Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Simple, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo

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How to cite: Wong M. Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Simple, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. July 5, 2017. Accessed May 22, 2024.

Cleansing oils are a great compromise between convenience and oil cleansing. I’ve tried a bunch more from Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo and Simple since my last review, so here are my thoughts.

Cleansing Oils vs Oil Cleansing

First, what’s the difference between cleansing oils and oil cleansing? Simply swapping the two words around makes a big difference!

Cleansing oils are oils that contain surfactants (emulsifiers) – in other words, they’re much like a mixture of oil and soap. When you apply them to your skin they act like oils, but when you add water, the soap part helps the oil dissolve in the water and rinse off your skin (they’ll look a bit milky at this stage – that’s the tiny oil droplets hanging out in the water!).

Oil cleansing involves using plain oils, without surfactants. To get the oil off your skin, you either have to add a separate cleanser afterwards, or you have to use more oil to wash the dirty oil off.

Both methods are great for removing makeup and sunscreen. However, cleansing oils are generally easier to rinse off, since the surfactant is already mixed thoroughly in the oil. I’d still recommend double cleansing by following the cleansing oil with a cleanser (exception: if you weren’t wearing anything too heavy on your skin to begin with, and the cleansing oil is compatible with your skin). Even though cleansing oils should theoretically come off when you rinse with water, sometimes they aren’t formulated with quite enough surfactants for complete removal. There are tons of reports of cleansing oils breaking people out, so it’s a good idea to test it on a small area of skin before using it too liberally before a big event!

Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Erno Laszlo, Simple

Dermalogica Precleanse

Dermalogica Precleanse ($60 AUD for 150 mL) is based on caprylic/capric triglyceride and apricot kernel oil. Caprylic/capric triglyceride is also known as MCT oil in the food world – it’s essentially a reconstituted form of coconut oil, and much like coconut oil, it’s great for your skin if it doesn’t break you out. The surfactant in Precleanse is PEG-40 sorbitan peroleate, a non-ionic surfactant, which are generally considered much gentler than anionic surfactants like sulfates (e.g. SLS and SLES).

I found that Precleanse was a bit on the drying side, so it’s better for oily skin. It also smells very spa-like, with lavender and citrus – amazing for the senses, but if you’re allergic to essential oils or your skin is sensitive, stay away.

Precleanse comes in a pump bottle that I found really convenient. Cleansing oils tend to be quite thick and gooey, and if they’re in a regular bottle things get a bit messy and sticky.

Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Borago Officinalis Seed Oil, Aleurites Moluccana Seed Oil, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Extract, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, Decyl Olive Esters, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Citral, Limonene, Linalool, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Lavandula Hybrida Oil, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Peel Oil, Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Butylparaben.

Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil

Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil ($65.00 for 150 mL) comes from the brand that started the cleansing oil craze 50 years ago. Shu have 6 different cleansing oils available, and one is sold every 7 seconds. Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil is the newest and fanciest one. It has a pretty long ingredients list, and it looks like the main oils and surfactants are quite varied. For oils, there’s corn germ oil, ethylhexyl palmitate (an ingredient with silicone-like glide), caprylic/capric triglyceride (MCT oil), isopropyl myristate (a non-greasy oil) and meadowfoam seed oil. There are three different surfactants, all of which are gentle non-ionic surfactants containing lots of glycerin molecules, so if they remain on the skin they’re likely to be hydrating: polyglyceryl-10 dioleate, polyglyceryl-6 dicaprate and polyglyceryl-2 oleate. The fact there’s a mixture of surfactants usually means it’s more gentle and disturbs the skin less.

Shu Uemura cleansing oils come in convenient pump bottles. I found the texture of this to be thick enough to easily apply. It dissolves makeup very quickly, washes off cleanly and leaves my skin feeling soft. I often don’t bother with a second clease while using this because my skin feels so nice! It’s on the pricey side, but you don’t need much (the box recommends 3-4 pumps but you only really need one, or even a bit les than one). This has become a solid favourite.

