12 of the Best Oil Cleansers for Balanced Skin

SKIN CARE REVIEWS

01.28.22DISCLAIMER

Face washing is the cornerstone of any skincare routine but unfortunately, many traditional cleansers strip the skin of natural oils that protect the lipid layer, resulting in dryness, flakiness, and irritation. It can also exacerbate acne by causing the skin to produce even more oil as a self-defense mechanism — which, in turn, results in more blemishes and clogged pores. The easy solution to this dilemma is to start using the best oil cleanser. 

Contrary to what you may think, everyone can use an oil cleanser — even if you’re looking for a face wash for oily skin or cleansing oil for acne. Oil cleansers remove excess sebum, unclog blocked pores and efficiently remove all traces of grime and makeup without causing irritation. You could say this type of cleanser doubles as an oil makeup remover, too. 

Related: Best Face Washes

If an oil cleanser is a new concept to you, not to worry. Here at the Derm Review, we’ve reviewed hundreds of products with a scientific lens to ensure you’re creating a skincare routine that’s safe and effective. Ahead, 12 of the best oil cleansers all skin types can get on board with. 

Best Oil Cleanser: The List 

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $29

Dermalogica PreCleanse Oil, $47

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil, $32

La Mer Cleansing Oil, $95

Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, $48

Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil, $15.99

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil, $31

Caudalie VINOCLEAN Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil, $28

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Oil, $50

SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil, $70

Bobbi Brown Soothing Face Cleanser Oil, $50

Erno Laszlo Sensitive Cleansing Oil, $58

What are the Best Skin Care Products of 2022?

The Science Behind an Oil Cleanser 

The basic premise behind using oils to cleanse skin is that like attracts like (oil absorbs oil, after all). Meaning using oils to wash your face will help remove the excess oil on your skin in addition to binding to dirt and removing it without damaging the skin barrier — but won’t cause excessive dryness as many conventional cleansers can. These formulas often contain sulfates that can be harsh on the skin — especially sensitive skin — leading to breakouts

Oil cleansers act as solvents, ingredients that dissolve comparable substances from a more scientific perspective. When massaged into the skin, a cleansing oil for the face lifts and dissolves oils (sebum), pollutants, and makeup without stripping your skin’s microbiome — the delicate balance of bacteria that naturally lives on your skin. 

Over-cleansing with harsh surfactants found in some cleansers may remove harmful bacteria but also eliminate the good bacteria. When your skin’s microbiome is thrown off balance, it frequently leads to more breakouts. So, if you’re looking for a cleanser for acne or a cleanser for oily skin, the best oil cleanser will help keep your microbiome balanced and acne at bay. Of course, it also doubles as an oil-based makeup remover.

Adding good oils to your skin also helps counter your skin’s sebum (oil). When your skin is stripped of its natural oils, it produces more to compensate for the loss.

How to Choose the Best Oil-Based Cleanser

Not all face oils are created equal. Cleansing oils should only be formulated with high-quality plant-based oils. However, not all cleansing oils are recommended for every skin type. 

  • Oily and Acne-Prone: If you have oily and acne-prone skin, it is recommended that you look for a face wash for oily skin or cleansing oil for acne that contains grapeseed, argan, lavender, or coconut oils. These are lighter oils that won’t have any adverse effects on oily skin, such as exacerbating acne or clogging pores.If you have acne or combination skin, look for an oil-based cleanser with astringent properties, such as tree oil, peppermint oil, or rosehip oil. These oils have a natural drying and tightening effect.If you’re terrified of adding more oil to your oily skin, track your skin during a two-week trial of oil cleansing. By the end of that period, you should notice less natural oil production, which will give you the confidence to continue using the product.
  • Dry and Mature: If you have dry or dehydrated skin, heavier oils like avocado, jojoba, or sunflower are highly nourishing and hydrating. While there’s currently little research on oil cleansing, a small study found that cleansing oil was good for dry, mature skin.
  • Normal or Sensitive: If your skin is sensitive or normal, calming and soothing oils like camellia seed, almond, and rosemary are recommended to prevent irritation. In general, you should also avoid any sensitizing fragrances if you have sensitive skin.

