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The Best Oil Cleansers for Your Skin Type—And How to Use Them for Best Results

DHC Oil Cleanser 2

If you’ve been battling excess oil, clogged pores and frequent acne flare-ups for a long time, you’re probably recoiling at the mere thought of cleansing your face with oil. But here’s something we’ve learned from skin care experts: Our skin produces oil because it needs it. It lubricates, heals and protects our skin. And each time we strip the oil away from our skin with our traditional cleansers, our skin overcompensates by producing even more oil. And we know what happens when excess oil gets mixed up with bacteria and other skin impurities—our pores get all clogged and inflamed. So how do we cleanse our skin without disrupting our skin’s moisture balance? Simple: We fight oil with oil!

“Water-based cleansers aren’t as effective at removing oil-based debris like sebum and makeup as oil is,” says cosmetic acupuncturist and herbalist Kathleen Funk. “Oil is a gentle way to thoroughly cleanse your skin without having to scrub harshly or strip it of its natural oils. If you’ve heard of the Asian ritual of double cleansing, cleansing with oil is actually the first step.”

Sandra Velandia, New York–based esthetician, agrees, saying that while the idea of using oil to get rid of oil sounds counterintuitive, cleansing oils are actually a gentle and extremely effective way for deep-cleaning pores and a having a healthier lipid barrier. “Oil dissolves oil, so by pre-cleansing [with a cleansing oil] we are giving our pores a deeper cleanse without over-stripping the skin,” she says. “Chemicals in our water and the harshness of some cleansers can disrupt our skin’s natural protector, sebum. Therefore, oil cleansing is a gentler and less aggressive way of getting our skin clean.”

How to Use Cleansing Oils

When using a cleansing oil to wash your face, start by massaging the oil onto dry skin. “Make sure you are massaging until the oil gets warm,” advises Velandia.

Once you’ve loosened up the dirt, oil and makeup, simply rinse your face off with warm water. Follow this step with a water-based cleanser, if desired. Here’s a quick video on how to use an oil cleanser:

The Best Cleansing Oils for Your Skin Type

A general rule of thumb when shopping for cleansing oils is that the fewer ingredients, the better, says Valendia. Also, look for one that has a high concentration of oil. Below are some of our favorite cleansing oils for each skin type.

  1. Normal Skin: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
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    Normal Skin: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

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    Formulated with olive oil, this water-soluble cleansing oil practically melts onto your skin, getting rid of every bit of makeup and residue from the day. And because olive oil is rich in lipids, fatty acids and vitamins A and E, this cleanser offers extra moisturizing and antioxidant benefits, too. No wonder it’s one of the top-reviewed cleansers on Dermstore, with more than 500 5-star reviews!
    One Dermstore shopper says it “works wonders to remove all of my makeup while still leaving my skin so soft and clean,” while another says it “removes every bit of even my waterproof mascara without burning my eyes.”

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  2. Acne-Prone Skin: Erno Laszlo Detoxifying Cleansing Oil

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    Those with acne-prone skin might feel nervous about applying oil to their skin, but according to Velandia, cleansing oils are great for getting rid of excess sebum without leaving your skin dry. Even better: Aside from grape seed oil, this oil cleanser also features charcoal, which draws out and traps acne-causing bacteria from your pores. One Dermstore shopper claims that “after using it, my skin is left hydrated, clean and clear. I think [it] is also helping with minimizing breakouts.”

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  3. Oily Skin: Caudalie Make-Up Removing Cleansing Oil

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    Similarly, if you have oily skin, you need a cleanser that can remove the extra shine and oil. This gentle cleansing oil will do just that, as well as dissolve stubborn traces of makeup. Featuring soft almond oil and viniferine, this cleanser works to deep-clean pores without leaving a greasy or oily finish.

  4. Dry Skin: TULA Skincare Kefir Replenishing Cleansing Oil
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    Dry Skin: TULA Skincare Kefir Replenishing Cleansing Oil

    [listimage brand_id=504373 prod_id=72574]
    “Dry skin types do really well with the oil-cleansing method because the oil will provide a deep-cleansing of the skin while helping to reintroduce lipids,” says Velandia. Thankfully, this cleansing oil has what’s called a Kefir Hydro-Complex, a combination of four strains of probiotics from kefir, which soothe skin and improve the skin’s moisture barrier, plus a Ceramide Complex that promotes water retention. Once the oil meets water, it turns into a silky, milky texture that resembles a traditional facial cleanser.

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  5. Sensitive Skin: Eminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Cleansing Oil
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    Sensitive Skin: Eminence Organic Skin Care Stone Crop Cleansing Oil

    [listimage brand_id=500221 prod_id=71016]
    Those with sensitive skin will want to consider this cleansing oil, thanks to its gentle combination of soothing and hydrating ingredients: stonecrop hydrates and calms redness while a potent blend of microgreens complex protects skin against environmental stressors. And because it’s also formulated with jojoba oil—which features wax esters and fatty acids that are similar to human sebum—and vitamin-rich sunflower oil, it’s mild enough to be used on even the most sensitive skin. One Dermstore shopper comments: “My skin is combo/sensitive/hormonal acne, and this product makes it feel lovely and clean!”

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  6. Eczema-Prone: Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil
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    Eczema-Prone: Avene XeraCalm A.D Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil

    [listimage brand_id=500107 prod_id=55988]
    For those dealing with eczema, it can be hard to find any product gentle enough for your skin. But this cleansing oil is formulated with Avène’s thermal spring water, which has been clinically shown to soothe sensitive and irritated skin types. One Dermstore shopper says, “This is the only cleanser that I can use head to toe that does not irritate my skin in any way, give me a rash, leave me red or make my skin itch when I get out of the shower.”

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  7. Mature Skin: Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Cleansing Oil
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    Mature Skin: Juice Beauty STEM CELLULAR Cleansing Oil

    [listimage brand_id=500174 prod_id=56658]
    Cleansers rarely make an impact on the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, but this cleansing oil by Juice Beauty sure tries! Formulated with fruit stem cells and resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, this oil gives your skin a better fighting chance against age-accelerating free radicals. Organic fruit acids help exfoliate dead skin cells and brighten skin tone, prepping your skin for the rest of your regimen. And perhaps the most important factor to consider if you have mature skin: this exfoliating cleanser doesn’t leave your skin tight or dry. One Dermstore shopper says, “I use it to double cleanse, and my face always feels really soft and hydrated afterwards.”

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Beauty Reporter

Bianca Mendez

Bianca Mendez is a writer and editor living in New York City. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Health, Bustle, Latina, Refinery29, and many other publications. When she’s not writing, you can find her trying out the latest fitness classes, eating (and drinking) her way through NY, and planning her next adventure.  Check out more of her work at biancammendez.com, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.