Since our teen years, we’ve been conditioned to believe that clean skin should be void of oil and that the best cleansers are those with foaming properties—so why would you even consider using oil to remove makeup and impurities?
Well, because it’s 2020 and oil cleansing is currently one of the most popular trends present in the beauty market—but it’s not exactly a new innovation. Ancient civilizations around the world have used oils for cosmetic purposes for centuries, and Sh Uemura was one of the first major companies to introduce a cleansing oil (in Japan) during the late ‘60s.
The magic of plant oils
Furthermore, recent research suggests that the topical application of some plant oils such as argan, avocado, jojoba, almond, rosehip, apricot, german chamomile, and shea butter can have anti-inflammatory and skin barrier effects. Incorporate essential oils into the mix and the benefits increase even more.
For example, chamomile is naturally soothing and can increase the moisture level of the skin due to one of its main constituents, azulene, and studies show indicated that when used topically, just five percent of tea tree oil is an efficient treatment for mild to modest acne vulgaris.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are over 90 varieties available that are suitable for the skin. So, it’s no surprise that the essential oil market is predicted to grow 6.5 percent by 2023.
Oil cleansing in k-beauty
Today, oil cleansing is popular amongst Japanese and the Korean beauty (K-beauty) movement as a part of their famed multi-stepped skin care routines, but it’s also going more mainstream.
Even drugstore brands like Neutrogena have introduced two different forms of oil cleansers, one for brightening and another for hydrating. Let’s take a deeper look at what exactly oil cleansing is and why it’s a trend that is likely here to stay—and with good reason.
What ss the oil cleansing method?
From the Phoenicians to the Romans to the Greeks, many civilizations are responsible for discovering soap. The concept of “lathering up” really exploded after the Second World War when synthetic detergents were introduced. They quickly gained popularity and the rest was history, but people weren’t educated on what these surfactants were actually doing to their skin.
While it’s important to remove cosmetics, harmful bacteria, dead skin cells, and excess oil, it’s best if that can be done with a cleanser that doesn’t strip the skin—this is where oil cleansing comes in.
The main concept behind oil cleansing is that you’re using oil to dissolve oil that has hardened with impurities, thus causing clogged pores—as in chemistry, like attracts like. Traditional cleansers that foam and lather are likely to cause excessive dryness, which will only cause your skin to produce even more oil out of survival mode.
The acid mantle
There’s a natural protective film on the surface layer of the skin that’s comprised of lactic acid, fatty acids, amino acids, sebum (natural skin oils), natural moisture, and water (from perspiration) that’s known as the acid mantle—it has a pH level somewhere between 4.5 and 5.5. The role of the acid mantle is to:
- Protect your skin from harsh weather conditions and pollution.
- Reduce the risk of breakouts or skin conditions such as eczema.
- Prevent water loss.
- Keep skin cells tight and flat, thus promoting a smooth and strong barrier.
- Work in tandem with the immune system to keep bad bacteria at bay.
- Keep skin hydrated and supple.
- Keep skin oil in balance while reducing excess sebum.
So, when considering a traditional, “soapy” cleanser has an extremely alkaline pH of 12, it’s easy to see why that wouldn’t be the most beneficial option for the skin considering the acid mantle has a much lower pH of 4.5 to 5.5.
Cleansers with detergents (like sulfates) may impart that squeaky clean feeling, but they may also be stripping your acid mantle and disrupting the skin’s barrier function to boot. The more you use such a formula, the more your skin is at risk for accelerated aging, which can appear in the form of fine lines, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, thinning skin, and more.
Benefits of oil cleansing
By using the right oils (think natural, pure, and correct for your skin type), you can effectively cleanse your face of makeup, excess dirt, and pore-clogging oils while replacing those with natural botanicals, vegetables, and fruit oils to protect and nourish your skin.
