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Best Face Oils: Argan Oil vs Coconut Oil

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See which ones you should be adding into your routine.

By Bianca Mendez
face oils test argan oil coconut oil

We’ve all heard about the amazing perks of face oils: their good-for-you ingredients, their moisturizing abilities, and their versatility. But even though I consider myself a skin-care snob, I’ve never really experimented with face oils. I’ve used them here and there, but I never committed to using them long enough to recognize them for the life-changing beauty products they actually are. 

Plus, like hair oils, the selection out there is overwhelming. And not all oils are created equal. Facial oils have different properties, says Marnie Nussbaum, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. For example, some oils, like marula, contain anti-bacterial properties ideal for acne-prone skin. Others, like argan, have antioxidants that offer anti-aging and hydration benefits. The right one for you will greatly depend on your skin type, she says.

So, how do you know which one is right for you? With face oils, molecular size matters. Oils with a larger molecular size like coconut and olive are heavier, which are great for dry-skin people who want more hydration, but could cause breakouts for those with oily skin. If you’re prone to clogged pores, you may want to choose a lighter oil like argan or marula with a smaller molecular size that will absorb into your skin quicker.

Since I love a good beauty experiment, for the sake of good skin and journalism, I tested six of the most popular face oils to break down the differences.

Like I said before, there are a lot of face oils on the market. While some of them are typically a blend of oils mixed with other ingredients, I opted to try the more basic formulas where one oil is the key ingredient. Then I narrowed it down to the oils I thought would be the most beneficial to my face. My skin is pretty normal with an occasional PMS pimple, so I wasn’t too concerned over whether an oil was going to be too heavy for my face or not. I tested each oil for two days, in the morning and night, between washing my face and moisturizing. Here’s how it all went down.

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of Avalon Organics

Argan oil is one of the most popular face oils on the market, and for good reason. “Argan oil is a smaller molecular size that will sink into the skin quicker,” says Nussbaum. Meaning, you’ll reap the hydration benefits without breaking out. Since it’s also high in vitamin E, argan oil is great for aging skin as well, adds Joshua Zeichner M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist.

I tried Avalon Organics Intense Defense with Vitamin C Antioxidant Oil ($16, amazon.com). I loved the citrus-y smell but was a little put off by how greasy the formula was. At night, I started by squeezing three drops on my hands and rubbing them together before applying to my face. My face looked extremely shiny, like I had just sweated through the most brutal workout of my life. The next morning, I only used two drops of the face oil and it ended up being the perfect amount. No shine—and my skin felt super moisturized. After two days of applying both day and night, I noticed my face looking more hydrated. Now that winter is here, I can see myself relying on this oil to prevent dryness.

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of DHC

Olive oil cleansers are becoming more popular these days, so I decided to try out this DHC Olive Oil facial cleanser ($28, amazon.com) as well. Olive oil can help people with very dry skin and eczema because it’s rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, says Zeichner. However, other skin types should be careful because its thick consistency could clog pores, adds Nussbaum.

I swapped out my basic Cetaphil face cleanser for this cleansing oil. I applied a pump onto my dry skin and massaged it thoroughly morning and night for two days. At first it felt really weird applying a cleanser to dry skin, but when I rinsed it off—wow. My skin felt squeaky-clean. It even got rid of every speck of makeup with flying colors.

The downside: This cleanser strongly smells like olive oil. This isn’t a big deal for me, but I can understand why people would be turned off by the idea of smelling like a side desk salad.

FYI: You probably shouldn’t put regular EVOO on your face. According to Nussbaum, your average supermarket olive oils go through a process where they’re refined and heated, losing 80 percent of its antioxidants along the way. She recommends a cold-press olive oil instead.

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of Radha

Best for: Acne-prone or dull skin

This oil surprised me the most. “Rosehip oil is rich in vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties and has been shown to help brighten a dull complexion and lighten dark spots,” says Zeichner. It also has a drying effect, adds Nussbaum, which makes it great for oily skin, and decreases irritation and redness. (Hit the reset button and burn fat like crazy with Women’s Health’s Body Clock Diet.)

While I currently show with no signs of premature aging (thanks mom and dad!), I was really hoping that Radha’s Rosehip Oil ($14, amazon.com) would help get rid of a huge pimple right by my mouth. I applied the oil to my entire face at night. And it did its job—my pimple was way smaller the following morning. I was worried that the oil’s orange color would stain but thankfully, it didn’t. And after two days of applying the oil to my entire face, my redness faded and my complexion looked much clearer. I can’t fully reap the benefits of this anti-aging oil yet, but I can see myself using it during warmer months and every time my skin gets a lot of redness. 

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of Marula Pure Beauty Oil

Best for: All skin types, especially combination and acne-prone skin

Marula oil was another one that I haven’t heard much about. The light oil is great for any skin type, but Nussbaum recommends it for combination-skin folks because it adequately hydrates dry areas without irritating the oily parts of the face.

I tried Pure Marula Facial Oil ($78, amazon.com). The rollerball application made it hard to apply to my skin because it was small and I couldn’t feel the product on my face. I couldn’t tell if it was actually on or it just absorbed that fast. I applied in the morning and at night for two days, but didn’t see any obvious differences.

It did have a pleasant sweet and nutty smell. Sadly, I didn’t see these specific benefits in the two days I was using marula oil. Maybe it just needs a little more time to show any clear results.

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of Tarte

Maracuja oil is derived from the passionflower and has high levels of vitamin C and free fatty acids “to help brighten the skin and repair a damaged skin barrier,” says Zeichner.

I tried Tarte’s Maracuja Oil ($48, tarte.com) during my makeup routine by blending two drops into foundation. Its lightweight consistency helped make blending a little easier. Once I added on some highlighter, I glowed brighter than a disco ball (in a good way). As with the other oils, I used it day and night, applying two drops to my entire face. It was moisturizing, and I especially loved how it evened out my skin tone and made it feel more smooth. It also helped brighten my dull wintry skin. I’ll definitely continue using this oil with my makeup.

I Tried 6 Different Face Oils—Here’s What They Were Like

Photograph courtesy of The Body Shop

The last oil in my quest for great skin was The Body Shop’s Coconut Beautifying Oil ($14, thebodyshop.com). After all, you can’t have an oil story without mentioning coconut oil. It’s best for dry skin, and some think it’s suitable for acne-prone skin—something that divided my experts. While Zeichner says acne-prone skin types can benefit from coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory properties, Nussbaum thinks differently. “It is anti-inflammatory, but it really sits on top of the skin for a while and it’s known to clog pores,” she says. 

First of all, it smells like vacation in a bottle. Two drops was all I needed to cover my entire face in coconut-y bliss. This oil was definitely hydrating, and kept my skin from getting tight during the day. The downside: It felt REALLY heavy on my face. When the most brutal days of winter roll around, you best believe I’ll be using all the coconut oil to stay moisturized, but I think I’d prefer to use it on my body rather than my face

After 12 days of testing these oils, my skin has never looked better. I’m less red, my skin isn’t so dry, and I don’t look like I need three more hours of sleep every day. If you’re thinking about adding a face oil into your beauty routine, try it. They’re totally worth the hype.

Learn everything there is to know about adult acne: 

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