The Only 15 Cleansing Oils Worth Buying

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Best Cleansing Oils

Byrdie / Chloe Jeong

Once upon a time, not so long ago, ‘oil’ was a dirty word in the skincare universe. After all, isn’t the goal to get rid of the grease on your skin, not add more? But as we started to wise up, and the skincare market took a cue from other countries (hello, Korea), oils became the new hot thing, particularly when it came to cleansing—and for good reason.

While oil and water repel one another, oil and oil attract (sorry, we’re trying not to cause traumatic flashbacks to high school chemistry class). In the case of your skin, that means that a cleansing oil is choice for helping to cut through the oils in your makeup, sunscreen, and those on your skin, dissolving them to leave your skin extra clean. And, unlike their sudsy, soapy face wash counterparts, there’s no risk of stripping or over-drying the skin, since oils are innately hydrating. While they’re an especially awesome pick for dry or sensitive types, they work well on all skin…yes, even acne-prone.

Read on for the best cleansing oils.

Best Overall: Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil

Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Doesn't strip skin

  • Gentle

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

A cleansing oil from one of the world’s most-trusted beauty brands. This lightweight cleanser melts away even waterproof makeup and dirt without drying out the skin or making it feel tight. Use it on dry or wet skin as the first step to a clean, dewy complexion. This gentle cleanser is a great first cleansing step for all skin types.

Skin Type: All | Dosage: 3 pumps | Size: 6 or 10.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: Palmer's Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil

Palmers Cocoa Butter
What We Like
  • Doesn't strip skin

  • Non-comedogenic

What We Don't Like
  • Can leave behind a residue

You may first think of this brand for their beloved cocoa butter, but don’t miss this affordable cleanser. It too contains cocoa butter, along with sesame oil and rosehip oil, a top oil for promoting healthy skin cells. Bonus points for the addition of skin-brightening vitamin C.

Active Ingredients: Cocoa butter, vitamin E, sesame oil, rosehip oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Antioxidant-Rich Formula: One Love Organics Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover

One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil + Makeup Remover
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Restores pH balance

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

A team Byrdie fan favorite, this earns big points for its straightforward ingredient list loaded with plant-based goodies. The oil—including pumpkin seed, papaya seed, and sunflower seed—is hydrating, but also has the distinction of being packed with antioxidants. And the more antioxidants we can get into our skincare routine, the better.

Active Ingredients: Pumpkin oil, vitamin E | Skin Type: Acne-prone, combination, dry, mature, balanced, oily, sensitive | Dosage: 1 to 2 pumps | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multitasking: Kaike Melt Oil Cleanser

Kaike Melt Nourishing Oil Cleanser
What We Like
  • Improves texture and tone

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • May feel heavy

We love a product that multitasks, namely this super-clean cleansing oil from Kaike. It’s not only packed with good-for-your-skin oils like grapeseed, watermelon seed, and hemp seed to effectively melt away makeup, dirt, and impurities, but it also works hard to keep the skin balanced, bright, and healthy. The formula is brimming with antioxidants, which can help address skin concerns like hyperpigmentation and uneven tone. 

Active Ingredients: Grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, apricot kernel oil | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 3 to 5 pumps | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Ayurvedic: Sahajan Essential Oil Cleanser

Sahajan the Science of Intuition ESSENTIAL Oil Cleanser
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Reduces redness

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Key Ingredients

Moringa oil comes from the moringa plant found in the Himalayan mountains. It is rich in omega fatty acids and antioxidants, which soothe and protect the skin.

This rich blend of essential oils melts away makeup and pollutants to leave nothing behind but glowing skin. Moringa oil, squalene, and rose oils dissolve stubborn waterproof makeup, converting even oil cleansing beginners into believers. All you need to do is cleanse, rinse, and glow.

Active Ingredients: Moringa oil, squalane, rose oils | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 3 pumps | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Drugstore: Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil

Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Affordable

  • Non-comedogenic

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

Even fairly recently, you’d be hard-pressed to find a cleansing oil at the drugstore. It was a category largely reserved for prestige and masstige brands. Happily, that’s changing. Case in point: This formula, which is made with a blend of fine oils to remove impurities, and is also non-comedogenic and dermatologically-tested. Apply it on dry skin for a true cleansing oil experience.

Skin Type: All | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Bedtime: Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil

Kiehl's Since 1851 Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Doubles as aromatherapy

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • May irritate sensitive skin

Sure, you could totally use this in the morning, but we like reserving it for P.M. for several reasons. One, it’s awesome at taking off makeup and is gentle enough that you can even use it around your eyes. Two, it pulls double duty as aromatherapy, thanks to the addition of lavender essential oil; one whiff makes us instantly feel calm and relaxed.