As aforementioned, oils used for cleansing may have additional benefits, such as brightening the appearance of skin, protecting against environmental stressors, and more. Unlike traditional cleansers that strip the skin, oil cleansers will help balance and lock in hydration.
Choosing a cleansing oil
Due to growing popularity oil cleansing for beautiful skin is more accessible than ever as there are copious versions on the market. Pre-made cleansing oils typically contain an oil base, as well as a skin-cleansing ingredient known as a surfactant to effectively remove dirt and impurities from the skin.
You’ll find that some oil cleansers are just like oil, while others are more vicious and have a gel or balm consistency to them. The results are the same, so it’s really a matter of preference.
Our line of cleansers here at Annmarie is on the creamier side, thanks to the combination of nourishing oils, aloe vera leaf juice, a numerous essential oils and botanical extracts to clean, hydrate, brighten, soften, and nourish the skin while maintaining its pH balance.
How to make a DIY cleansing oil
Perhaps you’re on the fence about oil cleansing and would like to try your hand at whipping up your own formula before making a larger financial investment with a retail version. Well, an oil cleanser just may be one of the easiest DIY beauty recipes you can try, but the secret is choosing the correct oils for your skin type.
Basic DIY recipe
- The most basic recipe you can try is mixing a 1:1 ratio of two different oils.
- The most common combination is olive oil (for its vitamins and antioxidants) and castor oil because it acts like an astringent to get a deeper cleanse.
- For oily/combination skin, replace olive oil with jojoba oil.
- For dry/mature skin, replace the olive oil with avocado oil.
The best oils to use for oil cleansing
There are several oils that work well when using the oil cleansing method, but the key is that you’re buying high quality, organic, unrefined formulas—not oils that are cut with cheaper (and potentially pore-clogging) oils or synthetic ingredients.
What to look for
Look for keywords like cold-pressed, unrefined, or virgin as these oils are meant for the skin—not the kitchen. The following list of oils are suitable for most skin types and are considered the top picks because they are hydrating; help remove buildup from the surface of the skin; create the appearance of a brighter, smoother complexion; promote an even skin tone; decongest pores; balance natural oils;have a calming effect; and provide an instant glow.
- Apricot kernel oil
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
- Castor oil
- Coconut oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Jojoba oil
- Olive oil
- Sunflower oil
- Sweet almond oil
How to do oil cleansing
There is a myth that oil cleansing takes too much time—this couldn’t be farther from the truth! It effectively removes all traces of makeup (including stubborn eye makeup) without rubbing and tugging in the same amount of time it would take to wash your face with a traditional cleanser. Here’s how to do it:
- Pour or scoop (if using a balm) approximately a quarter size amount of oil cleanser into your hand and gently massage into dry skin, to include the eye area (just be careful not to get the product into your eyes.)
- Continue the massaging motion for at least one minute, but two is even better. The goal is to make sure that all of the oil has been saturated into your skin. The massage is beneficial, too, because it increases lymph and circulation, thus giving you an instantaneous glow.
- If you really want to deep clean the pores, leave the oil on your skin for up to 10 minutes.
- When it’s time to remove the product, place a warm washcloth on your face and gently press it into your skin so it works like a steamer in a facial treatment.
- Leave it on until it cools (approximately one minute) before gently removing any remaining oil. Note that there will still be a thick layer of oil on your skin, but this is a good thing as the active ingredients will still be working long after you’re done cleansing.
- Apply moisturizer if needed—especially if you have dry skin.
How often you should do oil cleansing
Once per day in the evening as it’s a good time to remove makeup and all of the impurities encountered throughout the day, as well as leave a hydrating barrier on your skin before bedtime. Since the skin repairs itself while you’re snoozing, it’s always a good idea to make sure it's shielded with nourishing ingredients to aid the process.
However, depending on your skin type, it may be only necessary to oil cleanse every other day or once a week (especially when left on the face as a treatment mask) as it serves as a very deep cleanse.
