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9 best cleansing oils to gently dissolve makeup and nourish skin

Melting away foundation and mascara has never been so satisfying

Lucy Partington
Friday 24 June 2022 12:17 BST
A good cleansing oil will leave your skin feeling refreshed, nourished and ready for the rest of your nighttime routine
A good cleansing oil will leave your skin feeling refreshed, nourished and ready for the rest of your nighttime routine (iStock/The Independent)

When it comes to removing makeup at the end of a long day, there’s no better product to use than a cleansing oil. Designed to effectively dissolve every last scrap of foundation, mascara, eyeshadow, along with everything else (like pollution and general dirt) that’s collected on your face, a good cleansing oil will leave your skin feeling refreshed, nourished and ready for the next few steps of your nighttime routine.

For anybody new to cleansing oils, they’re best used as the first step in a double cleansing regime (which is the notion of doing two cleanses in the evening – the first to remove makeup and sunscreen, the second to actually cleanse skin) rather than being used as a standalone product.

Unlike other cleansers, oils are much more gentle: they get to work straight away and the texture of them means you’ll never have to tug at or unnecessarily stretch your skin. Instead, they have a satisfying slip that makes light work of getting rid of even the heaviest of makeup.

It’s worth noting that cleansing oils are best used when they’re applied directly onto dry skin, and then once you’ve massaged it in, you can add a bit of water to emulsify the formula – something which, in some formulas, will transform it into a milky cleanser. Then once you’re done, you can either rinse off using lukewarm water or use a soft flannel or muslin cloth depending on your personal preference, before moving onto your second cleanse.

Most cleansing oils are suitable for all skin types (yep, even if you have oily skin) and most have added skincare benefits to boot. Keep scrolling to discover our pick of the best in cleansing class.

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How we tested

Each of these cleansing oils has been tested over a number of weeks, each one used to remove our tester’s makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day. We’ve taken into consideration ease of use, price point, whether it leaves any residue on skin and also whether or not it stings when using it to remove mascara and other eye makeup.

The best cleansing oils for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Tatcha the camelia cleansing oil: £45,
  • Best for sensitive skin – Pai light work rosehip cleansing oil: £33,
  • Best for dry skin – Medik8 lipid-balance cleansing oil: £29,
  • Best for oily skin – Caudalie vinoclean makeup removing cleansing oil: £19,
  • Best for removing heavy makeup – Mac Cosmetics cleanse off oil: £24,
  • Best for face and body – Cerave hydrating foaming oil cleanser: £12.50,
  • Best for removing eye makeup – The Body Shop camomile dissolve the day make-up cleansing oil: £10,
  • Best lightweight formula – Clarins total cleansing oil: £24,
  • Best glow-giving formula – Bobbi Brown soothing cleansing oil: £35,

Tatcha the camellia cleansing oil

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Best: Overall

Score: 10/10

Despite only landing on UK shores a few weeks ago, Tatcha has already stolen the hearts of British beauty editors – our tester included. This cleansing oil came with high hopes thanks to the serious hype that’s been built up around it, and let us tell you that it doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it only took one use for us to fall madly in love with it.

Thicker in texture than expected, it’s silky soft and melts into skin like a dream. It doesn’t irritate eyes, and instead it easily gets rid of every last trace of makeup, leaving skin feeling seriously soft and nourished. It’s on the more expensive side, but one or two pumps goes a long way so this bottle should last a while.

  1. £45 from
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Pai light work rosehip cleansing oil

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Best: For sensitive skin

Score: 9/10

Known and loved for being a real sensitive skin saviour, Pai’s cleansing oil is super efficient at shifting every last trace of the day quickly and easily. Extremely gentle in both name and nature, it doesn’t sting eyes and our tester found it even got rid of hardy waterproof mascara with minimal effort required. It emulsified with water really well, and when rinsed off it left our skin looking and feeling hydrated, refreshed and glowing. What more could we ask for?

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Medik8 lipid-balance cleansing oil

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Best: For dry skin

Score: 9/10

You can’t ever go far wrong with a product from Medik8, a brand known and loved by experts and dermatologists. Its lipid-balance cleansing oil is possibly one of the most underrated products: formulated with a blend of skin replenishing oils, it also uses clever anti-pollution technology for a seriously effective but kind-to-skin cleanse. We found it to leave skin feeling nicely balanced, it didn’t leave any residue or stickiness on the surface and the texture is super silky – plus, it smells great which is a little extra added bonus that we’re definitely not complaining about.

