Your guide to using a cleansing oil: Tips for radiant skin

Why double cleansing is good for your complexion.

Written by
Ruby Feneley
Medically reviewed by
min read
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Double cleansing has emerged as an essential skincare step for anyone wanting to achieve an even skin tone and radiant complexion and if you've spent any time online, whether reading beauty blogs or scrolling through #SkinTok, we're sure you've heard about it.

But, the efficacy of double cleansing isn't broadly understood; nor are the many ways your skin can benefit from including it in your routine.

In this article, we'll break down why using a cleansing oil and double cleansing is good for your complexion, no matter what your skin type is.

What is double cleansing?

This style of cleansing was popularised in recent years after originating in Asia and was first used in the 14th century by royalty throughout China, Korea and Japan, who would apply thick white pastes that would need to be removed with plant oils [1].

The practice has remained popular in Asia, where city dwellers in high-pollution and humidity urban areas have used oil-based cleansers to ensure smog, sweat, makeup, sunscreen and free radicals are thoroughly removed from the skin [2].

Social media has seen Korean beauty trends, in particular, influence Western markets, with the segment set to grow from US $8.3 billion in 2021 to a whopping US $18.32 billion in 2030 [3].

While not everyone has added 11 steps prescribed by K-beauty to our skincare routines, one of the skincare trends that has stayed with many is double cleansing — specifically, oil cleansing.

Why? Well, it is one of the most effective ways to remove impurities, nix dirt and debris, and whisk away makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day. Here's everything you need to know about it.

Why should you use an oil cleanser?

Using an oil cleanser is the most effective way to double-cleanse your face. To do so effectively, cleansers that are rich in plant, vegetable and nut oils have been shown to not only break and dissolve sebum, breakdown sunscreen and remove makeup effectively but also condition and support skin health [4].

There’s strong science, and common sense, behind the benefits of oil cleansing; in fact, it’s a basic principle of chemistry.

Our skin produces a substance called sebum (a fancy word for oil) and throughout the day, sebum mixes with makeup, sunscreen and external pollutants. What’s more, makeup and sunscreen products are frequently oil-based and designed with film-forming properties.

This means they're made to resist sweat, humidity, and yes, water. Like attracts like and oil attracts oil, making oil cleansing the best way to freshen your complexion at the end of the day.

How does oil cleanse your skin?

Water-based cleansers aren't as effective as we think they are, especially if we're only cleansing once.

It's common knowledge that oil and water don't mix. This means that when you scrub your face with a water-based cleanser, chances are that it will struggle to shift sunscreen and makeup and not get anywhere close to your pores.

Meanwhile, oil cleansers have a similar molecular structure to sebum and the oils found in makeup and sunscreen, meaning they break down these products and dissolve the natural oils on your face much faster. This allows for active ingredients like salicylic acid to work more effectively to deep cleanse your pores and refine your skin tone and texture.

The benefits of oil cleansers are two-fold: you receive a more thorough cleanse and you don’t have to rub and tug at your face as much.

Let's face it: we all know the frustration of scrubbing at your eyes with your cleanser trying to remove a smokey eye, only to wake up with panda eyes.

Waterproof mascara and eyeliner can truly be the gift that keeps on giving and the process of trying to remove them can result in dry skin and for sensitive skin, can be seriously aggravating — another reason to give the oil cleansing method a go.

What is cleansing oil?

A cleansing oil is a cleanser made of pure oils and emulsifiers that are designed as a first step in a skincare routine. The main difference between oil cleansers and traditional cleansers is the inclusion of "oil" as an ingredient.

Traditional cleansers usually include water as one of the first ingredients on their list and are often advertised as solutions for acne-prone skin types. When mixed with water they typically work into a satisfying foamy lather and leave our complexions feeling fresh and clean.

But using only a water cleanser isn't necessarily the best cleansing method, particularly if you're looking for a makeup remover and cleanser in one. A good cleansing oil can perform both functions.

If the word "oil" sends a shiver down your spine, you shouldn't be worried.

High-quality cleansing oils are formulated to ensure your skin isn't left loaded with excess oil. Indeed, an oil cleanse should have the opposite effect.

Cleansing oils tend to be made up of plant oils. In formulas designed for oily skin types, you might see lightweight fruit extracts like grape seed oil, while those designed for dry skin might include heavier hitters like coconut oil that are packed with essential fatty acids and can leave dry skin soft and supple.

Software’s Hydrating Cleansing Oil is bound to be your new favourite daily cleanser. Our Hydrating Cleansing Oil is powerful enough to wipe away a full face of makeup and daily debris, yet gentle enough to support the skin barrier. This omega-rich oil contains prebiotics, postbiotics and fatty acids to replenish your skin’s natural microbiome.

This oil helps clean your skin without stripping away healthy natural oils, removes makeup and build-up and fights inflammation and free radicals.

How to use cleansing oil

Want to use a cleansing oil to double cleanse your face? These are our top tips:

Step 1: Apply a cleansing oil

Pump your oil-based cleanser into clean, dry hands and gently massage it onto your dry face. You don't need to remove your makeup, as an oil cleanser will make short work of even the most long-wearing makeup look.

Work the oil into every crack and crevice using circular motions to help loosen and remove dead skin cells. If you're wearing waterproof mascara or liquid lipstick, give it another going over.

Step 2: Wipe the skin

Then, use warm or lukewarm water and take a washcloth. The best cleansing oils will dissolve into a milky emulsion before washing clean, but using a warm washcloth will provide gentle exfoliation and help loosen dead skin cells while ensuring there's no oil residue left on the skin.

If you're wearing a lot of eye makeup, you can gently wipe the eye area with warm water — a soft washcloth will ensure the delicate skin around the eyes isn't rubbed or tugged too hard.

Step 3: Apply a water-based cleanser

Follow up with your second step: cleansing your skin with a water-based cleanser. The active ingredients in your second cleanse will now be able to get to work harder on your skin.

Step 4: Pat dry

Gently pat dry your skin. If you've nailed your double cleanse, your skin should feel supple and fresh.

Can I use cleansing oil without makeup?

Yes, even if you're not wearing makeup, there are benefits to always including an oil-cleansing step in your skincare routine.

This is because there is natural oil on your skin, and many of the products you apply won't be effectively removed by a water-based cleanser. By using a cleansing oil you can ensure that by the time you apply moisturiser, like Software's Ceramide Repair Balm, your skin is totally fresh, clean and ready to absorb it.

Can you use an oil cleanser if you have oily skin?

In short, yes! Oil cleansing is suitable for all skin types and it's actually particularly useful for those with oily or acne-prone skin. An oil cleanser will ensure any impurities, dirt and debris from the day are totally cleared, meaning the likelihood of blackheads and clogged pores is drastically reduced.

Oil cleansers also often include healing ingredients, which can help brighten dark spots and give you an even skin tone if you're struggling with acne scars.

How to choose a cleansing oil

If you want to incorporate a cleansing oil into your skincare routine look for established brands that use high-quality oils with proven efficacy for skin. Coconut oil is a good oil to look for in a cleanser as it has proven antibacterial properties and is rich in essential fatty acids [5].

Meanwhile, grape seed oil is packed with antioxidants like vitamin A and vitamin E and has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties [6].

So, now you know what to look for and how to use an oil cleanser, get to your basin and start double cleansing.

Photo credit: Ron Lach / Pexels

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