Cleansing Oils for Melting Away Makeup, Sunscreen, and Dirt
If you have oily or acne-prone skin, the concept of slathering on any oil-based products like cleansing oils probably doesn't make much sense. But we promise there's some logic here. Thanks to a little concept called double cleansing, the habit of starting your routine with a removes-it-all oil has gone from a niche Korean skin-care step to full-on mainstream practice. And yes, it's something that anyone, regardless of skin type, can get into.
'Since oil dissolves oil, they are ideally suited to be used as cleansers', Joshua Zeichner, director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, tells ishonest. 'Cleansing oils usually contain an oil base, along with a traditional skin-cleansing ingredient called a surfactant, which helps bind to dirt on the skin and remove it without disrupting the skin barrier.' Just make sure you work them onto dry skin, so it breaks down waterproof makeup, sunscreen, and dirt, before rinsing off with lukewarm water or gently wiping it away with a soft muslin cloth.
And unlike traditional makeup-removing wipes (or even micellar waters), cleansing oils are some of the gentlest products that will still ensure every last trace of waterproof mascara and foundation is removed. No tugging required. In fact, you can give yourself a nice, relaxing massage with a cleansing oil which is a perfect way to end a long, exhausting day.
While cleansing oils don't stay on your face for too long, it doesn't hurt that most are infused with moisturizing ingredients, like jojoba seed oil, apricot kernel oil, and centella asiatica extract, which actively nourish skin while giving it a deep clean. Below, check out 21 of our favorite cleansing oils, as recommended by board-certified dermatologists and ishonest editors alike.
Uoma by Sharon C. Go Awf Au Naturel Cleansing Oil
The Uoma by Sharon C. Go Awf Au Naturel Cleansing Oil transforms into a milky emulsion as you gently massage it into your skin, creating a highly pleasant and relaxing experience. A blend of nourishing olive, castor, and grapeseed oils breaks down every last bit of makeup without stripping the skin. What more could you ask for? Our editors are fans of the gentle, lychee-scented cleanser, too.
Avne XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil
Avne's XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil is a favorite of New York- based board-certified dermatologist Claire Chang, who says that it leaves the skin feeling restored and soft. She calls attention to the brand's mineral-rich Thermal Spring Water, as well as glycerin and omega-6 (a fatty acid found in linoleic acid that promotes a healthy barrier), which all work together to calm and nourish your complexion after a long-wearing day of sunscreen and makeup.
Laneige Cream Skin Milk Oil Cleanser
New York-based board-certified dermatologist David Kim doesn't personally use cleaning oils but often recommends Laneige's Cream Skin Milk Oil Cleanser to patients. Spiked with antioxidant-rich white leaf tea extract, he says the gentle milky cleanser efficiently removes makeup and is 'well tolerated even among patients with sensitive skin', he notes, nodding to the positive feedback he's gotten. To top it off, meadowfoam seed and jojoba oils lock in moisture, so your skin will feel super soft even after the cleanser is washed off.
PCA Skin Daily Cleansing Oil
Chang also recommends PCA Skin's Daily Cleansing Oil, which she says 'gently dissolves impurities while repairing and brightening the skin.' It's formulated with moisturizing-as-heck oils (like grapeseed, sweet almond, and soybean) that never leave behind a filmy residue. All you can expect is baby-soft, pampered skin.
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Mario Badescu Cleansing Oil
Mario Badescu's first-ever Cleansing Oil works like a charm when it comes to expelling makeup and dirt. The surprisingly lightweight formula, which is infused with soothing rice bran and evening primrose oils, washes away easily and completely. And it's reasonably priced, to boot.
Amorepacific Treatment Cleansing Oil
The luxurious Amorepacific Treatment Cleansing Oil might cost a pretty penny but there's no denying that it feels like silk gliding across your face as you work it in. Green tea seed, babassu palm, and coconut oil handle most of the legwork (aka breaking down makeup and impurities), but green tea leaf extract, ginseng root, and white birch extract hydrate and brighten your complexion. It's safe to say this K-beauty offering checks off all the boxes.
Cocokind Oil to Milk Cleanser
What makes the Cocokind Oil to Milk Cleanser stand out is that it's formulated with fermented oat, which supports your microbiome and consequentially the balance of good bacteria in your skin. Add a heaping of sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil, and glycerin, and you've got yourself one incredibly moisturizing formula that emulsifies into a milky texture once it comes into contact with water. After your cleansing is all said and done, you'll be left with a dewy and supple complexion as you deserve.
