Consider your body wash passé: Cleansing oils are the next step in beauty’s great oil takeover. Just like oils made for the face, these slick concoctions turn into a milky emulsion with water and are equipped to lift dirt from the skin.
According to Jeannette Graf, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and author of Stop Aging, Start Living, these oils can clean the body just as well as traditional bar soaps and body washes. And, they're better at hydrating: They don’t strip the skin of its natural oils, and they protect its moisture barrier — thanks to an absence of the skin-drying detergents found in many other cleansers. “Cleansing oils usually contain moisturizing almond, olive, or jojoba oil,” Dr. Graf says. “As it rinses off, it leaves a residual coat of moisture,” which can negate the need for post-shower lotion.
While it may be tempting to grab your favorite bottle of EVOO from the kitchen for an on-the-cheap scrub-down, Carlos Charles, MD, clinical instructor of dermatology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and founder of Derma di Colore, a New York-based dermatology practice that specializes in darker skin tones, warns against it. “Manufactured cleansing oils are specifically made for the purpose of cleansing,” he says. “Unlike homemade recipes, they contain surfactants that actually help to carry away oil and dirt from the body when they are rinsed with water. This minimizes the potential for clogging pores and exacerbating or creating acne and other issues.”
Dr. Charles also warns that not everybody is suited for oil cleansing. While this method gets the thumbs-up from dermatologists for those with chronically dry and flaky skin, those who have sensitive skin or eczema may be more likely to develop irritation or allergic reactions to these formulas — particularly to those spiked with essential oils for fragrance. Others may be allergic to nut oils (like almond) or castor oil. Dr. Charles suggests patch-testing before slathering these oils on your whole body.
Finally, those who are prone to acne on the face, back, or chest should bypass the method for one that will regulate or absorb excess sebum, since, “Cleansing oils can exacerbate the acne in these individuals and even lead to aggressive forms of cystic acne,” Dr. Charles warns.
But, if you don’t suffer from these problems, winter is a great time to make the switch to oils, since you're more likely to need moisture. As for us, while slippery tubs require an extra bit of caution, we love emerging from the shower with already hydrated skin. Shivering in the bathroom while applying cold lotion over our goose bumps? No, thanks.
Click through to learn about the best cleansing oils.
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Why not treat the skin on your body as well as you do the skin on your face? This oil, which turns milky with water, is packed with vitamin A (to improve elasticity), goji berry (which is rich in antioxidants), shea butter, and vitamin E (which helps retain moisture) — and smells fantastic, to boot.
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We love this oil’s shower-friendly pump dispenser almost as much as the hydrating stuff inside. The creamy blend — formulated for inflamed and irritated skin — gives a nice soap-like lather, despite being soap-, fragrance-, and alcohol-free.
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Sometimes, simple is best. This cleanser is made from 100% cold-pressed, USDA organic jojoba oil harvested in the Southwest — and nothing else — making it a great option for vegan skin-care buffs who want to avoid synthetics and fragrances. It doesn’t emulsify upon contact, like other blends — but of the bunch, it left our skin feeling the softest.
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A blend of carthame, jojoba, sesame, sunflower, and vitamin E oils may do plenty to fight free radicals, cleanse, and smooth the skin. But, this cocktail of fruit and flower scents is also so intoxicating, it got us incessantly sniffing our skin and wishing we could make this our full-on fragrance.
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Want all the moisture without giving up on a gel consistency or rich lather? This body wash-cleansing oil hybrid uses jojoba oil and oat amino acids, which hydrated our skin enough for us to skip the lotion. Since its thicker formulation is surfactant-based and pH-balanced, it can serve as a milder alternative to soaps and foams.
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A wide range of organic oils — including avocado, evening primrose, borage, hemp seed, rosehip seed, sweet almond, kukui, and jojoba — come together to do more than just cleanse and hydrate. Thanks to the inclusion of geranium and juniper berry, the mix is also designed to help relieve water retention.
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