Cleansing Oil Testing | Tatcha, MAC, Shu Uemura, Josie Maran, Chanel and Dior

July 30, 2014

I’ve used cleansing oils for years but just recently started using them on a regular basis. I have been really impressed with the long-wear formulas brands have been releasing in foundation, powder, blush and
concealer. Who doesn’t want their makeup to last all day without touching up or fading? For me, the long-wear factor has had one downside: it doesn’t come all the way off with a regular cleanser and leads to clogged pores and breakouts. Using stronger cleansers tend to irritate my skin.

I have my local Chanel artists to thank for recommending that I add a cleansing oil to my daily skincare routine. I did quite a bit of research, pulled out some samples, looked for online promo codes for minis with purchases and bought a few small trial/travel sized oils to do some extensive testing.

This year I’ve explored more in skincare than I have previous years and have found it’s all a slow learning process for me. I am not an expert with skincare ingredients – I know many of you are passionate about skincare and know much more than I do about specific ingredients, formulas and what to avoid. I rely on the product specialists I talk to with various brands, online reviews and personal testing to determine what works for me. As always, I share what I’ve experienced personally – due to different skin types, your mileage may vary.

You might be wondering if you really need a cleansing oil. If you wear long-wear makeup like me and find yourself with small areas of clogged pores, I will say yes. To see how effective your current cleanser is, take a cotton pad soaked with cleansing water or a wipe and swipe your face after your normal process. You might be shocked to see remnants of product transfer to the cotton after you wipe your face down which means you didn’t clean it enough. I’ve found Cleansing Oils and Cleansing Waters help break down long-wearing makeup for cleaner skin. I’ve found the best way to use these is to apply them to a dry face with dry hands and massage all over. Rinse with warm water to activate the foaming quality and emulsify to cleanse the skin. Some are designed to cleanse the skin fully and claim to have no film leftover so you don’t need to double cleanse. I still prefer to use the two step method of a Cleansing Oil + Foaming Cleanser.

I’ve put 9 different cleansing oils to the test with various minis, samples and travel-sized options. I wish more brands would offer sampler/trial sets for skincare. I would be more likely to try new products and brands if sampler sizes were offered.

