Cleansing your face with oil might sound counterintuitive if you have acne, but it's actually one of the most effective ways to cut through all the excess sebum, makeup, and buildup on your face, without stripping your skin. In fact, the best oil cleansers for acne prone skin can actually be an excellent source of hydration, which according to Dr. Channing Barnett, M.D., a Florida-based board certified dermatologist, is something all skin — even the most reactive— needs in order to be healthy.
“Oils play a central role in helping us maintain hydration,” Dr. Barnett explains. “And effective oil-based cleansers are rich in nutrients with healing properties.”
The science behind how cleansing with oil can help acne prone skin is based on what Dr. Barnett refers to as the “like-dissolves-like” concept. “Plant-based oils found in many oil-based cleansers dissolve the natural oils on our skin that have hardened and plugged up our pores,” she says. “The applied oil will mix with the hardened oils, and can be lifted away when the mixture is wiped with a damp washcloth. This is a great approach if you are prone to acne with pore congestion and blackheads.”
Keep in mind, using an oil cleanser isn't the same as slathering your face in straight olive or coconut oil or from your kitchen— you’ll want to look for a properly formulated product for your skin type first. “Focus on products labelled as ‘non-comedogenic’ to ensure that they won’t clog your pores,” Dr. Barnett advises. “Also avoid cleansers with added scents or dyes.” Finally, she adds that mineral oil is a “big no no” for skin that’s prone to inflammation, blackheads, and/or whiteheads.
In terms of best practices, washing your face with an oil cleanser is best to do only at night so your skin stays well hydrated while you sleep. “I recommend applying the cleanser to your face when it is dry,” Dr. Barnett says. “Use your fingertips to massage the oil cleanser into the skin gently for a minute or two to remove impurities such as dead skin cells and makeup. Let it penetrate the skin. Then use a warm, damp, soft, smooth, cotton-based washcloth to gently wipe away the oil. And don't scrub too hard! You will win the battle against acne with a gentle touch and not your nails.”
Using the right oil cleanser for your skin will give your pores a deeper clean, and these eight oil cleansers and balms — which melt into oils when you apply them — are great for acne prone skin.
1. This Hypoallergenic Cleansing Balm That's Safe For Sensitive Skin
This cleansing balm from Banila Co has a sherbet texture and is formulated with a soothing array of gentle ingredients that are surprisingly powerful when it comes to removing stubborn makeup and sunscreen. It can even be used to remove eye makeup from the sensitive eye are, without causing irritation or blurry vision, which some oil cleansers that don't rinse off thoroughly can give you.
User review: "I have combination skin that has gone wild since hitting my 30’s. I suddenly got adult acne and no matter what I used to control my oily face it either exasterbated the problem or dried it out too much. Not Clean It Zero!! This stuff melts away make up (which I rarely wear but when I do...) and gets every spec of dirt and access oil off my face WITHOUT drying it!"
2. This Cult Favorite Japanese Cleansing Oil With Two Types Of Hyaluronic Acid
Although many inexpensive oil cleansers turn to mineral oil for a cheap cleanse, the Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil uses olive oil, along with a blend of other non-irritating oils, to cut through the day's grime. And, this oil cleanser contains two types of Hyaluronic Acid to effectively hydrate your skin on multiple levels.
User review: "The best cleansing oil I have ever tried! I have very sensitive and acne prone skin. This cleansing oil doesn't break me out. I have tried many different brands but this one does the job best. It removes all my makeup, even my super waterproof mascara. I keep the bottle and just buy the refills."
3. This Cleanser Is Formulated With Salicylic Acid, Which Takes Its Pore Clearing Power Up A Notch
Shu Uemura is known for their incredible line of high-end cleansing oils, and their Porefinist Anti-Shine Fresh Cleansing Oil includes one very special pore-clearing ingredient that you'd be hard-pressed to find in another cleansing oil: salicylic acid. The mild exfoliating acid gives this cleansing oil an extra boost to dive deep into your pores and wash away dead skin cells and buildup.
User review: "The best cleanser for oily or combination skin. I get cystic style acne and this keeps my pores tight and skin dewey - which is hard to do with one product!"
