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The Best Oil Cleansers For Soft, Clean, Balanced Skin

by Katie Muirhead

Sep 22, 2022

Once upon a time, "squeaky clean" skin was considered a good thing. But not so much anymore. Now we know that stripping away natural oils can be harsh on dry or sensitive skin. This is where oil cleansers come in. Here are all the best cruelty-free options on the market right now!

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A skincare staple in their own right, oil cleaners have also gained popularity as the first step in a two-step cleansing routine.

An oil cleanser is especially effective on days when you have a lot to wash off your face (like makeup, dirt, sunscreen, or excess oil). It's able to dissolve any impurities on the surface of the skin without disrupting the delicate moisture balance, keeping the skin feeling soft.

In principle, even a pantry staple such as olive oil could work as an oil cleanser. But don't worry, you don't need to raid your cupboards for a gentle yet effective way to thoroughly cleanse your skin.

We've found the best cruelty-free oil cleanser formulas out there to leave your skin feeling clean, soft, and balanced. But first, let's take a look at what an oil cleanser actually is and how it fits into your skincare routine.

What is an oil cleanser?

An oil cleanser is a liquid or balm product that has an oil-based formula. Just like a traditional cleanser, the goal is to remove any makeup, sunscreen, pollution, or excess oil from the skin. However, the way in which an oil cleanser does this differs from a traditional cleanser.

Traditional cleansers, such as foam, cream, or gel formulas, use surfactants. These are ingredients that act like a detergent, emulsifying excess oils and suspending makeup or debris to lift them away from the skin.

An oil cleanser, in contrast, is able to actually dissolve the impurities on the skin and wash them away. They are lipophilic, meaning they are attracted to the sebum in our skin and the oils in our makeup.

An oil cleanser can quickly and easily dissolve whatever is sitting on the surface of the skin, whether that be heavy sunscreen from a day at the beach, a full makeup look from a night out, or even the dirt from a weekend spent camping.

An oil cleanser can give a deep, thorough clean, without the risk of over-stripping the skin's natural oils or good bacteria, all while keeping the skin soft and moisturized.

How does an oil cleanser fit into your routine?

An oil cleanser is best used in the evening when you are washing off any makeup, debris, sunscreen, or oil from the day.

As oil cleansers don't require water to kick start the process, most formulas can be massaged directly onto a dry face. The results may be messy (think mascara smudged across your whole face), but very effective. The cleanser and dissolved impurities can then be rinsed off with water.

For very dry or sensitive skin types, an oil cleanser may be all you need to cleanse your skin. However, most people will prefer to follow up with a traditional cleanser to get rid of the oily residue left behind. This two-step method is an effective way to make sure that your skin is properly cleansed.

Note that some cleansers on the market contain a mixture of both traditional cleansing surfactants and oils to dissolve impurities. These hybrid formulas can still be incredibly effective for double cleansing but aren't considered true oil cleansers.

The best oil cleansers

Because of their efficacy and popularity, many brands have launched their own take on an oil cleanser. While the principle of oil cleansing is the same across all of these products, each formula contains unique actives or properties that make it suitable for different skin types or applications.

All of the oil cleansers on this list are cruelty-free, and some are also vegan or organic. We want to make it easy to shop consciously. Animal testing has no place in the beauty industry.

If you're looking to level up your cleansing routine, here are our top picks for cruelty-free oil cleansers on the market:

The Best Overall:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsRice bran oil, sunflower seed oil
ConsistencyRich oil
Best forDry skin, congested pores, double cleansing

This nourishing oil will remove even the most stubborn of eye makeup and leave your skin feeling hydrated but not greasy.

It's non-comedogenic, meaning it won't clog your pores, making it a great choice as the first cleansing step for acne or blemish-prone skin.

Rice bran oil supports the health of your skin barrier and sunflower seed oil contains vitamin E to help support the skin's natural healing process.

Apply a few pumps of this oil cleanser to wet hands before massaging it into your face. Spend about 30 seconds letting this cleanser get to work on any makeup or build-up. It's even safe for stubborn eye makeup!

Rinse off to reveal makeup-free skin, and consider following up with a conventional cleanser.

The Best Budget:

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic
IngredientsEvening primrose oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, aloe vera
ConsistencyCreamy oil
Best forAny skin type, sensitive skin, double cleansing

This affordable oil cleanser helps to maintain your skin's natural moisture balance.

While this formula lathers more than most oil cleansers, it doesn't strip the skin and is even suitable for inflammation- acne-, or rosacea-prone skin types.

Evening primrose oil, argan oil, and jojoba oil are rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which help to soften and support the skin barrier.

