Best Korean Oil Cleansers for 2019

January 5, 2019    Beauty Gifts Health 
(Image Credit: iStock)

Go Oil-Based and Don't Look Back!

Oil-based cleansing may seem strange in the US market with some people hesitant to put oil on their faces thinking back to the acne avoidance of their teenage years. Despite these reservations, many who were once hesitant to put oils on their face are now thrilled they gave it a shot! Make sure you chose the right product though, as some formulations can be harsher than expected. Our top picks...


    • A great product made with pearl powder to help brighten and moisturize skin. It is our runner up in today's comparison because of its higher price point and slightly stronger scent (we love it!).
    • Leaves the face super hydrated, smooth and without a trace of grease—skin will feel soft and bouncy.
    • Great for removing heavy and/or waterproof makeup.
    • Made from a mixture of naturally derived safflower, jojoba and macadamia oils.
    • Second highest price point at time of our comparison.
    • Sensitive skin types can experience irritation (again true with all cleansers).
    • Scented with gentle hints of vanilla and macadamia (we love it, but scents are always subjective).

    • A solid daily double cleanser at an affordable price. Ultimately, the perfumed scent (which we love) and possible issues with for those with sensitive skin took this out of the running for our top two spots. Still worth a try, especially at this price!
    • Easily removes all types of makeup, even waterproof formulations.
    • Gentle texture instantly hydrates skin.
    • Works with both dry as well as oily skin.
    • Lowest price at the time of our comparison.
    • Slightly harsher than our top two picks—if used near eye area can cause burning and irritation for those with sensitive skin.
    • Scented (again, we love it, but sense of smell is subjective).

    • Made by an up-and-coming brand that K Beauty influencers are starting to talk about. This product didn’t make our top spots because contains alcohol, requires a lot of product for each cleaning and has the highest price point in our comparison.
    • Easily washes off.
    • Contains cica, a popular Korean ingredient that is a concentrated version of the the madecassoside bioactive compound (madecassoside has been shown to have antioxidant properties).
    • Contains alcohol.
    • The highest price point at the time of our comparison.
    • Need several pumps of product to cleanse face.
    • May be an issue for those with sensitive eye areas.

How We Chose

(Image Credit: iStock)

Gentle Cleansing, Mild or No Fragrance and Ingredients

We began today’s comparison by first searching for popular and available K Beauty oil-based cleansers. Next, we narrowed down our search by focusing on those with a gentle cleansing action, a mild fragrance and unique ingredients that are not widely available on the US market. It is important to know that K Beauty oil-based cleansers can be somewhat harsh for those with sensitive skin, although they will leave your skin feeling refreshingly clean.

We these features in mind, we chose the Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original as our top pick for its gentle and refreshing sherbet-like oil balm which we feel represents a great value (especially as it is one of the cheaper items at the time of our comparison). We love how it is suitable for all skin types with gentle ingredients and no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, mineral oils, alcohols or artificial colors. We also love that fact that it is PH balanced and can go in your purse or carry-on luggage without the hassle of worrying about dripping.

Our runner up, the Pure Pearlsation Divine Pearl Cleansing Oil from KLAVUU, is an elegant product formulated with high quality marine ingredients and others such as jojoba seed oil, safflower seed oil and macadamia nut oil. It truly feels and smells luxurious on your skin. Ultimately, this product was our runner up because of its comparatively high price point at the time of our review and because the scent is slightly stronger than the Clean It Zero Balm (not that it is bad—we love it!—some people just don’t like any scent and we need to account for that).

The Natural Rice Water Light Cleansing Oil from The Face Shop is an affordable and mild daily cleanser from a trusted major Korean cosmetic player. Ultimately, it did not make our top spots because it is not great for those with sensitive skin or who do not like a perfumed/flowery scent. Make sure to keep this in mind as no returns of this product are allowed by some major online retailers at time of this review (the risk is quite low given the product's affordability).

The Dermalogy Real Cica Micellar Cleansing Oil by Neogen is a trendy product from an up-and-coming K Beauty brand. Ultimately, this product didn’t make our top spots because it contains alcohol, requires a lot of product for each cleaning application and is pricey. It is still a strong option and many consumers do like cleansers that contain alcohol. It is worth a try, but may be not for your first foray into these products.

About Oil Based Cleansers

(Image Credit: iStock)

In a Nut Shell

How to Use? – Oil-based cleansers can be used to remove makeup and sunscreen as well as to clean and remove impurities from the skin—the best products will leave your skin feeling clean, soft and hydrated. To use, apply on dry skin with your fingertips, and massage gently. Afterwards rinse off with lukewarm water and pat dry.

