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An Introduction to Oil-Based Cleansers

I know what you're thinking: slather oil on my face? Are you nuts?

Not so fast. There's a good explanation for the existence of oil-based cleansers, I promise. Quick chemistry refresher: like attracts like, which means the oil in an oil-based cleanser bonds with and dissolves the oil and grime on your face. This means they can work for all skin types, even oily skin, since they remove oil without over-drying the way detergent-based cleansers can.

Oil-based cleansers are also useful for removing makeup, since most makeup contains oil. The best way to know which method of cleansing gets your face the most sparkling clean is to take one of these for a test drive. There is a slight risk of pore-clogging side effects, but that is usually from the non-oil ingredients, or from not rinsing them off fully. For a few shopping ideas,


DHC's version ($11–$24) has a cult following, as does Shu Uemura's version. (That one wasn't for me, though — I broke out.) I had great luck with Laura Mercier Cleansing Oil Light ($40). Even though it is pricey, you only need a dime-sized drop to get the job done, and it removes makeup so thoroughly that there is no need for an additional makeup remover. For a few more shopping options, browse this widget.

Join The Conversation
pinkypump pinkypump 6 years
Im so glad other people are using oil based cleansers!! I've been using DivaGoesGreens balancing face cleanser and i have quite an oily break out prone skin and the cleanser has done so much good for my skin. It actually always feels super clean after cleansing and soooo soft! love love! i used to use so many harsh product and i dried out my skin so much, it was awful! i really recommend oil based cleansers!!
grooks grooks 7 years
I've been using the OCM for a few months now. I'm 45 (!) and my skin has never looked better: no breakouts, it's soft and the little lines have disappeared. For all of you spending crazy amounts of money on name brand oils, it isn't necessary. I just use Desert Essence jojoba oil about 8-10 drops to clean my face and then add another 2 drops to my Cetaphil moisturizer. One bottle is about $7 at whole foods and it lasts forever. I have wasted thousands of dollars on expensive product when it was at the grocery store the whole time! So my advice is to save your money and just buy the oil... no fancy name needed.
amybdk amybdk 8 years
LOVE DHC. Just got my first bottle last night and am already hooked. Do any others here use a soapy cleanser after using the oil as per the instructions on the website?
grumpyflower grumpyflower 8 years
I use the Sk-II oil cleanser and even with my very oily skin it makes me feel cleansed but still soft and it takes off any makeup I have one as well!
Xandara Xandara 9 years
I absolutely love the oil cleansing method, which I discovered here: Cleaning your face with oil sounds totally bizarre, until you try it and it works 800 times better than any soapy cleanser. :D
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 9 years
mlmoreno47 St. Ives has a new one out that is olive oil based. I haven't tried it but I know it's a cheap alternative that I'm going to try.
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
I need to post again so I can subscribe ;)
mlmoreno47 mlmoreno47 9 years
My face is so dry it's itchy right now. I'm really thinking about trying it now, any suggestions for a cheapie kind so I can see if it works? I'm talking CVS cheap not Clinique cheap!
modernbombshell modernbombshell 9 years
For ladies like me with extremely dry skin, oil-based cleansers are a godsend! I've never been a fan of Clinique but I loved their Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm.
the-cat the-cat 9 years
The DHC cleansing oil is amazing. Leaves your face really clean and clear, and is good for sensitive skins too. Dermalogica's Pre Cleanse is good too, but DHC is definitely the best - worth the money I promise!
telltalltales telltalltales 9 years
I've been using Shu Uemura's Cleansing Oil for 2 years and it's worked out great for me. I'm 17 (prime time for acne) and hardly ever get pimples. It's awesome.
aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
Hmm interesting...
GiggleSugar GiggleSugar 9 years
I will pony up the 20-something dollars for DHC. I love that stuff. The trick is to lightly rub it on your face while it's dry. If your face is even slightly wet it won't work. But man, after you rinse it off your face will feel soft and clean. There's no fragrance, nothing mysterious, it's just awesome. And no, they didn't pay me to say that! I've been waiting for Bella to write on this. Thanks!
gaelgirl gaelgirl 9 years
dhc is AMAZING! it works & it smells good. i'm on vacation & i forgot my cleanser. i've been using this & NOT ONE BREAK OUT! dhc offers lots of samples, so if you wanna try it, go for that. it lasts forever & smells nice.
mlen mlen 9 years
beautylaw i was gonna ask about that st ives one- has anyone tried it yet? i want to- cause i'm hoping its as good as dhc with out having to order it
Rabbit88 Rabbit88 9 years
hakaanson and caudalie have amazing oils!! they are great to put on before your moisturizer and leave your skin feeling great!
emalove emalove 9 years
Maybe I'll try one of these sometime...I've heard good things about the Shu Uemura and DHC ones.
SBG SBG 9 years
I´ve always thought that the body produces what it needs. I have dry skin and when I´ve used gel-like moisturizers (the kind recomended for oily skin) my skin has reacted creating oil and I´ve ended up looking shinny. So maybe it can work viceversa.
beautylaw beautylaw 9 years
This post made me think I really gotta make the switch to oil cleanser. I recently started using Biotherm oil based make up remover and love it. Don't forget the St. Ives new olive oil based cleanser, it's a cheap alternative and well formulated.
danig danig 9 years
I use straight jojoba oil which I buy from sometimes I follow it up wit and oil based bar from soft glowy skin for me!
redrover189 redrover189 9 years
tokki - I use that too! It's actually a really great cleanser, although it's not 100% oil (it's castille soap, an oil-based soap, and olive oil) but it's really affordable and for those who still need to have that "soap" feeling on their face in order to feel clean, this is a great option! I've seen it at Trader Joes and Whole Foods.
Brooklynbee Brooklynbee 9 years
Yep, I have tried the Origins and the Lush and I really like them both. I also tried the Boscia makeup breakup oil but I found that it irritated my eyes so I returned it. I don't understand why they put menthol in a product that is supposed to be ok to remove eye makeup. Weird.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Francoisehardly, health food stores should have it, and maybe even some vitamin stores as well. You might even be able to find it at the supermarket--some of my local ones carry a lot of stuff like that, to compete with the Whole Foods-style chains.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 9 years
Oh, speaking of jojoba oil, I've read that it's the best one for the face since the chemistry of it is the most similar to the oil our own body produces. I need to figure out where I can find some.
tokki83 tokki83 9 years
i've used desert essence tea tree oil cleanser. very good price. bought at trader joe's~
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