Oil cleansers continue to shatter former beauty belief systems, and this long-trusted Korean beauty product and method has suddenly gone viral.
Online, you’ll find countless skin experts and beauty gurus on TikTok and beyond urging the masses to try the oil cleansing method as the first step in their face-washing routine. Many who’ve added this step to their beauty routine have never looked back, present company included.
At first, I was hesitant to rub oil all over my face. But it didn’t take me long to realize I should’ve been double cleansing all along. If you’re not double cleansing before bedtime, I highly recommend you try it. “Essentially, the double cleanse aims to clean your skin as thoroughly as possible by using the two kinds of cleansers to get rid of the different kinds of dirt on your face. Your face is getting cleaner than if you used only one cleanser that might not fully take off the makeup or sweat or SPF,” per Vox.
Here’s what you need to know about cleansing oil, how it works, and why you should add it to your skincare routine immediately.
What Is Cleansing Oil?
Cleansing oils are oil-based face washes designed to help remove makeup, debris, and excess oil. That’s right, it takes oil to fight oil! Unlike traditional face washes, oil cleansers work with the good oils in your skin to help remove bad oils.
As noted by one dermatologist for the Huffington Post, “Some of these oils can either be naturally produced sebum or those from makeup and other products. When you rinse it all off, the ‘good oil’ takes those ‘bad oils’ and dirt along with it.”
Formulated with lightweight botanical oils, these incredible cleansers are gentle and effective. Most notably, oil cleansers are able to remove the grime that collects on the skin’s surface throughout the day without stripping it.
How Do Cleansing Oils Work?
Oil cleansers work differently than traditional cleansers (which cleanse primarily with surfactants). Yes, some cleansing oils contain surfactants, but that’s only one part of what they can do.
Traditional cleansers are designed to break down oil. In contrast, cleansing oils work by the laws of attraction. Cleaning oil works by drawing out the oil and impurities that lead to congested and clogged pores.
When massaged into the skin, cleansing oils extract the build-up on the surface, and then the “bad oils” are fully rinsed away with water. The best oil cleansers with the most skin-nourishing ingredients also deposit a dose of hydration. No matter what they’re made with, oil cleansers work by combining surfactants and emulsifiers, which allows them to lift the dirt from the skin and more easily combine with water.
Due to their unique formulation, cleaning oils are able to both moisturize skin and dissolve surface substances at the same time. Oils are lipophilic, meaning they’re naturally attracted to other oils. This makes cleansing oils a great makeup remover. They can quickly dissolve excess oil and makeup while soothing and softening the skin.
Is The Oil Cleansing Method Okay For All Skin Types?
Believe it or not, all skin types can add cleansing oils to their skincare routine. Just be sure the oil you choose has been formulated to be easily rinsed away with water so that no oily residue is left behind.
If you’re unsure if a cleansing oil is something you want or need, here are two things to think about: your face wash preferences and how much long-wearing makeup or water-resistant sunscreen you’re wearing daily. Quality cleansing oil is able to help break down even the most stubborn makeup and sunscreen.
Because of its unique properties, it doesn’t take much to get the job done, which will help you stop scrubbing off your makeup for too long and with too much force.
No matter your skin type or skin concerns, opt for a fragrance-free cleansing oil. This is especially important for those with sensitive, redness-prone, or blemish-prone skin. With that said, many beauty experts note that cleansing oils are best used as one step in a cleansing routine (usually the first in a double cleanse) and not the only step.
There is one exception to this rule. Cleansing oils made from a single oil or oil blend that don’t include surfactants or emulsifiers are typically not recommended for combination to oily or blemish-prone skin, as they can often make those problems worse.
The Benefits of Using Cleansing Oil
The primary benefits of an oil cleanser are simple and easy to see once you’ve tried it. They quickly, easily, and gently remove all types of makeup and sunscreens, leaving your skin soft and supple without stripping it.
As noted by WebMD, “Oil cleansing works because the oil you use to cleanse with bonds to the oils and dirt on your skin. The oil also acts as a barrier to protect your skin, and keeps it soft and moisturized. Traditional facial cleansers can strip the skin of all bacteria, good and bad.”
They also can be paired with any other type of cleanser and work best when used as the first step in the double cleanse method. Adding an extra step (and washing your face twice in a row) might sound tedious, but skin experts say it’s often worth it with this one, especially if you wear makeup regularly.
According to beauty gurus and dermatologists, the most effective cleansing oils contain non-fragrant plant oils. So look for something with glycerides (fatty acids). These skin-boosting multitaskers work by removing what has no business staying on your face overnight while replenishing your skin and giving it a boost of hydration.
Per Sonya Dakar, “facial oils typically contain essential fatty acids (Omegas and others), vitamins, and antioxidants with important skin benefits. Facial oils mimic the natural sebum production of our skin, which in turn helps balance our own oil production.”
By putting oil onto your face, you’ll be lifting excess sebum, cleaning out clogged pores (like blackheads and whiteheads), and removing pollutants, dead skin cells, makeup, and sunscreen. If you have a makeup remover, you’ve likely noticed it contains oil, and that’s due to its powerful properties and ability to pull from your pores what you don’t need while leaving behind what you want.
Even If You Have Oily Skin, Don’t Hesitate To Try It
Slathering oil all over your face might sound like a very bad idea if you already struggle with an overly greasy complexion. But not all oil is bad. Your skin needs it to stay balanced, after all. Much of the time, traditional cleansers can lead to irritation and excessive dryness. In turn, your skin goes into overdrive, attempting to replenish the oils it has lost. In contrast, oil cleansing can help balance out your skin and maintain proper hydration while creating a fresh canvas for your traditional cleanser to do its job better than ever before.
Since adolescence, blackheads have been a huge problem for me. I have combination, sensitive, and occasionally oily skin. It seemed that no matter what I did, I would break out in my T-zone. My pores would be consistently congested, and for a while, I pretty much gave up trying to fix the issue.
Adding a cleansing oil (and doing the double cleanse method nightly) has improved my skin in ways I never really believed were possible. Had I known how well cleansing oil was going to work, I would’ve started using it much sooner. Lesson learned.
When it comes to upping your skincare game, investing in a great oil cleanser can make all the difference. These days, my skin is smoother and more balanced than it’s ever been. Most notably, my pores are significantly cleaner. When I do my double cleanse at night, my skin feels fully cleansed without feeling parched.
On the occasion I skip the oil cleanse and just use my traditional face wash on its own, I can definitely tell that my skin isn’t nearly as clean. My pores often pay the biggest price. Using cleansing oil has also helped with periodic inflammation, reducing any redness and soothing my skin.
Overall, cleansing oils can help your skin stay healthier. Shop around and find a cleansing oil that not only cleans but deeply hydrates and includes nourishing botanicals. Cleansing oils that moisturize not only help keep your skin soft but can also minimize the signs of aging and improve your skin’s elasticity.
It’s also important to protect and replenish the natural lipid layer of your skin. The right cleansing oil can help you do just that. Cleansing oils can help you keep your skin barrier healthy by protecting the natural lipid layer, keeping the “good” bacteria alive and in place.
Find an oil cleanser that feeds your skin the nutrients, antioxidants, fatty acids, and vitamins it craves, and discover just how healthy your complexion can be.