I’ve tested each oil for a minimum of 6 uses each over the past few months. With all of these, the best way to use them is to apply to a dry face with dry hands right on top of the makeup and massage it in circular motions all over the face.
  • Josie Maran Argan Cleansing Oil ($12 for 1.9 oz) I purchased the small travel size online based on the 4.2 out of 5 star rating on Sephora. I found this one to be my least favorite of all the oils even though I had high hopes. It has a very thick texture that feels goopy on the skin. It does a very effective job at cleaning and removing makeup, but I couldn’t get past the texture. The scent is also too sweet for my taste and the flip open cap of the mini leaked product all over the place. It also made my skin feel a bit too tight after application.
  • Tatcha One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($12 for .08 fl oz or $48 for 5.1 fl oz) I was really pleased to find out large the trial size was after ordering it online from the Travel Sized beauty category. I was also happy to see the small version come with a good pump and also with good packaging. Sometimes minis are cased in cheap containers but the Tatcha is very well designed. This turned out to be one of my favorites. It has a medium-thin texture which applies well to the face. Massaging the product emulsifies on the skin. It cleanses well with water and gave the skin a moisturizing feel without any residue feeling. It has the signature Tatcha Camellia scent which is soothing and gentle.
  • MAC Cleanse Off Oil ($10 for 1 fl oz) has been a long-time favorite of mine. I like to keep the mini bottle and refill it for travel although it comes in the mini size. The $10 price seemed very affordable for a trial (when I first tried it many years ago). This is the best one for removing all trace of waterproof eye makeup without stinging the eyes.
  • MAC Tranquil Cleanse Off Oil ($10 for 1 fl oz) was a purchase I made after reading so many rave reviews, I liked the texture and soft scent, but found it less effective compared to the regular version. If you have super sensitive skin or want something more gentle this is a good option for you.
  • Chanel Le Blanc Immediate Brightening Oil-Gel Makeup Remover (mini sample shown, $60 for 5 oz) is something that has been used on my at several Chanel events. It’s a clear gel that turns into an oil as you work it into the skin. It’s lightly scented which might bother some of you, but it is extremely effective. It’s the only one that will remove all traces of mascara and eyeliner. The upside of the gel texture is that it’s slightly thick so it doesn’t run into the eyes if you work it on the eye area. Even though it’s thicker, it’s not goopy and is very emollient once massaged but not greasy. This is the most unique formula I’ve tried.
  • Shu Uemura Anti/Oxi Skin Refining Oil (green sample gwp shown, $37-$77 for full size) has had so many raves online. It cleansed well and I found it emulsified nicely too. I couldn’t get over the scent. It smells like green tea with an emphasis on the herbal side. I liked that it left no residue on the skin but it left my skin feeling a bit tight.
  • Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Cleansing Oil (brown sample gwp shown, $42-$90 for full size) is most like a traditional cleansing oil. It reminds me of the older versions Shu Uemura used to have. It’s gentle yet very efficient leaving skin feeling clean.
  • Shu Uemura Whitefficient Clear Brightening Cleansing Oil (blue sample gwp shown, $38-$81 for full size) is a brightening oil, this one has the best scent out of all the ones I’ve tried, it’s a refreshing clean scent, kinda like dryer sheets, but not quite as sharp. This one emulsified really well and is more gentle compared to the Ultime8.
  • Dior Instant Gentle Cleansing Oil (mini gwp shown, $36 for 6.7 fl oz) is one I had high hopes for. So many have raved about this one too. I did not like this one. It has a slightly sticky feel making it a bit hard to massage over the face. It didn’t tug or pull, but didn’t emulsify quite as well as the other more fluid options. After cleansing with water the skin felt sticky.
Here are how the minis size up next to each other and compare in packaging design, some of these were samples, some purchased. The packaging of the full size versions are usually better in quality and typically come with a pump.

Samples I purchased below: Tatcha, Josie Maran, MAC. Online samples with codes: Shu Uemura. Samples at the counter: Dior and Chanel.

To summarize my thoughts:
Best at removing all traces of makeup 
Tatcha One-Step, Chanel Le Blanc Oil Gel and MAC Cleanse Off Oil

Most gentle 
 Shu Uemura Whitefficient and MAC Tranquil Cleanse Off
Most moisturizing 
Tatcha and Ultime8
Best scent 
Tatcha and Shu Uemura Whitefficient

Top picks
1) MAC Cleanse-Off Oil
2) Tatcha One-Step Camellia Cleansing Oil
3) Shu Uemura Whitefficient
I hope you found this roundup helpful. I’ve found that adding a cleansing oil to my routine has helped clean my skin better and has significantly decreased the amount of clogged pores and tiny bumps on the face. Do note that your mileage may vary depending on your skin type. I have normal but sensitive skin. If you are oily or dry you might find different oils work better for you.

What are your experiences with cleansing oils? Do you have any favorites or stories you’d like to share on what worked for you or what didn’t work out so well? 

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  • Sara Thomas July 30, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    You definitely need to try out the DHC cleansing oil, it's fab!

    This Girl Loves

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:05 am

      Thanks Sara, I'll look into the DHC one 🙂

  • ame July 30, 2014 at 2:54 pm

    That Tatcha one sounds great. I TOTALLY agree about the sample/travel sizes being a huge deal. That would absolutely get me to try new products and lines. Buying full size items and having to deal with returns if I hate them is not appealing at all, and even one bad product experience can turn me totally off a line.

    I also was not a fan of Josie's and I usually like a lot of her products. I want to try the One Love Organics oil but I am a little nervous about some of the extracts and my hyper allergic self.

