Double Cleansing Oil Method 101 + My Top Cleansing Oil Picks

cleansing oil

Cleansing oils are definitely having a moment. Cleansing oils aren’t exactly new to the skin care game, but more and more brands are producing new cleansing oils, putting them at the forefront of beauty chat. I’ve used cleansing oils off and on for the past 7 years (I had an epic run-in with a Shu Uemura one in ’08 that nearly scared me from cleansing oils for life…), but have given them a permanent place in my skin care routine. So what are cleansing oils and how do they work? Join me for a bit of Cleansing Oil 101!

What are cleansing oils and how do they work?  A cleansing oil is a product that consists of several oils that cleanse the skin. How do they work? Well, like dissolves like. So when you cleanse the skin with oil, you dissolve the excess oil and impurities in your skin. The amount of oil you remove from the skin depends largely on the types of oils you use, as some oils are more heavy duty cleansers than others.

Another benefit of cleansing oils is that they remove makeup like a dream and are a great first step in cleansing your skin at the end of the day. Let’s face it. Rarely can a face wash cleanse off all our makeup, plus the dirt, oil, sunscreen (which you should be wearing everyday!), and impurities from the environment. Using a cleansing oil first breaks down and removes the makeup, oil and sunscreen so that your face wash can get down to the business of actually cleansing your skin.

How do you use them? First, make sure that your face and hands are completely and totally dry. This is crucial in ensuring that the cleansing oil is effective. Massage the cleansing oil to your face and massage to cleanse skin and remove makeup. Next, wet your hands and massage your face to turn the oil into a milky emulsion. Continue massaging to remove dirt, oil and makeup. Finish by thoroughly rinsing your face. Those with drier skin types can stop here and leave a light film of oil on the skin to moisturize, but oily and combination skin types typically follow up with their usual cleanser (this is what I do!).

I find that this two-step cleansing has worked wonders for my skin. My skin is prone to breakouts when my skin isn’t completely and totally clean and free of makeup, dirt and oil. Using a cleansing oil followed by a regular cleanser does a great job of getting my skin super clean without stripping it or drying it out. If there’s a day when I don’t wear makeup I usually skip the cleansing oil that night. But if I wore makeup that day there’s no way I even begin to reach for face wash without removing my makeup with a cleansing oil first. So now that I’ve shared the skinny on cleansing oils, it’s time I dish on my favorites!

Best for Those Who Wear Little to No Makeup: NUDE Perfect Cleansing Oil Face and Eyes, $36. It’s great for all skin types, but I find that this cleansing oil works best on days when I’ve gone makeup free but still want to give my skin some extra cleansing action. If you’re a heavy makeup wearer, you may want to skip this one.

Best for Normal and Oily/Combination Skin: Dermalogica PreCleanse, $37. This is, hands down, my favorite cleansing oil. It removes all makeup, even cream foundations and multiple coats of mascara, like a champ. While all skin types will enjoy this cleansing oil, oily/combination skin types in particular will appreciate that it never leaves a greasy film on skin. Love, love, love it!

Best Budget-Friendly Pick: Garnier Clean+ Nourishing Cleansing Oil, $8. Because of their high content of natural oils and ingredients, cleansing oils can be pretty pricey. I’m so pleased that I could recommend a great cleansing oil at a budget-friendly price! New for 2014, Garnier’s cleansing oil does a great job of removing makeup and leaves the slightest trace of oil behind on the skin. Though it is marketed for dry skin, I find that the formula is light enough that even oily skin types will have no issue with it, but I recommend using a normal cleanser after.

If you are averse to the use of mineral oil in skin care products then you should know that this product has a mineral oil base (that’s how this product manages to be so affordable) in addition to the jojoba and macadamia oils it also contains. I don’t typically use many mineral oil based products, but I had absolutely no issue with this cleansing oil and recommend it.

Best for Dry Skin: Julep Bare Face Cleansing Oil, $28. Not only does this cleansing oil have a great citrus scent, but is great for those who want to add a little moisture to their skin. Those with dry skin will appreciate the extra moisture it leaves behind, and even I, with my combo skin, reach for this on occasion when my skin is dry and flaky during the winter months.

Best for Frequent Travelers or Your Gym Bag: Dermalogica PreCleanse Wipes, $18. These cleansing oil soaked cloths are pure skin care genius. If you travel a lot and want to keep up with your skin care regimen away from home, these are a great option to toss in your carry-on bag, as there’s no risk of oil leaking onto your clothes. They’re also great for gym rats, as you want to make sure your skin is clean before working out (remove that makeup!) and these are great to throw in your gym bag. They’re not as wet as a typical face wipe, but keep massaging the cloth into your skin to get the oil to break down your makeup and dirt. Don’t be afraid to reach for a second wipe if you find you need one.

Best Cleansing Balm: Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm, $28.50. Think of cleansing balms as the sold version of cleansing oils. Uber pricey cleansing balm are the star of several boutique and indie skin care lines, but I’m already sold on this far more affordable version from Clinique. Just scoop some out of the jar, emulsify it by rubbing it between your hands, then use it like any other cleansing oil. It works great at removing makeup and leaves skin feeling comfortable, never oily.

I hope that this crash course in cleansing oils will help you out if you’re looking to take your cleansing game to the next level. Have you tried a cleansing oil before? Will you try one now? Let me know your thoughts in the comments and shop some my favorites below!

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  • Kica

    hmmmm I’m not sure and if I did it would be the 8.00 one. I use baby oil on a wet cotton round (takes about 2 to get the job done right) and then follow up with Cetaphil. I’m so glad you explained this though because I didn’t (maybe still don’t) see what all the hype was about.

  • Jessy

    If you are looking for a natural alternative, use organic coconut oil; this is what I always reach for and it works wonderfully with my combination skin. Also, I have the Jergens All-Purpose Face Cream. It has a light pink color and a light fragrance and I believe is mineral-based because it costs no more than $5 at Walmart. I massage a little on my face and neck and then I remove it with a warm cloth that I run under hot tap water. It works really well and does not make me break out at all. Anyway, thanks for the crash course. I think I will be trying the Dermalogica one, since their Gentle Cream Cleanser has worked wonders on my skin too.