Research the many beauty ingredients in your medicine cabinet, and you’ll find that few boast the same time- tested performance as natural plant-based oils from across the globe. Whether you use them for your hair, skin, or nails, these oils work best in their most basic and traditional forms, which are rich in restorative fatty acids and other beautifying nutrients. Choose products featuring few ingredients and a high concentration of oils. Here are five of the most effective oils you’ll find in the beauty aisle.
Origin: Extracted from the nut of a Moroccan tree referred to as the “tree of life,” argan was traditionally used to treat skin infections.
Benefits: Its top therapeutic ingredients include squalene, a compound that promotes production of collagen (a protein that keeps skin taut and youthful); linoleic acid, an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid; twice as much free radical–fighting vitamin E as olive oil; and triterpenoids, anti-inflammatory compounds that may help heal and protect from environmental damage such as UV rays. Excellent for moisturizing hair and skin thanks to its high fatty acid concentration, argan also can regulate skin’s sebum production to keep oily complexions in check, according to research.
Tips: On labels look for “argan oil” or “Moroccan argan oil.” Just “Moroccan oil” may indicate a lower argan concentration and additives. Argan trees are a threatened species, so be sure a company is dedicated to sustainable sourcing.
Origin: Various parts of this tropical fruit, including its sweet flesh and water, are commonly used in food and drinks, but its ultranourishing oil is a nutritional and beauty standout.
Benefits: Coconut oil’s healthy medium-chain fatty acids—most notably its high concentration of antibacterial and antiviral lauric acid—and molecular structure allow it to moisturize and penetrate deep into skin. Research also shows it helps treat skin infections. Plus, it’s a simple fix for dry tresses.
Tips: Raw, cold-pressed oil may contain more beneficial nutrients than other forms. You can use the same coconut oil found in your pantry for your skin, hair, and nails.
Origin: This popular, multifunctional beauty oil derives from the seed of the jojoba plant, native to Arizona, California, and Mexico.
Benefits: With properties nearly identical to your skin’s natural sebum oil, jojoba is tailor-made for moisturizing and reducing the appearance of fine lines on sensitive parts of your skin, such as around the eyes. It also infuses moisture into dry hair and restores damaged cuticles.
Tips: Because its molecular profile is extremely stable, jojoba is one of the most common “carrier oils,” used to dilute essential oils. For a quick, DIY massage oil, mix a few drops of your favorite essential oil with pure jojoba.
Origin: In a nod to its abundant beauty and health benefits, neem is fondly referred to as the “village pharmacy” in its native India. The ancient Ayurvedic remedy now appears in various skin, hair, nail, and oral care products.
Benefits: Rich in nourishing fatty acids, neem oil moisturizes hair, skin, and scalp. Its antihistamine and antibacterial properties lend themselves to more potent skin and oral care benefits, too, including defense against dermatitis, skin infections, acne, and harmful mouth bacteria.
Tips: A compound called azadirachtin allows neem to act as a natural pesticide, which is why it’s also known to fend off lice and other insects. Be prepared for neem oil’s garlicky sulfur scent.
Origin: Derived from a tropical tree found in Southeast Asia and Polynesia, tamanu oil has been used in those regions for centuries to ease pain caused by conditions such as sciatica and shingles.
Benefits: Because of its antibacterical and anti-inflammatory properties (particularly from an uncommon ingredient called calophyllolide), tamanu may help soothe eczema, sunburns, and dry skin; reduce inflammation; and prevent skin infections. Its three types of lipids—neutral lipids, glycolipids, and phospholipids—make it a stellar moisturizer, too.
Tip: This exotic oil is sustainably sourced from the tamanu tree.