Find the Right Cleansing Oil for Your Skin Type

There’s an oil for every skin type—even those prone to acne!
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Caitlin Miller
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There’s an oil for every skin type—even those prone to acne!

Many of us spent much of our lives thinking oil was something to remove from our faces—not the other way around. But it’s time to challenge your teenage notion of oily skin because oils are so hot right now in the beauty world. You might squirm at the notion of rubbing oil all over your face, but oil-based facial cleansers are not only extremely popular, they’re also highly effective.

As most of us know from science 101, oil and water don’t mix, which is why washing your face with only water or water-based products to remove makeup and dirt just doesn’t cut it. But because oil can cling to oil, using an oil-based cleanser can actually remove makeup, oils, sweat, and other impurities quite easily without irritating the skin. “When massaged into the skin, oils in the cleanser bind to surface impurities, pulling out dirt without clogging pores and allowing them to be rinsed away, leaving the skin clean, soft, and hydrated,” explains Dr. Howard Sobel, dermatologist and founder of DDF Skincare.

Before you rush out to find a new cleanser, know that all facial oils are not created equal. Many have different effects on different skin types. Do you need argan or coconut, jojoba or grape-seed? With a little guidance from these experts, you’ll be able to find the ideal facial oil to solve all your skin woes.

Dry Skin //

To be expected, those with dry skin are more likely to really benefit from oils. “Those with dry skin can use most oils because their skin needs hydration factors,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, dermatologist at Manhattan Dermatology and Cosmetic Surgery in New York City. She also says oils are beneficial for dry skin because they remove impurities without causing further dryness—a common complaint of traditional chemical cleansers.

When Dr. Vermén M. Verallo-Rowell, dermatologist and founder of VMV Hypoallergenics, sees a patient with overtreated or super-dry, rough, and red skin, she recommends going on a “skin fast” with virgin coconut oil (VCO). Dr. Verallo-Rowell says she is partial to VCO because of its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, qualities unique to VCO in the oil world. And because it’s 92 percent saturated fatty acid, it helps repair cell walls and replenish skin’s barrier—both ideal for dry-skin sufferers. Try Vita Coco Organic Extra-Virgin Coconut Oil, $17, for an affordable, all-natural option for your own “skin fast.”

Sensitive Skin //

Those who have highly sensitive skin are likely suffering from dryness as well. If this is you, opt for something ultra-soothing, such as olive oil, to prevent skin irritation, Dr. Engelman says.

But for those not wishing to head to the kitchen for skin-care needs, jojoba oil is another wonderful option, Dr. Sobel says. Jojoba oil is almost an exact match for your skin’s natural sebum. It’s very gentle on skin and won’t clog pores, making it ideal for sensitive skin that’s prone to dryness or breakouts. If you’re looking for an option that can be used on not just the skin but the hair and scalp too, reach for Desert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil for Hair, Skin, & Scalp, $8.

Acne-Prone or Oily Skin //

This is the group most likely to enter the oil-cleansing world with hesitation. But don’t fear! Despite what you might think, oily skin can use oils as cleansers. In fact, they can be just what the doctor ordered. “Some acne-prone skin may be from rosacea, which results in very dry skin,” Dr. Verallo-Rowell says. According to Dr. Verallo-Rowell, some acne-prone skin is already damaged from the use of strong soaps and acids, so using a non-foaming, nonabrasive cleansing oil is much more beneficial and less likely to cause flare-ups.

Specifically, using grape-seed oil can be a great option for breakout-prone skin. “Grape-seed oil is great for really deep-cleansing [your] pores, particularly if you’re prone to blackheads or other congestions, because it is nonallergenic and non-oily,” Dr. Sobel says. This soothing oil is also a beauty-lover’s favorite, as it can be found at your local drugstore. Try NOW Solutions Grape-seed Oil 100% Pure, $10, for its silky finish.

Normal/Combination Skin //

Those with no major skin concerns can also find a match in oil. Argan oil is a great option for those with regular skin because it cleanses without leaving behind residue or clogged pores, Dr. Sobel explains. For a lightweight formula, opt for Josie Maran 100 Percent Pure Argan Oil Light, $48, which is a quick-absorbing version of the oil. Dr. Engelman says that argan is a wonderful choice for those with normal skin, but she also suggests trying rosehip-seed oil, a dry oil that immediately soaks into the skin for hydration balance in nonproblematic skin.

Finally, if your skin is a tad more on the combination end of the spectrum, Dr. Engelman suggests reaching for safflower oil because it’s capable of both cleansing and hydrating, allowing it to target both problems at once.

No matter your preference in cleansing oil, how you use the oil is consistent across the board. “Wet the face with warm water, and pour the oil into the palm of your hand,” Dr. Sobel says. “Then massage the oil in circular motions to break down any leftover makeup and dirt from the skin’s surface. Gently massage until the oil warms, penetrating into pores, and wash away with lukewarm or cold water.” This process of cleansing gives the best results for breaking down makeup, dirt, and sweat and removing them from the skin—allowing your visage to appear cleansed, comforted, and soothed.

What would your teenage, oil-afraid self have to say to that?