The scent of cold cream emanating from mom or grandma’s skin—so nostalgic, and also a sign of the times. Creams were the beauty staple of yesteryear, but modern gals are embracing a new skin secret: oil.
By now, most everyone knows what a dream coconut oil is. But we’ve got something even better. In their many incarnations, beauty oils can fulfill any beauty fantasy, from boosting hair's shine to providing head-to-toe moisture. Here are six amazing oils that have lived in the shadows for way too long—and the best ways to harness their beauty benefits.
Rosehips’ roots are in Chile, where Native Americans are believed to have been harnessing their healing properties since ancient times. (In fact, the most potent rosehip seed oil is predominantly sourced from the seeds of the fruit from wild rose bushes in this region.) Abundant with vitamins (including natural vitamin A, also known as retinol), antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, one of rosehip seed oil’s greatest strengths is its regenerative properties, helping to fade dark spots from acne scarring and reduce fine lines. It absorbs easily and has a non-greasy feel, making it a perfect moisturizer for those with oily skin.
Supermodel Miranda Kerr—a dollface if we ever did see one—credits it for keeping her skin glowing overnight and in dry airplane cabins. (Naturally, this declaration inspired us to try it for ourselves—obsessed!) Apply two to three drops all over the face day, night, and inflight.
This “liquid gold” of Morocco makes an ideal serum. Apply it to the face before moisturizer for added absorption; it can even act as a hydrator on its own. With continued use, it can help regulate sebum production, reducing shine and preventing clogged pores that lead to breakouts. And no wonder so many hair care products include argan oil as an ingredient—it’s seriously shine-inducing, treats split ends, and tames flyaways. Apply it to nails and cuticles for a clean and safe manicure treatment, sans salon.
You only need a small amount of argan oil to see its miraculous effects—just a couple of drops for the face, and three or four to rake through the hair—so pick up a bottle and it’ll last forever.
Probably the most obscure of these beauty oils, marula is a well-kept secret (though we know some natural beauty enthusiasts are already clued in). The Southern African women who harvest this oil from the fruit of the indigenous marula tree have been wise to its skin-saving abilities for generations. Even better, Acure’s Marula Project provides economic empowerment to the disadvantaged women who sustainably harvest this traditional substance.
Get ready for marula oil’s takeover—it’s only started to grace the labels of expensive eye creams, scrubs, and shampoos and conditioners in recent years. Instead of buying into these extravagant formulas, use marula oil in its pure form. Like argan, it also works beautifully as a face serum, only with even more antioxidants, plus vitamin C, vitamin E, and flavonoids—so much free radical-fighting power. It also provides amazing moisture to the feet and hands. The only downside: This oil might not be the best for people with tree nut allergies, so do a patch test first if this is the case.
Not just for salad dressing and sautés—grapeseed oil is by far the most skin-softening carrier oil to use in DIY scrubs. Seriously, try this exfoliator: Mix 1/2 cup of brown sugar and 1/8 cup of cocoa or cacao powder, then little by little, add 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil until the texture is grainy and not too greasy. No need to worry about it clogging pores—grapeseed oil is light enough even for oily skin.
Derived from the seed of grapes, it contains polyphenols just as the fruit, giving it anti-inflammatory power to fight breakouts and premature aging. Also, flavonoids help remove free radicals to restore collagen for soft, firm skin.
Made from seeds of the jojoba shrub, this emollient oil shares a similar molecular structure to sebum—the oil naturally produced by the human body—and keeps things naturally balanced on the scalp and skin. It’s also a great carrier oil for beauty DIYs such as facial scrubs and hair conditioners.
As a conditioning treatment, drop a quarter-sized amount of jojoba oil into the palm and work into wet hair. Leave it in for five to ten minutes, concentrating on the ends, then wash it out. It’s also lip-conditioning; use it in lieu of lip balm, or as an overnight moisturizing lip treatment.
The idea of removing makeup with oil is not necessarily intuitive, but it works. Ditch drying makeup removers—ultra-moisturizing jojoba oil is much gentler for the sensitive eye area, which needs lots of moisture to stay plump and wrinkle-free. Jojoba can also be used when trying out an oil cleansing regimen.
Sounds crazy to use oil on the body that’s also a known ingredient in brake fluid, paints, and other industrial materials, right? Well, that speaks to its potency, but high-quality castor oil sold commercially for beauty and personal care purposes is quite safe to use topically. In fact, when absorbed through the skin, it increases lymphocytes, which facilitates the removal of toxins and promotes healing.
Fatty acids, particularly ricinoleic acid, give castor oil antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties that can pull dirt and contaminants from the skin, making it a good option for oil cleansing as well. Just be sure to stick to the highest quality castor oil, since castor seeds are often sprayed with pesticides and then chemically processed.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho