Oil Cleanser vs Water Cleanser: What’s Better for Your Face?

water based foaming cleanser in hand with big bubbles

Have you ever wondered which type of cleanser is better for your face: an oil cleanser or a water-based cleanser? If so, you’re not alone. As someone with combination skin, finding the right facial cleanser has taken some time.

In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits of both oil and water-based cleansers to help you decide which one is right for you.

You might be surprised by which style cleanser is best for your skin type.

Oil Cleansers and How They Work

Oil cleansers are one of the latest trends in skin care and are as effective as they are simple to use. Oil cleansers contain natural oils like olive oil, avocado oil, and jojoba oil that can cut through makeup, sunscreen, and other impurities with ease.

The combination of oils forms an emulsion when it comes in contact with water so that you can effectively remove dirt from your face without scrubbing.

All you need to do is massage the oil cleanser onto dry skin for a minute or two before rinsing it off with lukewarm water. If you’re worried about clogged pores, rest assured!

Oil cleansers won’t clog your pores— they actually help unclog them better than traditional cleaners.

Water Cleansers and How They Work

Water-based facial cleansers are a great way to get that squeaky clean feeling. From watery foam cleansers to creamy formulas, there’s something for everyone.

Foaming cleansers are water based with added surfactants to foam up when water is added and rubbed in your hand. A foaming cleanser can be effective and gentle, but it can be made with any mix of ingredients.

A cream cleanser or milk cleanser can be ideal for replenishing moisture as they help dissolve dirt as they moisturize the skin. For those with extra sensitive skin, creamier water-based cleansers can be lifesavers since they help soothe irritation and effortlessly remove makeup without stripping the skin of vital moisture. These are often water-based emulsions with healthy fats added.

Micellar water is a great option if you want to get rid of makeup and other impurities. The micelles act like magnets, capturing and sweeping away dirt, oil and impurities to leave your skin feeling revitalized.

They are typically formulated with hydrating ingredients so that they not only cleanse but nourish the skin without stripping and drying it out.

Unlike regular soap and water which can irritate skin, micellar water is pre-soaked with micelles that are suspended in soft cleansing agents which break down dirt and makeup on contact for an easy no-rinse application.

By eliminating harsh rubbing or scrubbing motion that other cleansers require, micellar water enables every layer of your skin to be thoroughly cleaned so you’re left with fresh glowing skin.

Skin Types with Oil and Water-Based Cleansers

Whether you walk a beauty aisle or spend time on skincare forums, knowledge of your skin type is key to finding the right products. Generally, skin types are labeled as oily, combination, and dry.

When it comes to choosing the best face cleanser for your skin type, the oil cleansing method can be a very effective choice for all skin types, but a combination of water-based cleanser and follow-up moisturizer can be great as well.

Oily Skin

People with oily skin tend to experience breakouts and an often shiny complexion across their T-zone (forehead, nose and chin).

For those with oily skin, an oil cleanser is best because it not only takes care of dirt and debris but also helps in restoring the natural oils on your face. This can minimize overproduction of sebum, which is responsible for excess shine in the T zone.

Many with oil skin are scared to make the switch to oil based cleansers, and it’s understandable. But oil combats oil better than water combats oil when it comes to cleansing.

Combination Skin

Combination skin is marked by a mix of similarly oily areas that may be present in other areas of the face. Complaining of patchy-looking cheeks would suggest combination skin.

Those with combination skin are addressing an imbalance in sebum production location on their faces. Micellar water will help clean without adding too much moisture in the T-zone. However, you will also have to focus on hydration after using a water-based cleanser.

An oil cleanser may have the same sebum-balancing benefits for combination skin as it does for oily skin. I have found it to be very helpful with this, and prefer an oil cleanser over a water-based cleanser. I have not found that over hydrating ever aggravates my skin.

Milk cleansers can also be quite effective with combination skin, as the healthy fats can improve the imbalances in hydration across your face.

Dry Skin

Those with dry skin will likely have a dull looking complexion, accompanied by scaling and tightness.

People with dry skin can also benefit from oil cleaning as hydrating substances like jojoba or argan oils are naturally found in many oil cleaners. By gently removing excess dirt and make-up while still nourishing your skin, these gentle formulas help to bring out the best in a dry complexion.

Water-based cleansers are also effective with dry skin, but require further moisturizing with creams or oils. It’s really a matter of preference with dry skin.

Whether your skin type tends towards one of these three categories or you live somewhere in between them all, understanding your needs is key for successful skincare practices.

Other Factors to Consider with Oil vs Water Cleansing

When it comes to your skin, the debate between oil cleansing versus water cleansing is a passionate one. While an oil based cleanser is a great choice for deeper cleansing, many people with acne prone skin worry that excess oil will clog their pores, causing more breakouts.

On the flip side, using just water can be too gentle and not provide enough nourishment to keep your face looking young and hydrated.

Acne can be caused by several factors, often an imbalance, either in the microbiome of our skin or hormones. A cleanser alone will not treat your acne, and there is not a one-size-fits all approach, so it’s best to talk to your dermatologist and treat the cause.

Alternatively, if you have sensitive skin, rosacea, allergies, or have experienced skin reactions to various products in the past, the ingredients in the product are often more important than the base being oil vs water.

Are you sensitive to fragrance? Strong oils or synthetic fragrance in micellar water can both be hazardous. Even very gentle foaming washes can be aggravating with trigger ingredients.

Don’t be scared to try something new, but you know your skin best! Just know that it can take time for your skin to adjust to a new cleansing method, so trying it once might not be very scientific. If you have African American skin, check out the best cleansers for common skin concerns.

Tips for using an oil cleanser or micellar water effectively

Using a cleansing oil and micellar water are two of the best ways to achieve clean, healthy looking skin. Both are gentle, so even those with sensitive skin can benefit from these cleansing methods.

When using an oil cleanser, start by removing all makeup by applying a thin layer over your face. Follow this up by massaging the cleanser into your skin in circular motions and then wipe it off with a warm washcloth or towel.

To wash your face with micellar water, apply the water all over the face using a cotton pad or ball to remove dirt and other impurities. Allow it to sit on the skin for a minute, then rinse off with cool (not cold) water. Following these steps will ensure that your skin gets all the benefits of both an oil cleanser and micellar water!

Some people swear by the double cleanse method – using an oil based cleanser to remove makeup and clogged pores, rinsing, then washing again with a water based cleanser. While double cleansing isn’t a necessary step for most, some don’t like the feeling of oil products left on their face.

Which Will You Choose?

If you’re still on the fence about which cleanser is right for your face – oils or waters – consider this: oil-based cleansers can help any skin type, whether that’s by adding moisture to a dry face or helping to balance sebum production in oily or combination skin.

If you’re not sure where to start, our skincare guide can help point you in the right direction based on what ingredients work well for different skin types.