I’ve been using cleansing oils and cleansing balms as my main makeup removing method for the past 7 years instead of using milk and wipes*, which tend to badly irritate my skin.
Cleansing oils allow you to remove all your makeup, even stubborn waterproof makeup, in a matter of minutes and without irritating the skin. A lot of people still mistakenly believe cleansing oils are only suitable for dry skin, but on the contrary all skin-types (including oily and acne-prone) can use them without fearing breakouts if they use ones with the right ingredients.
*Except the Kao Biore Cleansing Wipes
I divide cleansing oils in two categories : the ones that only serve to remove makeup, which are usually very cheap and formulated with cheap ingredients like mineral oil, and the ones which both remove makeup and treat skincare troubles.
The most popular oils are mineral oil, olive oil, apricot oil, camellia oil, jojoba oil and of course coconut oil. Before purchasing a cleansing oil I strongly advise you to check the ingredient list first and use the main oil on your skin first : If you’re interested in a cleansing oil formulated with olive oil do a patch test (apply a small amount on your bare skin for a couple hours) to see if it’s going to make you break out. If you’re not familiar with cleansing oils or if it is your first time using one always use a foam cleanser after using a cleansing oil to remove oil and makeup residues, and this is very important if you don’t want to end up with clogged pores and dirty skin.
This list contains cleansing oils that are my favorites, not only because of their incredible makeup-removing power but also because they do not dry out my skin or clog my pores.
(1)(2) Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil and Speedy Cleansing Oil are two outstanding and extremely cheap cleansing oils. They cost around 10$ each and are very easy to find online and in Japanese drugstores. They are pretty much the only two oils, along with the Hada Labo Gokujyun, that allow me to remove 98% of my eye makeup without using an eye makeup remover first. The Deep Cleansing version is formulated with rice bran oil, jojoba oil and mineral oil while the Speedy doesn’t contain rice bran oil. While I find them very similar, the Deep Cleansing version is stronger at removing very stubborn makeup.
(3) Shiseido Sengan Senka Perfect Watery Oil is another cheap Japanese drugstore cleansing oil I enjoy using. In terms of performance and price it is close to the two Kose I mentioned above, except the texture tends to more a little more gel-like instead of liquid. It was reformulated in 2016 with more interesting ingredients such as hydrolyzed silk and two types of hyaluronic acid. You can see the two versions’ ingredients in this post by Ratzilla.
(4) Shiseido Aqualabel Deep Clear Oil Cleansing is a skin-brightening cleansing oil formulated with mineral oil and lactic acid that I mostly use as a massage oil or to remove just my face makeup. While I usually don’t find AHAs useful in cleansers and very much prefer leave-on exfoliators, this one provides visible skin brightening results if you massage it on your skin for two to three minutes a few times a week. I find it a little expensive for what it is, but it’s still a nice addition to a skincare routine for dull skin.
(5) Biore Makeup Remover Cleansing Oil is the cleansing oil I like the least in this list, and the least effective against stubborn waterproof makeup. Unlike the other oils in this list, the only oil the Biore contains is mineral oil and doesn’t contain any beneficial ingredients for the skin. It’s the kind of cleansing oil you either buy when you’re on a very tight budget or the one you use when you’re wearing very cheap makeup. For an unknown reason it tends to dry out my skin a little bit, which is why I tend to stay away from it most of the time.
(6) Hada Labo Gokujyun Cleansing Oil is undoubtedly my favorite cleansing oil and I’ve been buying it again and again for years. It is formulated with two types of hyaluronic acid (plant-based, no dead roosters in it!), olive oil, jojoba oil and is fragrance-free, alcohol-free and mineral oil-free to suit even the most sensitive skin. It leaves my skin extremely soft and moisturized, but acne-prone skin should be aware that it contains 3 acne-trigger ingredients : olive oil, jojoba oil and ethylhexyl palmitate, according to Cosdna. It is an excellent makeup remover as it removes 98% of my makeup in less than a minute, and as you may guess the 2% remaining percent is from the very stubborn Hera Generlash mascara!
(7) The two cleansing oils by Laneige double up as makeup removers and skincare products, as they contain nice botanical extracts as well. I have the Fresh Brightening version and I enjoy using it as both a makeup remover and a massage oil. The formula contains apricot oil, apricot seed extracts, Artemisia Vulgaris extracts (rich in amino acids and proteins, anti-inflammatory, reduces redness), Korean pine oil (rich in fatty acids), teatree extracts (anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-acne), Olive Squalane, glycerin and many other emollients. The Perfect Pore version (in the blue bottle) is for troubled skin and is formulated with coconut oil, lippia citriodora leaves extract, aloe vera and centella asiatica extracts. I love to use it as a massage oil a few times a week by applying it on my dry skin and massaging it for four to five minutes with a jade roller. It provides visible brightening results right away, and not only does it melt makeup extremely well, but it also moisturizes the skin and reduces blackheads and dead skin cells. It has just one bad point – it doesn’t entirely remove waterproof makeup, so I have to use a stronger eye makeup remover first to make sure all my makeup is gone.
(8) Hera Purifying Cleansing Oil is THE cleansing oil you need if your skin appears tired, dull, acne-prone, irritated and in need of an extra boost. I couldn’t find the whole formula as I threw the box away a while ago but according to Hera this cleansing oil contains moringa seed oil*, bitter herb extract, calendula oil** and lavender oil. It is an excellent cleansing oil, perfect for removing stubborn waterproof makeup like the Generlash, but also an excellent addition to your skincare routine.
*Moringa Seed Oil is a great anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial ingredient that moisturizes, exfoliates, and fights acne and aging.
**Calendula oil is anti-acne and anti-inflammatory, great for minimizing redness and eczema
(9) DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is undoubtedly the most famous cleansing oil available on the market and is extremely easy to find worldwide. It contains only a few ingredients, and it’s main makeup=-removing power comes from pure olive oil and sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, a surfactant agent. I find this oil extremely similar to the Hada Labo I mentioned above, as much in terms of cleansing power than results. It is a little pricer than the Hada Labo, though I don’t know why, as both contain almost the same ingredients! Hence I no longer buy it, but it’s still an excellent makeup remover I highly appreciate, and a good alternative if you can’t find the Hada Labo.