Oil Cleansers Are Actually Great for Acne—Try These Formulas

cleansing oil

If your acne isn't responding to the lotions and potions you're slathering on, you might want to take a good look at your cleanser. "Cleansers that leave your skin feeling 'squeaky clean' are actually creating an acid mantle that is too acidic," says esthetician Athena Ellen. When the acid mantle is unbalanced, your skin may be more prone to increased sebum production and acne. And while it's possible for this to be the case, keep in mind that, according to dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian, "pH imbalance is not a science-supported, known etiology of acne."

Meet the Expert

Athena Ellen is an esthetician and founder of the natural skincare line Monastery. With over fourteen years of experience, Ellen has an overall approach to skin health through the mind, body, and soul connection.

But this is avoidable. "Oil cleansers don't change the acid mantle at all," notes Ellen. "Cleansing oil suspends dirt and makeup, so that it can be easily wiped away while leaving a hydrating layer of oil behind. Oil cleansers are so gentle that they usually don't need to be followed by a moisturizer. Many people see an improvement in their skin texture after a couple of weeks of oil cleansing." However, Ellen warns, "If you are a double-cleanser, be careful that your second cleanse isn't stripping the skin. It would be a shame to undo the good of the oil cleanser by following up with an acidic one."

Her best advice? Look for cleansing oils with botanical ingredients like sweet almond oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil. Steer clear of anything with detergents, alcohols, and salts which can all dry and irritate the skin. Below, find 15 expert-approved oil cleansers to help treat and prevent acne.

Monastery Rose Cleansing Oil
Monastery Rose Cleansing Oil $39

Made with Edwardian rose oil (each bottle contains the essence of over 100 rose petals), this cleanser is gentle, nourishing, and chock-full of acne-safe ingredients like sweet almond oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil. Apply it first to a dry face; then remove with a soaked cotton pad for the best results.

Shu Uerma POREfinist2 Sakura Refreshing Cleansing Oil
Shu Uerma Sakura Refreshing Cleansing Oil $75

Ideal for oily skin types and acne-prone skin, this water-like cleansing oil washes away excess sebum and blackheads that are stuck inside pores—without that tight or parched feeling after cleansing. Courtesy of cinnamon bark and cherry extracts, shine is blotted and open pores appear shrunken.

Julep Love Your Bare Face Hydrating Cleansing Oil
Julep Love Your Bare Face Hydrating Cleansing Oil $22

Julep's offering is a lightweight, antioxidant-rich oil blend that melts away makeup without irritating your skin. Rosehip oil delivers essential nutrients to protect against environmental damage, while grapeseed and olive oil distribute antioxidants and hydrate without clogging your pores. Finally, green coffee bean oil invigorates your skin to promote cell turnover.

Nyakio Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm
Nyakio Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm $28

Nyakio's Sweet Almond Cleansing Oil Balm is a balm-to-oil cleanser that uses nourishing sweet almonds from Spain to keep oily or breakout-prone skin clean and clear. It's both conditioning and clarifying, allowing your best, glowiest skin to reach the surface.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil
Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil $28

This potent oil cleanser dissolves all traces of makeup, as it easily glides on and rinses off with warm water. The best part? It leaves zero residue behind (helping current breakouts clear up and preventing others from forming).

Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil
Burt's Bees Facial Cleansing Oil $16

Using a blend of coconut and argan oils, this dermatologist-tested cleanser softens, removes makeup, and is 100% natural with no parabens, phthalates, or petrolatum. Plus, it works with your natural oils to wash, nourish, and keep breakout-causing bacteria at bay.

BareMinerals Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil
BareMinerals Oil Obsessed Total Cleansing Oil $30

Glide this formula on dry to gently dissolve any lingering makeup and effectively cleanse impurities; once you add water, the oil transforms into a milky emulsion to infuse natural ingredients like borage, sunflower, bilberry, and cucumber oils.

aster & bay Cleansing Oil
Aster & Bay No. 1 Cleansing Oil $30

This blend of softening and toning oils deeply penetrates your pores to dissolve dirt and toxin buildup. "Simply put," the brand writes, "oil dissolves oil. The best way to dissolve the bad oil (the sebum that hardens in your pores, along with dirt and toxins) is to dissolve and replace it with nutrient-rich plant oils." Plant, nut and seed oils cleanse, detoxify and moisturize the pores and skin surface.

Mullein & Sparrow Cleansing Oil
Silk Premier Cleansing Oil $48

This nutritive formula with anti-inflammatory black cumin oil and hydrating rose essential oil won't clog your pores, but rather leave your skin soft, supple, and nourished. Massage a small amount onto your face and use a washcloth with warm water and wipe it away.

Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil
Neutrogena Ultra Light Cleansing Oil $11

Neutrogena's noncomedogenic oil cleanser contains a blend of fine oils that act like a magnet to effectively extract oil and impurities from your skin. But it leaves your face soft, refreshed, and properly hydrated as well.

Biossance Squalance + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil
Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil $30

This nontoxic, fragrance-free oil lifts away makeup, then rinses completely clean with water. In it is sugarcane-derived, sustainable squalane oil to better keep your skin hydrated throughout the entire process.

Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Oil
Sephora Collection Supreme Cleansing Oil $15

With fatty acid-rich cottonseed and castor seed oils, Sephora's namesake collection created a really great, cost-effective oil cleansing option. It'll cleanse your skin (remove long-wear makeup and any dirt and grime from the day), while leaving behind all the good stuff.

Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil
Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil $33

Featuring Shiseido's quick-removing technology to effectively and thoroughly remove dirt and makeup, this cleansing oil is great for both wet and dry skin. It rinses off quickly and leaves a non-greasy, dewy finish.

Ready to clean up your morning routine yet?

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.
  1. Prakash C, Bhargava P, Tiwari S, Majumdar B, Bhargava RK. Skin surface pH in acne vulgaris: insights from an observational study and review of the literatureJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2017;10(7):33-39.

  2. Mukhopadhyay P. Cleansers and their role in various dermatological disordersIndian J Dermatol. 2011;56(1):2-6. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.77542

  3. Lin TK, Zhong L, Santiago JL. Anti-inflammatory and skin barrier repair effects of topical application of some plant oilsInt J Mol Sci. 2017;19(1):70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

  4. 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

Related Stories