  • LilJeJa July 30, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Thank you for a great review. Have you tried Lancome cleansing oil? It's wonderful, gentle and very effective. I purchased it numerous of times. I was eyeing Dior but after your review I might skip it and try MAC instead.

    • Sabrina July 30, 2014 at 3:27 pm

      Hi LilJeJa – I haven't, I will look into it, I'm a huge fan of the Lancome cleansing water 🙂

    • LilJeJa July 30, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      Yes I absolutely adore that cleansing water! I just ran out 🙁 Have you tried Lancome Creme douceur? It's cream to oil cleanser, probably the best one I have tried in that "oil" category

  • waspprincess July 30, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Great review. I have been using Shu Uemura for a few years now with great results. I haven't tried any others, but I will now. I double cleanse as well and in between the oil and cleanser, I use a warm cloth pressed into my skin which really helps remove even more of the make up. I practice what my mother preached. "It should take you as long to take off your make up as you spent putting it on."

  • Eileen July 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I first started wearing makeup (a bit of mascara and a light dab of lipstick for special occasions) when I was 13. My mother gave me a bottle of Alpha Keri oil and taught me how to remove my makeup with it. That began my love affair with cleansing oils and 57 years later (yikes!), I'm still using them. Even when I was a teenager, I used oil to remove my makeup because oil actually does a better job of removing excess oil than does water based cleansers. You can imagine how many cleansing oils I've tried during those 57 years and during those years I've always been able to find an excellent oil to meet my changing skincare needs. As I've gone from an oily teenager to a bone dry septuagenarian, cleansing oil has always been a staple for the deepest, most effective, yet gentlest cleansing. I'm not talking about using oils like olive oil as those are extremely heavy. I'm talking about oils specifically designed for cleansing the skin. A good one will be light in texture, glide over the skin effortlessly without dragging or pulling, dissolve makeup and sunscreen, have a light clean scent or no scent at all, emulsify and rinse off easily with water, and leave the skin feeling soft and free of residue. That's a tall order, but there are some excellent ones on the market and it is just a matter of finding the one that best suits your needs.

    My very favorite is Tatcha's Camellia Cleansing Oil and for my dry, mature, sensitive skin, it has blown the competition out of the water. Prior to that, I was using SKII's excellent rose scented cleansing oil which is heavier than Tatcha's and isn't as easily removed, but like Tatcha's, it left my skin feeling smooth, soft, and free of residue. I've tried so many different cleansing oils over the years, it makes my head spin to think about it 😛

    Using dry hands to apply the oil to dry skin is imperative because these cleansing oils have been formulated to emulsify when they come in contact with water. For the oil to be its most effective at breaking down makeup and oil, it needs to be gently massaged onto dry skin. Let the oil set for a few moments to break down the makeup and then add water to form a creamy cleanser that should easily rinse off with the addition of more water. As a final step, I always use a clean wash cloth wrung out in tepid water to wipe my face to insure that all the oil has been removed and to provide a bit of gentle exfoliation.

    Oh dear! I didn't mean to write a novel, Sabrina. As you can tell, though, I am passionate about cleansing oils. Sorry to take up so much space.

    • Sabrina July 30, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      Eileen this is so awesome!! I had been looking at SK-II's and was so tempted but it had mixed reviews. I'm glad to see you like Tatcha better 🙂 Thank you so much for the detailed tips on application – you articulated it so much better than me.

  • kp July 30, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    I've been using Koh Gen Do which I like a lot, but it's not the best at removing eye makeup. Lancome eye makeup remover does the rest. I've been thinking about trying Tatcha. Thanks for the great review!

