Oil—for years it’s been the bane of my skin’s existence. Ever since I went through puberty (which for me was fairly early in life), I’ve been a self-professed “greaseball,” prone to shiny, slick skin in all types of weather. So once I heard about the growing popularity of skin oil and oil cleansers, I was naturally suspicious. How can the thing that (I thought) caused my breakouts and smudged my eyeshadow be a good thing?
But, the more I thought about it, the more using these products made sense. Face oils can be a gentler, all-natural option than the goodness-knows-what’s-in-it moisturizer found at the drugstore. And if the Romans could use olive oil as a cleanser and still manage to invade most of Europe, I figure I can give it a shot without too much angst.
I wanted an expert’s opinion on the matter, so I sought out the already sought-after skincare expert and facialist Su-Man Hsu. London-based Su-Man has won numerous awards, and her line of products is used by the likes of Juliette Binoche (the ageless French beauty), Sienna Miller (the glowy golden goddess), and Olga Kurylenko (the Bond girl without pores). She herself has a certain line-less, dewy complexion which makes placing an age on her—literally, any age—almost impossible. Needless to say, I trust her implicitly.
I spoke with the dancer-turned-skincare pioneer about her journey, her methods, and the best oil for face to use when you just gotta DIY.
What is your background?
My life has been a series of beautiful accidents that have all merged into each other naturally. I grew up in a mud hut in a farm in Taiwan. I discovered dance at 19 and went on to be a professional dancer, and I learned the pleasure and freedom of doing something without words. During dancing I discovered my second love—Shiatsu. [Shiatsu] helped me understand the connection between physical and emotional well-being—when the body’s energy is trapped and stagnated, life becomes miserable and unhappy.
What inspired you to become a skincare professional?
I was healed by Shiatsu touch, so after retiring from dance, I went on to train as a Shiatsu practitioner. Out of this, I created my own facial technique and went on to become a facialist.
I was so unhappy with the products I was using for my facials. They were too heavy and not effective, so I decided to create my own. I wanted products that replicated my professional treatment and would work with simple application techniques. [I started creating] the formulas at home in my kitchen. I tested them on countless clients and was thrilled by the results—they were too! It meant they could take my facial magic home. I then sent them to two labs in France and Taiwan to refine for mass production. This is how Su-Man Skincare was born. I like to think what you get with my skincare is “the wisdom of ten thousand faces.” That’s at least how many people I’ve treated!
Every person has a beautiful story to tell and I treat every person the same whether they are celebrities, housewives, bankers, or lawyers. Every individual is unique so my treatment for each client is different, as is my approach. I use my own blended oils for massage because my oil has good lubrication—not too stiff and heavy.
When you give a patient a consult, what are you looking for in terms of healthy skin?Healthy skin for me is skin that glows with light. You can be beautiful but stagnated and blocked, which makes your skin look dull. You can have spots or pigmentation but shine from within, which makes you look instantly healthy. When you accept who you truly are and recognise the problem, then the skin issues will be easy to deal with and become less of a problem.
Should face oil be a necessary part of a person’s skincare regimen or is it not the right answer for some?
Water keeps our skin hydrated. Oil conditions your skin and if you have a very dry skin, oil is necessary. I personally think light oil and dry oil is better [to use] than a heavy, thick oil. Using the wrong oil is just like eating bad fat, [it only] causes more problems.
Have you had patients that were less than enthusiastic about trying face oils for the first time?
Yes, often people who have breakouts or acne tend not to like using oil, as well as those with oily skin.
What did you tell those who were afraid of using face oil? What benefits did you highlight and what did you tell them to look out for?
Our skin needs both oil and water to stay healthy. If you are a young person you need less oil on your skin and if you are older, extra oil can be useful.
I will not use a heavy, rich oil for the face. It’s blocking and greasy-looking and it won’t give your skin a smooth complexion. Dry oil is always a better option. Rosehip Seed Oil and Apricot Kernel Oil are my favorites. I definitely wouldn’t put Coconut Oil or Olive Oil on my face.
When is the best time of day to apply skin oil?
Daytime as your skin needs more protection.
What are you favorite all-natural ingredients to use to help improve skin’s clarity, brightness, and all-around youthfulness?
There are so many of them. There isn’t one single ingredient that can do the magic. I love my Facial Glow Rejuvenating Mask, [a product infused with a blend of ingredients such as orchid extract, brown algae, and sea water mineral concentrate and focuses on hydration, brightening, and protection for a supple, soft, more youthful-looking skin]. It does what it says!
You mentioned you’re a fan of Rosehip Seed and Apricot Kernel Oils, what are other oils you would suggest to someone making their own face oil?
My hero ingredient is Dragon’s Blood. [Technically not an oil,] but this bright red resin is extracted from the Croton lechleri or Sangre de Drago tree, native to the Amazon rainforest. The sticky sap has powerful protective, regenerative, and anti-ageing properties, and has been used by indigenous peoples as a healing skin treatment for centuries. It forms a ‘second skin’ barrier and helps to repair and reconstruct collagen, improving the integrity of the skin’s natural barrier whilst restoring firmness and elasticity to the skin. I use this in all of my products except for my sheet mask.
Rosehip Seed Oil is another favorite. It’s extracted from the fruits of rose plants such as the musk, dog, and sweet briar varieties. Used by the Andean Quechua people as a health and skin remedy for centuries, it has regenerative and anti-ageing properties. [I like it because it’s] a dry oil rich in vitamins and essential fatty acids, plus it promotes skin repair and smooths wrinkles without any greasy residue.
I use Sunflower Oil in my cleansing gel-oil and exfoliating facial polish. It is pressed from the seeds of the sunflower or Helianthus annus and is a natural emollient with a very high vitamin E content, which is crucial in the prevention of UV damage to the skin. It is a great carrier oil and has healing and moisturising properties—it’s particularly effective at soothing irritation, reducing redness, and helping protect the skin from environmental aggressors.
My cleansing gel-oil also contains Apricot Kernel Oil, which is pressed from the large seeds of apricots. This nutrient-rich oil containing vitamins E, A, and essential fatty acids, has moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties. It is effective at keeping skin smooth, supple and healthy.
Do you have favorite carrier oils?
I do. [Rich in antioxidants] Grapeseed Oil.
What is the best way to store all-natural skincare products?
In the fridge, I guess! If it’s all natural, it has to be used within three days of opening.
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