Facial cleansing oils are a big beauty trend—and these dermatologists are on board. Here are their guidelines for choosing the best cleansing oil for you, plus a few of their top picks.
Washing your face with oil has become a wildly popular trend, encouraged by celebs and beauty experts alike. But is it for everyone?
“The theory behind oil cleansers is that they’re thought to remove bad excess oil because they have similar chemical properties as skin oil, which allow them to interact,” says Arielle Nagler, MD, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “This is in contrast to washing with water, which separates from oil.”
The best facial cleansing oils of 2021, according to dermatologists and customer reviews.
- Best Deep Cleanse: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
- Best Lightweight: Burt's Bees 100% Natural Facial Cleansing Oil
- Best for Oily Skin: Tula #Nomakeup Replenishing Cleansing Oil
- Best for Acne-Prone Skin: True Botanicals Pre-Cleanse Oil
- Best for Dry Skin: Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil
- Best Anti-Aging: Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
- Best for Sensitive Skin: Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil
- Best for Makeup Removal: Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil
- Best Exfoliator: St. Ives Exfoliate & Nourish Facial Oil Scrub
- Best Hydration: bareMinerals Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil
- Best Fragrance-Free: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
- Best for Pores: Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil
- Best Capsules: Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules
- Best Jojoba Oil: Era Organics Facial Cleansing Oil
- Best Coconut Oil: Garden of Life Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Amy Kassouf, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, clarifies that many cleansing oils are better suited for people with dry skin who could use a little more moisture, rather than people who naturally produce a lot of oil. “Generally speaking, sensitive, dry skin will do better with this type of cleansing than oily skin types.” She also reminds her patients that not all oils function the same way, and many of them have either pro- or anti-inflammatory properties.
So, what can you do to choose the right one? Be sure to research products carefully before use, and if your skin does not improve in the way you want it to, reassess your skincare routine, Dr. Kassouf says. Here, 15 different cleansing oils to try based on your specific concerns.
Best Deep Cleanse: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil takes the top spot as Amazon’s most popular cleansing oil with more than 6,300 perfect ratings. The Japanese wash gained popularity as a single-step cleanser that could remove makeup and cleanse skin without clogging pores or leaving behind a greasy residue. Deemed “the best” by hundreds of shoppers, the olive oil-based formula can also be used to clean makeup brushes.
Best Lightweight: Burt's Bees 100% Natural Facial Cleansing Oil
Looking for a lightweight, thin oil to cleanse your skin? Try Burt's Bees 100% Natural Facial Cleansing Oil. It’s formulated to be lightweight despite a high concentration of coconut and argan oil, so it leaves skin feeling moisturized and fresh without a greasy residue. “Using a simple oil as a cleanser may act as a solvent to remove or dilute other oils,” Dr. Kassouf explains. “This allows dirt to be wiped from the surface without removing the natural oils.”
Best for Oily Skin: Tula #Nomakeup Replenishing Cleansing Oil
If you have naturally oily, acne-prone skin, that doesn’t mean cleansing oils can’t benefit your skin too—you just need to be wary of the type of oil you’re using. Dr. Nagler recommends making sure the product says “non-comedogenic” on its label. “What you don’t want are products that will clog your pores,” she says. “But using the right oil cleansers may remove some of the bad oils that are essential in the development of acne.” For a non-comedogenic, pick that won’t clog pores, opt for Tula #Nomakeup Replenishing Cleansing Oil. Dr. Nagler also suggests alternating your oil treatment with a more traditional, gentle cleanser a couple of nights per week, and avoiding products with exfoliating beads or other physical exfoliation modalities that can exacerbate acne.
Best for Acne: True Botanicals Pre-Cleanse Oil
Maryland-based dermatologist Ife Rodney, MD, recommends True Botanicals Pre-Cleanse Oil for its pared-down formula. It contains just four ingredients; jojoba oil, apricot oil, sesame seed oil, and bergamot. She says the “oils are perfect for keeping your skin moisturized while helping our skin’s natural oil production remain balanced,” while the bergamot adds a dose of vitamin C. As a result, it not only cleanses the skin but treats blemishes.
