Bio-oil is one of those skincare products that’s been on my radar for years—nay, decades—but if I’m being honest, I really didn’t know all that much about it. I knew it had cult-favorite status (plenty of ppl swear by its multipurpose powers) and that it came in an instantly recognizable (yet kind of unremarkable) peach plastic bottle, but that was about it. Bio-Oil is nothing fancy, yet it’s a mainstay in so many skincare routines, so it must be good, right? To test my theory and find out, I turned to board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, and cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski of The Beauty Brains. Ahead, the experts explain just what this body oil has to offer and if it truly lives up to the hype.
Bio-Oil Skincare Oil:
Meet Bio-Oil. Inside the box, you’ll find just the bottle with no extra applicators or fluff. It’s got a screw-top lid that covers a tiny little opening, which allows you to pour the product when you tilt the bottle, no squeezing necessary (think of it as a giant essential oil bottle). The consistency of the formula is pretty thin and runny, so the small spout prevents major spillage during the application process. The smell of Bio-Oil is as distinct as the bottle it comes in, and the herbal-slash-floral aroma is something you can’t miss. It’s available in a bunch of different sizes, from 0.85 fl. oz. to 6.7 fl. oz., which is great if you want to sample it before buying a giant bottle. But even the largest size will only cost you $30 bucks, so it’s still pretty affordable.
From my experience testing it, Bio-Oil is straightforward and easy to incorporate into a daily skincare routine. I don’t mind the feel of being coated in lotions and occlusives (I never sleep better than when I’m slugging my face in Vaseline), but I wouldn’t even say this oil feels greasy once applied because it dries down so quickly. A little goes a long way, so all in all, I’d say it’s a pretty good deal.
Does Bio-Oil have vitamin E?
Before we get into how well it works or doesn’t work, let’s take a look at the ingredients label. First up: the hero ingredient purcellin oil. “It is a lab-made fatty alcohol that has the technical name cetearyl ethylhexanoate,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “It mimics the natural oil produced by your own oil glands and protects the skin in the same way.” Next, mineral oil. Despite what you might have read, cosmetic-grade mineral oil is safe, and Romanowski describes it as a nice emollient found in most moisturizers. It’s also got tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E) to moisturize and protect the skin and retinyl palmitate (a vitamin A derivative) to stimulate collagen. And lastly, you’ll find a blend of botanical oils like lavender, rosemary, calendula, and sunflower seed oil and fragrance to wrap it up.
Is Bio-Oil really effective?
Now that we know what’s in it, let’s see how all those things affect the skin. “Bio-Oil is a multi-use product that offers hydrating, strengthening, and soothing benefits to the skin,” says Dr. Zeichner. Many swear by Bio-Oil for getting rid of stretch marks and scars, but does it really work? “Unfortunately, they both stretch marks and scars permanent, and while you cannot get technically rid of them, you can still improve their appearance,” Dr. Zeichner continues. “Bio-Oil helps hydrate and protect the skin, which allows it to heal itself optimally.” Saying it can remove stretch marks is a bit of a stretch (sorry, had to lol), but it can work to improve the skin by keeping it hydrated and protected.
Does Bio-Oil have side effects?
You mean other than staining your sheets? I joke. That main ingredient we talked about, purcellin, makes this formula much lighter than others that leave greasy stains and sweaty-looking spots all over your clothes and fabrics. As far as side effects for your skin, Romanowski says the biggest concern would be if you had an allergy to a specific ingredient in the formula, in which case, you would def want to avoid using this product.
If you really want to start a debate at the dinner table, bring up fragrance in skincare. While some love essential oils and scented products, others simply cannot tolerate them on their skin. If you are part of the latter group, then you might want to skip this product and try a fragrance-free moisturizer instead.
What is Bio-Oil good for?
Aside from using it for the main skin benefits mentioned above, Bio-Oil has tons of alternate uses, so there are lots of different ways to incorporate it into your routine other than just slathering it on before bed. Since it’s pretty quick-drying and contains moisturizing and softening ingredients, like vitamin E and sunflower seed oil, Bio-Oil works like a charm as a cuticle oil. Whenever your nails (or the skin around them) feel a little dry, squeeze out a drop or two and work it into your nail beds. Or try pouring a little in your bath next time you go for a relaxing soak in the tub. Sunflower seed oil is great for hydrating dry skin, and the relaxing lavender in Bio-Oil might also help you chill out in the tub, too.
How long does it take for Bio-Oil start working?
If your goal is moisturized skin, it’ll start working as soon as you apply it. But if you’re looking for a reduced appearance of stretch marks or scars, you might be waiting a while. “Skin hydration benefits can be observed immediately after application, but it’s important to continue using the product twice daily for several weeks to experience any of the skin-strengthening effects,” Dr. Zeichner explains. In other words, if you do see noticeable results, it won’t be right away. And as someone who has been using it for weeks now, I can attest to that.
Can I use Bio-Oil on my face?
Yup! And lots of people love it for this very use. “While most people think of Bio-Oil as a body product, the oils used in the formula are non-comedogenic and can be used on the face,” Dr. Zeichner explains. “It can offer the same types of hydrating and soothing effects on the face as for the body.” That said, if you have sensitive skin, it’s probs best to stick to the skincare you know your face responds well to.
The final word:
Look, if Bio-Oil really does for the skin all that people say it can do—fade acne scars, even skin tone, and improve stretch marks—I’d say dip me in a vat of the body oil and fry me up. But the truth is it’s no magic potion. You can’t expect results overnight and if you’re sensitive to essential oils or skincare with fragrance, you might wake up with irritation instead (yikes). But if you’ve adjusted your expectations and can tolerate scented skincare, Bio-Oil is an affordable, easily accessible product that IMO is worth trying.