The best cleansing oils to melt away makeup without stripping skin

Make your skincare routine more sustainable with the best cleansing oils that just need water

three of w&h's best cleansing oils picks—Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules and Elemis Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil—on a sage green background with pale yellow shadows around each product image
(Image credit: Future)

As many of us have made a move towards more sustainable beauty practices, the best cleansing oils have become a non-negotiable part of our routines.

Over the past few years, most of us have become more aware of the damage that single-use makeup wipes can cause to the planet—while learning that even biodegradable makeup wipes can sometimes be harmful to our skin. And while some have used this as an opportunity to include reusable cotton pads in their skincare routine—along with one of the best micellar waters or bi-phase removers—others have gone a step further by looking for the best cleansing oils or balms that do the same job without the need for any extra materials.

Proving that sometimes all the best makeup removers need is water (and maybe a pair of hands prepared to get a bit dirty), these are the very best cleansing oils that will melt away grime, makeup, and build-up from a long day with ease.

The best cleansing oils, as reviewed by our experts

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: Clinique)

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Oil

Best cleaning oil for most people

Specifications

RRP: $31/£25 for 200ml
Skin type: All
Targets: Impurities, waterproof mascara

Reasons to buy

+
Washes away heavy makeup easily
+
Works quickly
+
Doesn't leave skin tight

If you're skeptical about making the move over to cleansing oils, this cult product will most likely sway you. With a clever name that gives you the inclination to add it straight into your skincare night routine, this cleansing oil is part of Clinique's Take The Day Off collection, which (as you can probably tell by the name) is specifically designed to ensure that your skin is cleansed of any dirt, grime or makeup that has built up throughout the day before you settle into sleep mode.

A lightweight oil that feels just as comfortable for oily skin as it does for dry skin, this formula melts away heavy makeup in seconds and glides off the skin with ease, washing away dirt and impurities in its wake. It wipes away face makeup as soon as it hits the skin and even the best mascaras don't stand a chance against it—so is definitely one to purchase if you're always stuck on how to remove waterproof mascara, as this dissolves away thick, coated lashes with ease. One thing to be aware of when removing heavy mascara with cleansing oil is that it can cause the eyes to sting. Despite this formula being ophthalmologist-tested, some stinging did still occur—however, this is more likely to be caused by the mascara formula seeping into the eyes than the oil.

Votary Clarifying Cleansing Oil, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: Votary)

Votary Clarifying Cleansing Oil

Best cleansing oil for acne prone skin

Specifications

RRP: $70/£45 for 100ml
Skin type: Break-out prone, oily
Targets: Blemishes, clogged pores, impurities

Reasons to buy

+
Lightweight
+
Nourishing
+
Antibacterial

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't be used for eye make-up

If you're always searching for how to get rid of pimples fast, then you probably tend to steer clear of anything oily on your face. But this considerate cleansing oil is designed to purify the skin while also targeting blemishes and clogged pores. It dissolves away dirt and grime with ease and leaves skin with a silky feel afterward that almost feels like it's not all been washed off—which speaks to its nourishing properties in that it doesn’t strip the skin like a lot of other cleansers.

While it can be tempting to opt for products that completely strip skin when developing a skincare routine for acne or blemish-prone skin, it's important that you still keep it moisturized and nourished by balancing cleansing and exfoliating ingredients with non-clogging emollients. This cleanser uses oat oil to prevent the skin from drying out while rosemary oil works to reduce the inflammation caused by spots. Anti-bacterial bergamot is also infused in this to target blemishes and stop them from returning.

Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: Biossance)

Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil

Best cleansing oil for oily skin

Specifications

RRP: $28/£24 for 200ml
Skin type: All
Targets: Dehydration, impurities

Reasons to buy

+
Hydrating
+
Lightweight
+
Nourishes the skin as well as cleansing
+
Sustainable brand

Reasons to avoid

-
Can irritate eyes

The best skincare for oily skin isn't always necessarily harsh exfoliants or mattifying moisturizers. Sometimes excess oil can be a result of dehydrated skin—so focusing on balancing the hydration levels in the skin can work towards regulating oilier complexions. Squalane is known for its hydrating properties so this Biossance cleansing oil so would work well for those with oilier skin types.