Active Ingredients: Lavender essential oil, evening primrose oil, squalene | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 3 to 4 pumps | Size: 2.9 or 5.9 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Combination Skin: Beautycounter Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil

Beautycounter Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Hydrating

  • Doesn't leave a residue

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

Key Ingredients

Vitamin E is an antioxidant vitamin and oil often found in anti-oxidant blend topicals or moisturizers. It also helps soothe the skin and protects the lipid barrier.

Vitamin E and essential fatty acids help to hydrate dry spots, but this also has bakuchiol, a natural alternative to retinol that’s a great ingredient for oily or combination skin. It emulsifies into a milk-like texture when mixed with water, and rinses completely clean, without any leftover residue.

Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, fatty acids, Retinatural Complex | Dosage: 2 to 3 pumps | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dry Skin: TATCHA Pure One Step Camellia Oil Cleanser

Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Luxe packaging

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

The star of the show here is Japanese camellia oil, which may be higher in good-for-your-skin oleic acid than even olive oil. Translation: It’s a really good skincare ingredient and super hydrating for even the most parched of complexions. Happy Sephora fans love how well it takes off makeup, and repeatedly comment on how gentle it is.

Active Ingredients: Japanese camellia oil (tsubaki), hadasei-3 | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 1 to 2 pumps | Size: 1.7 or 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

What Our Testers Say

"The Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil works wonders to gently clarify skin. It’s perfect for use in the morning and at night, allowing you to incorporate the product into your daily routine with ease." — Nicole Pulyado, Product Tester

Best for Oily Skin: Erborian Black Cleansing Oil

erborian black cleansing oil
What We Like
  • Doesn't strip skin

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it can feel sticky

We get it, no matter what we say, it can still feel counterintuitive to wash your face with oil when your skin feels like an oil slick to begin with, but just trust us. It leaves your complexion feeling clean, but not tight, and stops shine in its tracks.

Active Ingredients: Charcoal powder | Skin Type: Oily | Dosage: Dimed-size amount | Size: 6.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Sensitive Skin: Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleanser

biossance squalane + antioxidant cleansing oil
What We Like
  • Soap-free

  • Lightweight

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it can irritate the eyes

If your skin skews on the sensitive side, cleansing oils should be your BFF; free from harsh soaps or detergents, they’re a great way to keep your complexion happy and prevent unwanted (and unsightly irritation). We especially like this guy, which touts eight plant-derived oils plus squalane. The plant-derived substance mimics your skin’s natural oil, making it a top pick for lightweight hydration. 

Active Ingredients: Squalane, hemi-squalane | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Size: 0.85 or 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Hydrating: DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Doesn't leave a residue

  • Doesn't strip skin

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note it can irritate the eyes

This oldie-but-goodie has been around for almost three decades but remains super popular—so much so that one is sold every 10 seconds worldwide (color us impressed). One of the OG cleansing oils to launch stateside, it uses hydrating vitamin E, organic olive oil, and rosemary oil, which gives it a refreshing fragrance. It rinses clean and removes every last trace of gunk and grime without drying out your skin.

Active Ingredients: Olive oil, rosemary leaf oil, tocopherol (vitamin E) | Skin Type: All | Dosage: 2 to 3 pumps | Size: 2.3 or 6.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Removing Makeup: Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil

BOSCIA MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Gentle

  • Fragrance-free

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers note the pump can get stuck

When you’re wearing a full face of makeup, it’s a good move to use a cleansing oil first, even if you want to use a traditional cleanser after; the oil will be better able to remove and dissolve all the oils in the makeup. Reach for this, which takes down even the most stubborn, waterproof eye makeup doesn’t leave any residue, and is still ultra-gentle. The travel-friendly size is just a bonus. 

Active Ingredients: Rosehip oil, green tea, avocado oil, olive fruit oil, botanical amino acids, hydrangea leaf, Boscia signature botanical blend | Skin Type: All | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Removing Makeup, Runner-Up: UOMA by Sharon C Go Awf! Au Naturel Cleansing Oil

UOMA by Sharon C Go Awf! Au Naturel Cleansing Oil
What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Doesn't strip skin

  • Lightweight

What We Don't Like
  • Has fragrance

Trust, stubborn waterproof makeup is no match for this cleansing oil from UOMA Beauty’s new sister skincare brand, UOMA by Sharon C. Powered by a blend of olive, castor, and grapeseed oils, it transforms into a lightweight, milky emulsion that washes away makeup, dirt, and impurities like a pro. But don’t worry; it may be tough on makeup, but the formula itself is ultra-gentle and non-stripping. Plus, it’s packed with antioxidant-rich ingredients like mulberry extract and vitamin C to keep your skin in tip-top condition.

