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Face Oil Vs Cream: What’s The Difference?

Moisturizing your skin is an essential step of your skincare routine that you should never skip. Whether you have dry, oily, acne-prone, or sensitive skin, applying a face moisturizer can significantly impact the health and appearance of your skin. By incorporating the right moisturizer into your beauty regimen, you can achieve healthy, supple, and glowing skin.

From Humectants To Occlusives: The Role Of Moisturizers In Your Skin

As a fundamental step in your routine, it’s paramount to know which moisturizers you use for your face. Moisturizers, or hydrators, are personal care products formulated to hydrate and moisturize your skin to keep it supple and free from dryness.

Hydrators and moisturizers aren’t just limited to creams. When looking into other’s routines, it’s noticeable that many individuals add facial oils as the last step of their skincare regimen. As the name implies, face oils are skincare products typically made of plant oils that seal and trap moisture in your skin.

Facial oils create a lot of confusion because of their nature as an ‘oil’ product. People with oily and acne-prone skin could still use moisture in their routine, especially during nighttime and the colder months. Both face oils and creams are products that hydrate dry skin, sensitive skin, oily skin, acne-prone skin, and normal skin.

Face Oil vs. Cream: Learning The Differences

Creams and face oils can be both incorporated into the same skincare routine, given that these products suit your skin. With these in mind, here are noteworthy differences between face oils and creams:

Moisturizer Type

Moisturizers and hydrators fall into three main categories: humectants, emollients, and occlusives. Here’s how you can differentiate these three:

  • Humectants: After penetrating the skin, humectants attract water from the surroundings and help keep them within your skin. Creams with watery, gel textures can be considered humectants.
  • Emollients: Known for their heavier weight compared with humectants, emollients are known for keeping the skin soft and smooth. This moisturizer type is recognized for its role in moisturizing dry skin.
  • Occlusives: Lastly, occlusives help seal moisture in the skin by coating the skin’s surface. They also act as your skin’s protective film against the surroundings. Occlusives are the heaviest of these three moisturizers.

Looking at their individual functions, face oil can serve as both an emollient and occlusive, but never as a humectant. Meanwhile, creams cover a broad range of skincare products, so they can be any of these three types.

3. Composition

Another noticeable quality that differentiates facial oils from creams is their composition. Face oils are made to mimic the natural oils produced by the sebaceous glands of the skin, called sebum. Sebum is made up of skin-friendly molecules such as triglycerides, squalene, free fatty acids, free sterols, sterol esters, and wax.

Creams can contain oil and water, depending on what the product is meant to do for the skin. Water-based creams are usually lighter in weight and dry quickly on the skin as they have 75% to 90% of water. Water-based creams are best applied during humid climates as they don’t feel heavy and greasy on the skin.

Additionally, oil-based creams primarily consist of oil. You can easily identify if a moisturizer is water- or oil-based by looking at the product’s ingredients. The first five ingredients will either indicate water or a type of oil. 

  • Common Ingredients

The variety of ingredients and their combinations are perhaps some of the most exciting bits of skincare. Along with the product’s formulation, people should look into the ingredients of their skincare products as they’re essential factors in choosing the right product. Skip those fancy names and eye-catching packaging as they can’t tell you the quality of the product.

Facial oils usually contain abundant antioxidants, omega-3 fatty oils, and minerals like selenium and zinc. Antioxidants are advantageous for the skin as they help fight free-radical damage on your skin cells caused by stress, air pollution, and extreme UV exposure, which then slows down the onset of aging.

Here are antioxidant ingredients you should look for:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Rice bran oil
  • Resveratrol
  • Green tea

Also, here are the best omega-3 fatty oils in facial oils:

  • Linseed or flaxseed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Borage oil
  • Rosehip oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Hemp oil

Moreover, face creams cover an endless list of ingredients which depend on the brand’s choice and philosophy, skin types of customers it’s catering to, the product’s function, and more.

Depending on the moisturizer type, here are prevalent ingredients in face creams:

Moisturizer TypeCommon Ingredients
HumectantHyaluronic acid GlycerinPropylene glycolSorbitol Urea
EmollientMineral oilCocoa butter Shea butter Oleic acid Jojoba oilCetyl alcohol
OcclusivePetrolatum ParaffinDimethicone BeeswaxShea butter

Take-Home Message

Exploring face oils and creams can be fulfilling for skincare enthusiasts, but always remember to research well before trying out a new product. Introduce it into your routine slowly, and consult your dermatologist if necessary.

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