    • Sabrina July 30, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      I didn't realize Koh Gen Do had a cleansing oil! I've loved their cleansing water and if there is an oil version I would really be interested in trying it. I'm going to do some research now 🙂

  • Divya Raj Singh July 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    Hi Sabrina! I would suggest you try out the Nars Cleansing Oil as well! I have been using Shu Uemura for years but the Nars one was even better! I don't even need another cleanser after Nars! BTW, if you haven't tried also try the Shu Uemura oil which comes in the yello bottle. I use that and like it more than the others! 🙂


    • Sabrina July 30, 2014 at 4:23 pm

      Thanks for the tip! I actually used to use the NARS and loved it but it is impossible to find in stores near me. The only place I can still buy it is online at NARS, I wonder if it's being discontinued.

  • Renata Burden July 30, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I've just started trying oil cleansers and I'm really enjoying it. It seems to melt the makeup better than any other. I will definitely have a look at some of these you mentioned. Shame companies don't sell sample sizes. It'd be a great way to test stuff before committing.


  • Amy @ The American-Made Guide to Life July 30, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    Thanks for the great post. I am new believer with cleansing oils. As an oily skin person, I was hesitant to try them but I am so glad I did. I am surprised you didn't try Boscia's Makeup Breakup Cleansing Oil. It's a bit different than the others that I've tried. It gets a bit milky when you use it.


  • Abby Evans July 30, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Great post, very informative! I definitely want to try out the Mac Cleanse Off Oil and I have heards a lot of great things about the Boscia Cleansing Oil too!


  • Velveteen Rabbit July 30, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    I actually cleanse with both a cleansing balm (The Balmology one works wonders and smells so great) and then use my Shu Uemura cleansing oil to remove my mascara. I find the Balmology removes everything on the skin but I do a double cleanse just in case.

  • Carina July 30, 2014 at 7:29 pm

    I've been looking to replace my shu uemura (I use the balancing/yellow variant) with something cruelty-free. Happy to hear that Tatcha is one of your favorite ones, because now I know what I will try next. 😀

  • thecherryboudoir July 30, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    I've heard so much about Shu Uemura cleansing oils, I hope to try someday !
    I used to use one from a Japanese one (Kose) which was amazing ! I love it ! it was pretty cheap (I bought it in Japan) bu we can also find it on soe website, like Rakuten or Sasa.com and I am currently using a French one (the brand is Mixa) which is nice.
    I love using cleansing oils, it removes the make up perfectly !

  • Anonymous July 30, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    I also recommend the boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil. I apply it to dry skin first and then add water, which makes it milky as the earlier poster mentions. I rinse it off well and do not need a second cleanse although I do use NARS Makeup Removing Water and sonia kashuk eye makeup remover before my cleansing oil.
    It is available in a smaller size in a set that is on sale on the boscia website. I also use and recommend the Purifying Cleansing Gel in the morning and the blotting papers that come in the set, but have not used any of the other products in the boscia Bright Stars set.
    I see they have a new cleansing oil-gel, which I might have to investigate. I love how gentle the boscia products are on my skin.

  • beccerz July 30, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    I really like Tranquil and I've been using it for a while. I also really like the Origins version but I rarely get a chance to go, so I just stick to the MAC. I did get the Tatcha travel size as well but I didn't like it very much – it didn't get my mascara off (MAC Extended Play) so I had to use makeup remover too.

  • Anonymous July 30, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    Love this great review! Thank you Sabrina! By the way..you are beautiful!!! Ok, my favorites are Tatchas Camellia cleansing oil and Cle de peau cleansing cream. Love that duo and very faithful to it. I also follow up with tatcha polishing enzyme powders after the oil. I have deep and sensitive. And planning to buy classic as well. Usually skip my Clairasonic on those days. Those powders from Tatcha are awesome.

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Thx for the tip on the Tatcha powder! I have a few sample packets I got with some orders but haven't tried it yet. I'll have to experiment this weekend 🙂

  • nueyork July 30, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    If I had to chose a cleansing oil I would definitely go with MAC because of how highly it's held in the beauty community, but I've done the cotton-pad swipe test and never found makeup remnants. This makes me think my cleansers already suffice, but it is a product that I would be interested to try even with my fear of oily consistencies.


