Oil-serums are a category of product that I've recently fallen in love with.They're exactly what their name suggest - a serum that's in oil form. The biggest benefit of these products are their lipid-rich bases. Some serums are merely water with a few beneficial ingredients thrown in. As an aside, more brands are switching to an aloe base or a plant-infused water base to increase their efficacy - so I'm definitely happy to see that. However, if there's zero water present in the formula, you're left with only beneficial ingredients.
Some oils can double as serums, while some true-to-form oil-serums aren't as effective as an oil when it comes to increasing moisture and boosting nourishment. Alternatively, some oils aren't designed to impact the skin the way a high performance serum can.
I find the best practice with these products is to press them into damp skin. I'll mist or spritz my entire face so it's damp but not drenched, then press the oil-serum in. I find the pressing motion really helps the product absorb more efficiently. Not only that, the oil will help trap the moisture from the mist so you can effectively increase hydration and nourishment in one fail swoop.
I've really embraced this concept. Initially, I didn't think oils could work the way serums do. The products I'm mentioning below are the ones that are proof oil-serums are just as powerful as water-based serums.
A quick "Map Key" for you:
Oil or Oil-Serum - These work equally well when used over a water-based serum or as a replacement for one. They're powerful enough to correct the skin concerns they are targeted for, but also provide an element of nourishment and can "seal in" your treatment underneath. Great if you want to have a versatile product for maximum investment-support - AKA if you want to feel like you killed two birds with one stone... but I don't like to kill birds, so.
Oil-Serum - Exactly as they're intended - high performance serums that use oil as their vehicle, rather than water, aloe, silicone, etc. I don't personally classify a product as an oil-serum unless it's really damn effective either. These work just as well as your watery fluids, and in some cases, better. Just as you would with a water-based serum, these definitely need some form of nourishment or moisture on top. Otherwise, you'll feel a bit naked in the hydration department. Chase these with a richer plant oil, moisturizer, or balm.
Serum-Oil - Different to oil-serums. They're towards the middle of this list, so you'll just have to see why they're special ;)
Please note: Most of these don't really work as just plain oil that you'd use for a syrupy glow and slippery surface hydration. Essentially, if you use them over a water or silicone based serum, the high performance treatment housing inside the oils may not get a chance to work as intended.
moss Clear Resolution Oil or Oil-Serum
What it is: "This is the perfect daily oil serum to use for balancing sebum production, unclogging pores, reducing inflammation and minimizing breakouts. This is a very lightweight, high linoleic oil made from rare and unusual superplant oils that are all organic, raw and unrefined, preserving their bio-essence. This serum contains organic, cold-pressed, unrefined, virgin Guava Seed Oil which contains 40 times more natural, bio-available vitamin C than citrus fruit. It also has high mineral content, including Sulfer, which is essential for the synthesis of collagen. It also has high amounts of vitamin A and vitamin B, which promote cellular renewal and scar disappearance. It is very high in linoleic acid which makes it very lightweight, non-comedogenic and also mildly astringent."
Key Features: Balancing, lightweight, clarifying, decongesting, nourishing, protective.
I reach for this when I want clarity, decongestion, or when my skin is simultaneously oily and dehydrated. It feels a little heavier than say, Vintner's Daughter, but it's by no means a thick and goopy oil. I love the ingredients in this. Everything in it is targeted for improving clarity and radiance in the skin. The extra addition of Vitamin C means that this will provide a boost of antioxidants alongside the already rich sources of antioxidants found in all the plant oils Celestyna has used. I love this during the day for its ability to clarify and protect at the same time. Some people may find a lightweight gel or even a milky mist may be enough for surface hydration following this oil-serum.
Moss as a brand really caters to those with reactive skin prone to irritation, congestion, or dullness. As a result, I reach for her products when my skin is displaying those sorts of red flags. Back to normal!
Ingredients: Cannabis Sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Perilla Ocymoides (Perilla) Seed Oil,Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle) Seed Oil, Psidium Guajava (Guava) Seed Oil, Nigella Sativa (Black Cumin) Seed Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit (Sea Buckthorn Berry) Supercritical Extract, Curcuma Xanthorrhiza (Javanese Turmeric) Supercritical Extract, Therapeutic and Proprietary EO blend (contains Clove, Rose, Yarrow, Green Myrtle and more) Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Extract
$96 for 0.7 fl oz (20 mL) No longer available
Vintner's Daughter Active Botanical Serum Oil-Serum
What it is: "Active Botanical Serum is a 100% active face oil, strategically formulated to have the multi-correctional activity and penetration of a super-powered serum. Made from the world’s most nutrient rich botanicals and essential oils, it is a skincare game changer that restores skin’s balance, texture and natural radiance. Vintner’s Daughter uniquely combines anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, skin firming phytoceramides, nourishing fatty-acids and powerful anti-oxidants to help restore skin balance and natural radiance. Sourced from the finest producers and growers in the world, Active Botanical Serum helps to stimulate cellular turnover, maintain skin elasticity, strengthen capillaries, inhibit melanin production, deliver oxygen to cells and protect against free-radical damage."