Ultime8 Cleansing Oil also has 8 botanical oils “inspired by the power of traditional Chinese medicine and ancient beauty rituals”. These are below phenoxyethanol, which is typically at a 1% concentration, so I wouldn’t rely on them to make a big difference to your skin, especially if you’re going to follow up with a second cleanser.

Zea Mays Germ Oil, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Isopropyl Myristate, Polyglyceryl-10 Dioleate, Polyglyceryl-6 Dicaprate, Polyglyceryl-2 Oleate, Limnanthes Alba Seed Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Linalool, Squalane, Camellia Japonica Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Isopropyl Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Carthamus Tinctorius Seed Oil, Dicaprylyl Ether, Dicaprylyl Carbonate, Tocopherol, Geraniol, Glycine Soja Oil, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Butyrospermum Parkii Butter, Phospholipids, Panax Ginseng Root Extract, Bambusa Vulgaris Extract, Citric Acid, Parfum.

Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner

Hylamide High-Efficiency Face Cleaner ($29.99 for 120 mL) comes from Deciem. It uses cetyl ethylhexanoate as the oil, and PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate as the surfactant. PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate is found in lots of other cleansing oils and balms.

High-Efficiency Face Cleaner is a little on the runny side (cetyl ethylhexanoate is known for this), but spreads nicely on the skin. It doesn’t dissolve makeup as well as I hoped, but it does the job if you aren’t wearing anything too heavy. It rinses off very easily, and left my skin feeling soft and hydrated, but clean at the same time.

My biggest complaint is the smell. It smells sort of plasticky and acrid, like if you left a plastic toy in the sun for too long. I wouldn’t say it’s a deal-breaker, but I’ve definitely found myself reaching for other cleansers instead. The twist-top bottle that it comes in isn’t quite a handy as a pump (though it’s better than a twist-top lid), so that probably didn’t help either.

Cetyl Ethylhexanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisostearate, Bisabolol, Oenocarpus Bataua Fruit Oil, Bertholletia Excelsa Seed Oil, Plukenetia Volubilis Seed Oil, Crambe Abyssinica Seed Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis Seed Oil, Solanum Lycopersicum (Tomato) Fruit Extract, Pongamia Pinnata (Karanja) Seed Oil, Squalane, Ethylhexyl Stearate, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin

Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Erno Laszlo, Simple

Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Oil

Simple Kind to Skin Cleansing Oil ($9.99 for 125 mL) is the cheapest of the lot. It’s a fragrance-free cleansing oil based on grape seed oil and isopropyl palmitate, which helps it spread. The surfactant is sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, which is also found in the very popular DHC Deep Cleansing Oil.

The texture is quite thick – thicker that I’d expect from grapeseed oil, but it’s probably the surfactant making it thicker. It removes makeup pretty well and rinses off cleanly as well, but it didn’t make my skin feel quite as soft and nourished as the far pricier Shu Uemura oil afterwards. But at the price, it’s a steal. I’d highly recommend this oil if you want to try out a cleansing oil without spending too much if it doesn’t work out well.

Vitis Vinifera Seed Oil, Isopropyl Palmitate, Sorbeth-30 Tetraoleate, Phenoxyethanol, BHT, Helianthus Annuus Seed Oil, Isopropyl Myristate, Retinyl Palmitate, Tocopheryl Acetate.

Erno Laszlo Hydra-Therapy Double Cleanse Travel Set

Erno Laszlo Hydra-Therapy Double Cleanse Travel Set ($43 AUD for 59 mL + 48 g) contains the Hydra-Therapy Cleansing Oil and the Phelityl Cleansing Bar. The Cleansing Oil tricked me – it doesn’t contain a surfactant, even though it’s calling itself a cleansing oil! However, since it’s designed to be used in a double cleansing routine with the Phelityl Cleansing Bar, which you rub directly onto the oil before rinsing, so you end up making a cleansing oil on your skin.