Active Ingredients: Olive oil, castor oil, grapeseed oil, white mulberry extract, vitamin E | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, oily | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Natural: Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser

Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser
What We Like
  • Doesn't leave a residue

  • Doesn't strip skin

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Pricier than other options

The floral scent, a combo of rose and geranium, is definitely a large part of the reason we love this so much, but it doesn’t hurt that the ingredient list is crazy clean, either. We’re talking about a 100% natural formula made with 62% organic ingredients, a power combo of antioxidant-rich, skin-loving oils.

Active Ingredients: Alfalfa, vitamin A, squalane | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Dosage: 2 to 3 pumps | Size: 4.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

So it’s hard to pick favorites, but if we had to call out three, it would be the Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil, Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil, and Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil. Tatcha is a nourishing, makeup-melting dream that’s perfect for dry skin, whereas the Shiseido option feels deeply cleansing but light, making it ideal for all skin types. And when it comes to drugstore options, Neutrogena is unbeatable. It’s effective, nice to use, and won’t clog your pores or leave you feeling sticky.

What To Look For When Buying a Cleansing Oil

Ingredients

The only real feature to seriously consider when buying a cleansing oil is the ingredients listing. These days, most cleansing oils utilize a blend of oils, from sweet almond to jojoba to grapeseed. Michelle Wong, scientist and the brains behind educational beauty platform Lab Muffin, likes sunflower and grapeseed to start because they’re affordable and less occlusive (i.e. not greasy or likely to leave a film). 

More expensive oils like camellia, rosehip, argan, and sweet almond are also effective and can offer certain nourishing benefits and/or a beautiful experience when it comes to scent profile. 

Wong does point out that coconut oil and olive oil are ones to potentially avoid; coconut oil because it can clog pores and olive oil because it’s often processed and this can lead to irritation. Each product and brand is different though, so be sure to do independent research. 

Finally, check against any allergies you might have as plant and nut oils are common. 

Slip and Texture

This is less important, but it’s still nice to end up with a product you actually enjoy using, right? Dry skin types might love a rich, viscous oil whereas oil-prone complexions will fare better with a lightweight product that rinses off well. The below list will help you find something that works for you. 

FAQ
  • How Does Cleansing Oil Work?

    Cleansing oils work on the premise that like dissolves like. According to Wong, a lot of skincare, SPF and makeup products are oil-based, meaning an oil-based cleanser may be more effective when it comes to removing them.

  • How Do You Use Cleansing Oil?

    Cleansing oils are typically suggested for use as a first cleanse to dissolve dirt, grime, makeup, and sunscreen. Try applying into a dry face, emulsify with a little water, and really massaging in, focusing on areas such as the eyes and lips, then rinse with warm water or remove with a face washer.

  • How Often Should You Oil-Cleanse?

    While the choice is ultimately yours, oil cleansers work best at night as a first cleanse to remove everything that’s accumulated on your face during the day. They can also function as a morning cleanser for skin that’s really, really dry—just be sure to either pick a lightweight formula that doesn’t leave a filmy texture or remove more thoroughly with a face cloth so serums and moisturizers can penetrate.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She's tested countless cleansers over the years—from foaming formulas to oils, gels, and creams.

According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough cleansing oils from Black-owned and/or Black-founded businesses to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at contact@byrdie.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
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  3. Nadeem M, Imran M. Promising features of Moringa oleifera oil: recent updates and perspectivesLipids Health Dis. 2016;15(1):212. doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0379-0

  4. Keen MA, Hassan I. Vitamin E in dermatologyIndian Dermatol Online J. 2016;7(4):311-315. doi:10.4103/2229-5178.185494

  5. Dhaliwal S, Rybak I, Ellis SR, et al. Prospective, randomized, double-blind assessment of topical bakuchiol and retinol for facial photoageingBr J Dermatol. 2019;180(2):289-296. doi:10.1111/bjd.16918

  6. Zeng W, Endo Y. Lipid characteristics of camellia seed oilJ Oleo Sci. 2019;68(7):649-658. doi:10.5650/jos.ess18234

  7. Sethi A, Kaur T, Malhotra SK, Gambhir ML. Moisturizers: the slippery roadIndian J Dermatol. 2016;61(3):279-287. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.182427

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