Cleansing oil or cleansing balm is typically the very first step of the Korean skincare routine, which actually involves two different cleansers. These cleansing oils have become quite popular in recent years, thanks to the spread of K-Beauty trends. The best Korean cleansing oil will help remove dirt and makeup buildup from the skin, and interestingly, even reduce excessive oil.
Depending on your skin type and concerns, a cleansing oil may just be the thing you need to add to your skincare routine. Koreans swear by it, and that shows in their ‘glass skin.’
In this post, we’ll talk about Korean cleansing oil, in general, and also list the top choices to make things easier for you. After reviewing the scores of products, we found Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original by BANILA CO to be the best Korean cleansing oil overall.
- Korean cleansing oils or cleansing balms mostly contain natural plant-based oils that form the first step of the double cleansing routine.
- Double cleansing involves an oil-based cleanser and then a water-soluble cleanser for thorough and effective cleansing of the skin.
- Oil cleansers can help remove dirt, debris, and makeup from the skin, while also unclogging the pores and removing sebum.
- Most Korean cleansing oils are suitable for most skin types; however, it’s best to ensure the compatibility of the product with your skin first.
- Some of the best Korean cleansing oil comes from brands like COSRX, Etude, The Face Shop, and Nature Republic.
What is a Cleansing Oil?
Cleansing oil is a kind of cleanser that is typically used for makeup removal and cleansing. As the name suggests, these have an oil form. These are different from other water-soluble or water-based cleansers like gel or foam cleansers in that they contain oils as the main ingredient.
The oils in these cleansers can help remove makeup residue, sebum, dirt, and debris, without needing water. However, you do need water to rinse off the cleanser. These may also contain surfactants and humectants, which help hydrate the skin.
Cleansing oil is similar to a cleansing balm, with the only difference being the texture. The balms have a sherbert texture that’s not as fluid as oil. However, on application, even cleansing balms get a milky or oily texture because, essentially, the balms also contain oils.
Therefore, when it comes to oil cleansing, oil cleansers and balms are used interchangeably. Some may prefer balms better than oils because of the very texture.
Although cleansing oils are not exclusive to Korean skincare, they have become an important part of the traditional Korean skincare routine, including the famous ‘10 step’ regime. Oil cleansers are frequently used with another kind of water-soluble cleanser as part of the double cleansing routine in Korean skincare.
Double cleansing involves cleansing with two different cleansers. The first one is usually an oil cleanser or micellar water, followed by a water-soluble cleanser type as per the needs of the skin.
Famous in South Korea and now around the world, double cleansing has been hailed as a thorough cleansing method that goes beyond the typical cleansing. It’s a nighttime cleansing routine, and it’s also a good way to remove makeup.
Benefits of Using Cleansing Oil
Now, here’s the deal. Double cleansing and using cleansing oils is quite a commitment to your skin. It’s also an addition to your skincare expenses. So why should you consider adding it to your skincare routine? Well, here’s why:
Cleansers are an incredibly important component of skincare. Without proper cleansing, you might as well stop using any serums or creams. Your regular cleansers are good at helping remove dirt and residue, but depending on form, ingredients, and your use, they may not be enough.
A cleansing oil takes cleansing to the next level. Oils with their natural lipids are good at dissolving and removing impurities. Plus, unlike regular cleansers, an oil cleanser or oil balm cleanser does not strip the skin of its moisture. In fact, those lipids can help protect the skin barrier.
If you wear makeup almost every day and throughout the day, you should definitely consider oil cleansing at night. Oil cleansers are great at removing makeup, including stubborn makeup like eyeliner that’s sometimes a nightmare to get off.
Again, it’s the magic of the oils that help remove the makeup residue. Even after wiping with makeup with wipes, there are still a lot of residues left on the skin. Moreover, if you’re one of those people who just apply a cleanser and rinse it off in a few seconds, you won’t remove those impurities well.
This is one of the core benefits of double cleansing, in general, and oil cleansers, in particular.
Do you know that our skin is home to millions of bacteria? Not all of them are bad. Many of them actually provide benefits to the skin. However, you need a healthy balance of skin microbiome.
Oil cleansers help the skin maintain its microbiome balance, unlike traditional cleansers, which are known to increase the skin’s pH. These oils don’t kill or remove all the bacteria, allowing them to thrive and do their job.