How to Use a Cleansing Oil for the Face 

It seems straightforward, but there are actually two methods of oil cleansing:

  1. The first oil cleansing method is simple. With cleansed hands, apply the oil to dry skin and massage it in circular motions all over your face for a minute or two. Next, use a clean, warm, and wet washcloth to remove the oil, makeup, and other impurities gently. Gently pat your skin dry and continue with the rest of your skincare routine.
  2. The second oil cleansing method (popular in K-beauty routines) involves doing the first method and following it up with a second cleanse — also known as double-cleansing. This ensures all of the oil from the first cleanse has been removed. Use a gentle and mild non-oil cleanser for your second cleanse. Gently pat your skin dry and continue with the rest of your skincare routine.

The double cleansing method can be perfect for those who have oily skin, as it will ensure all traces of oil are removed while balancing the skin.

It’s generally recommended to oil cleanse only once a day at night, so your skin is hydrated before bed. If your skin does break out after an oil cleanse, you may want to adopt the double cleansing method to remove all the oil thoroughly. Of course, if your skin breaks out too much from this cleansing method, it simply may not be the right choice for you. Those with dry or combination skin are ideal candidates for oil cleansers and the oil cleansing method.

Best Oil Cleanser: The List 

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, $29
This popular cleansing oil (one bottle is sold every 10 seconds!) features organic olive oil to help soften and fight against free radical damage and rosemary leaf to calm and soothe. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil removes excess oil, makeup, dirt, and other pore-clogging impurities with its water-soluble formula. Infused with vitamin E, it nourishes the skin while rinsing completely clean, never leaving a greasy residue. It’s also considered an excellent oil makeup remover.

Dermalogica PreCleanse Oil, $47
Dermalogica’s deep cleansing oil helps remove impurities, waterproof makeup, SPF, and excess sebum. It features borage seed, kukui, and apricot oils that help nourish, protect and soften. The brand recommends following this cleansing step with the Dermalogica foaming cleanser.

Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil, $32
Kiehl’s lightweight cleansing oil for normal to dry skin types effectively removes impurities and makeup while addressing dryness, dullness, and unevenness. It features lavender and evening primrose oils and squalane to improve elasticity and hydration. The formula soothes and comforts skin and prepares it for nighttime replenishment. It’s ophthalmologist-tested and non-comedogenic, making it an ideal oil cleanser for oily skin. 

La Mer Cleansing Oil, $95
Yes, even La Mer has a cleansing oil, which underscores how popular the oil cleansing method has become. This particular product features marine oils (in addition to sesame seed oil and eucalyptus leaf oil) and pearl powders to effectively lift away makeup and impurities while keeping skin soft and supple.

Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, $48
The Japanese camellia oil used in Tatcha’s cleansing oil contains A, B, D, and E and essential fatty acids like omega-3 and omega-6. This formula provides a very nourishing experience that leaves skin feeling silky smooth while helping to improve texture over time.

Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil, $15.99
The great thing about the Burt’s Bees Cleansing Oil is that it works while also being affordable. The formula features coconut and argan oils to gently strip the skin of all impurities while keeping it hydrated without leaving behind any oily residue.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil, $31
Taking the day off feels so satisfying, and this option from Clinique helps you do just that with its gentle and hydrating formula. It’s great for stubborn, waterproof makeup as well as pollutants and the build-up that occurs as you simply go about your day. This formula is recommended for all skin types.

Caudalie VINOCLEAN Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil, $28
Caudalie’s cleansing oil features 100% naturally derived plant oils, including sweet almond oil, castor, grapeseed, and sunflower. Its oil texture transforms into a milk on contact with water for easy and fast rinsing without leaving a greasy film on the skin. This antioxidant-rich cleansing oil nourishes and instantly dissolves makeup, including waterproof. It’s enriched with castor oil to enhance lash growth without leaving a greasy finish.

The brand’s cleansers are now named VINOCLEAN, meaning they are eco-responsible, vegan, and highly natural.

