Oct 15, 2012 1:29PM

DIY Beauty: Oils

Want amazing hair and skin? Look no further.

Whenever I tell someone that I use oil on my face, body and hair, the reaction is usually as though I have told them I use the blood of sacrificed virgins to keep my youthful* looks. "Doesn't it make your skin oily?" they cry. "That's gross!" they squeal. "Oil is for cooking," they say. Just kidding, no one has ever said that.

However, using oil to clean, moisturise and treat has been the best beauty decision I have ever made. Whereas harsh foaming cleaners can strip the surface of oil (oil which is meant to be there), using oil-based products on your skin and hair helps to regulate your natural sebum production. Do you suffer from dry skin? Expect a reduction in flakiness and a tight, itchy forehead and scalp. Do you end every day reenacting the Exxon Valdez oil spill on your T-zone? Your body will gradually produce less oil, meaning that your make-up will last longer and you won't have to wash your hair every day. 

In the name of Science, we've tested a whole bunch of oil-based products, and here are some of our favourites.

Cleansers (main image)

Although using oil to cleanse sounds counterintuitive, it works. Beginning with dry hands and face, massage the face, concentrating on any particularly congested areas (such as the T-zone). Then wet the hands, and massage the face again; the oil will turn milky and wash straight off — no residue! I don't know exactly how this wizardry works (although I do know it involves hydrophilic triglycerides, which is fun to say), but it is very satisfying. What's more, as the majority of make-up is oil-based, oil is the best way to remove it: oil mixes with oil; water doesn't. Even your waterproof make-up (along with sunscreen and environmental pollutants) will just melt off your skin — just use a cotton pad soaked in your cleanser, then wash off as before. 

Dermalogica PreCleanse ($65.50/150ml) is my favourite of the lot. It smells AMAZING, and because the majority of facials I've had over the years have used Dermalogica, it makes me feel like I'm at a day spa. Along with the usual suspects (olive, almond and kukui nut oils), it also utilises borage seed oil, which is great for eczema and scaliness, along with vitamin E, which can help repair sun damage. Dermalogica recommend PreCleanse as part of a two-step cleansing routine — I find I don't need the second cleanse, but if you wear a lot of make-up or live in a heavily polluted city like New York, you might find it helps.

Bobbi Brown's newest contribution to the world of oils is their their Soothing Cleansing Oil ($60/200ml). It contains sunflower, olive and jojoba oils to clean the skin, moisturising kukui nut oil (containing omega-3 and -6), with the addition of jasmine flower, which helps to smooth skin and reduce redness.

MAC's Cleanse Off Oil is particularly good at removing all types of make-up. The Tranquil edition (currently available online in a 30ml travel edition, $15) throws chamomile, seagrass and yuzu extracts into the mix — it's ultra-gentle with a zen-like scent.

You can't talk about oil-based cleansers without mentioning Shu Uemura. They sell one bottle every seven seconds, and their Ultim8 Sublime Cleansing Oil ($65/150ml) is the Rolls-Royce of the range. It contains either botanical-origin oils with either skincare benefits: Jojoba (activates collagen), olive (antioxidant), ginger root (to reduce inflammation and wrinkles), shea butter (brightening), camellia (nourishing), safflower (strengthening), soy (for circulation) and corn (hydrates with omega-3, -6 and -9).

Elemental Herbology's Purify & Smooth Cleansing Balm ($64/75ml), available at Mecca Cosmetica, contains a slightly different blend of ingredients to cleanse, renew, protect and moisturise the skin. The difference with this product is that it comes in a balm form, rather than a liquid oil, which means it is a lot easier to handle (not to mention safer to travel with). It has the added bonus of smelling incredible. 

Facial Oils

Using an oil-based cleansers that rinses off is one thing, but what about actually putting oil on your face and leaving it there? It's not as crazy as it sounds. While mineral (petroleum-based) oils such as baby oil are comedogenic — that is, they clog pores — multitasking non-comedogenic oils such as jojoba soften skin, reduce redness, regulate sebum production, as well as repair the skin's barrier function. So, although your skin might feel oilier at first, gradually things will adjust and you'll be less oily overall — or more balanced, if you have combination or dry skin.

Each product Terry de Gunzberg releases tends to reach cult status very quickly (something you'd expect from the woman who, as head of YSL Beauty, came up with the ingenious idea of putting concealer in a pen — hello Touche Éclat), and this is no exception. By Terry Huile de Rose Firming-Lift Nutri-Regenerating Oil ($176/30ml) contains six different rose extracts, containing everything from plant cells that stimulate cell regeneration (and therefore younger skin) and vitamins A, B, C and E; to pore-toning tannins and cell-plumping fatty acids. It is pretty exxy, but the formula is less viscous that many others, so a little goes a very long way.

Jurlique Skin Balancing Face Oil ($62/50ml) features all your favourite 'good oils' along with their very own Biodynamic Blend — calendula, daisy, chamomile, marshmallow, rose, sweet violet, and echinacea — to soothe skin, protect against environmental evils, and generally be the skincare equivalent of a gross-tasting but allegedly very healthy kale smoothie. One important side effect: the resulting smell is unbelievably good. My only issue is the dispenser — although it prevents you using too much, I find it much easier to use a dropper — but it's a small price to pay for smelling like a fancy bouquet all day long. 

