find it hard to spread the oil over your face and hence, I’ve put together some tips on the application of facial oil here.

1. Apply on damp skin to aid spreading
Many have mentioned that they find it hard to spread their facial oil. This is so when your skin is dry. Through experience, I find that it best to apply your facial oil when your skin is slightly damp, either with water or with a facial mist. Note that your skin should not be wet such that the skin cannot hold the oil.

2. Apply sufficiently but moderately
Some users have reported suffering from skin breakouts when they use a facial oil. Perhaps the oil isn’t suitable for them, but perhaps it could also be that they’ve applied way too much. When it comes to facial oils, applying 2 to 3 drops is more than enough. In fact, with some oils like Rosehip, you can even get away with applying just one drop to damp skin as this oil is rather rich.

3. Apply and massage your skin thoroughly
Oil can provide various nutrients and antioxidant benefits to your skin. However, you need to massage the oil thoroughly into your skin. I use oil on a daily basis and what I do is to drop about 2 to 3 drops into my palm, then rub the oil in between my palms before I press my oiled palms on my face. After that, I will massage the oil delicately into my skin, commencing from the center of forehead before proceeding to my cheeks and other areas of my face. I always use an upward, outward massage motion for about 1 minute until the oil has been absorbed into my skin and there’s no more “oily film”. For the skin around my eyes, I only press my palm lightly but don’t massage the area.

4. Apply a water-based lotion or serum before your facial oil
Because water cannot penetrate oil, hence, in the order of product application, you should apply any water-based lotion or serum under your facial oil. If you use an oil-based moisturizer, then it’s fine to apply it after your facial oil.

5. Apply by mixing your facial oil with your moisturizer
For those who do not like to use oil neat on their skin, an alternative is to mix one or two drops of the oil into your favorite moisturizer or facial product. Personally, I’ve not tried this because I like to use my products independently to enjoy their full benefits. However, mixing is possible of course. In fact, I often mix oils in my DIY skin care recipes for additional nourishing. Some oils, like emu oil, can be absorbed deeply into our skin and hence, is useful when used with other active ingredients to aid skin penetration. If you don’t want to mix, you can always apply your active ingredient first before applying the emu oil over.

So for other facial oil lovers, do you have other application tips to share with us?


  1. Fernleafify says:

    The only oil that gave me a pimple or two is emu oil. I used only 2 drops. My skin is dry to combination. I need to try it again to see what’s the reaction.

  2. fwy says:

    I am considering trying out rose hip oil. However, I was told this oil tends to be photosensitive. Is it true?

  3. Joanna says:

    lately i’ve come across this interesting advice by a horse oil company in japan. horse oil is very popular in japan and is use for skin care. the company advice their customer to use the oil on dry skin and massage in lotion or water afterwards, which will keep skin moist and form a protective layer! i was quite surprise cos i’ve always thought that we should apply oil on damp skin too!! so i’m very confused now!

  4. AtelierGal says:

    Your advice comes in handy, as I apply after toning. Thanks ? I rather not mix the oil with moisturizer, not sure if a clash can result in a breakout.

  5. Raelynn says:

    i wouldnt be surprised actually, considering that oil will always float on water even if you put water after oil in a bottle due to their densities. but then again, i’m not sure whether it’s right to consider our skin as a non porous material as a regular bottle. i would prefer to apply the oil last since it can form a protective later like that too. =D

  6. Raelynn says:

    as i mentioned to Joanna, we frequently think of oil not penetrating water, but we also forget that in a bottle, if you were to tip a suspension of oil and water upside down, the oil will still travel upwards and float on top. i would take a different perspective regarding which to apply first, it will depend on the chemistry of the products rather than the texture. for example, hyaluronic acid. low molecular weight HA is absorbed by the skin while high weight HA is not and acts more like a moisture-loss protection. a product using high molecular weight HA should be applied after a low molecular weight HA even if the low HA is a cream and the high HA is a toner, simplistically, since you will also consider the other ingredients of the cream and toner. though sometimes there’s so many things to consider to the extent that you just cross your fingers and hope that the product developers are aware of what they are doing.

    having said that, my favourite way of using oil tends to be mixing, whether with another moisturizer or a water based product.

  7. Raelynn says:

    Joanna’s post got me thinking, and because i’m going out soon (my birthday today!), i was going to go out soon, i did a small trial. i mixed drops of calendula and aloe infused oil, my moisturizer, serum, and a juniper hydrosol gel together. spritzed my face with some toner and massaged away. a few observations:

    1) if i were to mix everything together, i actually needed less oils and moisturizer (cream) since the serum and hydrosol gel will cause the final product to be some sort of a lotion.

