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There's nothing like moving across the country to a semi-arid climate 5,280 feet above sea level to make you really take stock of your skin-care life choices. After 16 years living in NYC, I recently relocated to Denver, Colorado, and learned very quickly that my skin needs a lot more moisture than I was used to giving it. The problem? I'm also the not-so-proud owner of highly reactive, acne-prone skin that breaks out if I so much as glance at a heavy cream. My solution, I discovered after talking to numerous dermatologists, was to incorporate a face oil for acne into my regularly scheduled routine.
Seem counterintuitive? According to Marie Hayag, M.D., Board Certified Dermatologist and Founder of 5th Avenue Aesthetics, it actually makes perfect sense. "Certain oils can help regulate your skin's oil production, get rid of excess oil on your face, and minimize the appearance of pores," she explains. "In fact, overly stripping oily skin to try to get rid of excess oil can actually cause your skin to produce even more sebum to compensate, creating a vicious cycle."
Hayag's favorite face oils for acne-prone skin include jojoba, grapeseed, and rosehip. Jojoba is almost bio-identical to your skin's own natural sebum and is an anti-inflammatory, while rosehip has antioxidants and anti-acne vitamin A, and grapeseed has antimicrobial properties. Rosehip and grapeseed are also rich in linoleic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that acts as a building block for ceramides, an important moisturizing element that fortifies our skin's barrier.
That said, not all oils are good news for the blemish-prone among us, says Hayag. Those on the no-fly list include the ubiquitous coconut oil and avocado oil—they are both known to clog pores, which is the absolute last thing anyone who deals with acne wants to happen.
As for application, Hayag says to apply your face oil as the last step in your nighttime routine—during the day it should go as the last step before sunscreen—and to gently press (don't rub!) one to three drops into your skin. "Rubbing your skin vigorously can cause an inflammatory response and aggravate certain conditions like cystic acne," explains Hayag.
To help you find the best face oil for your acne-prone skin, here are the four that I turn to make my complexion look and feel moisturized, smooth, and glowing without causing breakouts.
Versed Sunday Morning Antioxidant Oil-Serum
A hybrid serum and oil, this daytime moisturizer sinks into skin instantly, so there's no greasy residue left behind. It features a laundry list of skin-healthy ingredients, including camellia oil and sea buckthorn extract, which are said to reduce redness and strengthen the skin barrier. Vitamin E helps smooth and soften while sodium hyaluronate adds lightweight hydration.
Pai Carbon Star
This inky black oil (don't worry, it magically transforms to go on clear) is an overnight treatment infused with cumin seed oil, charcoal, acai, and vitamin E. It's made specifically for acne-prone skin to decongest clogged pores and balance oil as it rehydrates. I love it because it not only absorbs immediately and leaves my skin feeling almost powdery, but it gets to work minimizing both existing pimples and the ones brewing below the surface of the skin.
Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil
This luxurious oil contains one singular ingredient: 100% pure plum oil extracted from the seeds of plums grown on a family farm in California. It smells kind of like marzipan, feels absolutely amazing on my skin, and gives me the dewy glow that I previously thought only a generous helping of shimmering highlighter could achieve. Plum is rich in antioxidants and omega fatty acids and also happens to be an excellent source of skin-perfecting vitamin A. Of the four, this is the richest in terms of texture, so a little goes a long way. I like to use it in the morning for that aforementioned radiant skin effect, pairing it with the brand's new sunscreen to give me a super soft and silky complexion that's also protected against the sun and environmental aggressors.
The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil
Like the name says, this no-frills oil is nothing but pure rose hip seed oil and all its vitamin A and linoleic acid goodness. It smells super fresh and green and feels heavenly on the skin—just the right amount of slip without being too slick. Rose hip is also apparently a fantastic oil for aging skin, something my emerging fine lines and wrinkles can attest to, as it helps plump and soften their appearance as it builds up the skin barrier and replenishes lost moisture.