The first step of even the most basic skin care regimes usually start with a good cleanser. And, although traditional fash washes and wipes can help remove grease and grime, they can also often strip the skin of its protective barrier in the process. This may explain why oil cleansers are becoming increasingly popular.
However, if you’re concerned about the thought of adding a heavy, greasy product to your routine (and inviting breakouts along in the process!), Vanessa Gray Lydnon, Founder & Formulator of the Vanessa Megan Naturaceuticals Skincare brand, explains how oil cleansers work, for every kind of skin.
How does washing your face with oil actually make sense?
As the name suggests, facial cleansing oils are oil-based face washes that can help remove dirt, sunscreen, makeup, and even excess oil from the skin. Unlike traditional, water-based cleaners (the kind that foams up), which suspend particles on the skin before they’re washed off, oil-based facial cleansers work as solvents. They attract other similar textures (like the sebum in our skin) and dissolve makeup, making it easy to remove without any harsh scrubbing or rubbing. As a bonus, they also hydrate the skin at the same time.
According to Vanessa “cleansing oils help protect the natural lipid layer of the skin whilst cleaning out clogged pores, removing pollutants and heavy makeup, and sunscreen including waterproof mascara.” And the best bit is, they’re suitable for all skin types.
Wait, so even oily skin can use an oil-based cleanser?
They certainly can, says Vanessa, although she does admit it can take your skin a short time to adapt. “If you are using oil for the first time you may experience some breakouts due to changes in the skin. However, eventually, once you change to an oil cleanser, even when you have oily skin you will see that your body regulates its oil rather than producing excess oil.” The reason: When you strip your skin of its natural oils with harsh cleansers, your skin can actually start to overproduce oil in an attempt to compensate. This can lead to oily skin and breakouts.
To make it even easier, Vanessa recommends relying on ingredients in your facial cleansing oil designed to cater to your specific skin concerns. “Coconut and avocado are great for dry demises. Jojoba and rosehip for sensitive types. Argan oil and Marula oil are excellent for oily skin.”
Vanessa’s pick from her own range? The Neroli & Squalane Cleansing Oil, $64.94. “The star of this cleanser is the neroli – an antioxidant-rich, antibacterial essential oil that balances the skin’s natural production of sebum and can soothe breakouts, inflammation, and redness,” she says.
How to wash your face with cleansing oils
If it’s your first time using a cleansing oil, you may be a little unaccustomed to the lack of suds. Don’t stress. They’re not meant to be there. Instead, Vanessa suggests you “simply apply a small amount to dry skin and massage it with wet hands before rinsing off. If you’re using your cleansing oil as part of a double cleanse, follow up with a traditional water-soluble cleanser.
And lest you think that cleansing oils are just a good way to remove that stubborn mascara, here’s another hack we came across. They work perfectly for anyone who has experimented with at home dermaplanning (or face shaving). Simply apply oil prior to facial hair removal to allow your blade – we love the Tru Yu Beauty Facial Razor – to glide easier on the skin resulting in less skin irritation and razor burn.
Our favourite cleansing oils
Emma Lewisham Illuminating Oil Face Cleanser
The combo of essential oils in this cleanser (including organic chia, rosehip, macadamia and camellia) dissolve and draw out makeup, while simultaneously soothing, rejuvenating, and moisturing the skin.
Urban Jungle, Melt Me Softly Cleansing Balm
Four hero ingredients star in this super-strength balm-turned-oil-cleanser (even SPF is no match). They include sunflower oil, shea butter, chamomile flower, and sea buckthorn oil, whose skin-protecting properties can help fight free radicals and encourage cell turnover.
Espressoh Ohily – Oil To Milk Cleanser
Those intimated by the idea of an oil cleanser instead of a milky one should start by experimenting with the Espressoh Ohily, which transforms from the former to the latter when mixed with water. We’re big fans of the addition of hibiscus oil, which moisturises and improves skin elasticity.
Votary Cleansing Oil Rose Geranium and Apricot
The only thing more impressive than Votary’s potent ingredient list (which includes sunflower, apricot kernel, jojoba, and rose geranium – an essential oil that balances skin sebum, antiseptic and uplifting)? The fact that the brains behind this brand is beauty-editor-turned-makeup-artist Charlotte Semler, who counts both Kate Middleton and Caroline Hirrons as fans.
La Mav Marula Oil Cleanser
If you like your cleansing oils organic, Australian-made, and very effective, then you’ll love this one by La Mav, which features the magic of both Vitamin C and E-rich Marula oil.
Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
The light, 100% natural sweet almond fragrance of this cleansing oil gives seriously relaxing DIY spa vibes. We’re fans of its fast-rinsing formula, which washes off without leaving a greasy film on skin.
Fenty Skin Melt AWF Jelly Oil Makeup Melting Cleanser
Don’t be misled by first impressions! Despite the light-weight jelly-like texture when pumped, the addition of water to one of the most popular products in Rihanna’s skin care line transforms it into a lightweight oil. Featured among the custom blend of nine oils are Kalahari Melon, Baobab, orange, and grapefruit oils – all designed to remove impurities and hydrate skin.
Benefit The POREfessional Get Unblocked Pore Clearing Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
The proof is in the name of this product, which promises to visibly unblock and unclog pores via a potent combo of grape seed, jojoba seed, avocado, and plum kernel oils. If you’re a fan of a double cleanse we recommend pairing it with The POREfessional Good Cleanup Foaming Cleanser.
Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Oil
We’ve never met a Korean skincare product we didn’t love, and this is no exception. It’s made with Jeju green tea and green tea root extract which combine to hydrate while dissolving makeup, dirt, and impurities.
CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser
Oil cleanser but make it budget. We love this no-frills product by CeraVe, whose effectiveness is so much bigger than its bitty price tag. It’s suitable for the entire family (even babies) with hero ingredients that include ceramides, squalene oil, and gentle amino acid surfactants.
Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
Aromatic essential oils (such as lavender) make this cleanser a dream to put on your skin. The only thing better than how it smells is its effectiveness in gently melting away makeup, impurities, and oil, while soothing inflamed skin to leave it feeling soft and supple.
Rina Scentia Divine Oleum Face Oil and Cleanser
A multi-use product for face, body, and hair. Check. “Clean and Conscious” Beauty Award-winner. Check. Locally-manufactured but globally-loved (the brand was featured in this year’s Academy Award Gift Bags). Rina Scentia ticks a lot of boxes but the most important one is its effectiveness in cleansing your skin while simultaneously protecting it against the elements such as cold, wind, and sun exposure.