skin health

9 min read

Why oil cleansers are best for stubborn make-up

Don’t stain those white pillowcases! Double cleanse with an oil cleanser before you turn in for the night.


Story Highlights 

  • what is a cleansing oil? 
  • what does an oil cleanser do? 
  • is an oil cleanser necessary? 
  • can cleanser be used as makeup remover? 
  • can you use an oil cleanser by itself? 
  • who is a cleansing oil best for? 
  • how to choose a cleansing oil 
  • how to use an oil cleanser 
  • what’s the best cleansing oil for my skin type? 

what is a cleansing oil? 

Cleansing oils are oil-based cleansers that effortlessly remove makeup, environmental surface debris or pollution, and excess sebum from the skin. Cleansing oils work differently than traditional water, cream, gel-based or foaming cleansers. These cleansing types typically rely on surfactants, with some ingredients that attract and dissolve oil, makeup, and the daily grime off the skin so that they’re suspended and then rinsed off with water. 

what does an oil cleanser do? 

As chemistry tells us, “like attracts like,” so oil-based cleansers can deconstruct oil-soluble substances like makeup, environmental pollutants, excess sebum (oil), and residual product buildup for a deeper clean than only using your regular cleanser alone. The best way to wash your face is by using an oil-based cleanser to break down the day and follow with a cleanser according to your skin type. We call this gentle cleansing technique the Dermalogica Double Cleanse. 


Using an oil cleanser before your regular cleanser helps to: 

  • Gently dissolve and remove built-up residue and makeup 
  • Smooth, calm, and nourish skin without clogging pores. 
  • Enables your regular cleanser and other skin care products to work more effectively. 
  • Dissolve and remove mascara (even waterproof!), heavy foundation, film leftover from physical sunscreen, lipstick and hard-to-remove lip stains, and false eyelashes and eyelash extensions 


      is an oil cleanser necessary? 

      Even if you don’t wear makeup, oil-based cleansers remove any SPF residue and daily pollutants. If you have an oily skin type, skin is more likely to attract surface debris and bacteria, leading to inflammation and breakouts. Oil cleansing gently lifts and breaks down excess oil and surface debris to give oily skin a more thorough and gentle cleansing option. Those with dry skin or sensitive skin have an impaired moisture barrier that can bolster by using an oil cleanser before moving on to exfoliation and a gentle cleanser. 


      Oil cleansers soften skin, allowing targeted ingredients from moisturizers and serums to penetrate your skin better. Oil-based cleansers also help you avoid damaging your skin from scrubbing too hard. So, again, it doesn’t matter if you’re removing a full face of glamorous makeup or just a day out in the city; an oil cleanser is your best friend because it gently melts it all away. 


      can cleanser be used as makeup remover? 

      Regular foaming, water, gel, or even cream-based cleansers alone, don’t typically have enough oil-based ingredients to effectively remove stay-put makeup products or a day of excess oil production and surface debris without risk of damage to the skin. Using a cleanser alone to remove makeup can result in heavy scrubbing or pulling on the skin, leading to damage. We have oil-based cleansers to properly remove the day from a full face while improving the skin barrier – not stripping it. 

      Introducing Oil to Foam Total Cleanser, an all-in-one cleanser that removes make-up, sunscreen, debris, excess sebum, and pollutants while leaving skin instantly soft and smooth.* The formula starts as a golden gel-oil infused with Sea Buckthorn Oil that melts away layers of make-up, sunscreen, debris, and excess sebum. A splash of water transforms the gel-oil into a rich,
      cloud-like foam to wash away any remaining impurities. A plant-derived prebiotic acts as a moisture magnet, supporting long-lasting hydration.
      *Based on independent clinical study results with 30 volunteers, one application.


      can you use an oil cleanser by itself? 

      While using an oil cleanser by itself is possible, the cleanser would have to have surfactants to remove the leftover oil residue properly. Even if you do a double cleansing routine with an oil cleanser alone, you opt out of using a cleanser with targeted ingredients for your specific skin type or to remove the leftover makeup, dirt, and oil residue left on the skin thoroughly after lifting them all from the surface. It’s always best to do a Dermalogica Double Cleanse for your safest, ultimate clean. 


      which cleansing oil is best for you? 

      Adding a cleansing oil to your double cleansing routine can benefit all skin types, especially when followed by a second cleanser. In the end, using cleansing oil or doing a Double Cleanse is up to personal preference, but if you are a fan of stay-all-day makeup products, water-resistant SPF products, have problematic skin issues, and a more gentle cleansing routine, using a cleansing oil can be a game-changer for your skin. 


      how to choose a cleansing oil 

      Always use products that avoid synthetic fragrance or problematic essential oils to avoid reactivity on dry skin or sensitive skin types. Many oily and acne-prone skin types don’t realize that there are oils out there that help benefit their skin concerns and that using products with a fatty acid like linoleic acid helps balance surface lipids.


      Using cleansing oils containing Grapeseed Oil, Primrose Oil, or other non-pore-clogging oils like Argan Oil is excellent for oily and acne-prone skin types, and especially for dry skin and sensitive skin. Those with mature skin can address signs of skin aging using oil cleansers containing Apricot Kernel Oil, a skin-softening oil that leaves skin feeling clean and looking brighter and more supple. 


      how to use an oil cleanser 

      As the skin experts, we know that the best way to use an oil cleanser is to follow oil cleansing with the best cleanser for your skin type, but here is how to begin your double cleanse using an oil cleanser. 


      Dispense into oil cleanser into dry hands. Massage over a dry face and eyes, concentrating on areas of congestion, water-proof makeup, or stubborn debris to dissolve surface oil and dirt. Wet hands and continue massaging to create a light, milky emulsion. Rinse with lukewarm water. Follow with the best Dermalogica Cleanser for your skin type to get professional cleansing results. 


      what’s the best cleansing oil for my skin type? 

      Oil to Foam Total Cleanser is a golden gel-oil formula that works as an all-in-one make-up remover and cleanser. Sea Buckthorn Oil, which is rich in antioxidant Vitamin E, melts away layers of make-up, sebum (oil), and sunscreen while a plant-derived prebiotic acts as a moisture magnet, leaving skin feeling totally clean and totally smooth.


      Dermalogica PreCleanse is a lightweight oil ideal for normal, dry, sensitive skin oily, and acne-prone skin types. It’s a deep-cleansing oil that melts makeup and impurities from skin. It contains Grapeseed Oil, Primrose Oil, Argan Oil and Apricot Kernel Oil to benefit the needs of multiple skin types and concerns. Use within the Double Cleanse regimen for the ultimate clean, healthy-looking skin. 


      For a best-over-all double cleansing routine for all skin types, follow oil cleansing with Special Cleansing Gel. It’s a soap-free, foaming cleanser that works to cleanse all skin conditions with a refreshing lather. It thoroughly removes impurities without disturbing the skin’s natural moisture balance. Lightweight and mild enough to use every day, this cleanser contains naturally-foaming Quillaja Saponaria to gently rinse away toxins and debris to leave skin feeling smooth and clean. It also features calming Balm Mint and Lavender extracts to soothe the skin.


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      Want to learn more about which skin care products are right for you?


      Visit your local Dermalogica skin therapist for a completely customized regimen.