The 8 Best Oil Cleansers For Acne-Prone Skin

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By BDG Commerce
Originally Published: 

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 board-certified dermatologist Dr. Channing Barnett, is something all skin — even the most reactive types — needs in order to be healthy. “Oils play a central role in helping us maintain hydration,” Dr. Barnett explains to Bustle. “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 cleansing balms — which melt into oils when you apply them — are particularly great for acne-prone skin.


The Cult-Favorite Korean Cleansing Balm With A Sherbet-To-Oil Texture

The cult-favorite cleansing balm from Banila Co has a sherbet-like texture in its solid form, but it melts into an oil when you rub it onto your skin. The brand makes four different cleansing balms, but this one — Cleansing Balm Purifying — is the best choice for oily, acne-prone skin. As it expertly dissolves makeup with its blend of nourishing oils and plant extracts, it also helps soothe and balance irritated, congested skin. It can even be used to remove eye makeup from the sensitive eye area without causing irritation or blurry vision, unlike a lot of other oil cleansers out there.

Relevant review: "Works so well for my sensitive and acne-prone skin! Removes eye makeup very well (including mascara) and has helped improve my acne and mask-ne! I didn’t understand the hype around it but now I do.”


An Olive Oil-Based Cleanser That’s Infused With Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid

Olive oil makes up the base of Hadalabo Gokujun Cleansing Oil — another cult-y oil cleanser, this time from a Japanese brand. (Hot tip: It’s a favorite of Insta-famous dermatologist Dr. Dray.) But it also contains two types of hyaluronic acid to hydrate your skin as it simultaneously removes makeup and restores moisture (because yes, hydration and moisture are two different things). This rings up at just about $14 on Amazon, making it one of the most affordable oil cleansers on this list.

Relevant review: "I’ve been using this product for about 8 months now everyday twice a day as the first half of my double cleanse. I have dry acne prone skin. It’s lightweight and unscented, completely melts makeup, cleanses gently, does not clog pores or cause breakouts, and washes off easily. A perfect first step to your skincare routine.”


A Cleansing Oil With Salicylic Acid That’s Designed For Oily Skin

For a cleansing oil that was formulated specifically for oily, acne-prone skin, pick up Hanskin Pore Cleansing Oil. It contains the BHA salicylic acid, which helps keep breakouts at bay by digging deep into your pores and cleaning them out of dead skin and excess oil (aka sebum), but it’s also loaded with plant-based extracts and other, nourishing oils to leave your skin moisturized and soft.

Relevant review: "This is a large bottle for what you pay for. I’ve had it for almost 2 months and I’ve barely made a dent. It smells great and it’s not heavy. It’s perfect for my oily-acne prone face.”


A Solid, Mid-Range Option Made With *All* The Right Oils

When it comes to figuring out the best cleansing oils, Julep Love Your Bare Face Cleansing Oil ticks off all of the right boxes: It contains a blend of all-star oils like grape seed, olive, and rosehip (aka some of the best oils for your skin); it’s suitable for all skin types — from oily and acne-prone to dry and sensitive; and it comes at a reasonable, mid-range price point. This is rich in lots of other skin-boosting ingredients as well, like antioxidants, vitamin E, ands squalane. A pretty foolproof pick, all around.

Relevant review: “I have super oily skin[...] I've been through multiple facial oils & this has been my favorite one. [...] This one seems to have the perfect balance of cleansing but w/o the heavy ingredients or the weird film being left on my face. Some of the more expensive brands have actually clogged my pores and my situation worse. This has been the perfect facial oil for me!”


The Best Face Duo For Double Cleansing

The Face Shop’s Rice Water Bright cleansing oil is another one of the best Korean oil cleansers out there. What sets this one apart is that it’s made with rice water, which has long been used for its skin care benefits (in particular, the brand says that it can help keep your skin looking smooth, clear, and bright). Next, pick up the brand’s equally popular Rice Water Bright Foaming Cleanser. Together, these products are perfect for double cleansing, the K-beauty practice that involves using an oil cleanser first, followed by a water-based cleanser, to give your skin a super deep clean.

Relevant review: “I've had a fantastic experience with the new skin care regimen: huge reduction in blemishes, almost completely eliminated the pimples!!!--I just get one or two during my period--evened skin tone, and overall a cleaner, softer face.”


The Pore-Clearing Version Of DHC’s Iconic Cleansing Oil

DHC's original Deep Cleansing Oil is one of the most popular cleansing oils out there — so much so that, according to the brand, one is sold every 10 seconds worldwide. But the makers of the iconic oil cleanser have also created a lesser-known formula that was designed specifically for acne-prone skin. Enter: The DHC Pore Cleansing Oil, which includes a blend of nine nourishing oils — including coconut, argan, evening primrose, olive, grape seed, jojoba, avocado, sesame, and rice bran — that work together to give your skin an extra-deep clean. You also get some soothing, toning, and protecting benefits from this cleanser thanks to plant extracts like chamomile and a few different types of citrus.

Editor’s note: Check out more of the best Japanese cleansing oils here.

Relevant review: "This is the best cleansing oil from DHC for people who have oily or combination skin. It's not as oily as their olive cleansing oil. It does exactly as described. It removes makeup and dirt. It really has reduced the size of my pores. I like the scent which smells so natural. My face has never been cleaner [...] It leaves my face soft & clean. No oily residue.”


Another Fan-Favorite Cleansing Balm To Consider

Heimish All Clean Balm is often viewed as a close cousin to Banila Co's Clean It Zero balm, which gets beauty lovers ardently discussing which one is their favorite. While they’re both great, gentle cleansing balms (and equally effective for removing makeup), their ingredients differ quite a bit from one another. The Heimish balm has a rich, creamy formula — think more coconut oil and less sherbet — and contains tea tree extract, which is often used to help treat acne. This contains about 20 milliliters more of product and costs about $7 less than the Banila balm, so technically you’re getting a better value with this one. But again, they’re both amazing options — figuring out which one you prefer will ultimately be a process of trial and error.

Relevant review: "As someone who is very devoted to skincare and has tried numerous cleansers over the years, it is a big deal for me to be able to call this my holy grail cleanser. My skin is prone to oiliness, redness, and breakouts and many other cleansers and products can make these issues worse. Heimish All Clean Balm has honestly been a miracle worker for my skin. [...] It thoroughly cleans your skin without stripping it of moisture and irritating it. I can’t say enough good things about this balm and how it’s helped the appearance and health of my skin!”


Editor’s Pick: A Light, Unscented Cleansing Oil Made With Good-For-Skin Probiotics

I love this cleansing oil from TULA, a brand that was founded by dermatologist Dr. Roshini Raj. Like all TULA products, it contains probiotics to promote strong, balanced skin; you know how ingestible probiotics can help keep your gut healthy? Well, they work similarly for your skin. Even better, this cleanser contains ceramides — my all-time favorite skin care superstars — to further help your skin (or more accurately, your skin barrier) stay strong. All of this is helpful for acne-prone skin, though frankly, ceramides and probiotics belong in everyone’s skin care routine. This cleansing oil is also fragrance-free, lightweight, and just as excellent at removing makeup as all of the other cleansers on this list. Worth the $30+ price tag, in my opinion.

Adeline Duff, Beauty Editor, Commerce

Relevant review: “I would give this a million stats if possible! Removes makeup really well, I also have oily skin but this does not leave my face feeling greasy at all.”


Dr. Channing Barnett, MD, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Barnett Dermatology of Boca Raton, FL

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