April 20, 2023
You can think of moisturizing oils as food for your skin. With a molecular structure similar to sebum (your skin's natural oil), it is extremely well-absorbed and functions almost identically within the skin itself. In fact, skincare oil can help to re-regulate your skin's moisture barrier, which is responsible for sebum production. What this means, however counterintuitive, is that those with oily or acne-prone skin can actually reduce the amount of natural oils produced by their bodies by regularly using a moisturizing oil.
Additionally, skincare oils are generally "cleaner" than other moisturizing products. Whereas lotions and creams often contain various additives to achieve a desired consistency, deliver additional skincare benefits, or to enhance shelf life, oils are often single-ingredient, blended with plant-based essentials oils, or contain other botanical ingredients. Most oils used as moisturizers are naturally shelf stable for three years or more, meaning synthetic preservatives aren't necessary. These characteristics make body oils a better fit for many with skin sensitivities, and actually leave less of a "greasy residue" than many lotions and creams.
As mentioned, lotions contain water mixed with oils and other ingredients, which make them ideal for actively dry skin. This formulation allows the lotion to both penetrate the skin, while delivering water and other substances that can enhance the skins ability to retain moisture--both in the near and long term.
Lotions are useful for replenishing the skin once it has already become dry, whereas an oil will perform best when applied to damp skin, such as when you first step out of the shower. As a result, lotions are a good solution when you need on-the-go hydration.
Body oils and lotions both effectively moisturize the skin, so choosing between them comes down to personal preference. And, in reality, it's not necessary to use only one or the other. Skincare oils and lotions can actually complement each other quite well, whether applied in combination or at different times throughout the day.
No matter which moisturizing product (or products!) you reach for, it's always wise to read the ingredient lists carefully. Long gone are the days when you have to settle for synthetic preservatives and chemical fragrances, but that doesn't mean you won't still find lurking behind the beauty counter. Beyond shopping for non-toxic formulations, avoid those that are gel-based or contain alcohol. These preparations will ultimately have the opposite of the desired effect, drying out the skin, and hindering the optimal function of its natural moisture barrier.
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