Face oil vs Moisturizer: What Does Your Skin Need?

Face oil vs Moisturizer: What Does Your Skin Need?

Posted by Brooklyn S. on

Back in the day, it was believed that face oils and moisturizers were only suitable for those with dry and sensitive skin. Luckily, that’s not the case anymore. People are aware of the facts and myths about skincare. As a result, people with all types of skin are enjoying the perks of amazing skin benefits of face oils and moisturizers. Face oils seem to become increasingly popular in the skincare realm due to their nutrient-packed ingredient profiles and ability to treat or prevent several skin issues naturally.

However, one question that might pop up in your head is, if face oils possess so many skin benefits and can moisturize the skin, can we give up on our moisturizing creams, lotions, and gels? To help you with this perception, it’s necessary to understand the difference between a face oil and moisturizer, their effects on the skin, and which one will suit your skin the best. So, keep on reading to know this and more!

What Does a Moisturizer Do?

Moisturizers are formulated to hydrate and moisturize different types of skin. Whether you choose a lotion, cream or gel, a moisturizer should help improve the skin’s hydration and moisture level, strengthening its protective lipid barrier, resulting in a plump, firm, smooth, and soft complexion. Moisturizers can also contain other hydrating compounds, such as hyaluronic acid, glycerin, lactic acid, aloe vera, or niacinamide.¹ The hydrating effect of moisturizers works on the skin's outer surface and penetrates the deeper layers, ensuring a deeply hydrated complexion.

What Does Face Oil Do?

Face oils are the best remedy for dry, flaky, and irritated skin due to their moisturizing, nourishing, repairing, and soothing attributes. Face oils help to restore the skin’s moisture barrier, provide intense nourishment, repair and renew skin cells, and calm inflammation. Face oils can be made with a variety of different ingredients. Some are procured from natural plant-based sources, and others are created synthetically. Plant-derived face oils, derived from nuts, fruits, seeds, leaves, and other parts of the plants, are more popular and recommended by skincare experts. These oils contain high amounts of skin-loving vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals. 

Difference between Face Oil and Moisturizer

We all know that hydration and moisture are not the same, and our skin needs both to look and feel its best. When the skin is dehydrated, it needs a dose of hydration or water, not moisture. Similarly, when your skin lacks moisture, you must apply skincare products with moisturizing ingredients to replenish the skin’s lipid reservoir. The skin gets its hydration and moisture in three different ways: a humectant, an occlusive, or an emollient. 

A humectant works to draw moisture from the surroundings or the deeper layers of the skin to keep the skin hydrated. Hyaluronic acid and glycerin are commonly known humectants. Occlusive ingredients create a protective coating on the skin's surface, helping to prevent water loss through the skin’s barrier and lock moisture in the skin. Emollients add moisture to the outer surface of the skin. Generally, moisturizers are made with humectant and emollient compounds, while oils tend to be more occlusive.

Can You Use Face Oil Instead of a Moisturizer?

There is a common misconception that face oils can be used as an alternative to moisturizers, and they provide both benefits. Face oil and moisturizer are not interchangeable as they both function differently on the skin to yield different skin benefits. Most moisturizers add hydration to the skin, while a face oil helps retain water and moisture. While face oils are great at locking hydration in the skin that’s already there, they can’t bring more water into the skin. Therefore, you’ll need to apply a moisturizer to ensure your skin doesn’t get dehydrated and dull. 

Face oils can be excellent for soothing, repairing, and protecting the skin while keeping the skin’s hydration locked in. However, they cannot deliver the skin with the essential hydration needed to maintain a healthy moisture barrier. So, instead of replacing your moisturizer with a face oil, incorporate both to reap all the amazing benefits for the skin.

How to Use Face Oil and Moisturizer for Best Results?

It’s recommended to apply a lightweight moisturizing product in the morning, mainly if you have applied a facial serum and face oil and are going to add layers of other products and makeup on top. A serum or gel-based moisturizer is ideal for humid weather or if you have oily skin as it will keep the skin amply hydrated without clogging the pores. A lotion or cream moisturizer works best if you notice dry and scaly skin or have a dry skin type. 

Face oils are great for achieving a dewy and glowy look that gives the appearance of healthy and youthful skin. Also, if you have skin problems, like dullness, wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration, and inflammation, face oils are an effective way of treating those concerns.

