Ask Jean: Do Oil-Based Cleansers Work With Acne?

We want to answer your most pressing questions—or, you know, just the things that you’re curious about. Please keep them coming to:, or tweet us @goop. Below, a q for our new beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.

Dear Jean, I have been wanting to try an oil based cleanser as my skin seems to get drier the older I get, but I still suffer from hormonal acne so have hesitated. I have heard wonderful things about using oils as part of a regular skin care regime but would like to know more. Specifically, what is your routine, sequencing of products, and what products would you recommend? Thank you, T.

P.S. I have yet to find a dermatologist who recommends oil based cleansers. I would be curious to hear from some dermatologists on this topic.

Dear T.,

Dermatologists invariably will recommend products that they perceive to be most basic: Cetaphil is the classic dermatologist recommendation. Some of the reasons: They want something unlikely to cause skin reactions, they want something affordable for their patients, it’s something they’ve tried, and something they know.

The thing that I (late in the game) discovered is that the reason we (the breakout-prone) fear oil is we fear mineral oil, a.k.a. pore-clogging, decidedly un-good-for-you petroleum. Oils that don’t clog pores actually make amazing cleansers because they dissolve oil with ease. Harsher cleansers (ones that foam) get rid of oil with detergent, which, besides making you dry, can exacerbate acne.

So yes, try an oil cleanser! They are gentle, do the job, and leave your skin soft and happy instead of tight and dry. They kind of changed my life. At the moment, my favorite is Tata Harper’s oil cleanser on our site.

My routine itself involves a prescription retinoid at night (for aging and acne). I wash my face with the Tata, then put on the retinoid cream. In the morning I don’t really wash my face, unless I’m in the shower, where I use a Clarisonic brush and oil cleanser. I like to put Vitamin C serum from Drunk Elephant (also on our site), and then I put on sunscreen. Throughout the day, I pat on face oil whenever I feel dry or look tired. My favorites are the seasonal oils from De Mamiel (the spring one is about to be on the site) and one from Intelligent Nutrients.

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