Choosing Facial Oils for Acne Prone Skin


If you haven’t heard already, facial oils are actually great for all skin types, even oily ones. HOWEVER, it is so important to note that not all oils are created equal.  Each person needs to find the right oils for his or her skin. Oils differ greatly in their properties and benefits, both naturally and due to their manufacturing.

Please be careful before you slather your beautiful face in coconut oil! It’s not for everyone. In fact, it may seriously break you out. So might castor oil and olive oil, or even the glorious sea buckthorn oil. So, do your research before trying the oil cleansing method (washing your face with just oils) and be sure to check your face products to see which oils they include in their formulas.  I’ve found that the oils that work for best for my acne prone skin are higher in linoleic acid than oleic acid.

Picking an Oil for Your Face:  What to Remember:
1. Determine your skin type and find out which oils are recommended for you – If you have acne prone skin, try oils high in linoleic acid.
2. Buy the purest oil possible  – Be wary of how oils are processed: look for unrefined expeller-pressed or cold-pressed.  Organic is best, obviously.

I am obsessed with finding out which facial oils will suit my skin and clear up my acne. Recently, I discovered that the best oils for my acne prone skin are high in linoleic acid (a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid).  In truth, I don’t know how much scientific evidence there is to support this theory.  I’ve only verified it by personal trial and error.

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Look for High Linoleic Acid

I don’t remember where I first read about linoleic acid, but the blog Minimalist Beauty has a very helpful post that I recently bookmarked. The writer, Dawn Michelle, explains why people with acne should avoid all oils higher in oleic acid and instead choose those higher in linoleic acid.   She then provides a great list of oils and their acid compositions. Dawn gets most of her numbers from Mountain Rose Herbs, which is a trustworthy place to buy pure natural and organic oils. They put the chemical compositions of each oil right underneath the listing of the product.  I put my own breakdown of high-linoleic oils from Mountain Rose below.  The only problem is they can be a little pricey.

Ratio of Linoleic Acid to Oleic Acid

  • Evening Primrose Oil: Linoleic – 72.6%, Oleic – 8.4%
  • Grapeseed Oil: Linoleic- 70.6%, Oleic- 16.2%
  • Safflower Oil: Linoleic- 68-85%, Oleic- 8-30%
  • Pumpkin Seed Oil: Linoleic – 57.2%, Oleic – 23.3%
  • Hempseed Oil: Linoleic- 51.96%, Oleic- 9.85%

Here’s what I noticed when I looked for oils in other places: the ratio of linoleic acid to oleic acid differs brand to brand because of where the oil is obtained and how it is processed. The difference is not always significant, but if I’m choosing between two grapeseed oils that are the same price, I might as well choose the one with the better ratio.

  • Grapeseed oil from Mountain Rose Herbs: Linoleic – 70.6%, Oleic – 16.2%
  • Grapeseed oil from Spectrum Organics: Linoleic – 64%, Oleic – 3 to 21%

In some cases though, the ratio of fatty acid in an oil is strikingly different from brand to brand! The most important example of this is with safflower oil.  People often recommend safflower oil as suitable for acne prone skin. However, there are actually two different types of safflower that produce different oils, one that is high in linoleic acid, and one that is high in oleic acid.  The one higher in oleic acid is actually the more common one.  This was somewhat shocking to me, especially because as far as I could tell, the scientific name of the flower (carthamus tinctorius) seems to be the same for both.  That means it could be hard to differentiate in an ingredient list.  I did not put safflower oil in my graphic, but if you find a pure, clearly labeled high-linoleic safflower oil to use, I say go for it.

 Buy the Most Natural Oils

Chemical composition is not the only thing that varies between sources.  The quality of an oil depends greatly upon how it is processed.  Oils are chemically processed or mechanically processed.  Chemical processing uses high heat and petroleum solvents, most often hexane.  Refining the oil then involves more processing, including deodorizing and bleaching.  The end result is an oil that might include traces of solvents and that is stripped of many vitamins and minerals.

Mechanical processing involves a big ol’ screw called an expeller that crushes the seeds or nuts to produce the oil.  The process often includes heat.  Cold-pressing, on the other hand, still involves an expeller but the process keeps temperatures lower.  Cold-pressed oils are supposedly the purest, meaning that they retain the most natural qualities.  So if you want to buy the safest and most natural oils, make sure they are organic and unrefined, and look for the labels expeller-pressed or cold-pressed.

I’ll soon buy a little glass bottle of Evening Primrose Oil from Mountain Rose Herbs and possibly a 160z LifeFlo Grapeseed Oil from iHerb (I’m still looking for affordable grapeseed oil that comes in a glass bottle instead of plastic).  Or, I might try out this hemp oil from Thrive Market.

For a 15% discount on a Thrive Market membership, click here: Thrive Market

(I will get money to buy my own organic groceries if you join through this link! Thank you for supporting my blog!)

To read more about why I love Thrive Market and how it helps me afford natural goods, check out my post about it here: Thrive

Good luck picking your own facial oils!   I’d love to hear your thoughts and findings.  Sound off in the comments or email me at if you have any questions.

xo, Gigi

Oh, and a little disclaimer: please remember to do your own research!  I’m listing the sources I used below, but you’ll notice that they’re not primary sources (like scientific studies).

This post contains affiliate links from Thrive Market. 


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