Oil and Water:
The Yin and Yang
of Skincare

When I think about how to be achieve super hydrated skin, images of water come to mind. Splashing my face in the morning, drinking my required 64 ounces per day, even spritzing my skin with a refreshing hydrosol. What doesn’t come to my mind is oil. Oils deliver many important benefits to the skin, but they don’t penetrate into the deepest cellular layers the way water, or an emulsion that contains water as an ingredient, does. While oils are excellent to nourish and protect the top layer of our skin, lock in our natural moisture and prevent water from evaporating, oils do not actually hydrate. Only water can do this. But one needs the other, which is why both oil and water in skincare are the two most fundamental ingredients for healthy skin. 

In recent years, facial oils have proliferated the natural beauty market. Initially sold as a middle step between cleansing and moisturizing, facial oils quickly took over, supplanting mainstay moisturizers and acting as the second AND third step of the beauty routine. This was the beginning of the “oil bubble”, and it was bound to burst, but more on that in a moment. 

Why the boom in beauty oils, anyway? One significant reason is that oils alone don’t need aggressive preservative systems and emulsifiers, where as emulsions that contain both oil and water do. And while there are some reliable natural preservatives on the market, the most fail-proof of them – think phenoxyethonol and parabens – contain chemicals that many natural beauty formulators choose to forego.  The same is true for emulsifiers. Adding no additional benefit to the skin, emulsifiers are simply chemical agents that help keep oil and water from separating in the jar.  The obvious solution? Create luxurious, nutrient-dense and highly concentrated facial oils that are 100% plant based. This has been the approach of many leading natural beauty formulators, and the last several years, the entire industry has benefitted from the rise in popularity of facial oils. It’s natural beauty’s darling, and commercial brands were quick to catch on and ride the wave. 

But, it seems Oil Fatigue finally set in. Many consumers are waving the white flag, saying they’ve had too much. Their oils runneth over, there are too many options and they just want a basic moisturizer, please. But I believe that this trend is not about oils as much as it is how they are being used, or misused. Oils should never replace our second and third step, but instead, they should be incorporated into a routine that includes some form of oil and water in skincare.  

“Waters/Mists/Elixirs is a step that often gets overlooked or skipped, and its one of the reasons that some oils seem to not work well,” says Laurel Shaffer of Laurel Whole Plant Organics. “Our skin needs both hydration and moisture. Some nutrients are oils soluble and some are water soluble; so by using both, you are getting ALL the nutrients.”

What’s more, consistently excluding either oil or water from your skincare routine will eventually lead to imbalance, showing up as dull, lackluster and aging skin. Think of oil and water in skincare as yin and yang: one needs the other to stay in balance.

Here’s how Kristi, founder of Khus Khus, incorporates oil and water into her skincare routine:

“I incorporate the use of hydrolats in combination with the serums twice daily with my am and pm skin care routines a few sprays on the face, neck, and chest area with the hydrolat and then I blend in a few drops of the face serum. I have a pretty simple skin care regimen, but also I use the hydrolat throughout my day. I often will go around the studio spraying my team with various hydrolats for stress and energetic relief. The same matrix of plant constituents is found in the hydrolats so you are receiving a myriad of healing benefits when you use them, they are so much more than toners. I find that the combination works nicely together to receive a complete healing modality.

Tips to get more mileage out of your facial oils:

  1. Begin with thoroughly cleansed, damp skin. Spritz with a moisture mist if needed. 
  2. Add a dropperful of oil into the palm of your hand, rub the oil between the palms and pat face and neck; or
  3. Add about three drops of oil to palm, squirt facial mist over the oil, press the oil and mist with both palms, and pat face and neck. 
  4. Spritz a hydrosol or elixir throughout the day to refresh and rehydrate.

Shop our favorite combinations of Oils + Waters in our Beauty Store. 


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