A lightweight formula, this tackles removing even the best foundations without leaving a trace behind. Even the best foundations for oily skin—which tend to be heavy-duty, long-wearing formulas—are disintegrated with ease. And what's even more satisfying than seeing the clear skin this leaves in its wake, is the plump hydrated feel of the skin after using. One gripe is that it can cause a little irritation when used on the eyes, so it's probably one best kept for face makeup.

Elemis Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: Elemis)

Elemis Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil

Best cleansing oil for dry skin

Specifications

RRP: $49/£33 for 195ml
Skin type: All
Targets: Moisture barrier

Reasons to buy

+
Doesn't strip the skin
+
Gentle
+
Nourishing
+
Can use morning and evening

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for use on eyes

Elemis is known for creating some of the best skincare products for dry, dehydrated, and aging skin, with a cult cleansing balm already under their umbrella—so it's no surprise that they boast a pretty impressive cleansing oil too. With a blend of natural oils to support the skin's moisture barrier, this packs in the skin-conditioning nourishment. It contains high levels of omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids to plump the complexion and replace the oils that are often lacking in dry skin.

Another relatively thin and lightweight oil (which isn't common when it comes to skincare for dry skin), this is clean to use and doesn't leave any unwanted residue behind—the very properties that make it suitable for morning use as well as evening. Plus the subtle signature Elemis scent gives this cleansing oil the impression of a spa product, which makes for a lovely relaxing experience.

Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: Eve Lom)

Eve Lom Cleansing Oil Capsules

Best cleaning oil for taking on-the-go

Specifications

RRP: $75/£55 for 50 capsules
Skin type: All, including oily and sensitive
Targets: Impurities, waterproof mascara

Reasons to buy

+
Portioned amount of product
+
Convenient capsules
+
Removes waterproof makeup

Reasons to avoid

-
Can't customize how much product you use

If you tend to travel a lot or have even headed away on a lot of staycations in recent times, you'll know the perils of packing your skincare essentials to take with you. And even though we can attest to the Clinique Take The Day Off cleansing oil actually making it across the Atlantic and back without one lost drop, opting for a format that's a little more travel-friendly can put the heart palpitations at ease.

Eve Lom already boasts one of the best cleansers of cult status as part of their repertoire, so it's not too difficult to bestow faith into these handy little capsules. One little twist of the top allows you to decant just the right amount of product into your hands to then wipe off your makeup with. It even melts away waterproof mascara and the very best eyeliners without an issue—and there's enough product in each capsule to cleanse away a full face of makeup. This easily makes this one of the best cleansing oils for frequent flyers, although It does have a slight scent, which is not unpleasant, and the pre-portioned amounts could be annoying for those who prefer to use a lot of product. But all-in-all it's a reliable and impressive cleanser—and we're not just saying that because of the beautiful sage green hue of the capsules.

The Body Shop Camomile Dissolve The Day Make-Up Cleansing Oil, one of w&h's best cleaning oils picks

(Image credit: The Body Shop)

The Body Shop Camomile Dissolve The Day Make-Up Cleansing Oil

Best cleansing oil for sensitive skin

Specifications

RRP: £10 for 160ml (UK only)
Skin type: All, including sensitive skin and contact lens wearers
Targets: Impurities, waterproof mascara

Reasons to buy

+
Gentle
+
Calms skin
+
Lightweight
+
Doesn't irritate sensitive or broken skin

Reasons to avoid

-
Doesn't completely remove eye makeup
-
Slight residue

The Body Shop Camomile Dissolve The Day Make-Up Cleansing Oil is a reformulation of their iconic Silky Cleansing Oil. It boasts a beautifully soothing formula that makes this one of the best cleansing oils to dissolve away makeup without irritating the skin, or making it feel scrubbed. There is a slight residue left behind, but the brand does recommend to wipe away the oil with a reusable cotton pad soaked in warm water, so this seems to resolve the problem.

The only issue we found is that it doesn’t completely remove eye makeup—however it does break it down well. If you like to be super thorough with eye makeup removal you could go in after with a bi-phase remover without having to rub the eyes too much.