  1. £29 from
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Caudalie vinoclean makeup removing cleansing oil

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Best: For oily skin

Score: 8.5/10

If you’re somebody with oily skin, it’s totally understandable why you might be hesitant about incorporating a cleansing oil into your routine, but Caudalie’s offering will make you realise it’s not a product to sleep on. Using a hardworking blend of plant oils, including sunflower, grape seed and castor, this formula won’t strip skin of essential moisture. Instead, it’ll leave it feeling cleansed and nourished and looking radiant. Plus, we found it to be super gentle when using it around the eyes and, while it won’t be liked by everybody, we really liked the (subtle) sweet almond scent that it left behind.

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Mac Cosmetics cleanse off oil

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Best: For removing heavy makeup

Score: 9/10

It probably comes as no surprise that one of the world’s best (and most loved) makeup brands will also be the one behind the best cleansing oil to remove heavy makeup. Despite not really shouting about its skincare line, it’s actually very good and this product is testament to that: billed as “industry strength” and formulated with olive fruit oil, primrose oil and jojoba seed oil, it’s as gentle as it is effective.

We loved how well it emulsified on contact with water and how easily it rinsed off, too. It was great for removing longwear makeup – which is notoriously difficult to get off – without irritation, and it’s non-comedogenic so there’s no worry about it ever clogging pores.

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CeraVe hydrating foaming oil cleanser

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Best: For face and body

Score: 9/10

You might be wondering why you’d ever need to combine a face and body oil, and we did wonder the same, but actually – this formula from CeraVe is as good for for rehydrating parched body skin (especially after a couple of days in the sun) as it is for removing makeup and cleansing skin.

As with all CeraVe products, it’s formulated with three essential ceramides to maintain the skin’s barrier alongside plant-derived oils to remove makeup. Our tester was particularly fond of the decent sized bottle (especially for such an affordable price) and the fact it’s dual purpose makes it a good option for travelling with.

  1. £12 from
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The Body Shop camomile dissolve the day make-up cleansing oil

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Best: For removing eye makeup

Score: 9.5/10

The Body Shop’s camomile range is already a much-loved favourite across the country, especially the cleansing balm, but this oil might just pip that to the post as far as our tester is concerned. Incredibly gentle, lightweight and effective, it doesn’t sting no matter how hard you rub. (Trust us, we tried). And it melts away mascara, dirt and other impurities with pure ease.

The texture is incredibly pleasing and it leaves skin feeling refreshed and nourished. The only minor complaint is that it doesn’t come with a pump, instead it’s a case of pouring it out the top, and while that’s not the end of the world, a pump would be much more efficient. But don’t let that put you off trying it.

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Clarins total cleansing oil

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Best: Lightweight formula

Score: 9/10

The most lightweight of the lot, Clarins’ take on cleansing oil is as luxurious as you’d expect from the French brand. It turns into an incredibly pleasing, silky milky formula on contact with water that gets rid of heavy waterproof makeup in just a few seconds. A few pumps is all it takes, it doesn’t ever drag or irritate, instead it glides over skin to leave it feeling soft and moisturised without any oily residue. We found this one was best removed with a soft flannel instead of rinsing with just water, and skin felt refreshed after every use.

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Bobbi Brown soothing cleansing oil

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Best: Best glow-giving formula

Score: 9/10

Alongside its powerful face cleansing abilities, our tester found that this oil – somewhat surprisingly – was responsible for leaving skin with a beautifully radiant glow that lasts; a side effect that comes thanks to the inclusion of a botanical oil complex in the formula. It easily melted away even the hardiest of longwear makeup and waterproof mascara and left skin feeling soft and moisturised. A little goes a long way so this 200ml bottle will last a decent amount of time. This cleansing oil is just another reason for us to love Bobbi Brown as a brand, and like Mac’s offering, it’s unsurprising that this brand would create such a great product.

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The verdict: Cleansing oils

Tatcha really has stolen our tester’s heart, living up to the hype and some – but if you’re a sensitive skin type, Pai is definitely the best option for you.

CeraVe’s offering stays true to the brand’s effective and affordable ethos, and the fact it doubles up as a hydrating body cleanser is an added bonus. The Body Shop also deserves an extra shout out simply because it’s so incredibly gentle and doesn’t sting eyes.

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If it’s not just your skin that needs some TLC, check out these 9 best hair oils that lock in moisture, prevent damage and add shine

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