Best for Dry Skin: Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil
Dr. Nagler recommends using a cleansing oil that also contains natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E and vitamin C. For a product rich in these fatty acids, go with Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil. Like most of the cleansing oils on the market, this product will effectively remove makeup and other impurities on the skin while still leaving it feeling moisturized and smooth. But again, Dr. Nagler warns that people with dry skin will derive more benefits from using cleansing oils because the baseline moisture on their skin is lower than others.
Best Anti-Aging: Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
If you’re looking for a makeup-remover and cleansing duo with high-quality ingredients, try Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil. Debra Jaliman, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, recommends this one because it contains camellia and rice bran oils. These traditional Japanese oils are commonly used for their anti-aging, softening, and hydrating benefits due to their combination of antioxidants, fatty acids, and vitamin E.
Best for Sensitive Skin: Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil
More than 6,900 shoppers swear by this Bioderma Atoderm Cleansing Oil, which has a dermatologist-tested foaming formula that’s safe for the entire family. Developed for sensitive and super dry skin, it’s safe to use on the entire body and cost-effective at just $20 per liter. One reviewer describes the texture as an “interesting mix between an oil and a gel” that leaves skin soft and hydrated without leaving behind an oily residue.
Best for Makeup Removal: Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil
If the primary goal of incorporating a cleansing oil is to remove makeup, look no further than the Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil. Dr. Rodney says the paraben-free pick is on her radar because “it’s gentle yet powerful enough to break down makeup and dirt.” Plus, it contains hydrating ingredients, like glycerin, that prevent skin from drying out.
Best Exfoliator: St. Ives Exfoliate & Nourish Facial Oil Scrub
When you’re not ready to fully commit to cleansing oil, an oil-based formula is the next best thing. New York-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD, recommends St. Ives Exfoliate & Nourish Facial Oil Scrub because the oil base removes dirt while “hydrating and maintaining the integrity of the outer layer of skin.” He says this allows the physical exfoliator, walnut shell powder, to gently remove dead skin cells without causing dryness or irritation.
Best Hydration: bareMinerals Smoothness Hydrating Cleansing Oil
This hero moisturizes, softens, and smooths dehydrated skin for an overall healthier complexion. If you have dry or combination skin and are mainly looking to use an oil-based cleanser for hydration purposes, the bareMinerals Smoothness Hydrating Cleansing Oil will be your go-to. Plus, it has the Dr. Nagler-backed recommendation of added antioxidants.
Best Fragrance-Free: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
Synthetic fragrance isn’t the only thing missing from the Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil: It’s also formulated without parabens or animal-derived products. Instead, the antioxidant-powered pick uses natural ingredients like lavender oil, primrose oil, and sugarcane-extracted squalane oil. The latter is the most important because it mimics the body’s natural hydrating oils to lock in moisture for a softening effect.
Best for Pores: Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil
Blackheads are no match for Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil, which combines a soothing blend of oils (jojoba, fruit, and olive) with polyhydroxy acid. While the oils melt away makeup and dirt, the PHA gently exfoliates dead skin for a clearer complexion. And unlike other chemical exfoliants, PHAs are generally considered safe for sensitive skin.
Best Capsules: Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules
Skip the messy cleanup of most cleansing oils by opting for Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules. Each biodegradable capsule contains one application of the brand’s signature blend of botanical oils. Not only are they perfect for travel, but the unique packaging ensures you’ll never waste a drop of luxurious oil. Bonus: The formula contains fatty acids to keep skin soft and hydrated for up to 12 hours after use.
Best Jojoba Oil: Era Organics Facial Cleansing Oil
You’ll only find five ingredients in Era Organics Facial Cleansing Oil: jojoba, argan, apricot seed, and sunflower seed oils, as well as rosemary extract. The cruelty-free combination is strong enough to remove makeup, dirt, and other impurities but still gentle enough to leave skin nourished and moisturized. Shoppers rave that the lavender-vanilla scent is an added bonus to noticeably supple skin.
Best Coconut Oil: Garden of Life Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
For a natural, organic oil cleanser that tons of women swear by, try coconut oil. “Individual oils vary with their ability to clean off other oils and debris from your skin,” Dr. Kassouf says. “But coconut is one of the best.” She recommends daily cleansing for those with dry or normal skin. We like Garden of Life Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. Ah, the many beauty uses for coconut oil.