- Cleansing oils are designed to remove makeup, oil and other debris.
- Oil-based cleansers are gentler on the skin than other types of cleansers.
- Some cleansing oils can clog your pores and increase the risk of breakouts.
If you are new to cleansing oils, the idea of applying oil to your face may sound counterintuitive to maintaining clean and healthy skin. However, oil-based cleansers do have the potential to improve your complexion and offer a number of advantages over conventional cleansers.
What Is a Cleansing Oil?
A cleansing oil is a product designed to remove makeup, excess oil and other contaminants from the surface of your skin. It helps keep your skin clean and improves your complexion without disrupting your body’s natural balance of oil.
Most major skin care brands offer at least one oil-based cleanser. These cleansers are typically formulated using a mixture of oils such as argan, rice bran, rosehip, camellia and more.
DIY oil cleansers
DIY oil cleansers are usually made with a blend of oils such as castor oil, jojoba oil and hemp seed oil, and may be supplemented with essential oils.
Benefits of Oil Cleansing
Like traditional cleansers, oil cleansing is a simple way to keep your pores clear and free from debris. However, unlike typical foaming cleansers which dry the skin, oil cleansers are an ideal method for balancing oil levels for all skin types. Some of the key benefits of oil cleanses are:
- Ease of use: a straightforward process that only takes a couple of minutes
- Keeps skin clean: binds with dirt and oil to prevent debris from clogged pores
- Retains natural oils: cleanses skin without stripping away natural, beneficial oils
- Moisturizes the skin: many plant-based oil cleansers are rich in fatty acids, which keep skin plump and hydrated
Double cleansing is the process of using one type of cleanser and immediately following with another type. This typically involves a first cleanse using oil or an oil-based cleanser to remove any makeup or other debris, followed by a water-soluble cleanser to provide a deeper cleanse.
In theory, this process is thought to provide better results than a single cleanse, which must remove impurities and clean the skin. However, there is little evidence to suggest that double cleansing is necessary—for most, a single cleanse should manage both tasks effectively.
That said, for those that regularly wear a heavy amount of makeup or who have very oily skin, a double cleanse can help ensure the removal of all debris and excess oil from their face.
How do Oil-based Cleansers Work?
Oil-based cleansers have lipophilic properties, meaning that they naturally dissolve other types of oil. This includes the sebum produced naturally by the body, as well as the oils found in beauty and skin care products. An oil-based cleanser can draw these oils out and dissolve them, after which they can be easily washed away.
Oil-based cleansers vs. water-based cleansers
Traditional water-soluble cleansers rely primarily on surfactants to clean your skin. Surfactants are compounds that reduce the surface tension between liquids and solids, which allows you to rinse off surface debris using water. While surfactants help keep your skin clean, they can also disrupt the natural biome of your skin, which may lead to dryness and irritation.
Some oil-based cleansers also contain a low level of surfactants, however, they play a secondary role to the oil’s own cleansing properties. As a result of relying less on surfactants, oil-based cleansers are generally more gentle on the skin than water-based options.
Of note is that many associate an effective cleanse with the bubbly, white lather of water-based cleansers, however oil-based cleansers do not lather up when applied. This does not mean they are less effective.
Should You Be Using an Oil-Based Cleanser?
Whether or not you should use an oil-based cleanser depends on the needs of your skin and your makeup habits. Oil cleansing is especially helpful for people who use a lot of heavy or long-lasting makeup, and anyone who wants to incorporate double cleansing into their daily routine.
While those with oily skin can benefit from the drying effects of traditional water-based cleansers, oil-based cleansers can also work to cleanse oily skin. Double cleansing is particularly useful for those with very oily skin as they can benefit from both the effects of water-based cleansers and the moisture balancing effects of oil-based cleansers.
Many people with sensitive skin can benefit from rosemary and camellia seed oil-based cleansers. These oils have a calming effect on skin that is prone to a variety of issues. They also hydrate the skin without causing irritation.
Those with sensitive skin and inflammatory skin conditions like rosacea should avoid cleansers with fragrances and simple alcohols.
How to Choose an Oil-Based Cleanser for Your Skin
For best results, it is important to choose an oil-based cleanser that suits the specific needs of your skin. This will depend largely on how oily your skin is, which varies based on your skin type. Other skin concerns such as acne can also play a role in determining which cleansing oils are right for you.
People with oily skin should avoid pore-blocking oils such as avocado, coconut and olive oil. Instead, choose oil-based cleansers that contain tea tree or peppermint oils, which have natural astringent properties.
For those with dry skin, look for nourishing oils such as argan, camellia, or shea oil, which help keep the skin hydrated and moisturized. Avoid lemon and tea tree oils, as they can be overly drying on the skin and are therefore better suited for those with oily skin.
Those with combination skin face the challenge of finding a cleansing oil that helps balance dry and oily patches. Many people report good results from using sunflower oil and vitamin E, which help remove impurities while maintaining hydration.
If you have acne-prone skin, choose an oil-based cleanser that is free of common irritants and acne triggers. For example, many oil-based cleansers use mineral oil, which is believed to clog pores and cause breakouts. You should also be wary of fragrances, which can irritate skin, cause inflammation and increase the risk of a breakout.
