12 Best Cleansing Oils to Cut Through Make-up, Dirt and Pollution

Perdita Nouril, Chloe Burcham
·5-min read

Whether you cleanse, double cleanse or simply rinse with water, if you're a human who washes their face, let's take a minute to talk about cleansing oils. The slippery counterpart to your humble face wash, oils are a great option if you want to gently clean your skin without disrupting your sensitive skin barrier.

These products have a host of other benefits. Not only do cleansing oils melt away even the heaviest of make-up in seconds, but they also nourish stressed skin that's been dealing with the ramifications of the pandemic for over 12 months. Not to mention, there is also something especially pleasing about massaging in a spa-like oil as part of your self-care routine.

Not sure what type of cleansing oil to invest in? WH breaks it down, with the help of the skincare pros...

What is a cleansing oil?

Unlike face washes (that often use surfactants to lather and foam on your skin) facial oils harness the cleansing properties of water-soluble oils to dissolve make-up, grime, SPF, and pollution and simply wash it away. They're an amazing first cleanse option for all skin types (yup, even oily) as they create a perfectly clean slate, which you can then target with a deeper, more targeted cleanse, if needed.

Which type of oil is best for cleansing?

'The theory behind oil cleansers is that they remove excess oil from the skin because they have similar chemical properties as skin oil, which allow them to attract the dirt and excess oil on our skin,' says Dr Rekha Tailor, cosmetic doctor and skin specialist at Health and Aesthetics.

'The very basic idea behind oil cleansing is that like dissolves like. So using nourishing oils on your skin is intended to lift excess sebum, clean out clogged pores and remove dead skin and make-up,' she adds.

Do dermatologists recommend cleansing oils?

'Cleansing oils contain hydrating and soothing ingredients that may be more effective and less irritating than some traditional cleansers. Cleansing oils are better for the skin than a harsh, foaming cleanser – that’s for certain. Traditional cleansers can irritate the skin, cause excessive dryness, exacerbate acne and ultimately result in the skin overproducing oil after washing,' says Dr Tailor.

'Our skin has something called the "Acid Mantle" that is our own natural protection from bacteria, dryness and irritation that away can actually lead to breakouts and a host of other skin issues - cleansing oils can help to balance this,' she adds.

'However, oil cleansing can cause irritation, or clogged pores, which is why it's important to do a patch test. People with skin conditions such as cystic acne or rosacea should talk to their doctor who will be able to create an individualised treatment plan suited to their individual needs,' clarifies Dr Tailor.

But are cleansing oils actually good?

Cleansing oils are also great for sensitive and drier skin types, as they don't strip your skin barrier of any moisture or natural oils. Applied to dry skin, they're great for dissolving oils, make-up, dirt and grime before rinsing it away with lukewarm water - or a muslin cloth or flannel. There's no tugging or scrubbing needed and they also make for the best slippery surface for you to indulge in an evening facial massage.

So, what are you waiting for? If you're sold on the idea of introducing a cleansing oil into your skincare routine, let us introduce you to our tried and tested favourites…

12 best cleansing oils to try now

1. Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Packed full of antioxidants and deeply hydrating, sugarcane-derived squalane oil, this cleansing oil is great for nourishing skin as it cleans.

2. Medik8 Lipid-Balance Cleansing Oil

Brimming with a blend of fatty acids and hero ingredient linoleic acid, this cleansing oil helps to break down makeup and rebalance the skin for a healthy-looking complexion.

3. Pai Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil

Formulated for sensitive skin and eyes, this gorgeous-smelling oil removes makeup gently without any need to rub or use abrasive wipes.

4. The Body Shop Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil

This refreshing cleanser is enriched with camomile oil, meaning it's seriously calm to skin. Plus, it even manages to remove waterproof mascara – impressive.

5. SUQQU Silky Smooth Cleansing Oil

Made from a blend of botanical oils, this silky cleanser leaves your skin soft and supple.

6. Votary Cleansing Oil

While it might be on the more expensive side of the scale, this luxurious face oil turns your evening cleanse into a full-on spa like experience. The blend of rose and apricot oils nourish your skin while smelling incredible.

7. Bobbi Brown Soothing Cleansing Oil

There's a reason why make-up artists love this cleansing oil, and that's because it really works. It removes every last scrap of make-up, without leaving your skin dry or tight.

8. Simple Kind to Skin Hydrating Cleansing Oil

Not yet sold on cleansing oils? Try out this seriously affordable pick and have your mind changed in an instant.

9. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

This cult cleanser emulsifies into a gorgeous milky texture on the skin and is enriched with vitamins and antioxidants to hydrate as it cleanses.

10. Typology 7-Ingredient Cleansing Oil

Made with a seriously minimalist, fragrance-free formula, this cleansing oil is suitable for the most sensitive of skin.

11. Caudalie Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil

Blending sweet almond, castor, grape seed and sunflower oils, this vegan formula cuts through dirt and pollution, leaving your skin feeling clean and fresh.

12. Clarins Total Cleansing Oil

An unsung hero of the Clarins skincare range, this lightweight cleansing oil helps preserve the skin's microbiota – the normal levels of bacteria in healthy skin – for clean, healthy-looking skin.

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