The idea of cleansing with oils has been around for centuries, but it’s only up until recently that consumers are starting to grasp the concept of “oil attracts oil” when it comes to skin cleansing.
Traditional, foaming cleansers are highly alkaline and can disrupt the skin’s acid mantle, thus stripping it of its natural oils. This puts the skin at risk for infections, skin conditions, accelerated aging, and the likelihood that even more oil will be produced to compensate for the loss.
Oil cleansers work to effectively cleanse your face of makeup, dead skin, pollutants, and pore-clogging oils while replacing those with natural botanicals, vegetables, and fruit oils to protect and nourish your skin. There are numerous oils that work well for an oil cleanse, but it’s important to make sure you’re using those that are natural, pure, unrefined, and void of fillers and synthetic ingredients.
Things to note
Keep in mind that you may experience breakouts when you first start oil cleansing, but this is completely normal as your skin is purging all of the toxins and dirt that have been harboring in your pores. However, if this period lasts more than two weeks, then you either need to change the oils you’re using or stop oil cleansing altogether.
If you’re not into DIY, why not try out our Restorative Cleansing Oil? This product may be easier for you to get used to versus a straight-up oil sensation. And unlike a homemade version, our formulas are also chock-full of several other nourishing, hydrating, protecting, softening, and brightening botanicals, extracts, and essential oils—most of which are organically grown or wildcrafted.
There are five varieties catered towards each skin type, so try one out and leave us a note in the comment section to let us know if oil cleansing worked for you!
“Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils,” US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, January 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
“Essential Oils for Skin,” Healthtrends, August 16, 2019,
“Aromatherapy Market Size is Anticipated to Grow at a CAGR of 6.5 percent, by Forecast to 2023 Predicts Market Research Future” Global Newswire, July 26, 2019,
“Cleansers and Their Role in Various Dermatological Disorders,” Indian Journal of Dermatology, January-February 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3088928/
“Do You Know What The pH of Your Cleanser Should Be?,” Annmariegianni, August 18, 2019, https://www.annmariegianni.com/acid-mantle-ph/
“Oil Cleansing Myths Busted by a Beauty Expert,” CBC Life, January 10, 2018,
“Everything You Need To Know About The Oil Cleansing Method,” Healthline, June 10, 2019, https://www.healthline.com/health/oil-cleansing-method#choosing-an-oil
Rebecca Taras has over ten years of editorial and copywriting experience, including serving as an editor for hot digital spaces like Refinery29, PopSugar, Forbes Travel Guides, and Bustle. Along with contributing to print and digital outlets, she currently handles copywriting for some of the biggest brands in the beauty and travel industries.
A Chicagoland native, Taras began her career catering to celebrity clientele as an esthetician at the Peninsula Chicago Hotel before launching her own line of bath and body care products with her previous bath and body care company, Cleansing Queen. Rebecca also created custom in-room amenities for the Sofitel Hotel Chicago, including items featured in a special presentation for the president of AccorHotels upon his visit from France to Chicago. Her efforts were recognized by the Chicago Fashion Foundation, and she received the Style Maker and Rule Breaker award in the Beauty category.
Ultimately, Rebecca’s initiatives evolved into the co-founding of Terminal Getaway airport spas, now located at Seattle-Tacoma International, Tampa International, Orlando International, and Chicago O’Hare International airports. Though she is no longer involved with Terminal Getaway, her passion for beauty and travel not only persisted over the years but grew.
As Rebecca continued to refine her skincare knowledge, she spent a considerable amount of time as a journalist covering beauty and other topics. Rebecca’s diverse body of knowledge, experience, and an insatiable curiosity for faraway places culminated in Well-Traveled Beauty, an upcoming skincare line and travel website. The company’s initial offerings will be a line of results-driven, travel-friendly beauty products that take the guesswork out of figuring out what to pack.
A global traveler with a passion for Paris, Taras finally decided to live the Parisian way of life on the daily and call the City of Light home.