Interestingly, research shows that good bacteria on the skin can also help with conditions like acne.
Cleansing Oil and Skin Types
When discussing any kind of skincare product or routine, it’s vital to take into consideration skin type. This is all the more relevant when it comes to cleansers because a wrong cleanser type for your skin can do more harm than good.
Korean oil cleansers are mostly compatible with all skin types, including sensitive and combination skin.
Contrary to what you might think if you have oily skin, the best Korean cleansing oil can also do wonders for oily, acne-prone skin. The oils and other ingredients help remove sebum and clean out blackheads. If you have oily skin, you can consider using a balm cleanser.
For dry skin, oil cleansers are a Godsend. As this type of cleanser doesn’t strip the skin of moisture, people with dry skin can use it to lock in moisture while doing a deep cleaning of the pores and removing makeup. However, you have to be cautious not to overdo it.
One Korean study even found out that cleansing oil can help dry and mature skin.
As for sensitive skin, make sure that there are no potent ingredients and that the cleanser is ideally labeled for this skin type.
Best Korean Cleansing Oils
The Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original by BANILA CO is the company’s best-selling cleansing balm with a wide range of actives. The key ingredients in this oil cleanser include vitamin E, vitamin C, and hot springs water. Additionally, there are no abrasive ingredients like parabens or alcohol.
Like a balm, it has a cream-like texture that turns into an oil once applied. That allows it to remove the impurities, dirt, and debris from the skin easily. While it cleanses deeply, the ingredients don’t leave the skin dry but rather hydrate it.
Furthermore, this can be applied to the entire face, including eyes and lips. So it’s a great option for a PM cleanser that can help get rid of all the makeup.
As for skin type, this can work with virtually all skin types, including sensitive skin.
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The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Facial Cleansing Oil is ideal for those who do not really like the heaviness of oil cleansers. This one has a relatively light texture with some of the best ingredients from Korean skincare. These include rice water, moringa oil, and soapwort for deep cleansing.
It can dissolve any makeup residue left on your skin as well as exfoliate to remove dead skin cells. So it’s a little more versatile than your average face cleanser.
This one comes in an easy-to-use pump bottle, and you only need a few drops to clean the entire face. This is supposed to be applied like a toner essentially with a cotton pad.
The rice water brings vitamins A, B, and E, while the oils bring powerful antioxidants that can prevent skin damage from free radicals. It can also be paired with the company’s Rice Water Foaming Cleanser for the classic Korean double cleansing routine.
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DearKlairs Gentle Black Deep Cleansing Oil is a good option for those with sensitive skin. It’s made of natural oils that have many benefits but are also gentle on the skin.
It gets the name Black because it contains black bean oil, black sesame seed oil, and black currant seed oil. These oils can help clear out pores and also control sebum production. That means even those with oily skin can benefit from this Korean cleaning oil.
The black sesame seed oil has moisturizing and antioxidant benefits with linolenic acid, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. On the other hand, the black currant oil can help strengthen the skin barrier.
On application, it turns into a milky consistency that can then be rinsed with water or wiped with a cotton pad.
DearKlairs is a cruelty-free brand, and this product is paraben-free, as well as vegan-friendly. Although there are no artificial fragrances, it has a subtle tea-like scent.
The I Dew Care Berry Melting Makeup Remover Balm is a fruit-infused cleansing balm, specifically created to help remove stubborn makeup residue from the face. Makeup removal wipes may not be enough to get everything off your skin, which is why this sherbert-like cleanser provides thorough cleansing to remove the base, concealers, and all that jazz.
The star ingredient in this Korean cleansing oil is a blueberry extract, which is chockful of antioxidants. It also contains jojoba oil, which imparts important vitamins like the E and B complex in your skin. Of course, that also means that it has a distinctly sweet berry fragrance.
It comes with a small spatula to take out the product. That’s a nice touch, allowing you to use only the amount needed.
I Dew Care is one of the most popular Korean skincare brands that use fruit extracts.
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If you’re looking for an oil cleanser for dry skin, the Etude Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil is an apt choice. It’s not just for cleansing and removing makeup but also for moisturizing the skin. It contains plant-based oils like grapeseed oil and coconut oil that have moisturizing benefits.
