A Guide to Cleansing Oils: Unlocking the Benefits for Your Skin

We have been told for years that having perfectly clean skin is the ultimate goal and that the best way to achieve this feeling of cleanliness is with foaming cleansers. But cleaning oils have gained popularity and busted those myths. Oil cleaning may seem counterintuitive at first, but it offers numerous advantages over conventional cleansers. Read on to learn how cleansing oils can help your skin look and feel its best.

What is oil cleansing?

Oil cleansing is based on the concept that oil dissolves oil the best because it acts like a solvent. It attracts oil, dirt, pollution, sunscreen, makeup, and dead skin cells better than water-based cleansers. Even though it is a highly effective cleanser, it is gentle on the skin and all-natural. Oil cleansing is also safe for all skin types.

Benefits of oil cleansing

Oil cleansers offer many benefits beyond just cleansing the skin. Be sure to choose the right cleansing oil for your face based on what you are trying to achieve and your skin type. Choosing the wrong oil can cause skin problems.

The benefits of oil cleansing include:

  • Cleanse. As their name suggests, oil cleansers cleanse the skin effectively, removing oil, dirt, pollution, makeup, and sunscreen.
  • Hydrate. An added benefit of many cleansing oils is skin hydration. Some oils are better than others, so read the ingredients carefully.
  • Keep good bacteria. Because oil cleansers are gentle, they do not remove or disturb the skin's microbiome, which contains healthy bacteria. This good bacteria keep the bad bacteria under control to prevent acne breakouts.
  • Balance oil production. Since oil cleansing does not strip your skin of its natural oils, it prevents a rebound in excess production of oil that can occur with some water-based cleansers.
  • Unclog pores. Oil cleansers effectively pull dirt and oil from the pores to unclog them and ultimately prevent acne breakouts.
  • Promote good skin barrier function. The skin's lipid barrier is crucial to preventing dehydration by locking water inside the skin. It also forms a protective barrier around the body to prevent bacteria from entering and causing an infection.
  • Anti-aging. Some of the oils in oil cleansers have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect the skin from sun damage that leads to wrinkles and sagging skin.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties. There are some oils that also possess anti-inflammatory properties, which makes them ideal for people with sensitive skin or eczema. They will gently cleanse the skin while calming and soothing it.

How to select the right facial cleansing oil

It is important to choose the right cleansing oil for your skin to avoid causing any problems, like acne breakouts. With so many options on the market, it can feel like a daunting task.

By answering a few simple questions, you will be able to find the right oil for your skin like a pro:

  • Decide if you want a store-bought oil cleanser, which is easier to use because it is pre-made, or make one yourself.
  • Determine your skin type in order to select the correct oil. If you have oily skin, you do not want to use an oil that will clog your pores.
  • If you have any other goals, like reducing inflammation or slowing down aging, look for oils that can help with those as well.

What is the right oil for my skin?

Now that you have decided on an oil to use, choose cold-pressed, premium, organic oils that are suitable for your skin. It is not appropriate to use kitchen-grade oils on your skin. The best oils are plant-based.

Skin issue you want to addressOil that may help
Dry skinOlive, coconut, avocado, sunflower, or peanut oil
Sensitive skinJojoba or rose hip oil
Oily skinJojoba, argan, castor, marula, sunflower, grapeseed, safflower, or rose hip oil
AntioxidantOlive, grapeseed, soybean, or sesame oil
AntimicrobialGrapeseed, coconut, or soybean oil
Anti-inflammatoryOlive, coconut, argan, soybean, or sesame oil

How to use a cleansing oil

To ensure that your skin can handle the product, test a small area on your body before starting any cleansing oil. You can use it once a day at bedtime. It can take 2–3 weeks to see visible results.

Following the proper steps in the right order is important for success:

  1. Place about two teaspoons of the oil in your hand.
  2. Massage the oil into dry facial skin with your fingertips for about 1 minute.
  3. Remove the oil with a damp, warm, clean microfiber cloth.
  4. Pat dry with a clean cloth.
  5. Apply moisturizer if you need extra hydration. You may not need it.

What is double cleansing?

Double cleansing combines the benefits of oil cleansing with those of water-based cleansers. This is a recent K-beauty trend that originated in Korea.

You would start by cleansing with your oil cleanser, then, after removing the oil, apply your water-based cleanser to your damp skin. It can be especially helpful for people with very oily or cystic acne-prone skin. Be sure to check with your dermatologist first.

Side effects of oil cleansing

While oil cleansers are gentle and usually do not cause any problems, side effects are possible with any products. Allergic reactions are probably the most common side effect, followed by irritation. There are rare cases of skin purging that can occur for the first few weeks. Some people also suffer from acne flares even when using non-comedogenic oils.

Alternatives to oil cleansing

If you are reluctant to use a cleansing oil on your face, there are some alternatives:

  • Cleansing balms. They are usually a combination of oils and beeswax, but you can find some that do not contain any oil. They are thick and can pull dirt, makeup, and oil out of your pores to give you a deep clean. The procedure for using cleansing balms is the same as for cleaning oils. You can massage the balm into your face and then wipe it off with a microfiber cloth soaked in warm water.
  • Micellar water. It is another type of cleanser that uses micelles to attract dirt, makeup, and sunscreen and remove them from your skin. These micelles act like magnets. All you do is soak a cotton ball with the micellar water and sweep it across your face. Micellar water can be used alone or before cleansing if you are doing double cleansing.

For most people, oil cleansing is a very effective way to gently cleanse the skin and effectively remove even tough makeup, sunscreen, and dirt. Most cleansing oils combine the benefits of deep cleansing with extra hydration, which is especially beneficial for dry skin. However, some oils have other benefits too, like anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. If you are considering oil cleansing, talk to your dermatologist first to see if oil cleansing can benefit your skin and which cleansing oil is right for you.


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