    2) my skin was a a lot slower to red, in contrast with the traditional pressing the serum in then applying the moisturizer.

    1) oil seems to condition the skin so that it is less prone to inflammation of the skin due to application of skin care products.

    2) maybe the thought of applying oil before water isnt that ridiculous. indians have been applying coconut oils to hair before washing them to reduce the swelling of hair follicles and joanna mentions the horse oil company. afterall, users of thermal water spray know that the water evaporates from the surface of the skin although the skin is still soothed and calmed from the other ingredients. whereas oil doesnt just evaporate from the skin. oils are metabolized by the skin whereas water isnt. food for thought. =)

  8. Swathy says:

    I am a big fan of oils myself and every night I prefer to apply oils instead of creams. I even massage my body with oil occasionally before my bath.
    Regarding the spreading of oil on skin, it is best to apply oil on damp skin. I wash my face then apply rose water and then I smooth oil over it so the skin is extra moist and has a protective layer.
    It is difficult to apply high density oils on dry skin so another method is to dilute the heavy oils with the lighter oils to a proper consistency and then use them.

  9. serene says:

    Thanks for the tips. I’ve just gotten myself a bottle of argan oil, and wondering how to apply on the face. Up till now, I have not had the courage to try oils on face, only a bit on my hair. I shall try it and see how it goes. Out of interest, will applying oils on the body/face make us fat? We try hard to cut out oil from our food, but is absorbing oil through the skin the same thing?

  10. sesame says:

    Emu oil can be rather “nourishing” but I also find it depends on the grade. I use one to actually heal my acne. Very slow but it works.

  11. sesame says:

    I think I read something of the like and it’s probably because it contains something close to vitamin A, Use it at night and you should be safe.

  12. sesame says:

    I think the rationale is to use the water or lotion to form a protective barrier since it won’t penetrate so much with the oil.

  13. sesame says:

    I would think using it by itself without mixing is better too.

  14. sesame says:

    Haha…this is rather technical for me. I think if the water based product contains active ingredient, then it’s best to apply it first so that our skin can absorb better. Also, it’s thinner so going under the oil is better. But applying over is okay if we want it to form a protective barrier since water can’t penetrate the oil.

    I agree with you on the remark that just cross fingers sometimes cos I also can’t be sure that a product with active ingredients mixed with other ingredients is optimally formulated for skin penetration.

    Very interesting experiment! Mixing seems to work better in this case? I’ll try it some time. I do experience some redness on some days when I use oil alone.

    Oh and Happy Birthday! Hope you’ve had a wonderful time. ?

  15. sesame says:

    Oh yes, that’s an excellent tip to dilute heavy oils with lighter oils. I actually find a mix of oils work better for me than a single oil by itself.

  16. sesame says:

    Ah…interesting question. I don’t think it’ll make us fat as it works differently from digesting food with oil or fats. But I would love to be fatter if that can happen cos I need more weight. ?

  17. Joanna says:

    i think you r probably right, if you are interested here is a page with graphical illustration from the company website:

  18. Swathy says:

    no definitely not, applying oils does not make us fat as Sesame said that we are not ingesting it. On the contrary, one might lose weight due to the massaging motions done everyday.

  19. Silva says:

    I’ve never actually used any facial oils, though I’ve been thinking about it, because I was slightly unsure how to proceed, and I was scared it would make my face break out. Thanks for this article! Which oils do you think are best? I have young skin that likes to break out ?

  20. sesame says:

    Joanna: I think it’s quite a good idea to apply mist over oil. I tried it last night and my skin felt more hydrated. ?

  21. sesame says:

    Would you try grapeseed oil. It’s quite light and not heavy.

  22. Rainbow says:

    Hello! I am also using facial oils all the time: no breakouts, clear skin and much more moisturized than with creams. I use grapeseed oil mixed with jojoba oil, that works very well for me. A mix is a good idea because different oils penetrate to different depths into the skin, so if you want to cover the whole spectrum of your skin’s needs, it is better to use a mix (i read that somewhere and it makes sense).
    I have a question: when do you apply your sunscreen (I think you are also using the Marie Veronique Sunscreen?). Before or after your oil? I am applying it after the oil, because my understanding is that the zinc particles need to remain on the surface of the skin to reflect the light (and hence protect the skin).


  23. sesame says:

    I use the sunscreen after because like you said, it’s zinc oxide so it’s supposed to stay on top of the skin.

  24. yings says:

    Hi sesame, you mentioned in your post that we should not apply a water-based moisturiser on top of the oil. How would I know if my moisturiser is oil or water based? Also, do you think is it okay to just apply oil in place of moisturiser? Thanks!

