Should Face Oil be applied before or after moisturizer?

Ask a Cosmetic Chemist

The mainstream media and dermatologists mostly suggest applying the oil as the last step of the skincare routine - AFTER smoothing over the moisturizer to seal in the moisture but not vice versa.

Is this rule always valid? The answer is - IT DEPENDS entirely upon the product formulations.

Should Face Oil be applied before or after moisturizer?

Bio-actives & Skin Penetration

Bio-actives - a major focus of the recent developments in skincare. The most popular bioactive ingredients are enzymes, vitamins, antioxidants and various plant extracts, etc...

The most bio-active compound will work only if it penetrates the epidermis's outermost "horny" layer and reaches the living epidermis.

To better understand the penetration of active ingredients and product layering, we will look into the skin and pathways for epidermal penetration.

The skin has three main layers: epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous tissue. And stratum corneum – the topmost layer of the epidermis represents the targeted surface.

Stratum corneum is a two-compartment system: dying or dead cells called corneocytes are embedded in an extracellular lipid matrix of highly nonpolar lipids like ceramides, cholesterol, and free fatty acids.

Because of its strategic location between the "horny" layers, this lipid matrix is known to act as a diffusion barrier for bio-actives entering the skin. It has a limited permeability for bio-actives is due to the nature and the tight packing of the stratum corneum's lipids.

However, there are two possible pathways for epidermal penetration of bio-actives.

Transdermal delivery systems in cosmetics

1. Intercellular penetration:

Permeation through the hair follicle or via the sebaceous and/or sweat glands.

It is as little as ~ 0.1% of total epidermal penetration.

2. Intracellular penetration:

A straight path through the stratum corneum into the lower levels of the epidermis and the dermis below - the main transepidermal pathway.

Therefore, the extracellular lipid matrix plays a significant role in the active ingredient penetration of the stratum corneum.

When a skincare formula is created, this intracellular penetration phenomenon is greatly considered to optimize the permeation of the skin. Our formulas are no exception.

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Why we recommend oil before moisturiser in the case of our products…

EwaliBeauty's Face Oil comprises a large portion of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as linoleic, alpha-linolenic, and eicosenoic acid, enhancing the skin permeation to a greater degree than their saturated counterparts.

So, it turned out that face oil enriched with unsaturated oils should use first. If you start with your cream, you are not leaving a gap for the lighter oils to work their magic. (Unless you are using a water-based gel that contains no occlusive ingredients). 

Working mainly from within, our face oil formula helps rebuild the lipid layers. Even though the mixture also has an occlusion angle, it is not as strong as the thick oils. (like Shea butter, Coconut oil and Olive oil, etc...)

Moisturizers, on the other hand, have slower penetration due to changes in phase behavior

Moreover, EwaliBeauty's Hydro Boosting Dual Cream has an additional sealing effect than the Face Oil because it contains emollient-rich Shea butter and Coconut oil.

So, it is recommended to apply EwaliBeauty's Face Oil before our moisturizer. It sinks to the skin nicely while prepping and priming the skin for the moisturizer to follow.

When should I use oil as the last step?

If the product is occlusive or contains thick, saturated oils like unfractionated Coconut oil, Olive oil, Shea butter, etc..., OR if you are using an oil-free gel moisturizer, then the oil should be applied after to lock in moisture for a protective seal.

Popular occlusive ingredients such as waxes, petrolatum, dimethicone, silicone and mineral oil, which are commonly found in moisturizers. Vaseline based-products work well for this purpose and should be the last step of your routine.

Hope you find this helpful. Follow us on Instagram @ewalibeauty for more skincare updates.

M.Sc. in Medical Microbiology, B.Sc. in Applied Science (major in Chemistry and Botany) and more than 8 years of industrial experience. In her career, she has formulated 600+ new products, reformulated existing products and created experimental studies to resolve problems during projects.

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