As someone who’s had oily, acne-prone skin for my entire adult life, I spent a huge number of years (no exaggeration) avoiding oily skincare products like the plague. Glow-boosting oils? No, thank you. Oil-infused cleansing balms? I’ll give it a miss. And my most hotly avoided product of them all? Cleansing oils. If you’re also a member of the oily skin brigade, then I know that you’ll understand where I’m coming from. When you spend all of your time trying to minimise oil production to prevent clogged pores and your makeup routine involves painstakingly applying powder to all the areas that you’re currently shining like a beacon from, then the thought of voluntarily applying more oil to your face feels counterproductive.
However, a few years back, a rather lovely facialist recommended a cleansing oil to me during a treatment, explaining to me that not only can using oils help to regulate your skin’s own oil production but that a cleansing oil will actually attract the excess oil on your skin’s surface so that you can easily wash it away. I gave her advice a go, and genuinely, I’ve never looked back. Cleansing oils and oil-rich balms are now a regular part of my skincare routine, and my skin loves them. Yes, I’ll always have skin that’s naturally on the oilier side and prone to spots, but adding a cleansing oil to my routine definitely hasn’t exacerbated the situation.
There are some things to note, though. Firstly, not all skin experts are in agreement about the benefits of cleansing oils, and this is down to the ingredients. Comedogenic oils like coconut and wheat germ can actually clog your pores, so these are best avoided entirely when you’re seeking out a new cleansing oil to try. Instead, look for botanical oils like apricot kernel, jojoba or hazelnut, which are noncomedogenic and more lightweight. The other issue? Because these cleansers are heavy-duty, they can leave oily deposits on the surface of your skin, which, again, could clog pores or prevent your other products from working effectively. To combat this, I only ever use a cleansing oil as my first cleanse of an evening, I always use a warm flannel or muslin cloth to buff it away, and I follow it with a second cleanse using a more foaming or gel-based formulation.
However, once you’ve got your head around that advice, there’s no denying that the glow you get from using a cleansing oil is unparalleled. And if your skin is on the dry side, then you’ll really reap the benefits. Ahead, 12 of the very best cleansing oils that I use and always recommend and that do the job well for all skin types.
1. Disciple Skincare Night Shift Cleanser
This is the very product that converted me to the joys of cleansing oils. The entire brand was created to look after stressed-out skin, and this cleanser, therefore, focuses on calming skin with a blend of anti-inflammatory oils and fruit extracts. It feels truly luxurious to use (far more than you'd expect from the £27 price tag), and I love that it's also enriched with alpha-hydroxy acids to gently exfoliate and brighten skin. I adore it.
2. Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
This is a great basic cleansing oil that I think every single skin type would benefit from. The star ingredient is squalane (derived from sugarcane, so it's vegan), which mimics the skin's natural oils to hydrate without feeling heavy. Not only does it always leave my skin looking fresh and healthy, but it rinses clean away without leaving any hint of residue on the skin's surface.
3. Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser
This is a luxurious natural cleansing oil that boasts a real mix of skin-friendly oils, including jojoba seed, argan, olive and apricot kernel. It dissolves excess sebum and daily grime with ease, but its deeply hydrating nature means that I think dry or mature skin types will really love this.
4. Cosmedix Purity Solution Nourishing Deep Cleansing Oil
Cosmedix is one of those skincare brands that skin experts are always recommending to me, and this cleansing oil is one that they always rave about. It's formulated with oily complexions in mind, helping to balance sebum levels and unclog pores with a blend of argan, moringa and olive oils. My skin loves it, but it would work brilliantly on all skin types.
5. Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil
The aim of the game is simple for this cleansing oil: make light work of removing makeup. It's seriously impressive and melts away full-coverage foundations and waterproof mascara with ease while plant oils soften the skin and leave your complexion clear and bright. Even better, it transforms from an oil to a milk upon contact with water, so there's no greasy residue.
6. Curél Makeup Cleansing Oil
Much like those of us with oily skin, I know plenty of people with sensitive complexions who avoid using cleansing oils for fear of irritation from plant or essential oils. For those people, I can't recommend this cleansing oil from Japanese skincare brand Curél enough. It's pH balanced and free from fragrance, colourings and alcohol to keep irritation at bay while removing makeup and dirt.
7. Medik8 Lipid-Balance Cleansing Oil
8. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
I was dubious about trying this cleanser, as it contains olive oil, which I was concerned could clog pores. However, you massage it into dry skin and then emulsify it with water, and it transforms into a soft milk that rinses clean away. My skin never feels greasy after using it, just soft and clean.
9. Pai Skincare Light Work Rosehip Cleansing Oil
10. Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Oil
I'm a big fan of the Clinique cleansing balm in the same range, so I was excited to learn that they also have an oil version. Just like the original, it deeply cleanses skin and dissolves all traces of the day without causing irritation or inflammation. While I'm not sure that I love it quite as much as the balm texture, it's well worth a try if you want a no-frills cleansing oil that gets the job done.
11. Nuxe Bio Organic Cleansing Oil
First up, this French pharmacy cleanser smells incredible—a sweet, fresh orange-blossom aroma that will make you feel like you're having a professional facial. It has vegetable and botanical oils at its core and is super gentle. Plus, it's been specially formulated for use on both face and body, so it's a brilliant one to have in your arsenal if you're packing for a trip.
12. Votary Super Seed Cleansing Oil
When it comes to truly brilliant cleansing oils, this one is up there with the best. It's been formulated to restore balance and soothe irritation, which makes it a great option if you're dealing with inflammation from sensitivity or breakouts. Chia- and parsley-seed oils are the star ingredients—both of which promote skin healing—and it's such a joy to use that I save it for special occasions.