Some people are not comfortable using a moisturizer that contains oils. They may find them too greasy for their skin or think that rubbing oils on their faces may not provide any benefits. This is particularly true for people with oily skin and they are often recommended to use an oil-free moisturizer.
But oils are used in moisturizers for a reason. Skin needs moisture to be hydrated and moisture is actually water, which evaporates if you don’t seal it in with an oil. Oily substances like petrolatum and mineral oil form an occlusive barrier on the skin that prevents the moisture (water) from evaporating.
So, if moisturizers need oils, how can oil-free moisturizers work? Well, instead of oils, they use ingredients that have very similar properties. Oils aren’t the only substances that can create an occlusive barrier. Silicones, like Dimethicone, can do that too. In addition, these products also contain another group of ingredients called humectants, like Glycerin, which have the ability to draw water from the air to the skin and help retain moisture.
But what type of moisturizer is better? That depends on your skin and your personal preference. If oils don’t work for you or you’re not comfortable using them, you can opt for an oil-free moisturizer. Very often however, oils and humectants are used together in the same product because this combination usually works best.