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Beauty Test-Drive: Oil Cleansers

Why we all need to start washing (or, alternatively, smothering) our faces with oil: TC HQ investigates.

Beauty Test-Drive: Oil Cleansers

As anyone who grew up on a steady diet of YM and Teen People (may they rest in peace) can attest, it wasn't all that long ago that oil was the sworn enemy and sole target of most skincare. In case you somehow managed to skip these years unscathed, allow us to bring you up to speed: even the slightest hint of glistening, shiny skin was to be abolished lest it lead to a life-ruining breakout (we don't know about you, but for us, they had the funniest way of cropping up around the time of all-crucial yearbook photos) and done so via alcohol-laden toners and drying spot treatment. It's with this in mind which we collectively like to point to as the genesis of our aversion to oil cleansers—in other words, it's not our fault, 'kay? 

As oil cleansers are largely (somehow) unexplored territory for the vast majority of us over here at TC HQ, save for a devout few who jumped on the train in the beginning, we thought it would be best to tackle them en masse, tasking each of our staffers with various cleansers to try over the span of a week or so. Here's the good, the bad and the mascara-stained ugly.

Meet the Panel

(and their current cleansing routine)..


I should preface this by saying that I’m pretty lazy about washing my face to begin with. For the most part, I cleanse in the shower (which, for me, is nightly) and don’t do much more than splash cool water on my face in the morning. For most of my life, my facial cleansers have been basic––either Cetaphil or Neutrogena for the most part. That said, I’m pretty careful about what goes on my face. I’ve long had “problem skin” (read: scatterings of acne) and nothing breeds fear of a breakout more than oil. Suffice it to say, that despite the fact that I’ve heard plenty of gushing as far as oil cleansers go, I’m more than a little nervous. I’m a little skeptical when it comes to just how oil is supposed to be cleansing—frankly, oil is one of the things I like to think I’m taking off my face when I wash it.


As I've stated in our past office-wide product trials, I am a bit of a simpleton when it comes to my beauty regime. However, over the course of the last year, the office's obsession with beauty products has started to rub off on me, and when this greasy rub was presented to the team I was SO into it. I'm generally a Kiehl's face wash girl, but I had the opportunity to try some tiny samples of some oil cleanser a couple months back and was pleasantly surprised by my experience.


Cleansing routine: I'm an absolute virgin to the oil cleanser. When our Senior Editor, Meagan, told me the (pink!) Shu cleanser changed her life (not even exaggerating, swearsies), I thought it was absolute poppycock. The thought of putting oil on an already oily face (openly admitting I have the skin of a 13 year old boy) was frightening. My normal cleansing routine is pretty standard: Clarisonic twice per week, Cetaphil face wash twice per day. My makeup removal game, though, is a little bit on the primitive side. I mean, I only take makeup off when I'm a) tired b) intoxicated or c) both, which means make-up removing face wipes reside on my bedside table.


Daily Beauty Regime: No judgment? I wash my face maybe (and that’s a generous maybe) twice a week. Smearing a warm face cloth over my face in the shower is just as good, right? Post-shower, I lather on my favorite Origins High Potency Night-A-Mins lotion and call it a day.


Humblebrag time: I might very well be the resident oil cleanser fanatic at TC HQ, and therefore take the brunt of the responsibility for this office-wide trial. I was first introduced, and became subsequently hooked, to M.A.C.'s Cleanse-Off Oil during college (think: red-cup-ravaged-complexion), and recommend it almost immediately to anyone suffering from problem skin. No, seriously: oil cleansers + birth control = perfect skin. TMI? I currently rotate between Yes to Cucumbers Facial Wipes, Bioderma Sébium and just finished off a bottle of SK-II's Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil.


Experience: While the oil-on-dry-skin thing still freaks me out, the Boscia oil seems slightly less ‘all-natural’ and a bit more ‘proven-by-science’ going off nothing more than the faint chemically smell and the long list of ingredients, which, TBH, I’m into. The whole ‘Makeup-Breakup’ thing was pretty accurate in my experience—it all seemed to come off without much scrubbing. What’s more is that afterwards, my skin felt soft (kind of similar to how it feels after exfoliation), but without any greasy residue that I’m so terrified of.

Would I use it again? Yep. It might just become part of my regular rotation.

Katie B.

Experience: Day Two, and back to being psyched to try another oil cleanser. This one was light and had a nice light scent to it too. It went on smoothly and removed my make-up instantly. While rinsing, it seemed to come off nicely too, as it didn't feel overly oily. My skin was crystal clear and didn't seem to experience any dryness either.

Will I use again? Yes


Experience:You know that one picky eater in your life that won't eat certain things because of it's texture? My face is totally that person and this cleanser was totally too, well, oily for it's liking. It was the opposite of love from the initial squirt-from-the-bottle into my hand. That being said, I pushed through the (almost immediate) distinct disinterest and gave the cleanser a fair chance. I really wanted to like it––I promise!

Would I use it again: Sorry, but no.

Rating: One disappointed girl in pink shirt emoji


Experience: As seems to be the case with just about everyone's oil cleanser experience, it all comes down to texture. And having made my way through a considerable number of cleansers, when I first squeezed a few pumps of this into my hand, I was majorly put off by the cleansers gel-like consistency. While it removed all of my make-up without much scrubbing or the need for following up with Bioderma afterwards, I'm not sure that I'll be reaching for it's (admittedly gorgeous, remote control-resembling) lavender bottle anytime soon––there's novelty to using an actual oil cleanser for a reason, right?

