In this hot and sticky weather, oils might be the last thing you want to put on your face.
But they are exactly what you should slick on as part of your skincare routine - at least according to beauty brands that are launching a slew of oily serums touted as the latest must-have skincare products.
Face oils are not new. Ointments made with natural extracts of oily plants, fruits and nuts such as olives, coconut, sweet almond and jojoba have been around for a longtime. But they are usually rich and viscous, and leave a greasy afterfeel on the skin.
In contrast, the new unguents are watery and runny, easily absorbed and leave a matte finish on the skin.
Depending on the viscosity of the oils, they can be used both day and night, in place of a regular moisturiser and serum.
These include La Mer's water-and-oil formula, The Renewal Oil, that will be launched in November. Kiehl's skin-energising Daily Reviving Concentrate and Shiseido's multipurpose Future Solution LX Replenishing Treatment Oil will also hit stores in October.
In the last year, Laura Mercier launched its Flawless Skin Infusion De Rose Nourishing Oil and Yves Saint Laurent Beaute its saffron-infused Or Rouge Huile Voluptueuse. Both have thin textures that leave skin feeling silky.
Other brands have taken the texture of their oil-based formulas one step further. The Body Shop launches its premium four-piece Oils Of Life range next month. Besides a face oil, there is an oil-based essence, gel moisturiser and cream for those less inclined to apply greasy oils directly on their skin.
Lancome's latest $600 Ultimate Essence from its premium Absolue L'Extrait line is an oil-blended aqueous essence that feels fresh on the skin, while Shu Uemura's new Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Oil In Essence is more like a gel serum. Both will be available in stores from next month.
Shu Uemura's assistant education manager, Ms Sophia Chia, says: "Although the Beauty Oil In Essence is made with oil, it has a hybrid texture. It is cocooning yet light, and easily absorbed by the skin. This makes it more appealing to consumers."
And unlike the face oils of yore which were made with potent natural ingredients and essential oils, the new formulas contain high-tech ingredients.
The main ingredients in Peter Thomas Roth's Bio-Repair Precious Oil that was rolled out earlier this year are stem cells from six species of roses. Clinique's latest Turn around Revitalizing Treatment Oil contains salicylic acid to help boost the skin's natural exfoliation process.
But are face oils for everyone?
Adjunct associate professor Steven Thng, senior consultant and head of the pigment clinic at the National Skin Centre, says face oils are essentially "oilier forms of moisturisers".
He adds that oils work best on those with very dry skin and who feel that regular moisturisers do not quench their skin adequately.
However, those prone to breakouts should stay away from face oils or use them sparingly.
He says: "Oils might aggravate acne-prone skin." "If the oils are too thick and are not used on clean skin, they can clog pores and lead to acne."
While the skincare benefits of oils are "not well-substantiated", he says that most natural oils can be good for the skin as many of them have antioxidant properties. Some also have anti-bacterial and/or anti-fungal functions.
If you are still reluctant to apply oils on the face, take this advice from London-based holistic antiageing skin doctor Terry Loong, who works with The Body Shop as its global skincare expert. She says there are ways to ease into a face oil ritual.
Start with an oil-based essence and oil-based cream. Or add an oil to masks.
"Slowly add it to your routine. How much oil to use depends on what your skin needs," she says. "You could use it once a day or once a week."
Alternatively, you could mix it into your regular moisturiser to "maximise its efficacy".
She adds: "Using a moisturiser is like feeding your skin a daily green juice, and an oil acts like a booster for your juice."
How to use face oils
- Like most skincare products, oils should be applied on damp skin for better absorption. Apply it immediately onto skin after a shower or after applying a skin-softening essence.
- Pour a drop or two onto palms, rub hands to warm oil, wrap hands on face and press oil into the skin. Add more drops if needed. Do not rub drops of oil - unless it is a facial massage oil - into the skin because it will not be absorbed as well.
- If you find richer oils too greasy, use them as a night treatment.
A good, viscous oil can double as both a serum and a night cream.
- Lighter oils are best used in the day and in place of a serum.
- Oils are good primers as they hydrate the skin well so that make-up goes on more smoothly.
- Oils can easily be added into your skincare routine, even if you do not want to apply it "neat" onto your face.
Add the oil into your regular products - not directly into the bottle or jar, but upon application.
Oils can make your foundation more hydrating, easier to blend and give it an extra dewy finish. Squirt a pump of foundation onto the back of your hand, add a drop of oil and blend the mixture with a brush or clean fingers.
Oils can make your moisturiser richer too - this is useful in colder, drier climates. Blend a drop or two into one pump of your cream.
You can also add a few drops of oil into a dollop of clay mask or hydrating gel mask to make them more nourishing.
- Viscous face oils can also be used on cuticles, hair ends, dry elbows and knees.