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What's the Difference Between Face Oils and Moisturizers?

by Tomiris Issayeva February 27, 2020

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If you have found yourself confused by whether you should be using a face oil or a moisturizer or even both, then you are not alone. The two may seem similar given that their ultimate function is to bring moisture to the skin, but this is the point at which their similarities end. 

Face oils bring moisture to the skin but not water because oils are lipids and are insoluble in water. Oils form a protective lipid barrier on the skin’s surface, helping to keep water in and providing a lubricating effect, which is different than moisture by hydration. Meanwhile, phytonutrients in face oils make it exceptionally nourishing for the skin. Phytonutrients are plant-derived and have come to play a paramount role in modern skincare after showing significant skin benefits. Particularly, these natural agents accumulate in the skin, enhancing its ability to combat environmental stressors. For instance, they promote skin resilience by activating skin cells’ antioxidant-based defense mechanisms. Because face oils are so phytonutrient dense, they do not only offer more vitamins and minerals in a smaller dose, but also improve skin’s elasticity, collagen production and healthy glow. 

Although applying oil to one’s face may seem counter intuitive, especially if the skin is acne-prone, many natural plant oils will not clog one’s pores and can transform the skin. A great natural oil to try is Nina by LaBruna Skin Care’s Nourishing Face Oil. The product is packed with natural, antioxidant-rich and non-comedogenic oils such as sea buckthorn, moringa, calendula, cloudberry and goji berry oils. 

In comparison to face oils, moisturizers are a lot more emollient thanks to their water component. Emollients form a layer over the epidermis in order to preserve moisture, serving as excellent lubricating and softening agents. Their hydrating effects are so potent that medically, they are used to treat eczema and psoriasis. Beyond that, moisturizers are remarkably versatile products that work for all skin types, having varied textures and hydrating effects depending on the ingredients. 

Having read about all the skin benefits that face oil and moisturize can boast, you might be wondering whether your daily skincare routine should include both. The answer is that it really depends. Every person’s skin is extremely different, making it restrictive to assign a single “one fits all” routine to all. 

Here is a list of some “guidelines” to the application process for every skin type: 


  1. Aging Skin: as you age, your skin produces less oil and loses water, both of which contribute to the appearance of wrinkles. As such, it is recommended that you use both moisturizer and face oil for greater water retention and oil content in the skin. 

  1. Dry/Dehydrated Skin: face oils can help nourish and deeply-moisturize dehydrated skin. You may want to use a moisturizer first, followed by a face oil in order to lock in all of the moisture and enrich it with antioxidants. 

  1. Sensitive/Damaged Skin: free-radical fighting antioxidants in face oil prevent further damage by reducing cellular oxidation. By combatting free-radicals oils reduce damage from the sun. Be sure to massage a few drops of face oil onto your skin in the morning, followed by an SPF-containing moisturizer or just sunscreen prior to sun exposure.

  1. Oily/Acne Prone Skin: stripping your skin in an attempt to reduce face oil production can actually trigger your skin cells to produce even more oil in order to compensate. On the other hand, applying a little bit of face oil can actually help balance your skin’s oil production, decrease excess oils, and minimize the appearance of pores.

  1. Normal/Combination Skin: your skin definitely does not require as much face oil. If you are using both moisturizer and face oil, then apply less oil to avoid unwanted breakouts — less is more! In order to get the most out of your face oil product, apply it right before bed so that the skin can soak-up the oils overnight and provide protection throughout the day. 


Tomiris Issayeva
Tomiris Issayeva

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