Face Oil vs Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

Face Oil vs Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

At first glance, there may not seem to be much or even any difference between face oils and moisturizers. After all, aren’t they both meant to add moisture to the face? Well, yes, but in very different ways. A moisturizer is generally used to penetrate and hydrate the skin, whereas a face oil can really lock in moisture.

We’ll get into more detail about face oil vs. moisturizer, but that’s the general idea. As you’ll see, different kinds of moisturizer do different things as do different face oils, which is why in this article, we’ll talk about face oil vs. moisturizer, benefits of both face oils and moisturizers, and whether you should use face oil before or after moisturizer.


Main Takeaways: Generally speaking, moisturizers hydrate the skin while face oils lock the moisture in. Face oils feel slick while moisturizers are generally creamy.

Good to Know: There’s no reason you can’t use both a face oil and a moisturizer to help restore and lock moisture into the skin.

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Face Oil vs Moisturizer: What’s the Difference?

There are essentially three different ways your skin gets moisturized, either with a humectant, an emollient, or an occlusive.

Humectants, as you may remember, draw moisture from the deeper layers of the skin up to the top to hydrate the skin and keep it healthy looking. A good example of a humectant is hyaluronic acid.

Emollients add moisture to the skin topically. Cetearyl alcohol and panthenol are great examples of emollients.

Finally, occlusives form a barrier on the skin to protect it from losing water. Mature and very dry skins tend to love occlusives because they lose water so easily.

Generally speaking, moisturizers are humectants and emollients while oils have a tendency to be occlusive, making sure the skin doesn’t lose hydration.

Benefits of Face Oil

Although most face oils act as occlusives, different face oils do different things and thus have many different benefits. Unless you have some kind of allergy, there’s no reason you can’t use more than one kind of face oil to reap their different benefits. Let’s talk about the benefits of face oils:

Sunflower Oil

Not only do sunflowers look gorgeous, the oil they produce is also fabulous for your skin! Acting as a protective barrier for your skin, it helps soften the skin and soothe it at the same time. As if that weren’t enough, sunflower oil is non-comedogenic so it won’t clog your skin!

Rosehip Oil

Where to even start with what this miraculous oil does for the skin? For starters, in addition to hydrating the skin, rosehip oil is known for its ability to even out skin tone. It’s also full of fatty acids that help get to work on fine lines and wrinkles and vitamin C which not only brightens skin, but is a great antioxidant.

Castor Oil

We know what you’re thinking: “Isn’t castor oil the stuff they give kids that tastes terrible?” Well, that may have happened a long, long time ago, but in fact, castor oil is a wonderful humectant that not only moisturizes the face but smoothes it as well. Believe it or not, it can also be used as a makeup remover. Bonus benefit: It also helps give your hair a little extra shine.

Lavender Oil

While you may usually associate lavender with rolling fields in the South of France, the oil that comes from it is one of the most effective face oils you can use, known particularly for its ability to improve the appearance of dark spots and uneven skin tone. In addition to also containing antioxidants that help protect the skin from environmental stressors that can harm it, lavender also smells incredible.

Grapeseed Oil

In part because it’s packed with one of our favorite hydrators, vitamin E, grapeseed oil does a fabulous job of moisturizing the skin. Not only that, but it’s great for helping clear out the skin of dirt and oil.

Jojoba Oil

No list of face oils is complete without a mention of jojoba oil. Aside from being a great moisturizer, jojoba oil is wonderful for balancing skin’s natural oils and for alleviating redness. Not only that, it can take off your makeup as well!

Keep in mind that these face oils are frequently combined in a single product. Take, for example, Eminence Organic Skin Care Rosehip Triple C+E Firming Oil which contains both rosehip oil to hydrate the skin and jojoba oil to alleviate redness and balance skin’s natural oils.

Benefits of Moisturizer

If you haven’t already made a good moisturizer part of your daily skincare routine, you will after you learn about all its benefits! Here are just a few!

Moisturizers hydrate the skin

OK, this seems like an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t realize how much better their skin would feel with just a little added moisture. This is especially true in really, really dry, extreme weather like the middle of winter or summer. No matter what season it is, if your skin is feeling dry or tight (or even cracking!), a little moisturizer to restore hydration is probably just what you need. Look for moisturizers that contain ingredients like vitamin E that help add moisture or hyaluronic acid to really help lock moisture into your skin.

Moisturizers are anti-aging

Because of their ability to infuse skin with hydration, moisturizers are able to visibly reduce those fine lines and wrinkles that appear because of the sun, lack of hydration, smoking, or even heredity.

Moisturizers help prepare skin for makeup

This is in conjunction with a good skincare routine that includes cleansing and exfoliating, but a thin layer of moisturizer really helps makeup go on much, much more evenly (some people even occasionally mix their foundation with a little bit of moisturizer).

Moisturizer restores skin’s glow

A lack of hydration can make skin look really dull so if your skin is looking dull or lifeless, a little moisturizer will help restore your natural radiance, especially if you dab a little extra on your cheekbones and don’t rub it in!

Moisturizer can help calm the skin

It depends what the issue is, but if you have skin that acts up or is easily irritated, a moisturizer can often help calm it down.

Moisturizer can help skin feel much, much better

Aside from making skin look a lot better, moisturizer helps skin feel much better as well! Dry, dehydrated skin not only looks bad, it feels bad which is why moisturizer can feel like such an incredible relief!

Face Oil vs. Moisturizer - Which one should you use?

Whether you choose to use face oil or moisturizer or both probably depends a lot on what you like the feel of better. Face oils generally feel very slick and have a consistency that’s closer to liquid while moisturizers are usually creamy in feel and consistency. Although they may contain oil, moisturizers also contain water while face oils do not.

When deciding which one to use, keep in mind that moisturizers add hydration to the skin while face oils generally lock that moisture in. That’s why, if you have really dry skin (or even if you just want to make sure your skin is as hydrated as possible), you’ll probably want to use both. Just make sure you use your face oil after you use the moisturizer to make sure you’re really locking in the moisture!

We hope that helps clarify the difference between face oils and moisturizers and helps you decide which one is right for you. But, as we said, to really up your hydration game, don’t be afraid to use both!

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