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.
To find the best cleansing oils on the market, we conducted hours of research—poring over hundreds of customer reviews and considering the dozens of options that are available. We evaluated each on their active ingredients, ability to remove makeup, and overall cleansing power without stripping the skin. After looking through multiple formulas and consulting a skincare expert, we landed on these top-rated picks.
Read on for the best cleansing oils for a clean, healthy complexion.
Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil
Doesn't strip skin
It makes sense that our best overall cleansing oil is from one of the world’s most-trusted beauty brands. This lightweight cleanser from Shiseido is able to melt away waterproof makeup and dirt without drying out the skin or making it feel tight. Its superhero ingredient is grapeseed oil, a natural oil that's rich in antioxidants and known for its hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. It's also anti-microbial, making it a powerful ingredient for cleansing the skin.
Reviewers loved that their skin felt baby-soft after using and that it removed their makeup completely without harsh scrubbing—making it the perfect first product in their double cleanse routine. While we don't love that it contains fragrance, customers noted that the scent was pleasant but subtle.
It's also great for all skin types and can be used on wet or dry skin.
Price at time of publish: $35
Active Ingredients: Grape seed oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 6 or 10.1 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Palmer's Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil
Removes makeup without stripping skin
Can leave behind a residue
You may first think of their beloved cocoa butter when you hear the name Palmer's, but you don’t want to miss their affordable but effective oil cleanser. It too contains cocoa butter, along with sesame oil and rosehip oil, which is a popular oil for promoting healthy skin cells. It gets bonus points for the addition of skin-brightening vitamin C.
Price at time of publish: $12
Active Ingredients: Cocoa butter, vitamin E, sesame oil, rosehip oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 6.5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
What Our Testers Say
"I was quite impressed with how well this cleanser removed my makeup alone without having to go in for a second cleanse. The oil helps to immediately break up makeup and remove it, and my skin felt soft afterward without feeling stripped of any moisture." — Ashley Rebecca, Product Tester
Best for Dry Skin
TATCHA Pure One Step Camellia Oil Cleanser
May irritate acne-prone skin
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.
Price at time of publish: $50
Active Ingredients: Japanese camellia oil (tsubaki), hadasei-3 | Skin Type: Dry, mature, combination | 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 Antioxidant-Rich Formula
One Love Organics Botanical B Enzyme Cleansing Oil
Restores pH balance
A team Byrdie fan favorite, this earns big points for its straightforward ingredient list loaded with plant-based goodies. The oil—which combines pumpkin seed, papaya seed, and sunflower seed oils—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.
Price at time of publish: $54
Active Ingredients: Sunflower seed oil, Papaya seed oil, pumpkin oil, vitamin E | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Kaike Melt Oil Cleanser
Improves texture and tone
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.
Price at time of publish: $25
Active Ingredients: Grapeseed oil, hemp seed oil, apricot kernel oil | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Sahajan Essential Oil Cleanser
Some reviewers note that the smell is strong
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.
Price at time of publish: $48
Active Ingredients: Moringa oil, squalane, rose oils | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil
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. Fortunately, 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.
Price at time of publish: $9
Active Ingredients: Mineral oil, camellia leaf extract, rosemary leaf extract, glycerin | Skin Type: All | Size: 4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Bedtime
Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil
Doubles as aromatherapy
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.
Price at time of publish: $30
Active Ingredients: Lavender essential oil, evening primrose oil, squalene | Skin Type: All | Size: 2.9 or 5.9 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Combination Skin
Beautycounter Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil
Doesn't leave a residue
Pricier than other options
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.
Price at time of publish: $69
Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, fatty acids, Retinatural Complex | Size: 5 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Oily Skin
Erborian Black Cleansing Oil
Doesn't strip skin
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 this formula will definitely convince you otherwise. It leaves your complexion feeling clean, but not tight, and stops shine in its tracks.
Price at time of publish: $29
Active Ingredients: Charcoal powder | Skin Type: Oily | Size: 6.4 ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best for Sensitive Skin
Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleanser
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.
Price at time of publish: $32
Active Ingredients: Squalane, hemi-squalane | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Size: 0.85 or 6.7 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Doesn't leave a residue
Doesn't strip skin
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.
Price at time of publish: $28
Active Ingredients: Olive oil, rosemary leaf oil, tocopherol (vitamin E) | Skin Type: All | Size: 2.3 or 6.7 fluid ounces | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best for Removing Makeup
Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil
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 breaks down even the most stubborn, waterproof eye makeup, doesn’t leave any residue, and is still ultra-gentle. Its size being travel-friendly is an added bonus.
Price at time of publish: $37
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
Doesn't strip skin
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.
Price at time of publish: $14
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
Tata Harper Nourishing Makeup Removing Oil Cleanser
Doesn't leave a residue
Doesn't strip skin
Reviewers note that the pump can get stuck
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.
Price at time of publish: $88
Active Ingredients: Alfalfa, vitamin A, squalane | Skin Type: Balanced, dry, combination, oily | Size: 4.1 ounces | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Overall, our top pick is the Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil, which is deeply cleansing but light, making it ideal for all skin types. However, if you're looking for a more budget-friendly option, we love the Palmer's Skin Therapy Cleansing Oil because it has cocoa butter and rosehip oil to hydrate and improve skin health while cleansing.
Meet the Expert
Michelle Wong is a cosmetic chemist and educator who's the brains behind educational beauty platform Lab Muffin—a website and YouTube channel where she breaks down skin care and cosmetic ingredients in products to a general audience. She has a PhD in chemistry from the University of Sydney.
What To Look For When Buying a Cleansing Oil
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. Wong 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.
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 email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.
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