Key Features: Energizing, revitalizing, healing, wholesome, decongesting, softening, firming, and calming.
An oil-serum in the truest of the sense. When I think of an oil-serum, I think of Vintner's Daughter. It's quick absorbing, scented with les nectar des dieux - the nectar of the gods - and provides an immediate recharge in the health and energy of the skin. It's worth its weight in gold. I've done a full review in the past, but every time I'm given a chance to exclaim my love for VD, I will.
Though there's no doubt Active Botanical Serum is absolutely an investment piece, the results are well-worth it. Beyond that, I can't think of any products that are similar. It has so many unique qualities to it that I feel it's irreplaceable in my skincare wardrobe. April created as a do-all, and that's exactly what it does. I've known quite a few people who have successfully treated hormonal acne with it, not to mention the testimonials of improving wrinkle depth, pore size, and dark spot intensity. It's a powerhouse, that's for sure.
I reach for this when my skin is dull, tired, weakened, or needs some definite TLC. Or if I just want to me carried off into the land of the divine with one quick inhale. This makes the list of my Top 5 favorite products in existence, that's for sure.
Ingredients: Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil; Corylus Avellana (Hazelnut) Oil; Citrus Aurantium var Bergamia (Bergamot) Peel Oil; Persea Americana (Avocado) Oil; Calendula officinalis (Marigold) Extract; Rose Damascena (Rose) Absolute; Daucus Carota (Carrot) Seed Oil; Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil; Rosa Rubignosa (Rosehip) Seed Oil; Citrus Limon (Lemon) Peel; Lavandula x Intermedia (Lavender) Flower; Medicago Sativa (Alfalfa) Leaf; Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf; Taraxacum Officinale (Dandelion) Leaf; Boswellia Carteri (Frankincense) Oil); Citrus Aurantium var Amara (Neroil) Flower Oil; Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract; Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit; Curcuma Longa (Tumeric) Root Oil; Cupressus Sempervirens (Cypress) Leaf Oil; Jasminum Grandiflorum (Jasmine) Flower; Calophyllum Tacamahaca (Tamanu) Oil.
$185 for 1 fl oz (30 mL)
La Belle Lune Organic Skin Oil or Oil-Serum
What it is: "Made entirely from Organic ingredients, this magical blend of antioxidant rich oils will delight your skin. It is packed to the brim with Vitamins A, B, B1, B2, B6, C, D and E, Amino Acids, Beta Carotene and Omegas 3, 6, 7 and 9. All of these essential nutrients feed and deeply nourish your skin, they protect against free radicals, reduce inflammation, restore and balance moisture, stimulate cell renewal, encourage collagen production, repair tissue damage and therefore slow down the ageing of cells. Organic Skin is infused with beautifully fragrant Lavender, Rose Otto, Frankincense and Carrot Seed Essential Oils. Not only do these oils have a wonderful aroma, they also protect skin from pollutants and free radicals, stimulate cell regeneration, tighten, tone and reduce the appearance of fine lines whilst moisturising and protecting at a cellular level."
Key Features: Calming, nourishing, wholesome, strengthening, and firming.
There's a very special reason I classify this as an oil / oil-serum hybrid: rosehip seed oil. It has an extremely high concentration of Vitamin A - which is what retinoids are composed of. Milk Thistle directly succeeds the rosehip, so there's a clarifying element added to the formula as well. I've had a few conversations with the creator, Annabelle (who is fab by the way), and discussed whether she thought this was an oil or an oil-serum. She feels it's more of an oil, but was very supportive when I explained my feelings towards appreciating it as an oil-serum.
When you inhale Organic Skin in your palms, the lavender and rose untangle your senses. You feel more relaxed and completely ready to unwind. Beyond the aromatherapy, the results are clearly visible. The complexion is calmer, softer, more plush. The glow presented on your skin is noticeable, but not glossy. It's one of the best textured oils I've ever used if I'm being quite honest. I reach for this when I want to strengthen my skin, calm my mind, and increase the glow overnight. I find it functions equally as well when used as both an oil and an oil-serum. I think this is one of the best oils from a British company that I've ever used.
