We tested each product for the following:
Kaori is the representative director of Japan's Scientific Beauty Institute. She also runs the Beauty Science Blog, which sends out beauty science information in a way that's easy to understand. She operates with the mission of "wanting people to enjoy the process of finding skincare that works for them by offering a scientific perspective". Kaori broadcasts her expert knowledge from working with skincare and cosmetics societies and academic journals on her blog, social media, and more. She also works with PR, product development, and corporate support teams for cosmetics.
mybest US' editing team consists of experienced members who have backgrounds in writing, editing, translation, and more. We are dedicated to researching what makes a product or service the best to users in the US in order to create top-quality articles. From skincare, to kitchen appliances, and to DIY supplies, our mission is to find the best ones for you.
The expert oversees the Buying Guide only, and does not determine the products and services featured.
Table of Contents
Cleansing oils are the perfect tool for removing makeup quickly without having to rub the skin. Cleansing oils can trace their lineage to Japanese makeup artist Shu Uemura, who popularized cleansing oils in the 1960s after returning to Japan from Hollywood.
As the name implies, the main ingredient in cleansing oil is, well, oils. Each cleansing oil can feel different depending on what type of oil it uses as its main ingredient.
However, some cleansers can be too strong and can actually strip away too much moisture from your skin, resulting in dryness. Additionally, the loose texture of oil cleansers can make them difficult to use, since they can drip easily from your hands.
Keep on reading to find out how to choose the best Japanese cleansing oil for your skin type!
Here are the four major points to look out for.
As mentioned earlier, there are a lot of different types of cleansing oils. How each product feels is different depending on the type of oil it uses as its main ingredient, so we recommend choosing an oil type based on your skin type and feel.
Oil cleansers are usually made up of hydrocarbon oils, ester oil, naturally occurring oils and fats (usually plant-derived), or a combination of the three. The main properties of a cleanser are determined by the first oil on the list—that is, whatever type of oil is present in the largest quantity.
If you have oily skin or want your skin to feel extra refreshed after washing up, give hydrocarbon oils a try.
Hydrocarbon oils are the oiliest, so as cleansers, they tend to leave behind little to no makeup residue. If you use waterproof items on a regular basis, a hydrocarbon oil-based cleanser is your best bet.
For mid-to-heavy makeup, we generally recommend choosing a mineral oil, but if you have particularly heavy makeup, choose an oil cleanser with hydrogenated polydecene.
However, depending on the source, some hydrocarbon oils can be difficult to rinse off with warm water, so you’ll need to finish up with a face wash. They also can deprive the skin of essential oils and moisture—so they’re not the best choice for folks with dry skin. It's best to not leave this oil cleanser on your face for too long, especially if you have dry skin.
If any of the following is at the top of the ingredients list, you’ll know you have a mineral oil cleanser on your hands.
Common Examples of Mineral Oils
Esters aren’t quite as strong as mineral oils, but they are still effective cleansers. Their low viscosity gives them a refreshing feel. There are quite a few ester-based products with varying degrees of cleansing ability and texture, and many don’t require double-cleansing—that is, you don’t need to follow up with a face wash—which can save you time.
Another benefit of ester oils is that it’s less likely to oxidize, meaning that it’s also less likely to contribute to acne.
Esters can also strip your face of its natural oils, though not to the extent that mineral cleansers do. We still recommend finishing up immediately with a good moisturizer. However, ester oils can be used by a wide range of people, regardless of skin type, so feel free to experiment with different types!
If any of the following heads the ingredients list, you’ll know you have a ester oil cleanser on your hands.
Common Examples of Esters
Ester oils can be combined with other oils to take advantage of their characteristics. For example, they can be combined with plant-based oils for added emollients, as well as be combined with mineral oils to increase its cleansing abilities.
Even if you fail to rinse off every last bit of a fat/oil-based cleanser, the residue will simply act like sebum and help moisturize skin. They’re the safest choice for those with dry or sensitive skin.
If any of the following heads the ingredients list, you’ll know you have a fat/oil-based cleanser on your hands.
Common Examples of Naturally Occurring Oils and Fats
Compared to hydrocarbon oils and esters, natural fats and oils can use fewer surfactants, which means there are many products that are more gentle on the skin.
