Since December, I’ve gone through nearly two roll-on bottles of vitamin E oil. My skin is ridiculously sensitive — and weird; I’ve had more mysterious rashes and whatnot in my life than I can remember. Anything can set it off: Fragrance in detergent, new soap, the wind blowing the wrong way. But even if your skin isn’t as sensitive as mine, it still might be in need of some extra care right now. Winter is tough for skin—cold air, dry air, harsh heat, little sun. If your usual lotion isn’t cutting it (or you just need extra moisture for dry areas like elbows and feet), try one of these four natural oils. As cheap as your typical drug store moisturizers, they work as well or better than pricey products. And they’re totally clean — no synthetic ingredients, no mysterious fragrance, no harsh chemicals.
Americans are lotion lovers, but in Europe and many other parts of the world, using oils for skin care is more popular. Many lotions actually contain natural oils, but manufacturers also have to add fillers and emulsifiers to make them creamy (neither of which are necessarily bad, but if your skin is sensitive that’s just more stuff that could set it off).
Worried about oils triggering acne? Don’t be.
“Oils protect the skin’s lipid barrier and are great at preventing moisture from evaporating from the skin,” Charmaine Leah, founder of organic beauty boutique Mint & Berry and the green cosmetics blog Glamology, told Rodale. “Some people believe applying oil, especially to acne-prone skin, will clog pores, cause breakouts, or leave a greasy film. The truth is, most natural oils are easily absorbed, not greasy, and are noncomedogenic, that is, they have a low potential to clog pores, which makes oils perfect for all skin types.”
Here are four natural oils that are especially good for skin care:
Vitamin E Oil
Vitamin E is full of antioxidants, which are as good for your skin as they are for your immune system. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, vitamin E is the most abundant fat-solvent antioxidant found in human skin. It helps protect the skin from damage by free radicals, oxidation and inflammation, as well as promotes better wound healing. The sun’s UV rays zap vitamin E from the skin, however, and concentrations also decline with age — which is why it’s good to replenish. I like Nature’s Gate Roll-on variety, which contains nothing but pure vitamin E oil (aka tocopheryl) and is 100% ‘cruelty free.’
Grapeseed oil (aka grape seed extract) also has serious moisturizing and antioxidant properties. In addition to vitamin E oil, grapeseed oil has become the other essential component of my winter skin care routine.
Mathilde Thomas, founder of Caudalie skin-care line, told Refinery 29 grapeseed oil is an eco-friendly and “ideal” ingredient. “It’s a very fine, non-greasy texture that is rich in omega-6 and vitamin E,” she says. “It regenerates and intensely nourishes even the most dehydrated epidermis, leaving it nourished and healthy without worry of irritation.”
Grapeseed oil can also help regulate your skin’s natural oil production, making skin look less greasy.
Try Aura Cacia Natural Skin Care Oil Grapeseed, $12.50 for a 16-ounce bottle
While sesame seed oil is a main ingredient in several beauty products, pure sesame oil off the grocery store shelf will moisturize just as well (and probably for much less money). Like Vitamin E, sesame oil is rich in antioxidants, as well as lecithin, minerals, proteins and amino acids. Try combining 1/2 cup sesame seed oil with 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar & 1/4-cup water to use as a moisturizing and skin replenishing night cream.
Try Flora Sesame Oil,, $8 for 8.5 fluid ounces
Fancy chemical compounds engineered in labs can’t compete with almond oil, which writer Allison Ford calls the “superstar” of natural skin softeners. “It’s been used for centuries throughout Europe and the Middle East as a moisturizer, lubricant, healing slave and superfood,” she says.
Almond oil works well for the skin because it’s non-greasy, noncomedogenic (won’t clog pores) and is easily absorbed into the skin. It contains zinc, which makes it good for wound-healing, and can also help heal minor skin irritations like dryness, itchy skin and mild eczema.
Try NOW Foods Sweet Almond Oil, about $10.50 for 16 ounces