Ingredients: Rosa Rubiginosa (Rosehip Seed Oil) Silybum Marianum (Milk Thistle Seed Oil) Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond Oil) Salvia Hispanica (Chia Seed Oil) Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn Oil) Persea Gratissima (Avocado Oil) Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender Essential Oil) Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba Seed Oil) Rosa Damascena (Rose Otto Essential Oil) Boswellia Carterii (Frankincense Essential Oil) Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot Seed Essential Oil) Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary Leaf Extract) *d-Limonene, *Geraniol, *Linalol, *Farnesol *Naturally occurring in Essential Oils. Cautions: For external use only. Keep out of reach of children. We thoroughly recommend a skin patch test 24 hours before use in case of sensitivity. If pregnant consult with your Doctor before use. We also advice caution in case of nut allergies due to the use of Sweet Almond oil.
£46 for 0.7 fl oz (20 mL) Available from La Belle Lune
May Lindstrom Skin The Youth Dew Oil-Serum
What it is: This joyously over-the-top hydrating potion transforms skin with a power-packed bouquet of 20 ambitiously regenerating and indulgent plant and botanical oils infused with time-stopping CoEnzyme Q10The Result: A Petal Soft Complexion that Glows with Ageless Grace.
Key Features: Enriching, plumping, balancing, enveloping, strengthening, and softening.
Yet more proof that May Lindstrom is a goddess: this oil-serum. Months ago when I first tried a sample of this, I was trying to use it as an oil rather than as a serum. Once I followed the mist-then-press method, my heart was in it.
Before I say anything else, we need to address the scent: it's enough to send chills up my spine. It's extremely stunning to say the least. I detect an amalgamation of cherry-almond, underlined by a bitter lemon, and grounded by fresh soil. It's an experience.
Beyond that, this is as much of an anti-aging treatment as it is a balancing serum. It's got rich sources of omegas, antioxidants, lipids, vitamins, and naturals sources of trace elements coming out of its ears. It truly benefits from a spritz before application. You can use anything you'd like, but it's especially gorgeous over The Jasmine Garden and Caudalie Grape Water.
Ingredients: *Persea Americana (Avocado) Oil, *Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam Seed) Oil, *Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, *Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Prunus Spp (Plum Kernel) Oil, *Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Oil, *Rosa Rubiginosa (Rosehip Seed) Oil, *Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Oil, *Calophyllum Inophyllum (Tamanu) Oil, *Borago Officinalis (Borage Seed) Oil, Aleurites Moluccans (Kukui Nut) Oil, *Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, *Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium Rose) Essential Oil, *Citrus Paradisi (Grapefruit) Essential Oil, *Citrus Sinensis (Sweet Orange) Essential Oil, *Citrus Limon (Lemon) Essential Oil, *Rosa Damascena (Rose Absolute) Essential Oil, *Rosa Damascena (Bulgarian Rose) Essential Oil, *Citrus Aurantium (Neroli) Essential Oil, ***Daucus Carota (Carrot Seed) Essential Oil, Ubiquinone (CoEnzyme Q10). *Certified Organic ***Wild Harvested
Dr. Dennis Gross Triple C Peptide Firming Oil Serum-Oil
What it is: Rebuild skin's defenses with this cocktail of the most scientifically advanced ingredients, that uses three forms of vitamin C, and three groups of peptides to protect against skin aging. NYC dermatologist Dr. Dennis Gross uniquely engineered this formula to moisturize and support natural repair functions, for skin that appears stronger and smoother. On the surface, luxurious essential oils transform dull, wrinkled skin into a radiant and dewy complexion while the peptides and vitamin C create a firmer and brighter appearance.
Key Features: Protective, silky, smoothing, softening, balancing, fast-absorbing.
This is one of the different ones of the bunch in the sense that it's an oil that is built around an serum, rather than a serum built around an oil. It has Vitamins A-K - including multiple forms of C, three peptides, and a blend of plant oils and essential oils.
I finished an entire bottle and really enjoyed the experience. I think it's a great serum to replace your normal water-based serums in times of dryness: autumn / winter, hormonal imbalance, product-related dehydration, or all of the above. The base of this treatment is Squalane and Silica, which means that it's going to be quite thin - and it is. Sure there's other fantastic plant oils added in, but there are also just as many Vitamins and peptides alongside those oils.