The oils are hydrogenated polyisobutene, which is like a richer version of mineral oil, and glidey ethylhexyl palmitate and a mile-long list of plant oils (jojoba, grapeseed, avocado, apricot, sesame, sunflower, carrot). It rinses off cleaner than a regular oil for some reason – I’m guessing the ethylhexyl palmitate helps it come off a bit, but if you’re after a one-step oil, this is not the one. Move on.

It isn’t very useful to compare this with the other cleansing oils since this is in a different category, but the oil itself is pretty nice, though I don’t think I’d ever buy an oil that’s this expensive when most of it is going down the drain. I also couldn’t bring myself to use the Phelityl Cleansing Bar more than once. It’s a bar soap, and by this I mean a true soap, with high pH and narrow surfactant head groups that worm their way into your skin, stay there and irritate. I’m not using it on my face regularly, no matter how nourishing they say it is! The leftover oil from the cleansing oil probably helps buffer it, but I’d rather err on the side of caution and use a low pH detergent-based cleanser.

Hydra-Therapy Cleansing Oil: Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Ethylhexyl Palmitate, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Sesamum Indicum (Sesame) Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Root Extract, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Extract, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Tetrahexyldecyl Ascorbate, Beta-Carotene

Phelityl Cleansing Bar: Sodium Palmate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Water (Aqua/Eau), Carthamus Tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil, Parfum (Fragrance), Sodium Chloride, Glycerin, Ethyl Macadamiate, Sulfated Castor Oil, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Evernia Prunastri (Oakmoss) Extract, Benzyl Benzoate, CI 77491, CI 77492, CI 77499 (Iron Oxides), CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77289 (Chromium Hydroxide Green)

Price Comparison

Here’s a handy price comparison of all the products, at their RRP in Australia (AUD). I calculated the Erno Laszlo price by pretending that 1 g and 1 mL were the same. Of course, you don’t need the same amount of all the oils, but cleansing oils are generally similar enough for this to be pretty valid.

You can see what incredibly good value the Simple Cleansing Oil is! My pick of the luxe cleansing oils is the Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil. Their other oils are a little less expensive ($50 for 150 mL = 0.333 / mL), and the larger 450 mL size is even better ($0.351 / mL for Ultime8, $0.249 / mL for the rest – which works out cheaper than Hylamide!).

These products were provided for editorial consideration, which did not affect my opinion. This post also contains affiliate links – if you decide to click through and support Lab Muffin financially (at no extra cost to you), thank you! For more information, see Disclosure Policy.

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26 thoughts on “Cleansing Oil Review: Dermalogica, Shu Uemura, Simple, Hylamide, Erno Laszlo”

  1. This was such an interesting read, I didn’t even realise there were surfactants in cleansing oils – I’ve obviously never given it much thought! Interesting that the Erno Lazslo set includes a true soap :/

  2. I’ve been a loyal oil cleanser for years now, and I agree they actually give you a bang for your buck. They last a long time, they do their job perfectly well, and I usually don’t need to double cleanse so they even save me time in the long run. I didn’t know there was a slightly cheaper version of the DCH oil though!

    • I was so excited when I discovered them during the micellar water craze! I have oily skin and use oil-based sunscreen so micellar water was always a bit of a pain because it doesn’t quite cut through the oil as well and require a bit of dragging and tugging…

  3. The Shu Uemura one was the cleansing oil that ade me try cleansing oils in the first place. By reading about it, I have yet to purchase it myself. The Cleansing Oil I have repurchased the most is by The Body Shop.

    • I haven’t tried the version from The Body Shop… in fact I haven’t tried much skincare from them at all! I’ll have to look out for their cleansing oil 🙂

  4. This is a very helpful read. I’ve actually used to of the oil cleansers you can cluded on your list. The Simple and the Dermalogica oil cleansers. I agree that both very good, but of the two my favorite was the Dermalogica because it did a better job at removing eye makeup– especially waterproof eye makeup. The Simple one is still a really good value.

