The human skin is made up of layers and constantly secreting fats and oils. For many, the goal is to remove every last trace of oil and sebum. When they do this, they tend to over-clean the skin, which ultimately compromises its protective barrier.
Fortunately, you can avoid this. The first step is to use a facial cleansing oil.
The History of Cleansing Oil?
You’ve probably seen cleansing oils before, even if you’ve never used one. They’ve grown in popularity thanks to their cleansing ability while retaining the skin’s barrier. But you may not know that skincare oils were used long before dermatologists existed.
Ancient Egyptians used body oil with sesame, castor, moringa, and olive oil as a base. Indian Ayurvedic traditions used plant-based oils to maintain their skin health. In many Eastern cultures today, oils are still favored over modern-day skincare.
The trusty soap bar was the first soap cleanser invented in 600 BC, when people combined tree ash and animal fats. For centuries, people relied on plant and animal fat soap bars to get most of their cleaning done.
It was in 1948 that synthetic detergents were invented and added to soap bars to help emulsify dirt and oils more efficiently. In the 1990s, foaming liquid cleansers were popularized. This changed the world of cleansing as we knew it. Once society was introduced to a liquid, foamy lather to cleanse, oils were all but abandoned.
The Problem with Sulfates
Surfactants and sulfates are the ingredients that give products that foamy texture, and they exist in just about every household cleaning product and skincare cleanser. Surfactants in skincare are effective at reducing sebum and odor-causing bacteria, but they can disrupt and damage the skin barrier during the cleaning process.
Over the years, scientists discovered that some cleansers contained hazardous ingredients, including the preservative parabens and the antibacterial agent triclosan. Those ingredients can cause several health implications, so they’ve been banned or removed from most cosmetics.
Even with troublesome ingredients removed, the problem of over-cleansing still exists. It’s what happens when you wash your skin too much or use products that are particularly harsh for your skin. With surfactants and sulfates, it’s easy to over-cleanse. They’re so effective at emulsifying oil that they can strip it from the skin entirely even after just one use.
Sodium laurel and sodium lauryl sulfates (SLS and SLES) are standard surfactants that contain alcohol, but they can dry out and irritate the skin. Many brands are now replacing these synthetic sulfates with plant-based alternatives, like sodium cocoate that’s derived from coconut. Just because a foaming cleanser doesn’t contain synthetic sulfates doesn’t mean it’s any less drying or aggravating for the skin.
Other Cleanser Types
What about soap bars and foaming cleansers that don’t contain surfactants, such as cream cleansers and balms? These are gentle on the skin but are not always suitable for all skin types.
Cream cleansers are terrific at retaining the skin’s barrier, but they don’t always effectively remove oil or oil-based makeup. And these types of face washes are typically suitable for drier, sensitive, more mature skin.
Balms can remove oil and oil-based products, but they have a thicker consistency that can cause clogging in oily, acne-prone skin. So, again, these are more suitable for drier skin types.
How Does Cleansing Oil Work?
Cleansing oil is formulated in many ways, with various carrier oils and ingredients. Many cleansing oils stay as an oil even after working it into the skin. Some will emulsify into a milky texture when mixed with water. Others will foam up if they contain surfactants.
The dermis layer of your skin is where sebum and oil are constantly produced and secreted. While freshly cleansed skin feels amazing, the truth is that many cleansers take away too much of the skin’s natural oils. That oil is the only thing keeping your skin from turning into a raisin.
With an oil cleanser, you fight fire with fire—or in this case, oil with oil. It’s more effective at cleansing the skin and fortifying the skin barrier because of the following reasons.
Oil Dissolves Oil
When you use a cleansing oil on dirty skin, it bonds to any oils, such as oil-based makeup and sebum, to emulsify and lift them from the surface. Whether the cleansing oil contains a surfactant agent or not, you’ll either rinse it off or need to use a cloth to remove it.
Oil Acts as a Barrier
After cleansing with an oil, your skin will still feel soft and supple. It won’t feel tight or irritated, a common side effect of foaming cleansers. The oil acts as a barrier to help fortify the existing barrier of your skin.
Oils Help Repair Skin
Certain natural oils from plants help repair the skin barrier. Cold-pressed olive, sunflower seed, coconut, jojoba, oat, and argan oils are used as a base in cleansing oils and other skincare products. These natural oils have antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cleansing oil can also remove oil-based makeup and waterproof sunscreen more effectively than standard cleansers.
Who Should Use Cleansing Oil?
The great thing about cleansing oils is that they are suitable for just about every skin type—yes, even oily skin. As mentioned, oil dissolves oil but doesn’t disrupt the skin barrier.
Oily skin prone to acne often experiences inflammation. Using a cleansing oil can remove oil and help reduce inflammation caused by acne without stripping away those good oils.
Dry skin can be prone to, well, dryness. And it craves nourishment. Using an oil cleanser provides nutrients to the skin while fortifying the skin barrier that can quickly become damaged.
Normal skin can tolerate just about any cleanser. It usually boils down to the person’s preference. But a cleansing oil is a fantastic option.
Mature skin can also be dry because sebum and oil production slows down as you age. A good quality oil cleanser can benefit mature skin.
You may not be able to use an oil cleanser if you have an allergy to certain things, such as nuts. If you have very oily skin or a severe skin condition, such as active acne, you may want to see a dermatologist before buying an oil cleanser.
How to Use Cleansing Oil in a Routine
Using an oil cleanser in your routine is simple. Just swap out your regular cleanser for an oil cleanser of your choice. Most experts recommend doing a double cleanse in the evening if you’ve been wearing makeup. So simply use the oil cleanser twice.
There are no contraindications to using other products with an oil cleanser. You can incorporate toners, serums, ampoules, moisturizers, face oils, and more to complete your skincare routine.
Investing in an oil cleanser is an investment in your skin. With the wide range of oil cleansers available today, you’ll quickly find one suitable that you’ll absolutely love using.