I love this during the day. It's soft, smooth, and absorbs quite beautifully. You can definitely see more vibrancy almost immediately after application, and ain't no one complaining about that!
The scent is a muted peppermint coupled with some very clean earthiness. Nothing too herbal, too "oily" or too aromatherapeutic. Great if you want something mild.
I reach for this for my daily Vitamin C treatment, or when my skin looks dull, dry, or needs a bit of cushion. As an oil, it leaves my dry skin slightly underwhelmed. As an oil-serum, however, it's fantastic when chased with a bit of moisturizer.
Ingredients: Squalane, Silica, Silica Silylate, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C), Ascorbyl Palmitate (Vitamin C), Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Rose Flower Oil, Tetrapeptide-21, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-28, Retinol, Emblica Officinalis Fruit Extract, Ergocalciferol (Vitamin D), Phytonadione (Vitamin K), Retinyl Palmitate (Vitamin A), Panthenol (Vitamin B), Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Chlorella Protothecoides Oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides Fruit Extract, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Phospholipids, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Pyrus Malus (Apple) Fruit Extract, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Geranium Maculatum Oil, Glycine Soja (Soybean) Oil, Sodium Hyaluronate, Linoleic Acid (Vitamin F), Biotin (Vitamin H), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract, Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Ubiquinone, Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Acrylates/Carbamate Copolymer, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Ethylhexylglycerin, Butylene Glycol, Tribehenin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Hydroxyethyl Behenamidopropyl Dimonium Chloride, Bentonite, Corn Starch Modified, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, VP/Eicosene Copolymer, Water/Aqua/Eau, Polysorbate 20, Carbomer, Glycerin, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Behenyl Alcohol, Sorbitan Isostearate, Cyclodextrin, Phytic Acid, Phenoxyethanol.
Sunday Riley Luna Serum-Oil
What it is: A next-generation retinoid oil that improves skin plumpness and helps fight the appearance of wrinkles, redness, and pores for visibly clearer, younger-looking skin. Luna works throughout the night to deliver more visibly youthful, luminous, even-toned skin in the morning. Trans-retinoic acid ester complex reduces the appearance of pores and wrinkles, while visibly improving the signs of premature aging: fine lines, uneven texture, age spots, dryness, and dullness. Balanced with blue tansy and German chamomile essential oils—both rich in soothing, blue azulene—visible redness and the signs of sensitivity are neutralized for a calm, even-toned complexion. It's clinically proven to improve fine lines, radiance, and skin smoothness in as little as four weeks, while advanced retinol ester mixed with potent botanicals makes this product the ultimate transformational, sleeping night oil.
Key Features: Treatment-focused, fast-absorbing, calming, clarifying, strengthening, immediate.
I definitely feel that Luna is a true serum-oil, rather than an oil-serum. At the end of the day, this is a retinoid treatment housed inside of an oil rather than an oil with a bit of retinol in it. Despite being Avocado oil based, it feels closer to a Grapeseed oil based product - think thin and quickly absorbing, not viscous and emollient.
I've loved Luna for a long time, and I know many of you have as well. I think it's a great treatment for someone with any type of skin perfection because it works and it works quite quickly.
I love the earthy chamomile scent that this has because it relaxes you in a subliminal way. Most of us associate lavender with restfulness, and I'm a big lavender-cheerleader. However, chamomile has a similar effect that goes unnoticed by the senses until you're planted face-first into your pillow.
And for the last time, the TINIEST amount of dye is added in as an internal protection system. Imagine tinted glass, but from the inside. Blue tansy really is blue. Google is your friend.
I reach for this when I need a retinol that's strong but gentle, which can be for a number of reasons!
Ingredients: Persea Gratissima (Extra Virgin, Cold Pressed Avocado) Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Organic, Cold Pressed Concord Grape) Seed Oil, Rubus Fruticosus (Cold Pressed Blackberry) Seed Oil, Salvia Hispanica (Cold Pressed Chia) Oil, Dimethyl Isosorbide (And) Hydroxypinacolone Retinoate, Chamomila Recutita (Matricaria) Flower Oil, Tanacetum Annuum (Blue Tansy) Oil, Anthemis Nobilis (English Chamomile) Oil, Eriocephalus Punctualatus (Cape Chamomile) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Neroli) Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Blood Orange) Oil, Cananga Odorata Flower (Ylang Ylang) Oil, Vetivera Zizanoides (Vetiver) Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil (And) Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract, CI 61565 (Green 6), CI 60725 (Violet 2).