How To Use an Oil-Based Cleanser
Oil cleansing should be the first step in your daily skin care routine and can be safely used twice a day.
- Wash your hands and dry them thoroughly.
- Apply a few drops of oil to your hands.
- Gently massage the oil into dry skin, paying close attention to the T-zone.
- Wet your hands with warm water and continue massaging the oil into your face; the cleanser will begin to turn a creamy white as it removes impurities.
- Rinse the oil off with warm water.
- Pat skin dry.
You may also follow with a water-based cleanser if you wish to double cleanse.
Oil Cleansing at Home
While homemade mixtures can be effective, it may require some trial and error to find the blend that works for your specific skin. Some people are able to achieve good results with castor oil and olive oil; others find these ingredients too heavy on the skin.
Some of the best ingredients for at-home oil cleansing are castor, hazelnut and sunflower oil. These and other cleansing oils can be combined in different proportions to suit your particular needs.
Oil cleanser recipe for oily skin
When selecting ingredients for your oil cleanser, it is important to be aware of which oils are comedogenic, as these are more likely to block pores and cause breakouts. Oily skin is more prone to comedonal acne than other skin types, meaning that an extra degree of caution should go into ingredient selection.
A hazelnut and sunflower oil cleanse offers several benefits for oily skin. Both ingredients are unlikely to clog pores or cause skin irritation. Each also offers unique and complimentary benefits.
Hazelnut oil is known for its ability to fight acne and reduce the size of pores. It contains tannins that act as an astringent agent to both cleanse and help dry oily skin. Hazelnut oil also offers a small amount of UV protection to help guard your skin against sun damage.
Sunflower oil fights both acne and wrinkles, making it an ideal addition to this recipe. When choosing your sunflower oil, avoid hi-oleic options as these oils were designed to be high in monounsaturated fats and are more likely to block pores than traditional sunflower oil.
- 1 tbsp of hazelnut oil
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil
Combine the two oils in a bowl.
Store any remaining oil in a small resealable bottle in the fridge; discard after 1 week.
Oil cleanser recipe for dry skin
When making an oil cleanser for dry skin, the key to success is selecting ingredients that help to moisturize the skin and care for the skin’s natural moisture barrier. A grapeseed and lavender oil cleanse provides a complete dry skin treatment.
Grapeseed oil contains vitamin E which not only moisturizes the skin but also tightens pores.
It contains a high amount of linoleic acid which helps to form ceramides, a lipid that is a highly effective part of the skin’s moisture barrier.
Lavender essential oil is a useful cleansing agent with both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. This can help soothe inflamed or irritated skin, reducing redness.
- 2 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 1 tsp lavender essential oil
Store any remaining oil in a dark and sealable bottle and place in a cool dry area at a temperature of 50°F (10°C). While this cleanse may be effective for several months, it is best used soon after combining.
Oil cleanser recipe for combination skin
Oil cleansers for combination skin need to address both the dry and oily areas of the face. A castor oil and rosehip oil cleanse achieves this as each ingredient focuses one aspect of combination skin.
Castor oil improves the skin cell’s natural turnover rate, helping to remove dead skin. This benefit, together with its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties makes this oil an ideal acne fighting agent.
It is worth noting that castor oil has strong skin drying properties and should always be used in a diluted form or mixed with another oil.
Rosehip oil is a moisturizing agent that also helps to fight acne. Applied topically, it bolster the body’s natural collagen production which works to counteract the effects of sun damage, skin discoloration and the visible signs of aging.
- 1 tbsp castor oil
- 3 tbsp rosehip oil
Combine the two oils in a bowl.
Store any remaining oil in a dark and sealable bottle and place in a cool dry area at a temperature of around 55°F (10–15°C). While this cleanse may be effective for up to 6 months, it is best used soon after combining.
Alternatives to Oil Cleansing
While many people enjoy the effects of oil cleansing, there are also other options for maintaining clean, healthy skin.
Water-based cleansers work by rinsing away impurities from the outermost layer of skin. They can vary significantly in terms of ingredients, efficacy and harshness.
Featuring a creamy texture and strong moisturizing properties, cream cleansers are formulated to be gentler and more hydrating than your average face wash.
Face wipes are designed to quickly remove makeup and other contaminants from the surface of your skin. However, face wipes tend to leave a lot of residue behind, which can lead to clogged pores and breakouts. In addition, many face wipes contain allergens that can irritate the skin.
Available in a variety of formulas and consistencies, clay masks help draw out oils and impurities from deep within your pores. Clay masks can be used once or twice a week, although they may be too harsh for people with sensitive skin.
Oil-based cleansers are an effective way to remove oil and other unwanted debris from facial skin. They are usually gentler on the skin than other types of cleansers and are suitable for a wide range of skin types.
You have the option of choosing to use only a cleansing oil or adding another step and double cleansing.
You can also make your own homemade cleansing oil with natural ingredients that are cost-effective and readily available. The unique properties of each oil allows you to formulate a recipe designed to address your specific skin concerns.
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