  • mshighfemme July 30, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    I was happy to read today's post, skincare is my obsession! I double cleanse myself and test quite a few oils for reviews. I tend to reach for Bifesta cleansing water which I get at my local Japanese grocery store for the days I have little to no makeup on. Bifesta is only cleansing/removal so they know their stuff. I use the brightening water and it removes everything. When I wear heavier makeup I was reaching for drugstore Garnier which leaks everywhere (tossed it) to Innisfree Apple Juicy Oil (Korean) to holy grail, Sephora Cleansing Oil which is now discontinued. For home, I now use a cleansing balm which turns into an oil and removes makeup without the "oil water running down my arm" routine. I alternate between Clean It Zero balm which melts makeup without any dripping and Skinfood Honey Black Tea Balm. Both Korean brands. I want to try Tatcha and gasp MAC's oil now your post is wonderful! I would love to read more skincare posts such as your AM and PM routines. Thank you Sabrina 🙂

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:09 am

      As soon as I read your comment about the Sephora Cleansing Oil I thought I had to add it to my list to check out, too bad it's d/c! I hope you find a new favorite soon.

  • mshighfemme July 30, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    I was happy to read today's post, skincare is my obsession! I double cleanse myself and test quite a few oils for reviews. I tend to reach for Bifesta cleansing water which I get at my local Japanese grocery store for the days I have little to no makeup on. Bifesta is only cleansing/removal so they know their stuff. I use the brightening water and it removes everything. When I wear heavier makeup I was reaching for drugstore Garnier which leaks everywhere (tossed it) to Innisfree Apple Juicy Oil (Korean) to holy grail, Sephora Cleansing Oil which is now discontinued. For home, I now use a cleansing balm which turns into an oil and removes makeup without the "oil water running down my arm" routine. I alternate between Clean It Zero balm which melts makeup without any dripping and Skinfood Honey Black Tea Balm. Both Korean brands. I want to try Tatcha and gasp MAC's oil now your post is wonderful! I would love to read more skincare posts such as your AM and PM routines. Thank you Sabrina 🙂

  • Cheryl July 31, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Great post Sabrina! I've tried most of the cleansing oils on your list (including Tatcha) and my favorite is by SK-II. I have sensitive skin and I love the consistency and thorough cleansing (without stripping) of SK-II. I've purchased it repeatedly and have a back-up bottle waiting.

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:14 am

      Thx for the tip Cheryl I'll have to see if I can try out the SK-II at some point, I've read mixed reviews but I love everything I've tried from them so far.

  • Scent Hive July 31, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Right now, Bobbi Brown's Soothing Cleansing Oil is my favorite and I have used many cleansing oils over the years including the highly recommended Boscia oil. I do still like that one, but I have become partial to the thinner texture of the BB oil, and I also love its jasmine scent. I am intrigued by the Tatcha one though, and just might give it a try when my BB runs out!

  • Sneha July 31, 2014 at 3:27 am

    A really good and really inexpensive one is the Clean Energy one from Origins. My sis-in-law who uses DHC actually liked it better than that one. It has a light scent, washes off well, does a good job with most long-wear makeup, but you may need something stronger for really heavy mascaras like Benefit's They're Real. It comes with a screw on cap for traveling as well as a pump. And it's only about $20 if I remember right!

  • Anonymous July 31, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    I too have tried many cleansing oils over the years and my favorite is by Tacha. I love the clean yet gentle way these products perform as I am dry with rosacea. Never had any problem with Tatcha products. They do sell sample sizes so it's easy to try without investing a large amount of money and if you are unhappy, they take care of it (this is according to their website).

  • Lori Jenkins August 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm

    Sabrina, you must try Shiseido – I have tried so many and always come back to this one, I have super sensitive skin too. I'm currently finishing a bottle of Bobbi Brown's cleansing oil – it's very nice as well but I will be sticking with Shiseido going forward!

