If even the thought of massaging oil into your skin gives you a stress breakout, we’re here to talk you off the ledge. “Cleansing oils work by attracting other oils,” explains Oscar Hevia, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in Coral Gables, FL. When you apply them to your skin, they combine with the oils already on your complexion (either naturally produced sebum or those from makeup and other products) like two molecules hugging.
“When you rinse it all off, you take the debris with it,” Hevia says.And, unlike bar soap or even mild liquid formulas, which are alkaline, neutral cleansing oils will have little affect on skin’s naturally acidic pH levels. Translation? “They efficiently remove impurities without stripping your skin’s natural moisture barrier,” Hevia says. A good thing, since studies have shown that changing the pH of the epidermis can increase sensitivity and irritation, and even unintentionally rev up sebaceous glands—resulting in more oil production and more blemishes.
Not only are cleansing oils effective at balancing skin’s surface, they’re ideal for breaking down the hard-to-remove products we slather on daily (think mineral-based sunscreens, oil-based beauty balms, and basically every kind of eye makeup). “The same long-wearing ingredients we use to enhance and protect our faces during the day can often cause blemishes at night,” Hevia says. And since “lather, rinse, repeat” doesn’t usually apply to skincare, an oil cleanser can do the really dirty work before your go-to cleanser.
For best results, Hevia advises using your fingertips or a cotton ball to apply the oil all over dry skin, paying close attention to areas that have makeup or sunscreen you’re trying to dissolve. (Tip: Don’t forget your neck and décolletage, since they have been covered in sunscreen as well.) After letting it emulsify for a minute or two, press a washcloth soaked in warm or hot water over your skin, gently wiping from forehead to chin to neck, and back and forth over your nose and upper lip to make sure the oil is completely removed.Read on to find the best cleansing oil for you.