  25. sesame says:

    Usually something more lotion like with water as the first ingredient is likely so. If you do not see a lot of oil listed as top 5 on the list, then it’s probably more water-based.

    Definitely can apply oil in place of moisturizer if it works for you. I do that. ?

  26. lemon says:

    This post and the comments are so helpful. I was going about it all wrong. I’m guilty of over-applying oil on dry skin, and then complaining that the oil wasn’t sinking in. Now I know to use my water-based serum before the oil, but I’m not sure about my moisturizer. I use CeraVe PM lotion and it lists purified water as the first ingredient, but it also has caprylic/capric triglycerides as the third ingredient. Caprylic/capric triglyceride is an ester..which doesn’t really help since I still don’t understand what that is..hehahah. Caprylic/capric triglyceride is also known as fractionated coconut oil. So I’m not sure whether I should use CeraVe PM before or after facial oil (I just bought samples of emu and camellia oil). The lotion itself is very thin, spreads like a serum, and easily absorbs into skin. My gut feeling says to use the lotion before the oil. Okay..I just answered my own question. But thanks for the post. This is really vital since I have very dehydrated skin.

  27. sesame says:

    If it’s thin, yes, use it before the oil. But actually, I’ve been trying both ways and I don’t really see much difference.

  28. babysaffron says:

    Hi….Just recently that i discovered that my skin could no longer used moisturizer…. After years of using it… We, my derma and i finally came to the conclusion that it clogged my pores… So, she is now prohibiting me to used any moisturizer. Used sunblock instead. So, now i’m wondering what oil is the best for day and night…. and something light also….

  29. sesame says:

    Oh…it might be some moisturizers causing that problem. Usually those lotion type won’t clog pores as much but yes, oil might be a solution for you. You will have to use those that are pure grade. Jojoba oil is close to our skin’s sebum but I find it oily on my skin. I loved grapeseed oil for awhile but now I use MVO’s products and their anti-aging oil is a mix of different oil.

  30. Clueless says:

    Hi ? Im new here n i was wonderin if i could use grapeseed cooking oil on my face? And is it alright if it is not cold pressed?

  31. sesame says:

    Ah…I would really advice you to use cosmetic grade on your skin. I don’t think the culinary grade would do harm for your skin but at the same time because we don’t know the grade, it may also not be beneficial for your face. Try it on your body first.

  32. Clueless says:

    I see! Thank you for the information. I wanted to buy the grapeseed cooking oil as cosmetic ones are more costly. But maybe i should just buy the cosmetic one. ? I am thinking of purchasing akin’s rosehip oil. Any comments on this product?

  33. sesame says:

    I tried it briefly and it seems okay. The one from Renew wasn’t too bad either.

  34. Angie says:

    Hi Sesame,

    Sorry for commenting on such an old post! Just wanted to ask – I read you used rosehip oil in the past, and also mentioned somewhere else on your blog that carrier oils can go rancid pretty quickly in Singapore’s heat. I’ve recently ordered rosehip oil & argan oil online, and I’d like to know whether I should refrigerate either of them the moment my shipment comes in. Will either type solidify? There’s no air-conditioning in my house so it does get very hot & humid.

    By the way, great blog! Very informative! I’m glad there’s a quality beauty blog based in Singapore that promotes natural & organic products. I use mostly organic stuff as I support ‘no animal testing’..organic brands are usually the ones that don’t test on animals, but till recently relied on articles/info from western sites, which may not always be relevant to our Asian lifestyle & skin. Your blog is a godsend ?

  35. Sesame says:

    Don’t put the oil in the fridge…oils don’t do well refrigerated. The only one you should refrigerate is emu oil. The only way is to add a vitamin E to prolong the lifespan of the oil. So far, I don’t add but most of my oils are okay if I use them within a few months.

    Glad you enjoy the blog articles. Come back often…I update it almost daily. ?

  36. Julie1993 says:

    With singapore climate, will putting oil cause pimple cos im scared to put any oil on face eventho im using olive oil as a makeup remover( no breakouts) :). What kind of oil do u recommend? Im having trouble with pimple scars on my cheeks …i hate it when pimple always leave a scar behind eventho i dont pinch on em:(((

  37. Sesame says:

    Try grapeseed oil for first time users…it’s great for tightening of pores too. It’s light. Apply two to three drops to your face while your face or hands are slightly damp.