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:11 am

      Hi Lori! Thx for the rec, these days I keep forgetting about Shiseido for some reason.

    • Marby Amarillas April 17, 2015 at 7:59 pm

      Have you tried MAC? I really loved MAC´s. Right now im using Purity and really hate it. And my next option is Bobbi Brown. but now, you make me thing

  • Lulubelle August 1, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    DHC's Deep Cleansing Oil remains my all time favorite, although I'm currently enjoying Boscia's Makeup-breakup Cool Cleansing Oil. I'm with you on following up with a foaming cleanser, although cleansing oils really do a great job at removing makeup.

    • Sabrina August 3, 2014 at 1:10 am

      Ooh, these sound great, I'll have to check out the Boscia, I've heard great things about the line.

  • Lilian Hii August 3, 2014 at 10:54 am

    COSME DECORTE cleansing oil is very calming and remove all trace of makeup. It is light and not oily and sticky.

  • Anonymous August 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    I avoid mineral oils (per skincare guru Caroline Hirons) so I've avoided the cleansing oils but use the balms as a first cleanse in the same manner that has been described by you and others in the comments. I double cleanse on the days I'm wearing full sunscreen, foundation/tinted moisture and makeup. I use Purity or Glycolic wash (or something different in my arsenal based on how my skin is feeling that night) as a second cleanse with my Clarisonic. My favorite balms are Clinique Take of the Day and RMS Raw Coconut Cream Cleanser. I also have Bobbi Brown's but it is a stickier texture (in a large, heavy glass jar that looks great but isn't so great if hands are damp, etc.) so I don't use as often. I actually ordered a new cleanser yesterday by Shea Terra organics (rec by: Lucite Dreams blog) as I've read many great reviews and Shea Terra is an amazing company; you should really check them out. I bought a few diff items and hope I like it as much as others as it will feel wonderful to use something so proudly that is made with simple, pure ingredients while supporting an amazing cause. I follow with Clarins glycolic toner (if going the acid route) and then use either Sunday Riley Good Genes (if going the Lactic acid route) Alphahydroxy cream (if going the glycolic route) or Retin A. Some nights I just use RMS beauty oil which is also amazing and I highly support Rose Marie Swift's philosophy and have purchased almost all of her makeup which I LOVE! I am finding myself going more and more away from cosmetics with 500 unheard of ingredients. I would like to get down to basics that work and simplify so I am trying some other natural lines out. Natural lines are really increasing in both popularity and efficacy as consumers learn more and more about cosmetic ingredients and the dangers they present. Companies are responding accordingly as there really is no governing when it comes to what we put on our face & body. Here's a link of something I happened to watch yesterday, if you care to check it out:

    Changing seasons, use of Retin A and acids (which have worked amazingly well to keep wrinkles down on my 46 year old skin) creates a changing skin and I try to "listen" to what my skin needs that day/night and move from there:) Michelle

  • Marby A August 26, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Im using now the Fresh oil and i like it but MAC is so much better. I´ll try Tatch.

    Thanks for the review!!!

  • Marby Amarillas April 17, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Thanks for your post, i´ve been looking a review like this for a while. I´ve tried the Purify for trying but im counting days to finished. I´ve only used the MAC (Wich i loved) and the purity. What i do is using the oil with dry skin and then apply a little bit of water to make the milky texture and then remove. After that i used a cotton ball with a miscellar water. I like the Bioderma but i know is hard to get it. The Caudallie is really good to (Trial/Travel size) and no more panda eyes in the morning. I guess next would be Tatcha. Thanks for the post!

  • Mary Taylor October 14, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and it’s really helpful. Selecting a cleanser with a balanced PH will help maintain skin's natural balance and for me the best facial cleanser is Sakare’s cleansing products.

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