Apply this cleanser to a moistened face and massage it in circular motions. This will help break up any makeup, excess oil, or grime, leaving you with cleansed skin when you rinse it off.

Dry skin types can use this cleanser on its own, but consider following up with a second cleanse if your skin is on the oilier side or you frequently wear heavy makeup.

The Best Luxury:

IngredientsCamellia oil, rice, green tea, algae
ConsistencyOil to milk
Best forDry skin, removing makeup, double cleansing

On heavy makeup days, this gentle cleanser will work to dissolve even waterproof products to leave your skin soft and silky.

Nourishing camellia oil is rich in skin-friendly vitamins and omega oils, while amino acids and lactic acid help to resurface and plump the skin.

Apply a few pumps of this oil cleanser onto a dry face and massage it in with a circular motion. The oil will emulsify into a milk to dissolve any makeup and dirt.

Rinse with warm water and follow it up with a foam or gel cleanser to remove any oily residue.

EthicsCruelty-free, organic, clean beauty, vegan
IngredientsArgan oil, carrot seed oil, calendula, turmeric
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, double cleansing

This luxuriously nourishing oil cleanser works to dissolve sunscreen, dirt, and bacteria.

With the moisturizing properties of argan oil, the antioxidant effects of carrot seed oil, and the calming power of calendula, this cleanser is perfect for dry or sensitive skin.

The scent of neroli and geranium makes washing your face an indulgent experience, without the risk of irritation.

Apply this cleanser directly to dry skin and massage it into your face. The unique oil formula can be removed with water alone, but for a more thorough cleanse, try using a washcloth and following it with a second cleanser.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsMeadowfoam seed oil, sunflower seed extract
ConsistencyJelly to oil to milk
Best forDry skin, pores, blemishes

This formula will leave your skin feeling clean but not tight. The unique jelly consistency becomes an oil when warmed between your hands, and then a milk when water is added.

Massage the oil into dry skin to dissolve any SPF, pollution, and even waterproof makeup. Then, wet your hands and start rubbing the water into your face until the cleanser becomes milky.

Keep adding water until all of the milk is removed and your skin is left fresh and soft.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsSqualane (plant derived), hemisqualane (plant derived), orange oil, lavender oil, rosehip seed oil, oat kernel oil, evening primrose oil, moringa oil, sunflower seed oil, Roman chamomile oil
ConsistencyLightweight oil
Best forDry skin, double cleansing

The lightweight texture of this makeup-removing oil makes it a fast, easy way to get all of that makeup off at the end of the day.

Apply it to dry skin and massage it in to break down any makeup and impurities. Add water and continue to massage, before rinsing and following up with a second cleanser.

While this formula doesn't contain any added fragrances, it does contain multiple botanical oils and essential oils. If you know that your skin is easily irritated or you are sensitive to smells, this may not be the one for you.

This product listing is sponsored.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic, clean beauty
IngredientsMeadowfoam seed oil, sunflower seed extract
Best forDry skin, irritated skin, visible pores

Conventional cleansers can strip your skin's natural oils, leading to dry, irritated skin. This organic cleansing oil, however, works to dissolve any makeup, excess oil, or impurities without irritation.

Sunflower seed oil and castor oil are rich in nutrients to both cleanse and help restore the skin's natural moisture balance.

The blend of essential oils also provides antioxidant and skin-evening effects for a complexion that is balanced, smooth, and healthy.

Apply this luxe oil to a dry face, massage it in for at least 30 seconds, and your makeup will start to slide right off. Next, rinse it away. Or, for best results, use a hot, steamy towel to wipe away any excess product.

Your skin will feel soft and clean. Plus, the towel will help to gently prep your skin for the rest of your skincare routine.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsLipid complex, seaweed hyaluronate blend, aloe juice
ConsistencyLightweight cream
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, redness

This hybrid cleanser takes a conventional cream cleanser and boosts it with the softening and soothing properties of an oil cleanser.

A great choice for sensitive skin, this formula is created to support and protect the skin's delicate moisture barrier. The result is skin that is properly cleansed while left feeling hydrated, plump, and soothed.

This cleanser can be used morning and night like a traditional cleanser. Massage it onto damp skin until lather forms, then rinse off with warm water.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic, clean beauty
IngredientsSilver ear mushroom, babassu oil, sunflower seed oil, aloe
ConsistencyLayered oils, milky texture
Best forDry skin, pores, double cleansing

This cleansing oil is split into two layers, but when you shake the bottle, they combine to form a milky substance that gently and effectively dissolves debris.

Sunflower seed oil is able to dislodge makeup, oil, and dirt, babassu oil nourishes and softens the skin, and silver ear mushroom has humectant properties that keep your skin plump and hydrated.

