All About Oil Cleansing: A Beginner’s Guide

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How to cite: Wong M. All About Oil Cleansing: A Beginner’s Guide. Lab Muffin Beauty Science. March 5, 2015. Accessed May 23, 2024.


I’m a big fan of using oils in my skincare routine, and one of my favourite ways to use them is oil cleansing. If you’re not a convert yet, this guide might change your mind!

What is it?

Oil cleansing is a alternative to regular cleansing. It’s not going to get rid of your toxins, it’s not going to empty your pores in one go – but it might be the answer to your cleansing woes!

Why should I oil cleanse?

If you’re having problems with make-up removal, if your skin’s dehydrated or dry, or if you can’t find a good cleanser, oil cleansing might work for you! Here are the benefits:

  • Doesn’t strip the skin – you won’t remove too much oil if you’re using oil!
  • Removes make-up more efficiently than most cleansers – since make-up is usually oil-based, and like dissolves like, oil will move the most stubborn face paints.
  • Can help dissolve gunk in your pores – again, like dissolves like and gunk in your pores is oily.

How do I oil cleanse?

I know a lot of people who are put off by how complex oil cleansing sounds, but I assure you it can be done simply!

Here’s what you do:

  1. Buy some oil (see below for suggestions)
  2. Pour it into your hand
  3. Dab it on your face
  4. Rub it around
  5. Wipe it off with a warm towel
  6. Follow up with your regular cleanser


To make it even easier, you can do it before you shower, and replace Step 5 with a quick rinse under the shower.

If you’re wearing very light make-up, or none at all, you can skip the follow-up cleanser. If you’re not sure whether you need extra cleansing, put some toner on a cotton pad and wipe it over your face to check for traces of leftover make-up.

What oils do I use?

Some oils are known for being on the top of most “comedogenic oils” lists, but those lists aren’t very scientifically valid (the data is old, and the tests are generally performed on rabbit ears, so the results aren’t necessarily transferrable to humans). The safest way to proceed is to start with something that most people find unproblematic, then once you’ve got the hang of it, you can experiment with using more exotic oils.

Some good starter oils:


Mineral oil – This is stable and hence unlikely to cause breakouts. People with sensitive skin will want to avoid mineral oil with fragrance. You can use baby oil from the supermarket – if you’re in the US, you can try Snow River Wood Oil which is good value and additive-free. Try to find mineral oil without vitamin E, which breaks some people out.

Sunflower and grapeseed oils – These are my favourite oil recommendations for oil cleansing, because they’re lightweight and easy to find at the supermarket. They’re also less occlusive than mineral oil, so you’ll find that any treatments you put on top will be absorbed more easily.

Oils I would avoid at the beginning: olive oil (frequently adulterated and may irritate sensitive skin), coconut oil (high melting point means it’s one of the more comedogenic oils)

I’ll be posting more info on different oils for skincare soon…

Advanced Tips

Oil mixes – Some people mix their own oils for oil cleansing, to get the advantages of more than one oil, or to make a more expensive oil (argan, rosehip etc) go further. You can also add surfactant (emulsifier) to the oil to turn it into a cleansing oil, so that it’ll come off cleanly and you can skip the cleanser step. Once you’ve settled in with oil cleansing, you can do some research and go nuts experimenting!

Massaging – Some people massage their face for longer when rubbing the oil around. It can help dislodge clogs and feels really relaxing, but be cautious, since too much rubbing and tugging can irritate your skin (think redness and broken capillaries!).

Now go forth and get yourself some good skin!

Skincare Guide

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25 thoughts on “All About Oil Cleansing: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. I love cleansing oils. I tend to buy the type that rinses off with water (eg. the ones sold from MAC, Clarins, Shueumura etc) which is really handy and doesn’t leave the skin feeling too “oily” (for want of a better word) afterwards. Though now that I’ve gotten into using muslin cloths I may try actual oil, might be nice for winter when my skin gets really dehydrated, and the cloth would help wipe off all the excess oil. Thanks for another great post. I always learn something reading your blog. I’m a new reader of your blog, have you done a post about mineral oil? It irks me that there is so much bad information out there about the harmful effects of mineral oil and not much science behind it.

