In this day and age, curating a skincare routine is essentially an Olympic sport. It can take years to perfect, and one tiny misstep can derail years of progress. And when you finally hit peak glow? The feeling is euphoric. Nothing can bring you down. But there’s no ‘I’ in team. Behind the scenes, there’s a tonne of experts dishing their tips on high performance: facialists, dermatologists, strangers on the internet. Social media is another big one – and that’s why when The Cut posted a Big Little Lies specific skincare meme outlining facial oil as a step that comes after moisturiser, the internet lost its mind. Seemingly, they lived and breathed by the idea that oil comes before moisturiser. It was Earth-shattering, as if they’d just found out Santa wasn’t real. Chaos in the comments section.

On that note, it wasn’t just readers involved in the turmoil. Brands had even been pulled into the mess, tagged by confused customers. Australian skincare brand Go-To weighed in about its Face Hero oil (they stand by before moisturiser as a general rule as far as the brand is concerned), whereas Vintner’s Daughter chimed in, explaining that its cult oil is a moisturiser, but not a hydrator. Confused? Us too. But hang in there.

The Cut defended itself against the confusion, asking esteemed dermatologist Elizabeth Tanzi and celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas (who also has her own skincare line) to break down face oils and how they work. The general consensus was that oils (like rosehip, argan, avocado, or sunflower) do not ‘moisturise’ the skin, they only protect said moisture levels. See a condensed explainer here:

Oils are both occlusive and emollient, so they keep ingredients in and prevent moisture evaporation. But oils aren’t humectants, meaning they don’t actually draw moisture into the skin. So if your skin lacks moisture, or water, it’s A: Dehydrated, and B: You need a humectant like hyaluronic acid to ramp up the water content. Next should come an oil to keep it all safe and bouncy. See? That’s why The Cut made an expert-endorsed point of placing oils after moisturisers.

Of course, it really depends what skincare products you use, and the ingredients they contain in relation to the above. Your skin type and condition also come into play. If your skin is perfectly hydrated, you’ll find no issue using only a face oil, because your skin doesn’t actually lack any water the humectants are so eagerly drawing in.

Despite the contention, if you skin looks and feels the way you want it to, there’s no need to throw everything you own in the bin and hail a cab heading in the direction of the nearest Mecca Cosmetica. But if you do feel like you’re not your most-hydrated, nourished, moisturised self, there could certainly be some merit in switching things around. At the end of the day, you could read every skincare forum in the world, but everyone is different, and the process of trial and error is often the bottom line.

The Humectants

Drunk Elephant B-Hydra Intensive Hydration Serum, $80. SHOP NOW

Dr. Barbara Sturm Hyaluronic Serum, $453. SHOP NOW

The occlusives

Trilogy Certified Organic Rosehip Oil, $25. SHOP NOW

Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum, $270. SHOP NOW