Out of all of the facial cleansing options that exist—makeup wipes, micellar water, milky cleansers and the list goes on and on—one would think that oil cleansers would be the most gentle of the bunch. They’re formulated with an oil as the base, after all, and facial oils are known for dousing your skin with moisture.
But actually, they can be a double-edged sword. “The reason oil cleansing works so well for a deep cleanse is the ‘like binds like’ concept,” says Sarah Villafranco, MD, physician and founder of Osmia Organics. “Oil massaged into the skin binds with oil, sebum, and the contents of open comedones or blackheads. If you oil cleanse too frequently, you’ll pull too much of the skin’s natural sebum away, leaving your sebaceous glands in a state of panic—they’ll feel like they need to create more sebum.”
So there can be too much of a good thing, especially if you’re using a washcloth or another cleanser after oil cleansing to make sure all of the oil is removed. “When you use a hot washcloth to wipe away the cleansing oil, you’re removing every last bit of your skin’s natural oils as well, leaving your skin smooth and soft and often a bit tight,” says Dr. Villafranco.
Dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare Purvisha Patel, MD, echoes the fact that dryness can happen if you’re going overboard on oil cleansing. “Vigorous oil cleansing when done either by itself and definitely with double cleansing can indeed strip away the natural layer of oil on the skin,” she says. “Start slow and see how your skin responds. If you feel your skin is drying out, then cut back.”
She explains your skin’s sebum as the cement that fills the cracks between your skin cells, which function as “a waterproof barrier that when intact, keeps water in skin and pollutants out.” So if your barrier is disrupted, the exposed cracks in the skin can more easily get inflamed, and water evaporates more, which results in drier skin. So what can ya do? Keep oil cleansing to a special treat for your skin, and be sure to apply more oil or a moisturizer right after you do it so that your complexion stays nice and quenched.
On the other days? Take it from the founder of skin-care brand HoliFrog—the queen of clean—on how to wash your face. Also maybe consider our editors’ favorite face wash, the Fresh Soy Face Cleanser, which is *so* good.