4. This Hydrating Cleansing Oil Is Great For Dry Skin That's Prone To Breakouts
Oily skin isn't the only kind of skin susceptible to breakouts. Acne can affect dry skin types as well — and keeping skin properly hydrated can help reduce irritation and strengthen your skin's natural barrier function, so it's better equipped to fight off acne-causing bacteria. This cleansing oil from Julep uses grape seed, olive, and rosehip oils to nourish and hydrate the skin while you cleanse, without clogging pores.
User review: "Amazing buy, I used to have a 6-7 step skin routine to try to keep acne at bay. I’m getting married soon so I was willing to splurge on something new if it meant not having cystic clusters appear before the big day.And I gotta say, this stuff is amazing. It cleanses deeply and moisturizes, and it transformed my skin within a week!"
5. This Nourishing Cleansing Water With Rice Bran Oil
Featuring a powerhouse of antioxidants, this camellia oil will feel like heaven on acne prone skin. Extracted directly from tea seeds, camellia oil is hydrating and loaded with nutrients that promote clear, smooth skin. This formula contains jojoba and grapeseed which offers a similar consistency that the skin produces, making it a beautiful lightweight oil that won’t feel greasy. This product is free of additives and harsh chemicals, ensuring a natural remedy for oily, sensitive, and combination skin. It contains natural fragrance, so it’s even safe enough to use to remove stubborn eye makeup and lipstick. Reviewers on Amazon are loving using this oil as a natural makeup remover and moisturizer, finding it easily removes waterproof mascara and heavy pigments.
User review: "I love this cleanser. It takes off my water-proof mascara with ease and leaves my skin feeling very soft. My acne has cleared up so much since using this, I feel like it gets all of the gunk out of my pores without making my skin look like I lost a fight with sandpaper."
6. The Pore-Clearing Version Of The World Famous DHC Cleansing Oil — Designed Specifically For Congested Skin
DHC's original Deep Cleansing Oil is one of the most popular out there — so much so that, according to the brand, one is sold every ten seconds worldwide. But the maker's of the iconic oil cleanser have also created a lesser-known formula specifically for acne prone skin. The DHC Pore Cleansing Oil includes a blend of nine "hydrating and clarifying oils," including coconut, argan, evening primrose, olive, grape seed, jojoba, avocado, sesame, and rice bran oils — which work together to give your pores an extra-deep cleanse.
User review: "It has a gel-like consistency and doesn’t feel super oily. I rub it all over my face (even my eyes - doesn’t burn) for a couple of minutes. I rinse it off then wash my face with my regular cleanser. It removes all my makeup & cleans out my pores. It doesn’t make my skin feel oily."
7. This Rich Cleansing Balm With Tea Tree & Citrus Oils To Help Keep Skin Clear
The Heimish All Clean Balm is often viewed as a close cousin to Banila Co's Clean It Zero Purity that gets beauty-lovers ardently discussing which one is their favorite. While they are both great gentle cleansing balms, their ingredients differ quite a bit from one another.
The Heimish All Clean Balm has a rich, creamy formula that includes shea butter, donkey milk, and coconut. This balm cleanser is also formulated with tea tree oil, which is naturally antibacterial and antiseptic — two great qualities for helping to heal acne — and a blend of citrus oils which can help to gradually fade the dark spots acne often leaves behind.
User review: "I’ve used this product for a year now. I have very sensitive and acne prone skin. This will effectively remove makeup without breaking you out. I use this, then follow up with a gentle cleanser."
8. This Moisturizing Cleansing Oil That's Loaded With Vitamins
Rich in vitamins A, B, and E, this super moisturizing cleansing oil will be a refreshing change from harsh soaps and heavy oils. With a lightweight consistency and nourishing ingredients like rice bran and jojoba oil, this cleansing oil will brighten acne scars while rinsing away impurities that lead to breakouts. It’s powerful enough to remove makeup while keeping your skin vibrant and hydrated, and thanks to the ceramides, this is a wonderful way to keep the skin moisturized without clogging pores.
User review: "Makes my skin so soft. Great facial oil for acne prone, combination skin. The bottle size is great and convenient with the pump. I love the ingredients and so does my face!"
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