Shake the bottle before massaging it onto a wet face and neck. Your skin will be left cleansed, smooth, and glowing rather than stripped and dry.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsSunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil, ginger root extract, pineapple & pineapple ferment extract
ConsistencyLightweight oil
Best forDry skin, sensitive skin, oily skin, double cleansing

This lightweight cleansing oil is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic, making it suitable for sensitive or blemish-prone skin.

Sunflower and grapeseed oil work to dissolve any stubborn makeup and debris, while the antioxidant properties of ginger root and pineapple extract help protect your skin from environmental stressors.

This cleanser can be used on dry or damp skin, morning and evening. Consider using this as the first step in a double cleanse routine, especially if your skin is prone to breakouts.

EthicsCruelty-free, clean beauty, organic
IngredientsCastor seed oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil
Best forDry skin, combination skin, irritation

This nourishing oil is made with simple, organic ingredients to properly cleanse your skin and soothe any irritation.

Castor seed oil is rich in essential fatty acids to support the health of your skin barrier, avocado oil has antioxidant properties to fight free radicals, and sunflower oil contains vitamins A and E to soothe dry, irritated skin.

Apply 8-10 pumps of this oil cleanser to dry skin and thoroughly massage it in. It will help dislodge any makeup, dirt, or excess oil. It's even safe for the sensitive eye area.

Your skin will be left feeling balanced and clean after you wipe the cleanser off with a warm washcloth.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan
IngredientsSweet almond oil, sunflower seed oil
ConsistencyLightweight oil
Best forAny skin type, removing makeup, double cleansing

This cleansing oil has a simple and effective formula that works to dissolve and dislodge any makeup, dirt, or oil. It's suitable for sensitive skin and can be used to remove even waterproof eye makeup.

Sunflower seed oil works to nourish and cleanse the skin, while sweet almond oil improves the skin's elasticity.

This oil can be used on a cotton pad to remove eye makeup, or massage a few drops over your whole face for a more thorough cleanse. After, rinse thoroughly with water or follow up with another cleanser.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic
IngredientsCoconut oil, argan oil
ConsistencyLightweight oil
Best forDry skin, removing makeup, double cleansing

This affordable, lightweight cleansing oil works to remove makeup and grime while leaving the skin hydrated and smooth.

Coconut oil and argan oil dissolve any impurities on the surface of the skin without stripping away the naturally supportive moisture barrier.

Start by pumping the product into dry hands and massaging it onto dry skin. Then, wet your hands and continue to massage as any makeup or dirt starts to lift away. Rinse, and consider following with a second cleanser.

Note that while this product is opthalmologist-tested, it may be irritating to very sensitive eyes.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic
IngredientsAvocado oil, coconut oil
Best forAny skin type, sensitive skin, removing makeup

This silky oil is a great choice for dry, very sensitive skin, or for taking off that difficult-to-remove eye makeup.

Avocado oil and coconut oil gently dissolve any makeup or grime without stripping supportive moisture, leaving you with happy, clean skin.

For makeup removal, apply a few pumps to a cotton pad and wipe across your eyes and face. (Add a few spritzes of rose water to improve spreadability!) Or for all-over cleansing, apply a few pumps to dry skin and massage it into your face and neck.

Wipe off with a warm towel or moistened cotton pad before continuing with any serums and moisturizer.

This product listing is sponsored.

EthicsCruelty-free, vegan, organic
IngredientsAvocado oil, coconut oil
Best forAny skin type, sensitive skin, removing makeup

This unique cleansing formula transforms from a luxurious oil gel to a milk when it comes into contact with water.

With the makeup-dissolving power of sunflower seed oil and avocado oil, and the antioxidant benefits of banana extract, it helps to leave your skin cleansed and supported.

Plus, this formula can help fight the signs of aging; it neutralizes damaging free radicals and maintains a healthy skin barrier.

Massage the oil gel onto dry skin to begin the cleansing process. This will start to dissolve any stubborn makeup and grime. (Yes, even waterproof mascara!)

Then, wet your hands and continue massaging to create a cleansing emulsion that easily washes away with water.

Your skin will be left feeling clean and plump.

The verdict

Cleansing oils can play an important role in a healthy skincare routine, working to cleanse the skin without drying it out. They are especially effective if you wear heavy makeup, struggle with sensitivity or dryness, or find that your skin is prone to producing excess oil.

With so many cleaning oils, balms, and oil-infused cleansers on the market, it can be hard to choose one that works with your skincare goals. We've done the deep dive to help you make an informed, conscious choice.

To wrap it up, here are some of our top picks for cruelty-free cleansing oils:

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