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.