Katie B.

Experience: Thanks to day two, oil cleansers haven't lost their intrigue just yet. My sister had some positive reviews for argan oil so she got me a bit excited for testing this one. Where do I start? Even though I wouldn't really classify honey as um, oily, it's the best description of the texture and density of what I attempted to smear on my face. This was far from light, and removing the paste was a small feat in itself. I woke up the next morning with a dry face and two pimples (the exact hue of rosé) growing on my chin.

Will I use again?: Pretty sure my dermatologist (that's if I had one) would say that Argan oil might not be the best option for me.


Straight up: this stuff is fancy. Using it, with its sleek white bottle and general Japanese...ness, makes me feel like one very civilized lady. But for me, it’s straight up scary to just spread oil around on my face—it feels not unlike going rogue with eye makeup remover... although I have to admit that the effect is oddly satisfying, and rinsing it off is somehow gratifying. I’ve been promised a dramatic rinse of all my makeup, however, and faint mascara rings do remain. I am intrigued, however, and my skin doesn’t have that usual tight feeling that’s usual post Cetaphyll.

Would I use it again? Sure—as long as the sleek white bottle lasts.

Katie B.

Experience: This was my last oil to review and I saved it for last. Not entirely sure why... okay, thats a lie. I was really into the packaging and the whole experience of actually opening it. I'm a sucker for good packaging! Seeing as I had already deemed this one to be the crème de la crème, I decided I would put it to the true test and wear some eyeliner and a darker lip. Let's just say this oily beauty was worth the wait. A lovely scent, light to apply, removed all my make-up, and washed off with the snap of the fingers. No dry face. Need I say more?

Will I use again: Was I not clear enough? Yes!


Experience: Given my love of the miracle-in-a-bottle that is Tatcha's Exfoliating Rice Enzyme Powder (no, seriously. You need to try it.), you can probably imagine the fervor with which I ripped apart the (immaculate, purple, very impressive) packaging of this bad boy. I dispensed three pumps of oil into my palms, and was immediately taken with the floral-tinged scent and it's thicker, markedly softer (trust me on this one, guys) texture. It removed every last trace of makeup (including won't-budge liquid liner and waterproof mascara), too—there are seriously no words for how good it feels to remove the whole mess with a piping hot washcloth.


Experience: I like Aesop’s immediately because unlike some of the other cleansers, the packaging instructs me to get my face wet first, so I’m not just smearing oil on my dry skin. The liquid works into a light lather in my hands, so it feels quite like a regular soapy face wash, although I have to admit, it doesn’t feel quite as effectual. While I can see that most of my makeup has been washed off, my skin just doesn’t feel squeaky clean, which leaves me worried about remnant oil clogging my pores.

Would I use it again? Probably not.


Experience: Let me start by saying Aesop Parsley Seed Facial Cleansing Oil actually makes me want to, uh, take the whole washing my face thing a little more seriously. Its like face crack! After first use, I felt the glow. The application is super simple: rub the cleanser with damp hands until you see the good stuff, then massage your face with it. Rinse and repeat.

Would I use it again? Duh.


Experience: Smearing oil on your face is a little weird at first, but it was totally soothing. I could feel it strip all of the the make-up from my face, especially my mascara, which while not waterproof, still never seems to fully come off my lashes. That was my hands-down my favorite part of this cleanser--–my lashes felt totally bare after and there was no sign of next day smudge-y eye. My skin also look clearer, though I think a little light moisturizer after wouldn't be uncalled for. Consider me converted.


Experience: While this is the very first cleansing oil I ever tried, I've since been seriously promiscuous and made my rounds with all manner of cleansers and makeup removers. Going back to my roots (so to speak) was just as I remembered, only it turns out that getting slutty with your skincare has its perks, too. I now noticed the way the M.A.C. cleanser made my eyes blurry if I didn't use a washcloth to get every last bit of oil off, as well as the scent, which compared to Tatcha's floral wonderland, smelled, well, like oil. That said, the Cleanse-Off Oil also left my skin feeling far more hydrated and supple, and removed every last trace of make-up––even mascara. Lets call it an oldie but a goodie?

Katie B.

Experience: This was the first oil cleanser that I tried. It was light and had little to no scent––or at least I think so, as I've been battling with what I could swear is ebola for a week, so my senses are a bit disoriented. I'd have to say I was a bit disappointed with this one, as it wasn't able to successfully remove all my make-up. FYI: A simpleton's make-up regime more or less consists of: YSL's Touch Eclat (we'll blame the classic beauty product reviews for my obsession with that one), a touch of nude shadow, mascara, lipstick (generally a nude) and bronzer. That said, good thing about this product was that my skin wasn't dry and didn't break out once I used it. I get nasty cases of dry face so this was a plus.

Would I use again? Honestly? Probably... not.


Experience: The after-glow this cleanser gives outweighs the fact that, despite being dubbed a 'pre-cleanse', you actually have to pre-precleanse because it doesn’t quite take off the day’s makeup. That being said, my face felt new after washing off the suds. Smooth, soft, and glow-y? Check, check, check. Note: you do need to follow up with something moisturizing because this stuff wipes your slate clean, but that aside, I'm a believer. So you need to pre and you need to after––it’s basically a party in a bottle.

Would I use it again? You bet.

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