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7 best face oils for your summer skin care routine in 2021

We asked dermatologists for their tips and recommendations.
Image of Woman holding natural face oil in her bedroom
Polina Lebed / Getty Images

During the winter, it's easy to add several steps into your skin care routine, especially if you have dry skin. The goal during those months is to keep your skin as hydrated and moisturized as possible to combat biting winds and freezing temperatures. So when it starts to get warmer out and summer approaches, you might be tempted to strip your routine back down to the basics, ditching additional serums and swapping facial oils for lightweight moisturizers.

While the summer heat makes it tempting to reduce your skin care routine to just cleanser and moisturizer, you may want to reconsider. Between increased sun exposure and frequent dips in the pool, the season can wreak havoc on your complexion. Your main concern is probably whether you've been applying enough SPF, but you should also focus on keeping your skin hydrated. That's where the oils come back in.

Do I need to use facial oil in the summer?

While the decision to use any product always depends on your skin type, there are plenty of benefits to using a facial oil all year long. Though our skin naturally produces lipids (oils), applying a facial oil can help give our complexion a boost.

"No matter the season, if you have aging skin, or genetically dry skin, facial oils can provide extra help in keeping the skin hydrated," Dr. Robin Schaffran, chief dermatologist at BalmLabs, told Shop TODAY. "In fact, summertime activities can actually exacerbate dry skin, like sun, swimming and drier climates. Facial oils are formulated to help complement and enhance the natural oils normally found on our skin."

What are the benefits of facial oils?

Facial oils are best known for their hydrating properties. In essence, the oils lock in moisture and protect the skin from the elements. Since hydration is equivalent to healthy skin, oils can even provide some anti-aging benefits.

"As we age, our skin moisture levels decline, causing dry, dehydrated skin, which makes fine lines and wrinkles more noticeable," said Dr. Robyn Gmyrek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Dermatology. "Oils not only hydrate the skin, but because they are rich in antioxidants, they also fight free radical damage to cells, thereby preventing further aging."

With these goals in mind, you might be wondering why you shouldn't just opt for a facial cream or moisturizer instead of an oil, but it's important to note that each of these products serve different purposes. And yes — there is a difference between serums and oils.

"It’s important to note that facial oils, like serums, differ from moisturizers," Schaffran said. "While most will provide some level of hydration, they are more often plant-based and purposeful — delivering specific active ingredients to address issues like inflammation or dullness."

What kind of facial oil should I use in the summer?

"Facial oils are great and are perfect to use year-round," New Jersey-based dermatologist Dr. Shari Sperling said. "In the summer, vitamin C is great to incorporate into your routine as it helps to fight free radical damage from UV light."

If you're interested in trying a facial oil, Gmyrek says it is best to "listen to your skin." Those with oily skin might not need to consider facial oils as a first choice, but those with combination skin have a good shot at success, depending on their skin care goals.

For those whose main concern is anti-aging, consistency is key. You'll need to apply the oil up to twice a day for at least three months in order for your skin to produce new collagen and elastic tissue.

"If you see results immediately, it is not due to new collagen and elastic tissue but rather due to the hydrating effects of the oil," Gmyrek said. "When your skin is well hydrated, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles is improved."

Summer might make your skin dry, so Gmyrek recommends applying an oil to your face or body once or twice a day. Although the hydrating benefits may leave your skin feeling soft and smooth, it is important to remember that you still must include an SPF in your regimen, as most oils do not have sunscreen in them.

If you're looking to incorporate a facial oil into your summer skin care routine, it's not too late! Not sure where to start? We asked the experts for some of their top picks that can help your skin get through the season.

Dermatologist-recommended oils and serums

1. Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Skin Therapy Oil

This affordable oil can be used all over the body, helping to improve a wide range of skin issues, from stretch marks to uneven skin tones. Gmyrek called out key ingredients such as argan oil, camelina oil and coconut oil for their nourishing benefits.

2. The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Schaffran recommends this plant-based oil that is both lightweight and affordable. The non-greasy oil hydrates the skin and also works to improve texture and skin tone. It can also be applied to your hair, acting as a heat protectant that adds shine.

3. Josie Maran Skin Dope Argan Oil + 100mg CBD

This oil is suitable for oily, dry, combination and normal skin types and can be used as a facial and body oil. Ingredients such as argan oil work to nourish and protect the skin, while the CBD extract acts as an anti-inflammatory.

4. Korres Wild Rose Brightening Absolute Oil

Gmyrek says this oil contains rosehip seed oil and vitamin C, which she considers "an essential building block of collagen and a potent antioxidant." The vegan formula can be applied to the face and neck to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, leaving you with a glowing complexion.

5. Tata Harper Retinoic Nutrient Face Oil

This face oil works to target signs of aging, such as fine lines. Ingredients such as rosehip seed oil and calendula extract join forces to reduce the look of wrinkles and smooth uneven textures. This oil can be applied twice daily after moisturizing.

6. SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic

Sperling recommends this serum for the potent amount of vitamin C in its formula, which includes other ingredients such as L-ascorbic acid and ferulic acid. Though powerful, it is suitable for dry, normal and sensitive skin types.

7. Image Skincare Vital C Serum

Another one of Sperling's favorites, this serum supports collagen production and works to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Suitable for all skin types, the serum can be applied twice daily to hydrate and energize skin.

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