Don’t be lulled by that “additive-free” label, however. If a product is free of just one certain additive (artificial dyes or fragrances, for example), it can claim to be additive-free; it doesn’t matter if contains hundreds of other potentially triggering ingredients.
That’s why it’s important that you check specifically for what a product is free of. Cleansers free of the following ingredients are generally deemed to be mild enough for sensitive skin.
Note that not all parabens are irritating. However, items that contain a large amount of parabens or parabens that are highly antibacterial can sometimes act as triggers when applied to sensitive skin.
But nowadays, you can find plenty of cleansers that can be used on their own. There’s a few benefits to these: they save you time, money and you only have to wash your face once, which means less rubbing and less moisture loss. That makes these all-mighty cleansers especially suited for folks with sensitive and dry skin.
However, if your face feels greasy even after you rinse off or you wear thick makeup, it’s better to double-cleanse. Any extra gunk left on your face is only going to feed pimples, so we recommend monitoring the state of your skin and deciding whether or not you need an extra wash on a case-by-case basis.
The only thing is, when you apply oil cleanser with wet hands, it becomes more difficult to mix it into an emulsion. Oil cleansers work best after they’ve been emulsified (more on this at the end of the article), so we recommend applying your cleansers dry on heavy makeup days.
However, there are plenty of options, mineral oil-based or not, that are extension-friendly. Just be careful, as some formulas will have disclaimers like “only compatible with general glues (such as cyanoacrylate adhesives).” So when you get a chance, ask your technician about what glue she or he uses on your lashes.
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Mild Cleansing Oil
Melt Thick Makeup Off Your Face With This Well-Balanced Oil Cleanser
Mild Oil Cleansing
A Refreshing Oil Cleanser That Makes Quick Work of Heavy Makeup
Natural Cleansing Oil
A Non-Irritating, Non-Sticky Cleansing Oil
An Oil Cleanser With Relaxing Essential Oils and a Moist Feel
Kracie Home Products
Naive Botanical Olive Cleansing Oil
Feel Moisturized With This Very Effective Cleanser
Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil
An Oil Cleanser With the Best Ingredients
Clear Cleanse Oil
Formulated for a Very Deep Cleanse
Hada Labo Gokujyun Oil Cleansing
An Effective, Refreshing Oil Cleanser
Balancing Cleansing Oil
Well-Balanced Performance and Ingredients
Est Cleansing Essence Oil
A Strong Oil Cleanser With a Gentle Scent
This product got full marks in the cleansing test. After applying to the skin, a gentle massage was all it took to melt off even the heaviest of makeup. Moreover, it also earned high scores in the ingredients test.
This oil cleanser is great for doing what it's supposed to; remove makeup and grime quickly and easily.
In the cleansing test, this cleansing oil earned high marks, quickly blending with makeup and washing it off without leaving any residue. It was also rated highly for its ingredients.
This cleansing oil is best for those who want a refreshing product that can quickly and neatly remove heavy makeup.
With minimal fragrance and a texture that doesn’t leave the skin feeling sticky, this oil cleanser leaves your skin feeling clean and refreshed. It earned high scores in our cleansing test, dissolving makeup in a matter of seconds after applying it.
The cleanser also earned high scores for the fact that it had non-irritating ingredients, and is free of fragrance, dyes, mineral oils, parabens, and alcohols, to the benefit of sensitive-skinned folks. If you’re someone that has always avoided oil cleansers on the assumption that they’d be harsh, give Dr.Ci:Labo a chance to prove you wrong.
This oil was particularly thick and was able to blend with makeup well while minimizing friction on the skin. Additionally, after washing it off, our testers felt incredibly moisturized, as if the product applied a thin film on their skin, making this product suitable for those with concerns regarding dryness.
While this cleansing oil only got a moderate score in our ingredients test, it made up for it in our cleansing test, where it got a perfect score, due to its ability to remove even the heaviest of makeup in a matter of seconds.
This cleansing oil is best for those who want to remove heavy makeup quickly while enjoying the mild scent of essential oils.
While it earned fairly high marks in the cleansing test, where it really shone was in the ingredients, earning a full score. It uses natural fats and oils which can help soften the skin, and are also less irritating.
Our testers were fond of this cleansing oil's refreshing fragrance as well as the fact. that it spreads well and minimized friction. However, some of our testers commented their skin felt dry after rinsing off, so those who are prone to dryness should quickly moisturize afterward.