    • I haven’t tried them for eye makeup – I’m always worried about stinging, and I wear contacts at night and get milia quite easily so oils usually stay far away form my eyes! It’s interesting to hear that there’s a difference, thanks for that info! 🙂

  5. Hello. On off topic but I kinda have a dilema. I found 2 good products from Neostrata. One of them contain 18% glycolic acid at a pH of 3.8 and I had use it in the past with good results and no irritation at all and the next one contain 23% glycolic acid at a pH of 4.0. Witch one is more potent ?

    Thank you very much.

    • It’s hard to say for sure since there’ll be differences with the other aspects of the formulation (other ingredients etc), but I would say the higher percentage, since the extra glycolic acid will slowly convert to the free acid form on your skin so more ends up absorbing.

  6. “…and much like coconut oil, it’s great for your skin if it doesn’t break you out. ”

    Thank you for mentioning this! So many people talk about coconut oil like it’s a miracle, but it breaks me out like crazy. I can use some things with caprylic/capric triglyceride, but I try to avoid it. Anything I do use with MCT oil I need to introduce carefully with no other new items so that if I do get breakouts, it’s easier to find the culprit.

    • I see this all the time as well! It’s pretty high on the comedogenicity scale, and since people are using it by itself, the comedogenicity scale applies! Introducing one thing at a time is always a good idea, even though it’s tempting to try all the things at once…

  7. Hi, from what i know is Isopropylparaben & Isobutylparaben(Dermalogica Precleanse) have been banned to use in EU in ASEAN.

  8. Love a cleansing oil. The one I have been using for a year or so has been discontinued so it’s time to move on. I’ve just bought the new sukin cleansing oil to try. I used to use the precleanse prior to being packaged in a pump and lost the content of a couple of bottles when I dropped them with slippery hands and the plastic bottle shattered in the shower. I always buy them with a pump now … lesson learnt. More so too as I get my kids to use cleansing oil to remove the sunscreen from their faces – so needs to be gentle and in s pump pack.

    • I’ve dropped so many products! Convenient packaging is so often overlooked 🙁 Hair masks are also particularly bad in the shower…

  9. Dermatologica pre-cleanse is my choice when I use a cleansing oil (when wearing full coverage foundation); have used it for years on my sensitive skin, even eyes, with no issues. I tried straight up coconut oil when the craze hit and my skin didn’t like it at all. I typically react to products with botanical oils, so wondering if those in this product are very low concentration.

  10. I am such a huge fan of cleansing oils! If you had said this to me a few years ago however I would have looked back at you in shock horror! I am have oily skin and putting more oils on my skin previously use to be a big no no, but after witnessing how great they clean my skin remove pollutants and make-up from the day I haven’t looked back. From your line-up I love Precleanse, and actually haven’t tried any of the others but they do sound amazing especially the Shu Uemura! x

    Chantalle |

  11. I have a question that I REALLY hope someone can help me with: Why is it that I generally find cleansing oils to actually be VERY drying, when seemingly everyone else love them? E.g. when I used the Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing oil it dried out my cheeks so much that it caused breakouts! I have pretty combination skin, I think: T-zone gets pretty oily and has quite visible pores, and my cheeks are kinda “normal” but tend to get dry if I use something astringent/stripping. I’m wondering if it might be some of the emulsifiers that I’m reacting to (I do tend to have very reactive skin in general, and not just in regards to skincare)?

  12. Hi, Michelle! I have very dry skin and I am thinking about getting me an oil cleanser. I don’t usually wear makeup on a daily basis, but when I do, would you say it is possible to instead of using a cleansing oil and a foaming cleaser, use the cleansing oil two times? Also, if I use a gentle fragrance-free shower oil on my body and my face skin is most likely as dry as my body skin, can I also use it on my face?

    • When I’m not wearing makeup, sometimes I just use cleansing oil once. You could definitely use it on your face – try it and see how it goes!

  13. I want to start oil cleansing and found all your posts on it really helpful! I was going to buy the Simple oil as a start, but apparently the company just stopped making it 🙁
    Is there anything similar you recommend? I’ve been trying to find another grapeseed oil based cleansing oil without fragrances in that price category and it seems to be an empty Venn diagram.


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