What is Oil Cleansing?

Atolla is here to give you the lowdown on double cleansing, including what it is, how to do it, and what to look for in a skin supporting routine.

Dylan Mustapich

Esthetician at Atolla

Dylan Mustapich

Dylan Mustapich is a NYC-based lead esthetician who has been featured in New Beauty, Teen Vogue, Wired, and The Huffington Post. With a lifelong love of all things skin, he is incredibly knowledgeable about skincare ingredients, routine refinement, and personalized skincare, and follows emerging technology closely.



Atolla is here to give you the lowdown on double cleansing, including what it is, how to do it, and what to look for in a skin supporting routine.

Have you ever heard of using oil as a first cleanser? While it may sound counterintuitive, there are a few situations where this type of cleansing can be beneficial. 

Do you need to use an oil cleanser, not necessarily. Do we recommend it? Yes!

Atolla has all of the information that you need to feel confident that you’re making the best choices for your unique skin. We’ll take a deep dive into what exactly oil cleansing is, and how you can tell if it’s right for you.

“Double Cleansing”

Some people who use oil cleansing choose to also incorporate a double cleansing routine. 

This is especially for people who use K-beauty regimens (K being short for Korean).  While the concept of ‘double cleansing’ was first introduced by K-beauty, it has become more commonplace among the rest of the skin care industry.

Essentially, double cleansing is exactly what it sounds like — you’ll cleanse your skin twice, one cleanse right after the other. However, the second time you cleanse, you’ll use a different product meant to help remove any residue left from your first cleansing routine. 

Double cleansing usually always starts with oil cleansing, followed by a water-based cleanser. After your oil cleanser works its magic at removing your makeup, excess sebum, and any dirt and debris that is on your face, the water cleanser goes back over your face to finish the job. That way, you can be assured that your face is as clean as possible before you move on to the next step of your routine. 

Oil Cleansing 101

To begin, let’s talk about the basics of oil cleansing before a second water-based cleanser. 

The idea of oil cleansing is definitely out of the ordinary for some people, mainly because the idea of cleansing is tied to removal of oils, or visuals of foamy, lathery soaps followed by rinsing the skin. 

You’ve probably heard of the saying “like oil and water,” referring to things that are opposite and tend to repel each other (think: salad dressing before you shake it up). The basic premise behind oil cleansing works with that concept. 

Instead of using water to help remove oil, the idea is that “like dissolves like.” This means that oil will be naturally better at helping to not only strip excess sebum from your skin, but can also help to remove dirt, makeup, debris, and pollutants, and even clean out your pores. In fact, that’s why so many makeup removers tend to be oily in consistency — it seems odd but it just works, especially on products labeled as “waterproof.” Because oil cleansing is so successful at removing products used during the day, most people practice this step before bed as part of a nighttime routine.

Isn’t Using Oil Bad For the Skin?

While oils are often talked about like the enemy of the skin, it isn’t quite that black and white. Even though oils, and oil cleansing, isn’t recommended for everyone’s skin, it can definitely help people who have certain concerns and struggles. 

In fact, for people whose skin can benefit from using oil cleansing, more “traditional” cleansers can actually be an issue. The wrong formula for the wrong skin can cause skin irritation, excessive dryness, increase the possibility of breakouts, and even trigger the skin to produce more oil. 

In these cases, oil cleansing supports the skin by allowing it to stay balanced and hydrated in a way that other types of cleansers just can’t. 

This isn’t just true for the face, but all over the body (as shown in this study). When you don’t strip your skin of the natural oils it needs to stay healthy, you have a greater likelihood of being able to preserve that all important skin barrier, also known as your moisture barrier

As you may already know, our moisture barrier is one of the most important protective defenses that the body has. It helps to keep hydration inside of our bodies, while keeping environmental factors like pollutants out. Without it, there would be no moisture balance and, because our skin is roughly 60 to 70 percent water, that could lead to some serious issues.

How To Choose an Oil for Oil Cleansing

With oil cleansing becoming more and more popular, there are a plethora of products to choose from on the market. Look out for ingredients such as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, or any other oils that are deemed to be non-comedogenic. 

Before using the oil all over your face, you’ll want to do a patch test to make sure that your skin isn’t going to react negatively to it. Just place a small amount of oil on a tiny area of your face, then wait 24 to 48 hours. If you haven’t noticed any breakouts or rashes, you’ll likely be safe to start using it on the rest of your face. Like with any skincare product, if you tend to have more sensitive skin, it’s best to patch test the cleansing oil on a small area of your face or neck 24 to 48 hours before applying all over. If you don’t notice any breakouts or rashes, you’ll likely be safe to use it moving forward.

How To Perform an Oil Cleansing Routine

To perform a basic oil cleansing routine, you need just a small amount of whatever oil or oil blend you’ve chosen. Instead of wetting your face like you would with a more traditional cleanser, you’ll apply that oil directly to your dry face with dry hands. 

Using your fingertips, gently massage the oil into your face. This helps to break up any buildup on your face, including dead skin cells, while also stimulating blood circulation.

Simply wash off the oil cleanser with water, followed by the standard facial cleanser of your choice. If you wish, you can remove the oil cleanser with a soft, wet washcloth (like microfiber, organic cotton, or another washable material). Be careful not to scrub too hard, as this can cause redness, irritation, or discomfort. Using a cloth after cleansing can be considered a form of manual exfoliation, so be very gentle if you know your skin tends to be a little more on the dry or sensitive side.

Cleansing your skin first with an oil is a great added step to your custom Attola routine. The oil cleanser can do the heavy lifting of removing make up and debris, so the cleanser, serum, and moisturizer can get straight to work.

Follow With A Moisturizer

No matter whether you use a single oil cleansing routine, you double cleanse, or just use a more traditional cleanser, it’s essential to follow with a moisturizer. It’s a common misconception that you don’t need to use a moisturizer if you tend to have skin on the more oily side, but that is far from the truth. 

When you don’t moisturize, it can actually encourage your skin to produce additional oil to deal with the dryness and dehydration that can occur. The key is finding the right moisturizer to help with your specific skin care goals and concerns, instead of just choosing a one size fits all situation. 

That’s yet another reason that custom skin care routines really are the way to go, as they reduce the amount of trial and error needed to find products that support your skin in the ways that it needs. And, at the end of each month, we follow up and reassess your skin so that we can make any necessary changes, helping to make sure your custom formulas continue to work even as your skin evolves and adapts. It’s just one more way that we want to be there for you throughout the process.

In Conclusion

If you’re thinking of incorporating an oil cleanser into your routine, knowing what’s out there and how it can impact your skin (both good and bad) is essential. 

Instead of just going it on your own, let the professionals at Atolla guide you to your best skin yet by helping you to create a custom skin care routine. 

Whether that includes an oil-based cleanser, or something more traditional, you’ll be amazed at the results when you find the right routine that helps support your specific skin. 


Sebum - an overview | Science Direct 

The effectiveness of using a bath oil to reduce signs of dry skin: A randomized controlled pragmatic study | National Library of Medicine 

The skin: an indispensable barrier - Proksch - 2008 | Experimental Dermatology 

Simplify your skincare with a custom, complementary routine.


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