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There Are Four Different Types of Face Oils—Here's What They Do

By Elsa de Berker

According to Youth To The People’s Product Innovation Manager, Mercedes Taylor—the brains behind a stable of our top glow-inducing products—everyone should be using a face oil. And with the abrasive elements of the year’s coolest season settling in, there’s no time like the present to start incorporating one into your routine. “It is always vital to moisturize your skin, and oils are a huge part of that, regardless of your skin type,” she says, warning that though the right oil has the capacity to make your skin happier and more beautiful, the wrong one can wreak havoc on your complexion, resulting in clogged pores, rashes, or even acne.

Putting her expertise to good use, we tapped Taylor to break down the different types of facial oils and how to choose the right one for you. Knowledge is power—so read on, and bookmark this page for reference now, and in the future.

Plant Seed Oils 
Typically defined as carrier oils, plant seed oils include jojoba, avocado, grapeseed, and sunflower, explains Taylor. In facial products they are used primarily as emollients, meaning that they work to soften dry, rough, and flaky skin, while locking in moisture to keep things smooth. Plant seed oils are also used to balance out the sometimes volatile effects of other more active ingredients, like essential oils, which (when used alone) have the ability to compromise sensitive skin and cause inflammation.

Esters
While plant seed oils are easy to spot on an ingredients list, esters are trickier to identify because they rarely contain the word “oil” in their name. There are many different types of esters, but Taylor is partial to squalanewhich you’ll find in a slew of Youth To The People products, like the Superberry Hydrate + Glow Dream Mask, for example. “Squalane is a hydrocarbon derived from olive oil or sugarcane,” she explains. “It has no scent, and the texture is similar to water to the touch. You could call it the ‘water of emollients.’ Squalane does not readily oxidize, so it won’t clog pores, either." Like most results worth holding out for, the full spectrum of hydrating benefits squalane boasts are best reaped over time with continued daily use. 

Botanical Serums
“Serums are typically highly active, quick-absorbing skincare treatments,” says Taylor. “They can be oil-based, silicone-based, or water-based, depending on the active ingredients. Pure oils, such as argan oil or marula oil, can easily work like serums, because they are nutrient-dense, but may not be as readily absorbed into skin as something like, say, our Superberry Hydrate + Glow Oil,” which banishes dullness and plumps the skin thanks to a sky-high vitamin content, (which Taylor likens to a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice for your face). It’s also worth noting that blended essential oilsthink: tea tree, lavender, or chamomileare a subcategory of botanical serums. 

Oils Not for Your Face
Alternatively captioned ‘oils that belong in the kitchen,’ these are the oils you should always avoid: “Coconut oil is bad for your cholesterol the same way it’s bad for your face, same with cocoa butter,” says Taylor, explaining that the fatty acids in pure coconut oil are very comedogenic (i.e. pore-clogging) to the skin. “That being said, coconut-oil derivatives, like MCT Oil are actually really good for most skin types. They essentially take the best parts of coconut oil, like the medium-chain triglycerides and tocopherols, to help people with acne and sensitive skin stay moisturized,” without any negative side effects.