Cleansing Oils: The Benefits of Using a Lipid-Based Cleanser

Cleansing Oils: The Benefits of Using a Lipid-Based Cleanser

If you’re looking for an effective and gentle way to cleanse your skin, you should definitely try a cleansing oil. Cleansing oils are carrier oils–lipids that have been extracted from the nuts or seeds of plants. These are not the same as essential oils (which are volatile compounds that have been steam distilled or solvent extracted from other plant parts), because they are not aromatic (though they might smell naturally nutty, sweet, or earthy), and they don’t contain volatile compounds.

They are extremely effective at removing makeup, dissolving dirt and debris inside of pores, and cleansing the skin without stripping it of its natural lipids. They also nourish and protect the skin as they cleanse, which makes them a much better choice than foaming or water-based cleansers.

There’s a lot of misinformation circulating about who can and cannot use oils for cleansing, such as…

“People with oily skin should avoid oils.”


“Oils feed Demodex mites and make rosacea worse.”

While it’s true that not all oils are appropriate for all people or skin combinations, there are thousands of oils to choose from–with patience and experimentation; you’re sure to find one that works for you!

If you’re new to using cleansing oils, or even if you’ve been using them for a while but haven’t had great results, you’re in the right place. In this article, you’ll learn more about cleansing oils and get a few tips to get the most out of your cleansing routine.

Cleansing oil and stones with yellow orchid. Natural oils.

What are the benefits of cleansing oils?

The benefits of cleansing oils are that they are extremely effective at cleansing the skin. They will remove even the most stubborn of makeup, help dissolve dirt and debris inside of the pores, and they do it all without stripping the skin of its natural lipids, which also helps to regulate oil production.

They nourish and protect as they cleanse, since they are rich with skin-supportive essential fatty acids and phytonutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Cleansing oils are also much less likely to cause irritation to the skin than foaming or water-based cleansers since they are gentler to the skin’s pH and barrier function, and don’t require the addition of added functional ingredients. It’s possible to create an effective oil cleanser with just one oil, or you can blend a few together to customize your own facial cleansing oil blend.

Echinacea and cleansing oils on marble background.

What’s the best way to use cleansing oils?

  1. Start by applying about a dime-sized amount of your oil to dry, or slightly dampened skin, on the face and neck.
  2. Massage it into your skin for a minute or two, then wet a clean washcloth with warm water and hold it over your face to help loosen up any stubborn makeup or dirt.
  3. Gently wipe everything away and rinse with cool water. You can follow up with your usual skincare routine, or just apply a light moisturizer if your skin feels dry.

Cleansing oils can be used daily, or as often as needed. If you wear a lot of makeup or live in a city with high pollution levels, you may want to double cleanse in the evening to make sure all impurities are removed. For most people, once or twice a day is sufficient.

essential oils in front of white background and plant

How to choose the right cleansing oil for your skin

The most common are jojoba, olive, avocado, grapeseed, and sesame due to accessibility and affordability. Some type-specific suggestions are:

  • If you have oily skin, look for a light, non-greasy oil like jojoba, hemp seed, or grapeseed oil or an oil with strong drawing properties like castor oil.
  • If you have dry skin, choose an oil that is richer and more emollient, like avocado or apricot kernel oil. You can also use a solid lipid or butter like shea or mango butter.
  • If you have sensitive skin, opt for a gentle oil like almond oil or olive oil.
  • If you have a skin issue that might be due to microbial overgrowth such as Demodex mites, malessezia, or p. acnes, look for oils that have antimicrobial properties such as sesame or black cumin seed oil (AKA black seed oil).* Though some of these microbes are lipophilic (lipid loving), and feed on oils, oils with antimicrobial properties like these may encourage die off and help bring the microbiome back into balance.

If you’re not sure which oil is best for you, patch test a few on the inside of your upper arm. If the oil absorbs too quickly, then that means you need one that’s a bit heavier and more saturated. If it stays on the skin for too long (doesn’t absorb after 5-10 minutes), then try one that’s a bit lighter and less saturated.

Essential oils and medical flowers herbs

My biggest tip for buying oils to be used for cleansing is to focus on inexpensive oils.

Let’s face it, whatever you cleanse with will end up down the drain, so it doesn’t make sense to use expensive carrier oils like rosehip seed oil, marula oil, or argan oil as a cleansing oil. Avocado, olive, grapeseed, hemp seed, sesame, and almond oil are less expensive and easier to find at grocery and health food stores.

Heather cleansing oil in amber bottle

Incorporate facial massage to enhance your oil cleansing experience.

As mentioned above, I recommend using cleansing oils with warm water and a soft cloth. I also recommend oil cleansing a second time after makeup is removed.

During this second oil cleanse, spend a bit more time gently massaging the skin to stimulate both blood and lymph circulation, encourage the pores to release more debris, and improve tone and texture. You can also use the second cleanse for practices such as facial gua sha or cupping, in addition to regular facial massage.

Bottle of eucalyptus oil with bar of soap and leaves.

Now that you know all about cleansing oils, will you give them a try?

Let us know in the comments below!

Read more about oil cleansing and plant oils in general:

2 Oil Cleansing Method Myths Debunked

The Oil Cleansing Method: How to Choose the Right Oil for Your Skin Type

The Benefits of Plant Oils for Scalp and Hair Health

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and is not intended to prevent or treat any disease or condition of the skin. The information contained on this website is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your licensed healthcare provider for questions and assistance with your individual skin concerns.


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