Style & Beauty

What The Heck Is Cleansing Oil, And Why Is Everyone Obsessed With It?

11/17/2014 08:00am ET | Updated September 1, 2015

When the cleansing oil craze first took off, we were skeptical about slathering our faces with more a product our skin naturally produces. But we've secretly obsessed over having clear skin like the women we've met who swear by the face cleansing method.

Still there are plenty of questions we have: What exactly makes cleansing oil just as good or even better for your skin than regular bar soap? Can people who have oily skin use the product? Why doesn't the oil clog our pores?

We asked three skincare experts to help us sort out the hype. Here's what we learned.

Cleansing oil uses the "good oils" in your skin to remove the "bad oils."

No matter the skin type, cleansing oil mixes with the preexisting oils already on your face, according to cosmetic dermatologic surgeon Dr. Ariel Ostad. "Some of these oils can either be naturally produced sebum or those from makeup and other products. When you rinse it all off, the 'good oil' takes those 'bad oils' and dirt along with it," he told HuffPost Style.

When massaged into the skin, oils in the cleanser bind to surface impurities [pulling out dirt without clogging pores] and allow them to be comfortably rinsed away leaving the skin clean, soft and hydrated, explained Dr. Diane Walder, a Miami-based cosmetic dermatologist. So, cleansing oil does not sink into your pores since it works to remove impurities and then gets washed away.

Julien Farel Restore Salon & Spa aesthetician Kayla Causey believes the oil cleansing method is a win/win situation. "A lot of oil-free cleansers strip our skin of natural oils, leaving it unbalanced and causing it to produce more oil to rebalance it. Excess production equals more problematic skin. Oil cleansers keep the skin's natural pH balance, and prevents it from having a production overload. Plus, essential oils are naturally antibacterial," said Causey.

Oil cleansers contain antioxidants and anti-aging ingredients that also improve the texture and appearance of your skin.

"There are a variety of cleansing oil formulations that contain active ingredients to address specific skin concerns -- dryness, dullness, acne, anti-aging -- and thus may be used to cleanse and improve all skin types," said Dr. Walder.

Depending on the product and the effects desired, cleansing oils usually contain a mixture of botanical oils (olive, sunflower, sesame, safflower, almond, grape seed), extracts (green tea, jasmine) and/or vitamins (vitamin E and C).

Dr. Ostad recommends cleansing oils with botanical amino acids to patients with oily skin to gently remove the excess sebum. Those with dry skin can use most oils, according to the medical expert, as their skin needs its hydration factors the most. Combination skin will receive the best benefits from safflower oil because it is capable of both cleansing and hydrating. And finally, those with sensitive skin should go for a soothing formula of olive oil to prevent skin irritation.

The question of whether cleansing oils are helpful and/or safe for those with acne-prone skin has been a matter of much discussion, Dr. Walder told HuffPost Style. Because acne encompasses oil production, bacterial overgrowth and inflammation, she prefers cleansers with non-pore clogging oil-like ingredients such as glycerin and/or silicone.

Baby oil is a great makeup remover, but it's not an effective cleansing oil.

Baby oil contains mineral oil, lanolin and fragrance whereas cleansing oils contain mostly botanical oils, extracts and vitamins, according to Dr. Walder. "Some cleansing oils may contain mineral oil and/or fragrances, so there are some similarities between the ingredients in baby oil and cleaning oils," she said.

"On one end, baby oil locks in moisture, but at the same time it inhibits the skin's natural ability to breathe and can block pores," said Causey. This makes it not such and ideal cleanser when trying to wash away dirt and debris.

To break the tie, our experts recommend cleansing oil because it removes impurities while maintaining moisture without harming the skin's barrier.

Ready to give the oil cleansing method a try? Shop our editors' picks below.

Nude Perfect Cleanse Clarifying Cleansing Oil
Burt's Bees Cleansing Oil
$15.99, Ulta.com
Julep Rethink Your Shower Hydrating Body Cleansing Oil
Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Cleansing Oil
Bobbi To Go Soothing Cleansing Oil
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
SK-II Facial Treatment Cleansing Oil
CosMedix Purity Solution Deep Cleansing Oil
Decleor Micellar Oil
Lancôme Huile Douceur Remove-All Deep Cleansing Oil
Face Washing Tips
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