The best part is that, unlike cheap oil or balms, it’s easier to rinse off. You won’t have to rinse multiple times.
This is also ideal for removing waterproof makeup products like eyeliner. Just one or two pumps are enough for a one-time cleansing.
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The Beauty of Joseon Radiance Cleansing Balm uses rice-derived ingredients like rice bran oil, rice extract, and rice bran water. This is a balm cleanser, ideal for dry skin, but other skin types can use it as well.
Rice bran water and oil are traditional Korean skincare ingredients that go centuries back. So it’s a tried and tested ingredient Koreans have been using for ages. While it’s not potent at all, it does help remove sticky makeup residue.
In addition to the rice ingredients, it also includes lavender, chrysanthemum, and lactobacillus (soybean ferment). Lavender has anti-inflammatory properties, whereas chrysanthemum vitamin A, which has many benefits including preventing skin irritation.
As for soybean ferment, the company claims it can help reduce wrinkles. Of course, it won’t be enough on its own for reducing fine lines and wrinkles, but anyone looking for a strong anti-aging routine can include this as their cleaning staple.
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For those who only like to have plant-based ingredients in their skincare products, the Nature Republic Forest Garden Chamomile Cleansing Oil is a good option. As you can guess, its main ingredient is chamomile extract, whose soothing effect on the skin is no secret.
Other ingredients include jojoba oil, sunflower oil, and macadamia. So naturally, this cleansing oil also has some moisturizing benefits.
This is particularly good for sensitive skin because not only will it help remove irritating makeup residue but also soothe the skin. While it doesn’t contain any artificial fragrances, it does have a subtle chamomile fragrance.
It doesn’t hurt that the bottle is beautiful too, decorated with flowers!
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The Hanskin PHA Pore Cleansing Balm is designed for those with incredibly sensitive acne-prone skin. Because this cleans the pores deeply, it may help allow those with sensitive skin to wear some makeup without the fear of irritating their skin.
As is usual with Korean skincare, most ingredients are plant-derived (olive oil and primrose oil). It won’t disturb the pH of your skin too much as it contains polyhydroxy acids (PHA). That means it can also exfoliate and remove dead skin cells. This also helps with blackheads, which is a common problem for those with excessively oily skin.
This one also comes with a small spatula to take the balm out. It’s supposed to be used with damp fingers and rinsed with warm water.
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Any list with the best Korean skincare products is incomplete with a mention of COSRX. Their Cica Smoothing Cleansing Balm is a versatile product, good for cleansing the face and removing makeup, especially for sensitive skin.
This one packs in a lot of natural ingredients with well-known skin benefits, such as avocado, olives, sunflowers, lavenders, and Centella Asiatica extract. The lattermost has anti-inflammatory properties that soothe skin, so it’s good for people with acne and eczema.
It does have a subtle eucalyptus smell, but it’s not as fragrant as skincare products with artificial fragrances. In fact, some may find the herbal scent rather soothing.
This can be a great makeup remover for extra sensitive skin.
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The Pyunkang Yul Deep Cleansing Oil is the best Korean cleansing oil if you want thorough cleansing with moisturization. It’s suitable for those who get a lot of outdoor exposure. So at the end of the day, this cleanser oil can remove all the impurities, prepping skin for further foam or gel-based double-cleansing.
The ingredient list is impressive, using sunflower, macadamia nut, rice bran, green tea seed oil, tea tree, and Centella Asiatica extract. As all these ingredients are natural, there’s virtually no chance of reactions. It also contains hyaluronic acid.
The four moisturizing oils help lock in the natural moisture of the skin, unlike other cleansers that strip the skin of moisture. This followed by good hydration serums can help dehydrated skin get back its suppleness.
This product also comes in a balm variant, should you prefer cleansing balm instead of oil.
There’s a reason why there’s just so much craze for Korean skincare. It’s products like cleansing oil that make it stand out. While cleansers are notorious for drying skin out and hampering its balance, using a cleansing oil first may help contain such outcomes.
Double cleansing is time-consuming but worth it, especially if you wear makeup or spend a lot of time outdoors, exposed to environmental damage. Cleansing balms are similar to oils, so if you want a slightly creamy texture, go for that.