Every fall, my face becomes a desert the first day that temperatures drop below 40 degrees. Bits of dry skin flake off my cheeks like tumbleweeds, and my daily moisturizer is powerless to do anything about it. So begins a months-long battle that lasts until spring, when humidity finally returns to the air and my skin heals on its own. This year, though, I vowed not to admit defeat and optimistically turned to oils. I’d never tried oils before for fear they’d wreak havoc on my acne-prone skin, so I spoke with Janet Prystowsky, MD, a New York City dermatologist, to get the DL on this practice that even oily skin-types are raving about.
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According to Prystowsky, facial moisturizers like the one I’d been using are misleading because they actually have very little moisturizing benefit. “Lotion moisturizers are mostly water, and they don’t contain any ingredients that prevent water from evaporating from the skin,” she explains. Thick creams and oils work better she said, because they don’t contain water, and instead create a barrier on the skin that keeps water from escaping. For this reason, the best time to apply an oil is after cleansing to seal in the water that has just been absorbed.
My skin-type falls into the confusing category of combination skin—chin and nose an oil slick, cheeks and forehead a desolate wasteland. When I voiced my fears of triggering acne to Prystowsky, she gave me some practical but game-changing advice: “Only apply the oil to areas where you need it.” She said it’s true oil could aggravate the acne on my chin, but I probably don’t need any moisture there to begin with. Having absorbed this advice, I set out to try a bunch of popular oils until I found the perfect candidate. Here’s how it went.