  38. stephanie jean says:

    I enjoy using oil on my skin as well. I like that its natural and moisturizing for my dry skin. Would you reccommend using two oils on your face. I really enjoy using rice bran oil and rosehip oil on my face they are my two favorite oils. I’ve tried so many. but I want to use them both at the same time without mixing the two. I dnt use a serum I usually just apply rosehip oil after cleansing my skin. The rosehip oil I’ve prurchased says it can be used as a serum. Should I still be using serum anyway. And I want to apply rosehip oil and let it sink in the apply another base oil but I’m unsure if it will dissolve my previous oil. Please let me know wht yu think. Thank you

  39. Sesame says:

    It should be okay as long as your face is good with them and you’re not over applying. I usually mix my oils though. But back to your question, don’t think it will dissolve the oil but should sort of blend in. My experience with rosehip is that it can sometimes be a tad rich for some skin types. Use your oils on a slightly damp face or apply with slightly damp hands…that way, the absorption is better.

  40. Justin says:

    This site is a god send. Wow. I have learned quite a bit. I have a question regarding grapeseed oil. It’s highly lineoic and thus one of the photosensitive oils that can cause Hyperpigmentation correct? Well, my question pertains to LED Light therapy. If I use LED light therapy (it’s directly on my skin), and I have grapeseed oil on, would this cause Hyperpigmentation to get darker? I mean it does use some source of UV but it’s not at a level to cause harm. I’m stuck and don’t want to risk more Hyperpigmentation ?

    I also have unrefined raw Shea butter, Argan oil, jojoba oil, and of course the grapeseed. Do you recommend any particular good mixes for dry, rough, sensitive, slightly Hyperpigmented light tanned asian skin? Thanks!

  41. Sesame says:

    I’m not that certain that grapeseed oil really cause hyperpigmentation cos I was using it for awhile without noticing anything amiss. But to be sure, I’ll recommend you to stay away from using it. Argan is quite good. I mix that with sweet almond. You might want to mix argan with jojoba to try.

  42. Annie says:

    Hi Sesame,

    I am a first time user of oils for my face. So far I have been using Clarins Bright Plus night cream and I would want to continue to use that as well. Would you be able to suggest a good combination of oils for me? I have peach fuzz on my face and I don’t want to increase it by applying oils. So castor oil and jojoba oils are out as they help promote hair growth. Since I have hyperpigmentation, I don’t want to use rose hip or grape seed oil. So I think my choices are avacado oil, sweet almond oil, pomergranate and argan oil. What would be a good mix for a combination skin? And when do I apply Clarins Bright plus – before or after the oil? Are there any oils for hyperpigmentation, acne marks and tightening pores? Can we use diff oil combinations in the mronign and at night? Sorry, too many questions but I would really appreciate your response.


  43. Sesame says:

    It sounds rather rich and might be better for dry skin. How about taking out one…maybe the avacado? If the Clarins product is a cream, you can use it under the cream.

    Yes, you can use different combinations day and night but for the day, I recommend you keep it simple – something that helps prevent sun damage. I kinda like sweet almond but well, you have to experiment to find your preference.

  44. ifa says:

    hye, i’m starting to use grapeseed oil mixed with tea tree oil as a nightly routine before bed. no probs with that. i have oily sensitive skin, so can i apply grapeseed oil on my face before my oil-regulation moisturizer or mattifier? because they are supposed to control oil production and i’m putting oil on my face beforehand…

  45. Sesame says:

    Yes you can…if it’s a serum, you apply the oil over…if it’s a cream, you apply the cream under.

  46. Carolyn says:

    I have found if I use a serum with niacinimide in it and then use a natural oil based product I experience peeling. I don’t know if the oil is taking off the serum or if great exfoliation is taking place. Please, any thoughts?

  47. Sesame says:

    It is probably the niacinamide. Do you know the concentration. It needs to be rather high to do that. Some say the peeling will stop after a while giving way to clearer skin but I can’t be sure as I never had an issue with that ingredient.

  48. joanne says:

    Hi, recently I’ve bought a Josie Maran pure argan oil light version and it make me broke out with dry patches and bits of itchiness on my sensitive combo skin. Any other oil in the market that u can suggest for me to use? I’m currently back to my old skincare regime that have too many steps and w my dry patches and oiliness on my t-zones still around though no breakouts. Thanx.

  49. Robina says:

    I live in the UK and have only just discovered your wonderful website.
    My question is that I apply a 2.5% Retinol moisturiser as my last pm step.
    Can I apply a face oil before that or will the face oil stop the the Retinol penetrating the skin.

    Much love

  50. Sesame says:

    Applying face oil over isn’t a problem. It would not hinder penetration of Retinol since you’ve applied Retinol first.

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