Caudalie Polyphenol C15 Overnight Detox Oil Oil-Serum
What it is: A 100 percent plant-based oil that helps renew and protect tired-looking skin while you sleep. This lightweight, dry oil is a 100 percent plant-based formula that helps support natural cell renewal and toxin elimination. Free-radicals and dead cells are eliminated during the nighttime when cells are most efficient at healing. Skin is left smooth, hydrated, and youthful-looking.
Key Features: Balancing, clarifying, fast-absorbing, cleansing, revitalizing.
Talk about dry oil. This is one of the most balancing oils I've ever used. I usually have to dilute it with a bit of a more nourishing plant oil because I need that extra bit of cushion. If you're on the oilier side, I think you'd love this.
It's important to note that this is Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride based, which is a coconut ester. If you're extremely prone to congestion, you may want to approach this carefully. It feels polar opposite to the typical thick and balmy texture we often associate with coconut oil, but it has comedogenic properties and can cause clogging on some people. It's never bothered my skin, and with good BHA exfoliation you should be fine.
I love the bitter woodiness that this has. It's definitely aromatic, but kind of sexy and harmonizing at the same time. If I'm noticing my skin is leaning on the oilier and/or lax side, this helps it return back to normal. It reduces my skin's overproduction of sebum and seems to give a bit of life back to my complexion. Great for those who deal with greasiness and dullness.
Ingredients: Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride*, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil*, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil*, Rosa Canina Fruit Oil*, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Leaf/Twig Oil*, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil*, Santalum Album (Sandalwood) Oil*, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Citrus Aurantium Amara (Bitter Orange) Flower Oil*, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil*, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract*, Linalool*, Geraniol*, Limonene*, Farnesol*. *Plant origin.
Tata Harper Replenishing Nutrient Complex Oil or Oil-Serum
What it is: Replenishing Nutrient Complex acts like a multivitamin for the skin. The weightless blend of biocompatible micronutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals transforms irritated or chapped skin, leaving the complexion balanced and radiant. The formulation is powered by 18 high-performance ingredients, including arnica, which soothes skin and reduces the appearance of inflammation and redness; alfalfa, which helps nurture with vitamins; jojoba oil, which provides nutrients and fatty acids to moisturize and help give a soft look to the skin's texture; and rose geranium, which improves appearance of skintone.
Key Features: Smoothing, radiance-enhancing, softening, hydrating, practical. Replenishing Nutrient Complex! I forgot about this for a while but have recently fallen back in love with it. I love the rollerball application, the aroma, the silkiness of the formula, and the way other products layer under and over it. It's a great oil to bring while traveling because it's extremely compact and works like a charm.
The instructions say to use this over moisturizer as a sort of 'antioxidant-shield,' and I love it in that context. However, it's just as gorgeous used in the mist-then-press method used underneath a moisturizer. Its versatility is one of its strong suits with the aromatherapy as a close second. The smell is seriously gorgeous. It's exactly what I'd imagine the Tata Harper labs smell like during the distillation process. Herbal, floral, delicate, but completely wholesome. Yum. I reach for this when I'm chasing a glow, needing some potent hydration, or if I'm traveling.
Ingredients: Rosehip mosquetta oil*, Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) seed oil*, Olea europea (Olive) oil*, Prunus armeniaca (Apricot) kernel oil*, Borago officinalis (Borage) flower*, Medicago sativa (Alfalfa) flower*, Sambucus nigra fruit extract, Calendula officinalis (Calendula) flower*, Arnica montana (Arnica) flower*, Tilia europaea (Linden) leaf & flower*, Daucus carota (Carrot) seed oil, Natural essential oil blend** *Organic ingredients **Fragrances from 100% natural clinical grade essential oils
There are dozens of other oil-serums out there that I've yet to try, but fully plan on exploring once I've used up what I currently have in rotation.
I think it's important to note that I still use my water, aloe, or infused-water based serums nearly every day. I have dehydrated skin, so my complexion really benefits from using humectant-based products. Sometimes, I'll follow a hydrating serum up with an oil-serum and still chase it with a facial oil and moisturizer. It all depends on what my skin is telling me.
I'm so pleasantly surprised with just how well oil-serums have performed on my skin. They're made my skin happier on more than one occasion, and I find myself looking forward to using them. Which are your favorites? Which should I try? Let me know! x
PS: No oils were harmed in the making of this post. All swatches were immediately slathered on my skin after I got the photo I needed. Say no to wasting gorgeous goodies!