To use face oil as a step of your daily skincare routine, apply a few drops of face oil that you selected according to your skin type and problems in the morning before applying your moisturizer, sunscreen, and makeup. It can also be used at nighttime to preserve the skin’s hydration and boost its elasticity, nourishment, and rejuvenation process.

Can You Combine Face Oil and Moisturizer?

You might have often come across people telling you to combine face oil and moisturizer and apply it onto your skin. While it’s best to use face oil and moisturizer as part of your skincare routine, sometimes they may not work well when mixed. Although face oils are packed with various skin-boosting effects, depending on the type of face oil, it may be best to apply it separately to the skin. Also, applying too much face oil to the skin can prevent the skin from absorbing the hydration from other products.

Healthy and appropriate skincare requires a balanced use of all skincare products. While you can achieve an array of skin benefits from face oils, it’s crucial to use them in moderation. For example, when you apply your moisturizer before your face oil, your skin is better able to soak the active ingredients of the moisturizer. Using face oil on top of moisturizer will keep the hydration in and protect the skin from harmful external agents.

Should You Use a Face Oil or a Moisturizer?

By now, you know that moisturizing creams, lotions, gels, and serums are vital for the skin and should not be excluded from your skincare routine or replaced with face oils. Regarding incorporating face oils into your skincare routine, our skin concerns, type, and condition play the key role in determining whether you should opt for a face oil or not.

If you struggle with extremely dry, parched, and sensitive skin, a face oil can relieve your skin issues by inhibiting water and moisture loss and fortifying your lipid barrier. On the other hand, if you want to add radiance, suppleness, and softness to your dry, dehydrated, itchy, and scaly skin, a combination of face oil and moisturizer is your best bet.

Face oils usually have a runny and thin texture, while moisturizers are thicker and have a creamy consistency. Moisturizers are made with water content to hydrate and soften the skin, while face oils don’t have water in them and work to condition and nourish the skin.

The Ingredients to Look For in Face Oils and Moisturizers

No matter what skincare product you’re buying, one thing that should be kept in mind is to scan through the ingredients listed at the back of the product. It can help you find the right products for your skin and avoid any products that might irritate or harm your skin. While choosing a face oil, consider your skin type, problems, and condition and choose the most suitable option. 

· Rosehip oil is known for helping to protect the skin, brighten dull complexion, and reduce wrinkles and fine lines. 

· Sunflower oil is famous for its soothing, non-comedogenic, and protecting properties. 

· Grapeseed oil works well for oily and acne-prone skin, along with relieving dryness and inflammation.² 

· Jojoba oil is hyped as an excellent moisturizing, sebum-regulating, and soothing ingredient. 

· Other oils with skin-savvy properties include almond, coconut, lavender, argan, marula, tea tree, squalane, and olive.³

For moisturizers, look for hyaluronic acid, dimethicone, niacinamide, glycerin, aloe vera, waxes, ceramides, lactic acid, and vitamin E.

Final Thoughts

While face oils have taken the beauty and skincare world by storm over recent years, many of us may confuse their roles with moisturizers. We might be ditching a moisturizer, believing that a face oil is enough to moisturize and hydrate the skin. The reality is that face oils and moisturizers hold their unique position regarding a comprehensive skincare regimen.

Each comes with a distinct set of ingredients and benefits for the skin. Hence, a moisturizer should not be replaced with a face oil because moisturizers are specifically designed to hydrate and moisturize different skin types. In contrast, face oils are mainly known for treating and preventing skin problems and locking moisture in the skin. Both are needed for healthy skin and a robust skin barrier. Choosing the right face oil and moisturizer can keep your skin glowing, supple, and soft.



  1. Brooklyn. (2021). ‘Reasons for adding Niacinamide to your Skincare Routine’, Sundree, Accessed September 8, 2022. Available at: https://sundree.com/blogs/news/the-benefits-of-niacinamide
  2. Madormo, Carrie, RN, MPH. (2020). ‘What is Grapeseed Oil’, VerywellHealth, Accessed September 8, 2022. Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-grapeseed-oil-5085382
  3. Lesback, Lexy. (2022). ‘What’s Squalene and Why Should You Care?’, Byrdie, Accessed September 8, 2022. Available at: https://www.byrdie.com/best-products-squalane-squalene-difference-dry-skin-4799792


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