Oil-based cleaning or water-based cleaning?

After the very first teenage outbreak, you have internalized one of the basic truths about good skin: How you clean your skin matters. 

Excessive cleansing will strip your skin's natural oils, leaving your skin dry, sensitive and perhaps even oily as your skin begins to overproduce oil to compensate. But if you don't clean your skin enough, dirt and impurities can cause acne and clogged pores.

What is the difference between water-based cleansing and oil-based cleansing?

  • Water-based cleansing: These cleansing products are often foaming, exfoliating or moisturizing and work by rinsing away particles from the outermost layer of the skin. These types of cleansing products can be both powerful and gentle. On the more intense end of the spectrum, water-based ones can contain sulphates, which are considered the big guns when it comes to facial cleansing. Micellar water, on the other hand, is a much gentler type of water-based cleanser. Micellar water is a non-sudsing emulsion that collects dirt, bacteria and makeup on the skin and gently removes them without making the skin dry.
  • Oil-based cleansing: The idea of using an oil to remove grease from the skin at the end of the day seems contradictory. The excess oil is what you are trying to remove, after all. Surprisingly, this is exactly what oil-based cleansing does. Oil-based cleansing works on the principle that oil attracts oil. Because too much sebum results in oily skin and can cause things like acne. Oil cleansing breaks down sebum and effectively removes impurities. (As opposed to acting as a water-based cleanser that simply scrubs everything off the skin).

Oil-based cleansing is also gentler on the skin, the natural oil layer on top of the skin is left untouched, so for people with sensitive and rosacea-prone skin, it creates minimal irritation. But just because oil-based cleansing is gentle doesn't mean it isn't powerful. Oil-based cleansers are great for dissolving makeup, so if you tend to wear foundation or makeup, an oil-based cleanser can help you get the ultimate clean.

Which type of cleanser is best for your skin?

Choosing between the different types of cleanser depends largely on your skin type.

Oil-based cleansing

  • Best for: Makeup wearers, dry and sensitive skin.
  • Avoid: Oily, acne-prone skin.

The texture of the oil cleanser is silky and luxurious. Oil cleanser is a great option for makeup wearers of all skin types as it has the ability to break down and remove makeup.

However, applying oil cleanser to oily skin is not the best combination. For people whose skin creates more oil than the skin needs, oil cleansing is more likely to aggravate the skin than help in the long run. This is particularly a problem for acne-prone skin.

Because we tend to wash off cleansing oil with oil-repellent water, it is common for oils to remain on the skin. This is great for those with sensitive, dry skin as this oil compensates for what the skin cannot produce and results in softer, moisturized skin.

Water-based cleansing

  • Best for: Oily, acne-prone skin.
  • Avoid: Dry, sensitive skin.

Water-based cleansing is often a light exfoliating experience, meaning it can remove dirt and impurities deep down in the pores. This more intense cleansing makes it easy for people with oily skin to remove sebum and dirt, therefore people with more oily skin types find this type of cleansing more effective. Foams and other cream-based cleansers may be a little too intense for dry skin types, especially if your skin is sensitive.

Can you mix oil and water?

  • Best for: Oily, combination and normal skin. Make-up wearers.
  • Avoid: Overly dehydrated and sensitive skin. (For drier skin types that want a second round of cleansing to ensure all impurities are gone, try following up oil cleansing with a mild micellar water!

You may not have to choose between an oil-based and water-based cleanser. Double cleansing - is when you use both an oil and water cleanser at the same time. Double cleansing is "the backbone of many skincare routines, especially in the Korean one.

Double cleansing works just as it sounds: instead of choosing one type of cleanser over another, you use double cleansing. Start with an oil-based cleanser to remove impurities, dirt and makeup, then follow up with a gentle water-based cleanser to remove excess oil and residual dirt particles.

When it comes to finding the right cleanser, it can take some time to figure out what works best for your skin type. That said, it's well worth exploring the options as cleansing is the foundation of your skincare routine. Try not to try too many products at once so you can really evaluate the effectiveness of each one to see how your skin reacts.