  2. ooh cool I have some grape seed oil I can try. I’ve been using specific oil cleansers like Boscia Makeup and Breakup or whatever it is called….really love it!

  3. I remember trying to use olive oil as a makeup cleanser. It wasn’t the best feeling haha. I do like oil cleansers though. Grapeseed and sunflower oil sounds like an affordable option!

    • It does take a bit of getting used to, especially if you’re using a strongly scented oil! I’ve just started trying out hempseed and it’s intense. Oil cleansers are pretty awesome and a bit less fussy!

  4. Oh whoa, I’ve been using coconut oil all this time and this put me off, but then I reminded myself that I haven’t broken out with it so mayyyyybeeee it’s okay?

    • If it works for you then it works for you 🙂 I just wouldn’t recommend it as a starter because it doesn’t work for a lot of people, so it’s a risky first oil!

  5. I’ve been using cleansing oils for awhile now but a recent visit to my dermatologist got me in trouble. He said it’s not good for my acne? ??? I’m so confused!

    • It’s OK as long as the oil is clean, i.e. you don’t skip washing off the oil with foaming cleanser at the end, and as long as you use oils which don’t clog up your pores! Sunflower and grapeseed are safe starter oils 🙂

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  7. Hi, just find out your blog, which is awfully awesome! Such great writing styles, detailed work and nice pics 🙂
    About oil cleansing, I’ve tried the method of warm towel before, however since 7 days ago I tried the Asian version of oil cleasing (so-called double cleansing): Put oil on dry face, massage for about 4 minutes, then wet hands and continue to massage in order to emulsify it, and then, while still rather dry, apply foam cleanser, and massage for another four minutes.
    First impression is: it wasn’t as sticky. I had to foam cleansing two times before, and 2 times alcohol-toner to get rid of the stickiness. With this 4-2-4, I feel as good as I’ve just put on a mosturizer
    And after 7 days: No more black heads found, and less oil on nose and forehead. OMG now I cannot stop doing this anymore, no matter how troublesome it seems.

  8. Hi, I’ve had a baby and been introduced to use sorbolene cream to clean the baby, wash very dry hands, and remove make-up as well. It’s cheap, easy to use, and removes waterproof eye make-ups as well. Can you comment on the difference in oil cleansing technics wvs using sorbolene cream? Thanks!

  9. HeY!

    I used Garnier waterproof cleansing but my eyelashes still falling down and can’t stop it. I’m searching good cleansing oil and not to need rubbing on my eyeballs. Still searching but do you have any suggest? THanks!

  10. What do you think about using sweet almond oil for oil cleansing? I’ve been doing it lately and I’ve been loving it.

  11. I LOVE LOVE LOVE oil cleansing. It’s fun to use all these different ingredients and look different recipes up on the internet! I love DIY and it’s sooo much more affordable. Plus, my skin is so wonderful now that I’ve done oil cleansing for a few years. I have had really acneic skin since I was a teenager, but now I hardly get any pimples at all. With makeup I can do that “natural” glow-y makeup you see backstage at fashion shows. Fantastic! For my acne-prone skin, I use 25% sunflower oil, 25% castor oil, and 50% grapeseed oil. It’s the best. That along with DIY exfoliators, DIY masques, tea tree and lemon oil, argan oil plus a few drops of rosehip oil, is just fantastic and fun. Plus I add sunscreen in the morning or Vaseline as an occulant in the evening. I actually look forward to cleansing my skin at night! I’m going to make the vitamen C serum you posted recently, too, for nighttime.

  12. This is a very helpful post! I’m planning to start oil cleansing soon. While looking for grape seed oil, I found that it often has Vitamin E added too. Still looking for one without.

  13. Hi Michelle,
    Your posts as well as your videos are amazing!I am a new subscriber.
    My skin is acne rosacea prone and I hav used cerave hydrating cleanser but dindnt seem to remove my silicone based spf off my face and their foaming cleanser is too stripping and breaking me out..I tried biphasic remover plus foaming cleanser..seems to remove everything off but not suiting my skin..Any all in 1 cleanser you can recommend in the european market pls?

  14. Thank you, Michelle, I will try the oil cleansing. My skin is ultra dry sensitive mature age (57), and this oil cleansing sounds just like my cup of tea.
    Love your work!
    Love from another East Asian in Perth WA xxx


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