Oil cleansers are known to be some of the best in the biz for whisking away dirt, debris, and makeup, and it’s all thanks to—you guessed it—the properties of like attracts like. The oils in the product work to attract the oils in your skin, leaving your complexion clear. But while the cleansing oil method is unquestionably effective, there are a few things worth cueing into before trying it for yourself. Read on for everything you need to know.
The benefits of the oil cleansing method
Unlike your usual foaming and gel cleansers on the market, which use surfactants to clear dirt and debris from your skin, cleansing oils bind oil on your skin with oil in the product. Because of this, they tend to be more hydrating and nourishing than the other options out there.
“Cleansing oils balance the skin’s natural oils, which keeps your complexion nourished and moisturized, as opposed to foam-cleansers, which can strip the skin of its natural moisture and leave it dry,” says Gretchen Frieling, DO, a triple board-certified dermatopathologist based in Boston. “Cleansing oils can actually help protect your natural lipid layer as well as safeguard the good bacteria that resides on the epidermis.”
The oils mimic the natural molecular structure of your skin, allowing them to cleanse it without stripping away its barrier. They’re great for people with dry or sensitive skin who may experience irritation or dehydration from their usual surfactant cleansers. As for anyone with oily skin, there are two schools of thought on whether the oil cleansing method is a good idea. Some derms say that oil cleansers are an A-plus way to remove sebum, which is the oil in your skin that causes acne, and regularly recommend them to their breakout-prone patients. Others, though, warn that cleansing oils can either clog your pores or pull too much oil out of them, leading to pimples or excess dryness. In any case, it’s best to see how your skin reacts when trying the oil cleansing method out for yourself.
How to properly use the oil cleansing method
1. Pump out your product: Start by pumping the product into dry, clean hands. You also want to be sure that your face is completely dry before you use it because adding any sort of water into the mix will prevent the cleansing oil from working to its full potential. “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,” Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, previously told Well+Good.
2. Massage the product onto your face: Treat yourself to a little DIY facial massage by applying the oil to your skin in circular motions with your fingertips. This will create friction that heats both the skin and the product, opening your pores and allowing the oil to get down into them more deeply.
3. Rinse with warm water: To remove your oil cleanser, it’s critical to use warm—not cold, not hot—water. If the water is too cold, it may cause the oil to harden into its solid state, making it virtually useless for washing your face. And if it’s too hot, you run the risk of stripping your skin barrier. Warm temps allow the oil to stay liquid, which allows it to work to its full potential. Cover your face in a warm, damp washcloth or muslin cloth to further heat the oil and open your pores, then use it to gently remove the product (and the dirt and grime it’s picked up!) from your skin. You’ll want to ensure that your cleansing oil is entirely rinsed off before moving onto the next steps of your routine because leaving any of the stuff on your skin runs the risk of clogging your pores (which leads to breakouts) and prevents your other products from permeating into your skin.
4. Double down on leftover makeup: If you’ve still got remnants of mascara or lipstick sticking around after your initial cleanse, place a few drops of cleansing oil on a warm, damp cotton round and use it to gently wipe off the remaining makeup. According to Dr. Nazarian, the delicate skin around your eyes is more prone to blocked pores, inflammation, and pimples than other spots on your face, so be sure to take extra care to remove your cleansing oil entirely from this area.
5. Follow up with a second cleanse: This part is completely optional, but may be necessary depending on your skin type and concerns. The oil cleansing method helps to remove oil, dirt, and makeup, and a second cleanse can add its own benefits. If your complexion needs some added exfoliation, opt for an AHA-infused cleanser that will help slough away dead skin cells. And if it’s thirsting for hydration, try a milky or creamy cleanser that’s got glycerin or hyaluronic acid in it. “Creamy cleansers are replenishing and leave your skin barrier intact,” says Jené Roestorf, a biological scientist and founder of Luxe Botanics. “While the oil cleanser breaks everything down, a cream cleanser will remove any leftover residue and then replace the skin with everything it needs for its strong barrier.”
6. Finish with the rest of your routine: Once your skin is clean and your oil cleanser has been cleared away, you’ll want to finish things off with your usual serums and moisturizers. Look for ingredients like ceramides, which will seal in all of the good nutrients your cleansing oil introduced into your skin and help keep its barrier intact.
And FYI, here are the steps in a derm’s skin-care routin, ICYWW:
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