Why Go Oil-Based? – Oil-based cleansers are common in Asian countries like Korea and Japan, where they have been popular for decades. Oil-based cleansing may seem strange in the US market, with some people hesitant to put oil on their faces thinking back to the acne avoidance strategies of their teenage years. Despite these reservations, many who were once hesitant to try oil-based cleansers are now thrilled they gave it a shot, finding that the products leave their skin with a smooth, hydrated texture without any oily residues (hence their exploding popularity). Well formulated oil-based cleansers will not clog your pores and should wash away with a milk-like feeling.

Some Important Tips About Ingredients

Know What's In Your BottleOur research at ReviewDecide shows that there is no single skincare product that is a perfect fit for all skin types and personal preferences. The same “holy grail” product for one consumer can be a worst nightmare for another, causing breakouts and skin irritation. This is because everyone has different reactions to different ingredients. Ultimately, knowing what is in your bottle will help you to identify potentially irritating ingredients and make informed purchase decisions.

Organic and Natural Ingredients Can Still Cause Issues – Similar to the discussion above, its important to note that organic and natural ingredients don’t necessarily mean a product will work with your skin. While these designations are desirable, it will all boil down to how an ingredient works with your unique skin. To avoid irritated skin, try new products one at a time and allow sufficient time to see if any sensitive reaction occurs. Also, don’t forget to first patch test new products on a small section of your face before trying a complete application.

(Image Credit: iStock)
(Image Credit: iStock)

More Info on Ingredients (They're That Important!)

Handy Apps to Check Ingredients – Have you ever wondered if there is a handy way to check what is in your cosmetics and whether those ingredients are considered safe? Well you are in luck! Today there are mobile applications, such as the one by Think Dirty, that will tell you all of the ingredients in a cosmetic product together with a corresponding safety rating. All you need to do is take your phone out and scan the product barcode.

Labels Provide More Information Than You Might Think – Did you know that, in most cases, the order in which ingredients are listed on a product label corresponds with their level of concentration in the product. This means that if water is listed as the first ingredient, it is likely the most prevalent ingredient in that product. This was news to us!

Korean Face Care Techniques

(Image Credit: iStock)

10 Steps, 5 Steps or 3 Steps?

Korean Beauty (also known as K Beauty) and its “10 step skin care routine” has gained tremendous popularity worldwide during the last few years for helping people achieve naturally healthy and radiant skin. K Beauty has only continued it popularity around the globe with the dissemination of trendy, innovative,  and high quality cosmetics.

Especially in the US, the “10-step skin care routine”—which starts with an oil-based cleanser or other makeup remover (although oil based cleansers remove makeup, in Korea they are counted only as a face cleanser for the purposes of this routine) followed by a foam cleanser, exfoliator, toner, essence, serum, mask, eye cream, moisturizer and sun screen—is fast becoming popular with numerous testimonials claiming it delivers fantastic results. To check this out, our team at ReviewDecide decided to try the 10-step skin care routine—we can confirm it left our skin feeling baby-soft and super hydrated.

But is a 10 steep routine good for you over the long term? In Korea, many celebrities and influencers are now choosing to go on a “skincare diet,” meaning most of the time they stick with their favorite 2 or 3 skin care products to maintain a healthy skin barrier and to restore its own resilience and natural balance. This also cuts down on preparation time—seriously, who has time for 10 applications every day?

At ReviewDecide we recommend a middle path between the 10-step skin care routine and the "skincare diet." That means we don’t want to stress about double cleansing, exfoliating and putting layers and layers of product on our faces every day. Instead, we recommend doing what you need depending on your day. Have 2 or 3 steps with your favorite products as a baseline. If your skin is feeling dry or tired, increase to 5 steps with extra cleansing and exfoliating. If things are really dry or tired (or if you have the time) use the 10-step skin care routine to make sure your skin is extra hydrated. In the end, it’s all about finding the right skin care routine and products that work for your unique skin.

The ReviewDecide Method

(Image Credit: iStock)

What We Do...

We started ReviewDecide on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.

To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.

Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!


  • Photo of oil with dropper by Daria Shevtsova.
  • Photo of woman washing face from iStock.
  • Photo of woman looking in mirror from iStock.
  • Photo of scientist with dropper from iStock.
  • Photo of woman scanning label for phone from iStock.
  • Illustration of 10-step skin care routine from iStock.
  • Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.

*Photos have been cropped, reoriented and/or resized.