Japanese Cleansing Oils

The 10 Best Japanese Cleansing Oils


Sarah Barthet


Entering the world of Japanese skincare and beauty is very much like falling down a rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland, and discovering weird and wonderful products that are just not as popular in Western culture. The truth is that Asian beauty overall is something that should not be overlooked or dismissed. Korean beauty (or K-beauty) is now the leader in the global skincare industry (it is said that Korean beauty R&D is about 7 years ahead of the West), with South Korea now the top manufacturing hub for beauty products. 

While Japanese beauty (or J-beauty) may be the quieter younger sibling, it has been around just as long – in fact, much of what we find in K-beauty initially came from Japan. Historically, it may have lacked the same intensive research and development, but J-beauty is ready to make its return and steal back some of the limelight! Enter Japanese cleaning oils…

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The History of Japanese Cleansing Oil

The concept of cleaning and abluting in Japanese culture extends far beyond skin care. It is very much a way of life and a ritual that has been around for centuries. Anyone who has visited Japan will know of the famous onsen baths located in every town, and if not, it’s safe to say we all have enjoyed the Japanese ritual of furo – which, quite simply, is a long hot soak. It’s not just a quick rinse, but an experience to be savoured, a rite of passage. It’s about indulging in yourself and taking the time to focus on body and mind, inhaling the scents of the soaps and oils.

When it comes to skincare in Japan, facial cleansing goes back centuries. It is the birthplace of the now trending ‘double cleansing’ technique that thousands swear by, and this can be traced back to geishas! Back then, there was no electricity in Japan, and geishas in Kyoto would paint their faces a shade of ivory white so that they would glow in the candle light and look more beautiful (according to Peter Macintosh of Kansai University in Japan).  To remove this thick layer of ivory white paint, geishas needed to use a soothing and softening oil to loosen up the paint before being able to rinse it away.

Fast forward a few hundred years and Japanese cleansing oils are still being used, only now it’s not just geishas. A full face of make-up or face paint is no longer needed to justify investing in a Japanese cleaning oil. Not only is it a fantastic makeup remover, but it makes a great addition to pretty much any skin care routine. Cleansing oils are in fact wonderful for those with oily or acne prone skin as they are lipophilic, meaning they help to dissolve other oils without drying out the skin. This makes them equally suitable for both dry skin and sensitive skin.

How to Use Japanese Cleansing Oil

Japanese cleansing oils should be the very first step of your skincare routine, but it’s important to use it correctly:

  • Step 1: Begin with a dry face and dry hands, and place 2 to 3 pumps of your Japanese cleansing oil of choice into your palm.
  • Step 2: Gently apply the oil all over your dry face.
  • Step 3: Begin slowly massaging the oil into the skin from the face, working slowly towards the outer edges in circular movements.
  • Step 4: Use a light upward finger movement on the forehead, making sure to cleanse any hair product residue, and continue this movement sideways to the perimeter of the face, before moving downwards towards the cheeks.
  • Step 5: Carefully continue a circular motion around the lips, nose, chin and neck, making sure to clear out makeup and dirt from any crevices.
  • Step 6: Lastly, remove any makeup from the eyes. Using your fingertips, gently press down from the eyebrows, over the lids and through to the skin beneath the eye socket. Make sure that your hands have plenty of oil on them, and gently slide the finger tips down rather than tug. This may take longer if wearing waterproof mascara.*
  • Step 7: Once you’ve massaged the oil into your skin, rinse your hands. Using clean but wet hands, end by emulsifying the oil and giving yourself a final massage using circular movements.
  • Step 8: Thoroughly rinse off the oil with lukewarm water and gently pat dry.
  • Step 9: Follow on with your normal skin care routine of cleansing (if following a double cleansing routine), toner, and so on.

*if wearing semi-permanent eyelash extensions, pay extra attention. Most lash extensions will be damaged when coming into contact with oil. If in doubt, consult your beautician.

The important thing to note is that the oil should be massaged on your face for at least 30 seconds, to thoroughly remove makeup and impurities.

How Often Should You Use a Cleansing Oil?

In an ideal world, daily – and they are gentle enough to do so. If, however, you’re pressed for time, Japanese oil cleansers should at least be used when wearing make up to ensure that all of it is removed from your face at the end of the day.

If you have a little more time to spend on your skincare routine, using an oil cleanser daily will ensure that your face hits your pillow at night free of any excess sebum and impurities that may eventually lead to other problems.

The Top 10 Japanese Cleansing Oils

At this point, you may have decided that you want to invest in a Japanese cleansing oil but are overwhelmed with the choices. You may even be wondering if you can even purchase some of these names outside of Japan! Here are the top 10 Japanese cleansing oils that you can easily find in the West and that come highly recommended!

