Cleansing oils vs cleansing waters explained

Which one is right for your skin type?

Beauty Crew Contributor / May 25 2017

There seems to be a great debate when it comes to choosing the right formula for cleansing your face, and with the never-ending parade of products constantly being introduced, it can be tough to decipher what’s best for you. Two of the most innovative formulas also happen to be the complete opposite of each other — water and oil, which only adds to the confusion. We’re here to clear the air (and your skin!) and help you find your way to the other side where fresh, glowing skin waits.

Skin type: Oily skin

“There is no right or wrong formula; it just really depends on your skin condition and how much additional oil your skin needs,” explains skin and nutrition expert Fiona Tuck. That being said, she continues, “The oilier the skin, the less oil you need in your skin care products. Applying oil-based product to an already oily complexion could result in congestion or breakouts — the skin simply does not need the extra oil. As a general guide, if you have oily skin, choose water-based products that do not leave an oily residue on the skin.” For the exception to this rule, read our guide on oily skin essentials.

Best product type: Cleansing water

If you’re on the oiler side, cleanse and refresh skin with a lightweight water, like Dior Instant Cleansing Water. Formulated with pure lily extract, this cleansing water instantly removes impurities and tones the skin while adding softness. “I personally love cleansing waters; I carry them in my kit as they’re perfect for all skin types,” agrees Sydney-based hair and makeup artist Mia Hawkswell. “And as with all cleansing, make sure you double cleanse if removing makeup with cleansing water,” advises Hawkswell.

Other cleansing waters we love: NIVEA Daily Essentials Micellar Cleansing Water; Ren Rosa 3 In 1 Cleansing Water

Dior Instant Cleansing Water

NIVEA Daily Essentials Micellar Cleansing Water

Ren Rosa 3 In 1 Cleansing Water

Skin type: Dry skin

As for determining if an oil-based product is right for you, Tuck simplifies it: “If skin is really dry, you need to replace the lost skin lipids with an oil-based product to help repair the integrity of the skin; the drier the skin, the richer the product you should use.” Tuck advises to look for “oil-based products containing nourishing ingredients, such as vitamin E, vitamin A, retinol, avocado, jojoba, rosehip and essential fatty acids.”

Best product type: Cleansing oil

When it comes to cleansing with oil, Hawkswell advises choosing an ingredient-specific formula: “A good oil cleanser will leave skin feeling clean, light, and hydrated, without being tight or dry.” A perfect pick? Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Top Secrets Integral Cleansing Oil-in-Gel, which eradicates traces of makeup with its uniquely innovative and luxurious gel-to-oil formula. When massaged into skin with water, a rich yet light emulsion transforms, leaving skin supremely cleansed, supple and comfortable — exactly what the experts recommend for your skin type.

Other cleansing oils we love: Natural Instinct Skin Refining Cleansing Oil; shu uemura cleansing oil premium


Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Top Secrets Integral Cleansing Oil-in-Gel

Natural Instinct Skin Refining Cleansing Oil

shu uemura cleansing oil premium

Still baffled by what micellar water really means? Here's everything you need to know about micellar water.

Main image credit: Getty