Consider your body wash passé: Cleansing body 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 might want to bypass the method for one that will regulate or absorb excess sebum, since, Dr. Charles warns, “Cleansing oils can exacerbate the acne in these individuals and even lead to aggressive forms of cystic acne."