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Even if you've already fully embraced oils in other areas of your life — your aromatherapy ritual, your cuticle care, your salad dressings — you might still be on the fence about washing your fash with cleansing oils. One of the aims of regularly cleansing your skin is to regulate excess oil production, and doing so with an oil-based formula might not seem really counterproductive.
Believe it or not, though, there's a logic to facial cleaning oils. Oil-based cleansers work on the principle of one like substance dissolving another similar like substance (i.e. oil helps dissolve oil in this case), says Hadley King, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist. In other words, massaging a cleansing oil into your skin can help dissolve excess oil along with any makeup or grime, which you can then rinse away. (Related: How to Find the Perfect Face Oil for Your Skin)
An oil cleanser can be especially helpful if you have dry or sensitive skin since it's generally less likely to strip skin of its natural oils than water-based cleansers, says Dr. King. Oil cleansers are one way to give your skin fatty acids, which are key to help lock in moisture. For those who want to get the most from fatty acids in their skin care, Dr. King generally suggests looking for oils that are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, in particular. "Oleic acid, or omega-9 fatty acid, is naturally found in human sebum," says Dr. King. "Our sebaceous glands create it to coat the skin, providing moisture and a protective barrier. But oleic acid can be disruptive to skin barrier function." Linoleic acid, aka omega-6 fatty acid, on the other hand is a fatty acid your body needs but isn't able to produce on its own, explains Dr. King. "Linoleic acid helps to support and repair the skin barrier, increasing skin's moisture and increasing elasticity and softness," she says.
Yes, cleansing oils can be a godsend for people with dry skin, but even people with oily skin can benefit from a facial oil cleanser. The key is to choose a formula that's labeled as non-comedogenic (which means it won't clog your pores), says Marisa Garshick, M.D., F.A.A.D., a New York-based dermatologist. Common examples of noncomedogenic oils you might find in skin-care products include jojoba, castor, and sweet almond oils, says New York-based aesthetician and Alpha-H facialist Taylor Worden.
A lot of people like to use an oil cleanser as part of a double-cleanse routine. That means cleansing with an oil-based cleanser first, then immediately washing the face again with a water-based cleanser in hopes of ending up with cleaner and healthier skin than a single pass with only one type of product might achieve. (Related: Products and Tips to Deal with Itchy, Dry Skin On Your Face)
While cleansing for a second time after using an oil cleanser might be preferable in some instances, it's not always necessary, according to Dr. King. "Using only a cleansing oil (and not double-cleansing) would be a reasonable option for dry skin using a noncomedogenic oil cleanser," she says. In this scenario, you should massage the oil cleanser onto dry skin and massage for a minute, then remove it with a gentle cleansing cloth such as one made of bamboo or muslin, she says. "For those with oily or acne-prone skin who want to use an oil cleanser, I would recommend a double cleanse, following the oil cleanser with a water-based cleanser." Note that a double cleanse can be beneficial for anyone who's washing off heavy or long-wearing makeup, adds Dr. Garshick.
The Best Cleansing Oils
Long story short, cleansing oils deserve just as much recognition as their water-based counterparts. Now that you know the how and the why of oil cleansers, here are some of the best products to choose from.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
If you were to crowdsource the best cleansing oil option, you'd undoubtedly hear about DHC Deep Cleansing Oil before long — the brand has sold more than 77 million bottles. The olive oil-based formula feels rich upon application, but it easily emulsifies with water so that you're not left feeling like an oil spill.
Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
This Tatcha cleansing oil doesn't leave skin feeling greasy or oily, and it contains moisturizing camellia oil and Hadasei-3, Tatcha's complex that's rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), according to Dr. Garshick. Worden is also a fan, and says that this leaves her skin feeling "like silk."
Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
This cleanser contains sweet almond, castor, grapeseed, and sunflower oils, a non-comedogenic combo, according to Dr. Garshick. The vegan formula transitions from oil to a milky consistency once you add water, and is housed in 100 percent recycled plastic bottles. (Related: Amazon Customers Love This $12 Hydrating Cleanser)
Physicians Formula Organic Wear Double Cleansing Oil
A budget-friendly standout, this pick is like a double cleanse in one step. It's part cleansing oil part water, (so, you'll want to shake the bottle before each use). The formula contains linoleic acid-rich rosehip oil alongside calming ingredients including aloe vera and chamomile.
Ogee Liquid Gold Cleansing Oil
If you're still a little hesitant to try a cleansing oil, Ogee's take can be a great gateway product, since it's particularly lightweight and easy to rinse off. The formula contains jojoba oil, which is known for being the closest you can get to skin's natural oil, and thus great for people who want to avoid clogging their pores. The cleansing oil also has antioxidant-rich elderberry and sea kelp extracts.
Tata Harper Nourishing Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
"Tata Harper's nourishing oil cleanser feels very luxurious on the skin and smells so good," says Worden. Intended for those with dry skin or who like a double cleanse for removing makeup, it moisturizes skin with a blend of oils that include sunflower seed, olive, green tea seed, and jojoba oils.
Maya Chia The Great Cleanse Cleansing Oil
If you've read up on the nutrition of chia seeds then you already know they're rich in omega fatty acids. That's why Maya Chia relies heavily on chia seed oil in its skin-care formulas. Dr. King likes to recommend the brand's cleansing oil since it dissolves oil and makeup but still leaves skin feeling soft and moisturized, she says. (Related: The Absolute Best Moisturizers for Dry Skin, According to Dermatologists)
Odacité Montana Harvest Omega Oil Cleanser
This formula combines 85 percent omega 6 linoleic acid safflower oil with hemp seed oil, both harvested from an organic farm in Montana (hence the name). Suited for those who love a spa-esque cleansing experience, the vegan formula is effective enough to dissolve makeup and any other build-up, without being stripping.