AmorePacific Treatment Cleansing Oil, $50
An excellent cleansing oil for all skin types, this cleansing oil from AmorePacific features green tea seed oil, babassu oil, and coconut oil. It helps remove all impurities, dirt, grime, and makeup without stripping the skin of its natural, vital oils. It also features green tea leaf extract to help boost hydration.

SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil, $70
Here’s another cleansing oil that is great for all skin types. It helps address large pores, dryness, dullness, and uneven texture. Like many SK-II products, this cleansing oil features Pitera as an active ingredient. This key ingredient is a blend of vitamins, organic acids, minerals, and amino acids that work together to inject the skin with youthfulness and radiance.

Bobbi Brown Soothing Face Cleanser Oil, $50
Kukui seed oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and jojoba seed oil are the main oils in this oil cleanser from Bobbi Brown. The kukui seed oil offers hydrating benefits, while the other three help cleanse and remove impurities while calming the skin.

Erno Laszlo Sensitive Cleansing Oil, $58
Although this oil-based makeup remover is ideal for all skin types, this Erno Laszlo cleansing oil features soothing plant extracts to calm skin and reduce irritation making it suitable for sensitive skin. Ingredients include moringa oil, jojoba oil, and calendula to help reduce the appearance of blemishes. Green tea works as an antioxidant to combat free radical damage. It’s also an excellent cleanser for acne. 

Oil Cleanser: The Bottom Line 

Contrary to what you may think, everyone can use an oil cleanser — even if you’re looking for a face wash for oily skin or a cleansing oil for acne. Oil cleansers remove excess sebum, unclog blocked pores and efficiently remove all traces of grime and makeup without irritating. You could say this type of cleanser doubles as an oil makeup remover, too. 

The basic premise behind using oils to cleanse skin is that like attracts like (oil absorbs oil, after all). Meaning using oils to cleanse will help remove the excess oil on your skin in addition to binding to dirt and removing it without damaging the skin barrier — but won’t cause excessive dryness as many conventional cleansers can. These formulas often contain sulfates that can be harsh on the skin, especially sensitive skin.

It’s generally recommended to oil cleanse only once a day at night, so your skin is hydrated before bed. If your skin does break out after an oil cleanse, you may want to adopt the double cleansing method to remove all the oil thoroughly. 

What’s the best oil cleanser, in your opinion? Let us know in the comments below!

 

FAQs
Most dermatologists recommend oil cleansing because it balances all skin types, encouraging a healthy microbiome, less acne, and a glowing complexion. An oil cleanser also doubles as an oil makeup remover to sweep away even the most stubborn cosmetics.
All skin types can use a cleansing oil, especially one formulated to be rinseable, eliminating the fear of leaving behind an oily residue. At the end of the day, whether or not you should use a cleansing oil comes down to personal preference and how much makeup you wear.
While all skin types can use a cleansing oil, they’re not for everyone. They can cause clogged pores, breakouts, and whiteheads (milia.)
On average, people spend less than 20 seconds cleansing — but that’s not long enough. You should massage your oil cleanser into your skin using circular motions for approximately 1-2 minutes to thoroughly remove dirt and reap the benefits from the ingredients.
While it’s a matter of preference, you can occasionally massage your cleansing oil onto your skin before getting in the shower. The steam will help activate the product while opening up your pores. Before exiting the shower, simply rinse all of the oil off — use a washcloth if you have makeup on.
As the name suggests, this popular social media cleansing technique requires 15 minutes of your time. The theory is that by massaging the oil into your skin for an extended period, you’ll be able to dislodge dirt, oil, and the clogged pores that lead to blackheads and, eventually, breakouts. The skin is left clearer and glowing, thanks to increased circulation.

Sources:
The Human Skin Microbiome,” Nature Reviews Microbiology.
The effect of a daily facial cleanser for normal to oily skin on the skin barrier of subjects with acne,” National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information.
A Study on Skin Conditions by Water-Soluble Cleansers,” Asian Journal of Beauty and Cosmetology.

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