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
Housed in a can't-miss midnight blue bottle, Kiehl's lavender-scented Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil is the perfect way to wind down from the day and soothe your skin, while completely dissolving dirt, oil, and makeup. Hydration-boosting squalane and evening primrose oil ensure that skin doesn't feel raw and stripped.
Cl de Peau Beaut Cleansing Cream Oil
While Cl de Peau's Beaut Cleansing Cream Oil is applied like any other product on this list (aka onto dry skin), it actually starts off as a cream that shifts into a lush oil that leaves skin feeling impossibly supple and smooth. A dream team consisting of hyaluronic acid, golden silk essence, Japanese pearl, theanine, and argan oil escalates hydration, radiance, and overall clarity.
Sulwhasoo Gentle Cleansing Oil
The first thing you should know about Sulwhasoo's Gentle Cleansing Oil is that it won a 2019 ishonest Best of Beauty Award. Aside from that, take ease in knowing that skin-loving ingredients, like coix lacryma-jobi seed, tangerine peel extract, and apricot kernel oil, will gently clear out gunk from your pores. Your face will feel oh-so-soft, and all of the day's makeup and buildup will be totally gone.
Hanskin Cleansing Oil PHA
'It's a myth that people with oily skin cannot use oil-based cleansers, as they should not leave the skin feeling heavy or greasy', Zeichner says. Keep pores clear and ward off breakouts with an oil cleanser that also contains a chemical exfoliant, like Hanskin's PHA-laced (that's polyhydroxy acid, which is also found in Glossier's Solution) formula.
Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil
Cleverly named, Clinique's Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil does just what it says it will that is, dissolve all traces of makeup and debris. This glycerin- infused oil glides off with water as easily as it's applied, and no residue is left in its wake.
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Mara Chia + Moringa Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil
Take a look at the ingredients list for Mara's Chia + Moringa Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil, and you'll see that you (thankfully) recognize most of the ingredients, including jojoba seed oil at the top spot, squalane, and aloe extract. What's more, this multitasking cleanser contains naturally derived enzymes (from payaya, pineapple, pumpkin, and grapefruit) to gently exfoliate dead skin cells for an extra-brightening boost.
Epara Natural Cleansing Oil
Epara's Natural Cleansing Oil has amazing benefits that stretch beyond being a makeup remover. The elixir also naturally brightens skin and targets hyperpigmentation, thanks to licorice root and plankton extracts. A blend of oils like ylang-ylang, moringa, and marula helps soothe irritated skin and hydrates for that cloud-like softness.
Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil
You may already use coconut oil in its raw form in your routine to melt away makeup, but may we suggest stepping it up with Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil? The elixir combines coconut oil with argan oil to offer an intensely hydrating cleansing experience that doesn't leave any weird residue behind.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Japanese beauty brand DHC's Deep Cleansing Oil features olive oil as a hero ingredient the oleic acid from olive oil clings onto and removes makeup, pore- clogging oil, and even dead skin cells, while also conditioning your skin. In fact, DHC even has an Olive Concentrated Cleansing Oil. Work this beloved classic onto dry skin and then watch it emulsify beautifully with water.
The regular version is available in three sizes: one-ounce travel-friendly minis, 4.1 ounces, and 6.7 ounces (pictured above).
Dermalogica's no-frills PreCleanse has everything you would want from a cleansing oil. It whisks away dirt, makeup, and residual product with rice bran, while olive and vitamin E oils offer longer-term benefits like moisture retention and environmental protection.
Neutrogena Ultra Light Face Cleansing Oil
We love a drugstore skin-care find that gives us results. Bonus points when it's a noncomedogenic formula like Neutrogena's Ultra Light Face Cleansing Oil. This lightweight, non-greasy liquid clocks in at an under-$10 price point and, like its fan-favorite makeup-removing wipes, is a one-way ticket to clean, uncongested skin.
Kaike Melt Cleansing Oil
Kaike Melt Cleansing Oil contains a beautiful blend of certified organic oils antioxidant-rich grapeseed, apricot kernel, hemp seed, and castor oils that leaves your face feeling clean, balanced, and hydrated. Massage for a full minute to make sure every centimeter of your face is accounted for, and, you know, for relaxation purposes.
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