Just like all their other products, Aesop's Fabulous Face Oil ($57/25ml) has great packaging (it's smart, too — the brown bottle protects the insides from UV light and means they don't have to use as many preservatives). It contains nine plant extracts — including juniper berries, ylang ylang and jasmine — to soften, hydrate and detoxify; and being a slightly heavier formula than the others, it works well as a night treatment. 

While all-natural ingredients can definitely be a good thing, sometimes nature needs a helping hand. As part of a completely normal process called 'ageing', the collagen in our skin gradually breaks down to form peptides — tiny, tiny molecules that tell your body to make new collagen quick-smart. Logic therefore tells us that by putting peptides directly on the skin, we can trick our sad, ageing skin into producing more collagen. Take that, Nature! The moral of this story is that Dermalogica's Overnight Repair Serum ($110/15ml) contains those very peptides, meaning you'll be Blue Light Disco–ready in no time. Can't see any wrinkles just yet? Don't feel left out — this serum is also a great preventative treatment. It also gets bonus points for being in a travel-friendly plastic bottle (but one minus point for having the same fiddly dispenser as Jurlique).

Body Oils

We spend most of our time focusing on our faces, but the skin on the rest of the body is just as important. Using body oils will leave your skin smoother and more hydrated, while also restoring skin elasticity and helping to reverse (and prevent) the signs of ageing.

Grown Alchemist is an Australian brand that combines organic natural ingredients with the best of science (such as those aforementioned peptides). Their Body Serum ($43.95/100ml) contains ylang ylang, tumanu and omega-8 to leave your skin feeling smoother and more supple. It also leaves you smelling like I imagine Cleopatra did after being oiled down by 20 of her most nubile servants: incredibly good.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse ($39.95/100ml) has been around for 21 years and is the number one body-care product in French pharmacies, with a bottle sold every six seconds somewhere in the world. What's different about Huile is that it's a dry oil — perfect for those feeling trepidatious about switching to an oil-based moisturiser — plus it's designed to nourish, repair and soften the face, body and hair. Previously we had to travel overseas to get our hands on a bottle, but on 1 October Australian skin rejoiced: Nuxe launched in select pharmacies nationwide.

Enfants Paradis is a range of pure botanical skincare, designed with travellers in mind by Bali-based Australian Kirsty Ludbrook. The Hydrating After-Sun Gel (US$18/50ml) is the perfect salve after a day inadvertently spent too long in the sun, or even just on a hot day (we keep one handy in our air conditioner–less office). It's cooling, repairing and uplifting, and thanks to the pure essential oils of petitgrain, geranium, grapefruit and clary sage inside, it also smells great (as does the rest of the range). 

Hair

Have you had a sneaky look into any bathroom cabinets recently? Recent studies show that, if a female lives at the residence, there is a 99.9% chance you'll find a bottle of Moroccanoil Treatment**. The argan oil–based formula has been so successful that it has literally created a new haircare category. Oil gives hair instant shine and glossiness, and is a highly effective way of delivering beneficial ingredients including omega-3, vitamins and proteins. Here are some crazy new ways to use oil on your hair:

Kiehl's new Magic Elixir ($34/118ml) targets the oft-neglected scalp, and healthy scalp = healthy roots = healthy hair. It's a win/win/win! Rosemary leaf, avocado and safflower oils join forces with Aloe to deeply penetrate and moisturise the scalp and hair. The hair cuticle is sealed, which means hair is protected while also looking smoother. Use the Elixir as a 5-10 minute treatment before shampooing.

The award-winning Kérastase Elixir Ultime has been around for a few years and is renowned for its nourishing abilities. It contains a magical mix of maize, argan, camellia and pracaxi scented oils, and can be used before shampooing (as a treatment), before styling (as a protectant) or even after styling (to smooth flyaways). Kérastase have just released three new editions of the Elixir Ultime: Millennium Rose Extract ($55/125ml for fine and sensitised hair, pictured), Moringa Immortel Extract (for damaged hair) and Imperial Tea Extract (for colour-treated hair).

We've been testing the L'Oréal Professionel Mythic Oil range for a while now, and we love it. It was hard to choose one product to feature (it easily could have been the Shampoo, the Masque, the O.G. Mythic Oil, the Rich Oil — for particularly unruly hair — or the Milk, which is a lighter mist for fine hair), but we particularly like the Colour Glow Oil ($38/125ml), which I had to wrestle off our red-haired web editor, Ingrid, in order to photograph. The products combined leave hair softer and more manageable with well-defined curls, all without the weighed-down feeling that turns some people off hair oil.

And finally a new tool that allows you to fry your strands free of guilt. The genius Remington Shine Therapy with Smart Sensor ($103.95) straightener infuses hair with 100% organic Moroccan argan oil as your straighten, leaving hair happy, healthy and shiny. The Smart Sensor adds to the cleverness by sensing your hair's moisture levels and automatically adjusting temperature to suit. There are also Frizz Therapy (infused with anti-frizz micro-conditioners) and Keratin Therapy versions.

* I am 28, so I retain the right to use the blood of virgins if the need arises in 20 years or so.

** I made this up.

All background images taken from Mark 3 published by Mark Vassallo in 2005. Aerial photography by Richard Woldendorp, Creative Direction by Shane Sakkeus.