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What Is Oil Cleanser and How Does It Work?

by @ThereseBoccini
May 03, 2021


For some people, the phrase “oil cleanser” sets off alarm bells. Facial cleanser and oil just don’t mix, right? Well, the beauty community would disagree. As unusual as it may sound, oil cleanser is the star of the skincare show right now. Avoiding oil in face wash may be a thing of the past.

If you’re feeling shocked and confused right now, don’t worry about it—we understand you. We've been there. So here's a short guide to everything you need to know about oil cleanser: what it is, how it works, how to use it, and everything else you need to know to make the plunge into this kind of product.

Oil Cleanser Defined

Oil cleanser is exactly what it sounds like—a facial cleanser made of oil. Duh. If you’ve never heard of oil cleanser, don’t sweat it. The product only began to make a name for itself in the skincare world in recent years. However, even though it’s a relatively new trend, oil cleanser is crazy popular right now.

Here’s a basic definition for you: oil cleanser, also called cleansing oil, is a face-wash option that’s perfect for removing makeup, excess oil, and any residual dirt and grime. Cleansing oils are huge right now and for very good reason. Now, let’s delve into all the details and benefits of this product.

Benefits of Oil Cleanser

Let’s address the question on everyone’s mind right now: why would anyone use an oil cleanser? Isn’t old-fashioned, soapy face-wash good enough? People use oil cleansers for the same reason they use any other unconventional skincare product—that is, to get better skin. And we have to admit, oil cleansers really get that job done. Oil cleansers provide tons of benefits that traditional cleansers don’t.

First things first, they're extremely hydrating, often more so than their conventional counterpart. This is because they usually contain very few surfactants. (The word surfactant refers to a “surface-active agent.” This is just a science-y word for a chemical that stabilizes water and oil mixtures.) Similarly, oil cleansers tend to be more gentle and soothing than other types of cleansers. They leave the skin feeling smooth and soft instead of dried out.

Finally, oil cleansers are super effective. They completely remove any type of makeup or sunscreen, along with all the unwanted dead skin, dirt, and excess oil that builds up throughout your day. With a good oil cleanser, you’ll never need makeup-removing wipes again. All of these benefits make a pretty solid case for oil cleansers.

How Does It Work?

Ready for a science lesson? Don’t worry—it’ll be quick.

Here’s how it works. Basically, oils attract other oils. So, when you slather your face with an oil cleanser, it removes excess sebum from your skin. (Note: sebum is a waxy, oil substance produced by sebaceous glands in the body).

Also, as a solvent, cleansing oils are able to dissolve dead skin, makeup, and other irritants on the face. This is why certain oils make excellent cleansers. And, unlike traditional cleansing products, oil cleansers can balance and hydrate the skin along the way.

Types of Oil Cleansers

To enjoy the benefits of cleanser as much as possible, you have to pick the right kind of oil cleanser. With cleansing oil getting more and more popular every day, there are seemingly endless variations of the product to choose from. Making the best decision for your skin can be a bit confusing, to say the least.

When it comes to choosing an oil cleanser, you have two options. One, you can use pure oil; two, you can purchase a pre-formulated cleanser from a beauty brand. Either way, you want to be sure that the kind of oil you pick will make your skin look amazing.

So, let’s explore a few of the most common types of cleansing oils and their benefits.

  • Jojoba oil. This is a great choice if you have acne-prone skin. It may have anti-inflammatory effects, which means it can fight off acne, infections, and more. It also helps with treating wounds and damaged skin.

  • Avocado oil. Everyone knows avocados are full of nutrients. When it comes to oil cleansing, those nutrients are perfect for treating dry or damaged skin. If you’re looking for hydration, this is a good choice.

  • Soybean oil. This is another oil type that provides a lot of hydration. It may help your skin lock in water and lessen water loss.

  • Safflower seed oil. Like most of these oils, this one is excellent for hydration. It’s good for fighting dry, flaking skin.

  • Almond oil. Almond oil is often used to enhance skin tone and complexion.

  • Apricot kernel oil. This type of oil is a great option for anyone with psoriasis. Though more research is still needed, apricot oil might be able to help treat this condition. Also, it’s good for dry, sensitive skin too.

  • Peanut oil. Here’s another contender with strong hydration powers. In addition, it may serve as a protectant against UV radiation.

Who knew oil could do so much for our skin?!

How To Use Cleansing Oils

At this point, you’re probably itching to try out an oil cleanser for yourself. Luckily, it’s super quick and easy, and it can make an enormous difference to your skin. If you’re hoping to add an oil cleanser to your skincare routine, we have some advice.

The Washing Process

As we mentioned before, you can either use a formulated oil cleanser, or you can opt for a simple bottle of one of the oils above. No matter which option you choose, here’s what you’ll need to do.

First, take one or two teaspoons of oil in the palm of your hand. Any of the oils listed above would work. Then, simply use your fingertips to apply the oil to your face. All you have to do is gently massage the oil into the skin for a few minutes like you would with any facial cleanser.

Finally, grab a damp washcloth to wipe off the oil. Be as gentle as possible, so you don’t irritate your skin. When you’re done, your face will be smooth, soft, and hydrated.

Using a cleansing oil should be enough to get your skin nice and clean. However, if you want to take it one step further, there’s one more cleansing method you could try: the double cleanse.

The Double Cleanse

Double cleansing is a method that originated in Korean skincare. It’s precisely what it sounds like: a two-step cleansing process that gets your skin extra clean. This method is especially useful for people with oily or acne-prone skin.

To double cleanse, you’ll want to begin by following the instructions above—simply apply the oil to your face as noted. This step removes all the extra makeup, SPF, sebum, etc.

Then, once that step is complete, you’re going to cleanse your face again. This time, use any water-based facial cleanser. Whatever you normally use would do the trick. This second step helps eliminate other residue on the face, like dirt and sweat.

There you have it! It’s easy, and it only adds a few extra minutes to your usual routine. You’ll be shocked to see what a big difference double cleansing makes.

How Often Should You Cleanse With Oil?

OK, so there’s one more pressing question we need to discuss. Is this an everyday thing, or is it more like once a week? Once a month?

The answer is simple: it’s up to you! You should only cleanse with oil once per day. However, if you want to oil cleanse every day of the week, we say go for it. If you want to save it for special occasions, that’s totally fine, too. Perhaps the best move here is to try it out and see how it affects your skin. Do whatever works best for you.

The only thing to note here is that you should try to oil cleanse at night as opposed to the morning. That way, your skin will be hydrated and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Don’t get us wrong—we have nothing against traditional cleansers. There are plenty of amazing, conventional face-wash options out there. That being said, oil cleansers can be pretty awesome, too. Oil is hydrating, gentle on the skin, and armed with powerful cleansing abilities. We can’t think of any reason not to hop on board the oil-cleanser trend.

If you’re hoping to get your hands on an oil cleanser, check out Supergreat for reviews and info about all the best cleansers out there.

Do you use an oil cleanser you love? Add your review below!

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