Your Ultimate Guide to Natural Cleansing Oils

two glass bottles with white labels lay askew on a white cotton linen blend cloth

Cleansing oils rode the Korean wave into U.S. skincare routines a few years ago, and since then, they’ve proven well worth the hype. While the thought of slathering oil all over your face might make you shudder — especially if your skin is already oily or prone to breakouts — an oil-based cleanser can actually alleviate some of those skin concerns and provide you with a deeper, more holistic cleanse.

What Are Cleansing Oils?

Oil-based cleansers draw debris such as sebum, makeup, SPF and pollutants from the skin. These are all oil-based impurities, which water-based cleansers, like foam and gel cleansers, aren’t capable of working against. Quick chemistry lesson: oils are hydrophobic, meaning their basic molecular structure actually repels water molecules. But oil attracts oil, so any oil-based impurities sneaking around in your skin are easily snatched up by oil-based cleansers. Kind of cool, right?

Oil cleansers come in balm and liquid form, and they’re available pretty much everywhere, from online retailers to brick-and-mortar beauty stops like Sephora and common drugstore chains.

How Do I Use Them?

Whether you’re using a dry balm or a liquid oil, apply the cleanser to dry skin. Massage gently into the skin in small, deliberate circles. Then, fully emulsify the product by adding some water onto your hands and continuing to massage into the skin. Most oil cleansers will turn visibly milky-white after you’ve added water — that means you’re doing it right! Rinse with lukewarm water or a damp cloth and pat dry with a clean towel (or follow up with a foam cleanser if you’re going for the double cleanse).

Oil cleansing can serve as a soothing, rejuvenating step in your skincare routine. However, not all oil cleansers are created equally. As with any skincare or beauty product, make sure you’re avoiding those made without harmful chemicals and skin irritants. Here are some of our favorite natural cleansing oils:

1. InstaNatural Rose Makeup Cleansing Balm

InstaNatural’s Rose Makeup Cleansing Balm is a bombshell of superstar ingredients, cleansing and hydrating the skin with manuka honey, coconut oil, green tea extract and aloe vera. Plus, it’s free of parabens, petroleum, synthetic dye and formaldehyde releasers, so you can feel pretty good about using this cleansing balm as the first step in your skincare routine.

2. True Botanicals Pre Cleanse Oil

This natural, no-frills cleansing oil soothes, hydrates, and cleanses skin, with no hidden surprises: it’s made only with jojoba oil, sesame seed oil, apricot kernel oil, and bergamot fruit oil.

Photo by Soko Glam

3. Erborian Solid Cleansing Oil

Erborian harnesses the power of both natural herbs and oils for a truly nourishing cleanse. Sunflower, sweet almond, and coconut oils hydrate the skin, while licorice and other root extracts calm the skin with soothing properties.

4. Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm

This “sorbet-soft” cleanser is chock-full of nourishing ingredients like antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E. You won’t find any mineral oil, alcohol, silicone, parabens, artificial coloring, or synthetic fragrances in this cleanser, either. Tip: pair the Living Cleansing Balm with the Soothing Tea Cleansing Gel for a deeper double-cleanse.

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5. Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil

This 100% natural cleanser is a rich blend of coconut oil, Vitamin E, and argan oil, which is so multifunctional that it’s actually revered by skincare experts as “liquid gold.” Additionally, this oil cleanser is formulated without parabens, phthalates, petroleum, and sodium laureth sulfate.


Cecilia Seiter
Cecilia is a freelance writer and contributor to Slow North. She writes largely about sustainability, especially as it applies to beauty, wellness, and the future of technology. She is a graduate of the journalism department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and is based in Los Angeles, CA.