Oil vs cream: what’s the difference?

Sarah Brown is the founder of Pai Skincare. Entrepreneur, mum and sensitive-skinned soul.

In recent years, facial oils have taken the beauty world by storm, and it’s been fantastic to see so many people incorporate them into their regimes.

With a host of amazing organic oils available, it might be tempting to make the switch and  and leave more traditional face creams behind. But it’s important to understand the difference between face oils and creams, as they both serve different functions. Should you be using oil or cream – or both?

We believe that a good skincare regime combines both creams and oils. So it’s not a case of oil vs cream. It’s more about understanding how they perform differently on the skin and how you should be incorporating them into your skincare routine.

So what exactly are the key functions, benefits and tips for oils and creams?

Pai Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil

The difference between oils and creams

Oils consist only of oil, with no water. Creams on the other hand are a mixture of fat ‘emulsions’ and water. Both contain active ingredients, but actives are present at a much higher concentration in oils than in creams.

Both oils and creams are essential in hydrating your skin. Moisturisation is arguably the most important part of a skincare routine. Moisturised, hydrated skin helps protect it from irritation and enables you to shed dead skin cells effectively.

Facial oil – an overview

As mentioned above, the key difference with oils is that the actives are present at a much higher concentration as they’re not diluted. This means they have a more tangible effect on the skin.

Choose your facial oil carefully and it can make a huge and very visible difference to your skin. If you suffer from acne then make sure you avoid pore-clogging ingredients like coconut oil and other saturated fats. For sensitive skin, we strongly recommend avoiding fragrant oils, as these are likely to irritate your delicate facial skin.

A fatty, Omega-rich Oil like our Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil or Echium & Amaranth Age Confidence Oil deeply conditions, nourishes and improves skin tone and elasticity. Natural ingredients are the key to a good facial oil – you won’t find any parabens, detergents, or other nasties in any of the Pai products.

When it comes to facial oils, it’s important to remember that you cannot receive hydration from an oil alone – despite what some brands may claim. What they do brilliantly though, is actually lock moisture into the skin, helping the skin to hold onto precious hydration for longer. So where do you get this hydration? That’s where creams come in…

Chamomile & Rosehip Calming Day Cream

Face creams – an overview

The simple purpose of a Cream is to hydrate and protect the skin. A cream is a mixture of ‘emulsion’ of fats, water and actives. These are able to hydrate skin thanks to their very high water content, which is around 60-80%.

A cream drives moisture into the skin, while fatty oils and ingredients like vegetable-derived glycerin prevent the water from evaporating. This hydration boost means that skin cells retain moisture, leaving skin supple, healthy and glowing.

Additional actives are also able to target specific skin needs. But the results may be less visible than with an oil, as actives are present at much lower concentrations.

Should you apply oil or cream first?

This is a question we get asked so often! But once you understand the role of each – to hydrate (creams) then hold it all in (oils) – it becomes a lot simpler to remember.

Oil should always be applied after your cream or moisturiser. This is because oils are able to penetrate moisturisers, but not the other way around. So even if you apply a cream first, the actives and nutrients in your facial oil will still be able to get to work on your skin.

Wondering when is best to apply each? We’ve written a handy guide for you right here.

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