Many balk at the thought of using oils on their face; they see them as being too greasy, of no help for an oily skin type, or likely to end up all over their pillows. However, using oils can improve the look and health of your skin.

In humid Hong Kong, the heat, air pollution and icy cold air conditioning can be a lot for our skin to handle. A normal day out and about can leave your skin clogged, zapped, and overproducing natural oils. Because of this, people often conclude their skin type is oily when in fact it’s really dehydrated, and give beauty oils a wide berth even though they are the one thing that can really make a difference to their skin.

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What do beauty oils do?

Oils are either emollient, which soften the skin, or occlusive, which trap moisture on the skin. They don’t themselves hydrate your skin, but instead create a top layer that traps whatever essence, serum, lotion or moisturiser you apply, allowing these to reach the deeper layers of your skin and perform to their full ability. This is why applying a beauty oil is always the last step in your skincare routine. If you apply an oil first, it will create a layer your lighter products can’t penetrate, and everything will go to waste.

How do you use a beauty oil?

Because an oil is formulated to stay on top, it not only makes for an excellent shield but treats various conditions affecting the epidermis – the uppermost layer of your skin.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that some oils will clog your pores, so you’ll need also to have a good cleansing and exfoliating routine in place before you start experimenting with oils. The biggest offenders are mineral oils (but they do nothing for your skin anyway, so give those a miss), olive oil, and coconut oil. If you have an extremely dry skin type, though, these heavy oils can also be great for you, so it’s really a matter of trial and error.

Which beauty oil should I use? 

Get to know your skin and its biggest problems, or stressors, to help you decide which oil to use. Beauty oils can help with everything from repairing textured skin to revitalising tired skin. There’s even an oil to help battle acne.

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How to treat textured skin 

Antioxidants are great for treating skin with visible surface problems such as acne scarring, fine lines and wrinkles. The vitamins A, E, and C found in antioxidant-rich products help repair and protect your skin, and among the best options are rosehip oil (this writer’s personal favourite for every overseas trip), argan oil, and marula oil. These oils are also great for calming the skin.

How to treat ageing skin

While antioxidant-rich oils have great anti-ageing properties, another ingredient you want to look for is retinol. Also known as vitamin A, this ingredient encourages skin renewal, reduces collagen breakdown, and diminishes the apperance of fine lines. Remember, though, if you’re using retinol in your beauty regime, you should only use it at night and you need to have good SPF protection during the day.

How to treat irritated skin

If your skin ever feels inflamed or dry and taut, or if it ever looks red and unhappy, blue tansy oil is your best bet. This super calming ingredient has anti-inflammatory properties that soften and clear the skin.

How to treat congested or acne-prone skin

It may seem counterintuitive to use an oil to clarify skin, but, used properly, it can do the job wonderfully. Look for beauty oils with salicylic acid or tea tree oil, which help reduce the sebum production that clogs pores and causes breakouts.

However, remember that, if you choose to use straight tea tree oil on its own, do so sparingly. It’s an extremely potent antibacterial, and will make your skin very dry. If you use serums or other products that contain lactic acid, don’t follow them by applying tea tree oil. It’ll burn like a … well, you know.

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