While it was capable of removing heavy makeup with ease, earning it high marks in the cleansing test, it was held back by its ingredients.
Rohto Pharmaceutical's Hada Labo Gokujyun Oil Cleansing is capable of removing even waterproof mascara.
The oil itself was a watery and loose texture, which meant that it didn't provide as much lubrication. We recommend always using the recommended amount and avoiding rubbing your skin too much when using this product.
The texture was silky smooth, capable of removing makeup with minimal friction. Moreover, after rinsing off, our testers noted their skin felt hydrated. While this oil cleanser can be used on all skin types, some may not be fond of the scent of essential oils.
In the cleansing test, it earned a passable score; while it was able to remove most of the makeup, it did leave a bit of residue.
Kao's Est Cleansing Essence oil can be used with wet hands and has a light texture.
While it was slightly on the abrasive side of things when trying to blend with makeup, it has a faint and gentle floral scent.
This oil cleanser earned high marks in the cleansing test, quickly melting and removing even heavy makeup. On the other hand, in the ingredients test, this product only earned an average score since it lacks skin-conditioning ingredients found in other products.
This is how we tested for those factors.
Firstly, we tested the most important part when considering an oil cleanser; how well it removes makeup.
We applied makeup to artificial skin, then used the cleansing oils to check how much makeup it could remove. We blended the cleansing oil with makeup for 20 seconds, wiped it off with a damp cotton pad, and evaluated the results on a five-point scale.
Next, we asked our expert, scientific beautician Kaori, to check the ingredients that are essential to choosing a cleansing oil.
Specifically, we had her look for the following points:
Note that unlike cosmetics, manufacturers aren't required to label all the ingredients for quasi-drugs, which categorically fall between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals in Japan, and it's mostly up to the manufacturer whether they decide to label some ingredients or not. Therefore, we had Kaori evaluate only the ingredients that were listed on the label.
In this test, we found that products that balance ingredients that both offer decent cleansing abilities and skin conditioning properties were rated higher.
We also found that hydrocarbon oil-based products tended to rank higher in terms of cleansing ability. Ester oils, natural fats and oils, as well as silicone-based products that are made in combination with several other ingredients were also given high scores.
However, products that use natural fats and oils were rated higher for their skin conditioning properties.
Finally, products that primarily focus on makeup removal had fewer oils that help condition the skin, and they were outranked by other products.
Here are just a few tips and tricks.
If you feel like your cleanser’s not getting to all your makeup, try switching up how you apply it. Start off by blending product into areas where your makeup is the thickest—namely around your eyes and mouth. When you try to cleanse your entire face at once, you end up mixing all that gunk together, which may result in more residue.
And the more time you spend trying to clean up that residue, the more you’re rubbing at and potentially damaging your skin. We recommend moving on to your foundation only after you’ve at least somewhat cleaned up around your eyes and lips.
The water should then mix with the oil on your hand, forming a whitish liquid. That’s the emulsion. Massage the emulsion into your face, then rinse off.
As you know, oil repels water. When you try to rinse off as is, you’re often stuck with some residue. However, if you let the cleanser emulsify first, you’ll be left with hardly a trace. While it's an extra step, it definitely makes a difference.
Here are some common questions people have regarding oil cleansers. If you've ever wondered about these, you're not alone!
While there's nothing preventing you from using oil cleansers when you have acne, make sure that when you use an oil cleanser while you have acne or are experiencing other inflammations, be careful you don't rub those areas.
Moreover, if you're experiencing a breakout, wearing makeup can take a toll on your skin. If you insist on wearing makeup, make sure that you don't put on heavy makeup to minimize the burden on your skin.
As we mentioned earlier, there’s typically six steps to a Japanese skincare routine. You use cleanser to rid your face of makeup. You then get rid of any residue and extra sebum with a face wash, prime with a toner, treat with a serum, moisturize with a lotion, and cap off with a cream. Learn more about some of the other products below.
No. 1: FANCL | Mild Cleansing Oil
No. 2: MUJI | Mild Oil Cleansing
No. 3: Dr.Ci:Labo | Natural Cleansing Oil
No. 4: muo | Cleansing Oil
No. 5: Kracie Home Products | Naive Botanical Olive Cleansing Oil
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