This Oil-Only Regime Could Be the Answer to Your Skincare Prayers

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Votary oils prove that a little kindness can go a long way when it comes to skin

From the niche new beauty brands doing something different, to the industry’s evergreen icons, Sophie Bew opens up AnOther’s dream vanity in a new series...

  1. Who should use it? Anyone looking to monasticise their routine or fix hydration and breakout issues.
  2. How long until I love it? The sheer joy of the Cleansing Oil is frankly instant. The Blemish Rescue Oil will take a few cycles of spots before you see substantial proof.  
  3. How planet-friendly is it? Short answer please! Vegan and all-natural (except for just one excellent ingredient: Retinol), these oils are both pressed and bottled (in glass) on the same UK site. Ingredients come from around the world but are organic wherever possible.  
  4. How do I use it? Hold droppers still – don’t shake – above the palm, drop 3–4 drops max – only small doses necessary.

Former make-up artist Arabella Preston was looking for a natural skincare system to offset the synthetic cosmetics that were de rigueur in the industry back in 2013. Her solution? To mix her own oils at her kitchen table; specifically – one to cleanse and remove make-up and another to moisturise. And I’m rather glad she did. Votary, the resulting and now somewhat larger collection of targeted oils, is at once generous but streamlined. Brimming with natural active ingredients and excellent value for money, they run the gamut: a fragrance-free and calming seed oil, a light-weight clarifying oil for blemish-prone skin, a fast-absorbing oil that’s perfect for make-up prep (delicious jasmine and calendula), a nourishing cleansing oil, a retinol-fuelled night oil and a blemish oil among a few others.

Preston professes to leading an oil-only life, using just a cleansing oil (with a warm flannel for gentle exfoliation) followed by a moisturising oil, some SPF and heading out the door – a switch she made years ago and has never looked back from. It chimes with a firm belief by many in the industry that all of our skin complaints stem from improper hydration – sparked by over-cleansing and the stripping of our natural microbiomes – a lack of which prompts the epidermis to over-produce oil, and thus spots, in response. To break this vicious cycle we need to treat our biggest organ with a little more kindness. “I have a theory,” says Preston, “that the preservatives in most products disrupt the bacteria on the skin and that good bacteria feed on lipids, on oils, and so if you are putting lovely natural plant oils without preservatives onto your skin, you are actually feeding the good bacteria.”

This isn’t a strict system though. I on the other hand, am a little more high-maintenance, a little less saintly – throwing acids, actives and serums at my skin with loving abandon. The Votary oils can infiltrate even the most hardcore routines and there are several which have garnered a place in my daily routine. The Rose and Geranium Cleansing Oil is the most sumptuous and gentle cleanser I’ve ever known – even in the mornings. And while dabbing oil directly onto a pimple may seem counterproductive, the Blemish Rescue Oil is incredibly soothing to angry spots; it’s also the only other hormonal breakout preventative I’ve ever found that works beside this one. These two products will be polished off and replaced ad infinitum, but not any time soon as they seem to last forever despite daily use and an absence of preservatives – they are the longest-lasting and hardest-working pieces in my skincare arsenal. My one gripe is that too much greasy handling makes the lettering slide off the little printed bottles (only the Blemish Rescue and the Night Oils mind you), which is why this month sees new paper labels rolling out – proof if any that this is a brand with a keen eye for constant perfectionism.