Skin-Care Tips

3 Mistakes a Dermatologist Sees People Make All the Time With Cleansing Oils

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ Delmaine Donson

If you want to spark a debate about skin care, all you have to do is bring up cleansing oils. Some pros believe they’re the holy grail of hydrating cleansers that effectively work to whisk away makeup on all skin types, while others stand firmly behind the idea that you should never, ever use them (especially on oily and acne-prone complexions). There is, however, one thing all dermatologists can agree on: If you are going to be using a cleansing oil, it’s important that you’re doing it the right way.

“Cleansing oils are great as the first step in your cleansing routine, especially for people who wear makeup,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City. “I would recommend it be used for sensitive or dry-skinned people, who wear makeup, as a gentle method of removing stubborn products without over-drying the skin.” While she’s a big fan of cleansing oils in general, she sees many people making the same three mistakes that prevent the product from working to its full potential.

1. Applying it to wet skin

While most lathering face washes need to be mixed with water in order to operate, the opposite holds true for cleansing oils. “The biggest mistake I see people making is mixing cleansing oil with water before it’s been rubbed into the skin,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Your goal is to allow the oil to blend with the natural oils, dirt, and makeup on your face, and since water and oil repel each other, introducing water will only interfere with the process and prevent the product from effectively cleaning the dirt and oils off your skin.” Instead, be sure to massage your cleansing oil in circular motions on a completely dry complexion, then add H2O into the mix.

2. Using cold water

When it comes to effectively removing cleansing oil, the temperature of the water you use plays an important role. “The colder the water, the more likely the oil will firm towards solid state, and render it ineffective,” says Dr. Nazarian. “Warmer temperatures ensure the oil stays in a liquid state, and combine more effectively with the oils and dirt on our skin.” The key here is “warm”—not “hot”—because hot water will strip your skin barrier and negate some of the nourishing elements of the oil cleanser.

3. Not rinsing entirely

Unlike facial oils, which serve as a final hydrating step after your moisturizer and are meant to stay on your skin all day, cleansing oils need to be completely removed. Otherwise, they can cause breakouts and can prevent your other products from working properly. “Aside from potential irritation, which is one of the most important reasons the oils should be rinsed off, many oils may prevent absorption of other products,” says Dr. Nazarian, adding that if you don’t wash your cleansing oil off, it may act as an obstacle between your other products and your skin, which means you’re missing out on the benefits of the rest of your routine. “Cleansing oils are fine, but ensure you have a clean palette when you’re done and rinse with water and gentle cleansers before applying the next steps in your regimen.”

Got more cleansing questions? Check out the video below. 

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