Somewhere along the road, men got it in their heads that oil is bad. We equate oil with shine and shine with sweat. And by god, do we not want to look sweaty. It’s true that men are pretty sweaty creatures and our skin does produce more sebum (a fancy word for oil) than women. Plus our pores are bigger, which allows for even more of that oil to slip out onto our skin. To help curb this shine and oil-production, many grooming products designed for and marketed to men are mattifying or oil-free. Which is great, in theory.
What we’ve forgotten in our oil-phobia is that not all oil is bad for you. In fact, oils have been used for hundreds of years in grooming and skincare and have been shown to help with everything from anti-aging, inflammation, sensitivity and even acne. What oils really do well, though, and why they’re still an important ingredient in your skincare and grooming routine, is hydrate like nothing else.
This comes with the caveat that not all oils are created equal. The good news is that most of the oils found in grooming products today are really good for you. If you read the word oil and immediately think of the vegetable oil your french fries are cooked in, you’re missing the point. It’s the same reason you probably switched over to healthier oils like olive or coconut in your kitchen; oils are important to your health, but it all depends on what you’re using.
This is because natural oils are exactly that: natural. Since they’re derived from organic matter, usually plants when we’re talking about skincare, they interact with your skin more easily and contain multifaceted benefits. Unlike processed and synthetic ingredients, oils are nutritionally potent concentrations of all the best things about a particular plant. Think of them as a multivitamin for your skin. They’re also ideal delivery systems for active ingredients because your skin absorbs them easily.
Oils are nutritionally potent concentrations of all the best things about a particular plant. Think of them as a multivitamin for your skin.
Truly, the biggest benefit of oils is their hydration factor. So if you have dry skin or dry hair (or are using active ingredients like retinol which can cause increased dryness and sensitivity), an oil is your best friend. But even if you don’t have dry skin, and even if you have acne or oil-prone skin, a natural oil can actually help. The idea is that your body is producing more oil to try to rebalance your skin. By adding good oils, it doesn’t need to produce as much sebum because your skin is already in balance.
Before you go out and start buying up all the oils you see, it’s important to know which ones to look for. Stick with naturally-derived oils since synthetics can clog your pores and cause more damage than good. It’s best to look for plant oils you recognize like these:
Coconut - A classic oil in both grooming and cooking, this oil is one of the most hydrating of the bunch. It tends to be a little bit heavy, so unless it’s formulated for facial skin, keep it to your body or hair.
Jojoba - Made from the seeds of the oil-rich jojoba plant, this oil is lighter weight than coconut, but still deeply hydrating. Allegedly, Native Americans used it to treat bruises. Nowadays, we use it for everything from acne to psoriasis.
Marula - The marula tree is native to Southern Africa and oil is typically made from its seeds and nuts. It’s light, hydrating, and rich in antioxidants and amino acids, which are important building blocks of our skin and hair.
Hemp Seed - Also known as cannabis sativa oil, it’s becoming more common thanks to our craze for CBD. This oil actually has no CBD in it, but is still deeply hydrating, soothing, and can have an anti-inflammatory effect.
Argan - This oil is more common in hair care products because of its high concentration of Vitamin E, which is essential for hair health and growth. It also helps keep the scalp moisturized, which helps cut down on dandruff and primed for optimal hair health.
Choosing a product with any of these oils is a good way to start. Of course, there are thousands of others and most products you’ll find have a few blended together. That’s cool too. Start simple, with varieties of oil you recognize, and work your way up.
Using an oil is much easier than choosing one. Basically you slather it on your face (or body or in your hair) and let it do it’s thing. The best thing about oils is that you’ll see a difference after just a few uses - they’re that good. Here are a few tips to get you started.
BEST OILS FOR YOUR FACE
- Oils are best applied at night, especially if you’re first starting out. It can take a little bit for them to sink into your skin and if you’re worried about shine, it’s a moot point if you’re sleeping.
-Apply a face oil right after you wash your face onto clean skin. Put a few drops in your hands and gently press the oil into the skin on your face. Pressing, instead of rubbing, helps it sink into your skin better.
-You can even take the dropper and apply your drops directly onto your face if that’s easier for you.
-If you have especially dry skin, lock in the oil with a moisturizer.
-If you’re going to use an oil during the day, finish it with a mineral-based sunscreen, which will help mattify your skin and seal in the oil.
OILS FOR SHAVING
- Using a pre-shave oil before your shaving cream will help keep your skin hydrated and protected. It also helps the razor glide over your skin better, giving you a closer shave with less irritation.
-Apply a few drops of pre-shave oil onto your face after cleansing and before applying shaving cream. Then, once your done shaving, wash it off with cold water.
-Some shaving oils are designed to be used in place of shaving cream. These are especially good for anyone with sensitive or very dry skin who need the extra lubrication.
Cover illustration by Aviel Basil