Dr.Ci:Labo Natural Cleansing Oil

Dr.Ci:Labo Natural Cleansing Oil makes it to the very top of list. Whilst not as well-known as some of the others, we’ve found this to be our favourite. The texture of the oil is thin and light, and a gentle facial massage is all it takes for heavy makeup to glide off instantly. The skin remains hydrated and radiant after usage, and as an extra bonus, it is free of any fragrance, dyes, parabens, mineral oils and alcohols, making it perfect for readers with sensitive skin. To top it off, you can easily pick this up on Amazon!

Kose Sekkisei Treatment Cleansing Oil 

Kose Sekkisei Treatment Cleansing Oil counts plenty of oriental herbal oils as some of its ingredients. It serves to resolve the issue of dullness and leaves clear, glowing and translucent skin after use. Slightly floral scented, this cleansing oil does not leave a sticky finish and can be applied with dry or wet hands. Skin is toned to a plump and smooth state. Best of all, you can find it in Walmart!

Decorté AQ Cleansing Oil

Made in Japan, Decorté AQ Cleansing Oil is one of the premium brands on this list, which can almost be assumed when the AQ stands for Absolute Quality. This luxury Japanese skincare brand is delicately fragranced with botanicals and natural essential oils to relax the senses, making it more of a holistic nighttime ritual rather than just a simple cleanse. The three key ingredients are white mucuna extract, white birchsap and night-blooming cereus, and the white mucuna extract has been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It may be a little pricey, but definitely worth the cost!

SUQQU Silky Smooth Cleansing Oil

Skin as soft as a flower petal‘ claims the second luxury Japanese brand on this list. SUQQU is an award-winning brand that released its own cleansing oil in 2018. It aims to leave skin feeling soft and supple and replicates a radiant glow just like the morning dew. Reviews state that it easily removes waterproof makeup, without drying out the face. On the contrary, skin is left feeling fresh, supple and hydrated – just like it says on the tin.

Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil

Of course, the largest cosmetics brand in Japan was going to make an appearance on the list. Founded in 1872, it is also one of the oldest cosmetics companies in the world. The Shiseido Perfect Cleansing Oil is a lightweight oil that can be used on either wet or dry skin and quickly removes dirt and make up effectively. Shiseido suggests rinsing off with a washcloth and lukewarm water, before following with a cleansing foam to benefit from the double cleanse.

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil

DHC Deep Cleansing Oil has developed somewhat of a cult-like status amongst fans of double cleaning, and it frequently makes an appearance on top 10 Japanese skincare lists. DHC Deep Cleansing Oil is infused with anti-oxidant rich olive oil and effortlessly cleanses the skin, whilst leaving it feeling nourished. One reviewer notes that it is like the affordable version of the equally renowned Elemis Nourishing Omega-Rich Cleansing Oil, and she has now converted!

Clé de Peau Beauté Cleansing Cream Oil

Clé de Peau Beauté Cleansing Cream Oil is an excellent replacement for the discontinued Minon Amino Moist Milky Cleansing Gel. Although one of the more expensive options, Clé de Peau never disappoints. Unlike the others, the texture of this cleansing oil is initially a rich cream that luxuriously transforms into a smooth and silky oil. Thanks to its advanced skin purifying technology, it easily removes all traces of makeup and impurities leaving your skin feeling hydrated and radiant.

Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil

Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil is a drugstore product that gets the job done for a reasonable price. Whilst it definitely lives up to it’s name, it can leave the face feeling a little bit dryer than the other oils on this list. That said, it does an excellent job of cleaning the face from heavy makeup (including eyeliner and waterproof mascara) and the slight dryness felt afterwards can easily be combated with a niacinamide toner, hyaluronic acid serum and/or a night-time moisturiser. In addition, handy refills can be bought so that you won’t need to purchase a new bottle each time you run out.

Fancl Mild Cleansing Oil

Fancl Mild Cleansing Oil is another of our favourites and can easily be purchased on Amazon! Whilst the name does say ‘mild’, the Fancl cleansing oil is one of the best in this list for removing heavy makeup, without leaving your skin feeling tight or dry. It’s incredibly easy to use and cleans out every crevice. It is so efficient at cleaning the skin, that this is the one cleansing oil that does not actually require a ‘double cleanse’. Very impressive!

Shu Uemura Ultime8∞ Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil

Shu Uemura is a Japanese brand synonymous with quality. It is the first international makeup artist brand from Japan, and has become one of the most famous names in the beauty industry for both makeup and hair products, as well as skincare! Needless to say, Shu Uemura’s cleansing oils make it into our top 10 list. Ultime8∞ Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil is our favourite as it is made up of no less than eight precious oils and can be used by all skin types. Readers who are city dwellers may want to try the Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi+ Pollutant and Dullness Clarifying Cleansing Oil as it is specifically formulated to combat pollution.

Japan is a country full of traditions and meaningful experiences. If you’re interested in learning about more, you might want to check out our article on the art of Japanese tea ceremonies that can be experienced at Maikoya in Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka.

Editor’s Note: if you’re a lover of oils, be sure to check out our article on Nêô Sephiri’s Kalahari melon seed oil and learn all about its many benefits!

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