IS IT ALL THE STRESS YOU’VE BEEN UNDER THAT’S CAUSING YOUR SKIN TO REBEL? MAYBE NOT – IT COULD BE YOUR CLEANSER

As someone who grew up with a greasy T-Zone, slathering oil on my skin never held much appeal. But with plenty of potent actives in my regimen (retinol, peptides, AHAs, etc), I recently found my skin becoming overwhelmed by formulas that I ordinarily had no problem drenching myself in. My mind went to all the usual culprits (was it stress? Caffeine? Overzealous resurfacing?) until facialist Jocelyn Petroni asked a question I hadn’t even considered: could it be my cleanser?

Cleansing used to be one of those basic steps we didn’t need to overthink, but our skin is a delicate ecosystem – one that cleaning can easily disrupt. “Most skin types have a level of dehydration that is exacerbated by cleansing with a formula that doesn’t suit you,” says Katie Matten, head of education at Rationale. And since most of us cleanse twice a day, persisting with a formula that’s not quite right can create problems over time – like, say, reacting to skincare you’ve always tolerated. And that’s why I decided to suck it up and try an oil formula.

The premise is simple: oils dissolve oils, making them well-equipped to clean skin. Most formulas have an oil base along with a traditional cleaning ingredient, which binds to dirt and sebum on the surface and removes it without disrupting the skin barrier. So could this small switch make all the difference? A sign that you might need a more nourishing formula: your skin feels tight after washing. “What that means is that the dirt and pollutants are gone – but so are the essential oils that help keep your barrier healthy,” explains Petroni. “Oil cleansers clean deeply, but they also hydrate, calm and strengthen the skin’s natural hydro-lipidic film, which then builds resilience to environmental aggressors and even eczema.”

The strange thing with skin is that sometimes you need to ignore your instincts to find the right balance. And that’s because while our complexions change, our regimens are often slow to catch up. For instance, my skin stopped being greasy and blemish- prone years ago, but I still worried that rubbing oil on my face would result in a breakout. I’m not alone. “It’s a common myth that oil cleansers will make your skin oily,” says Zoë Foster Blake, who formulated the new Go-To oil cleanser, Fancy Face, because she needed a more nourishing option that could remove zinc SPF without drying her skin. “The fact is that they clean skin without the over-drying, which is often the cause of excess oil production,” she adds. There’s also a seasonal element to consider. “As the weather cools down, the skin secretes less oil, so that’s when you may need to add topical oil to your routine,” says Petroni.

Making the switch doesn’t mean giving up your regular cleanser – oil cleansers are often used as part of a double- cleanse step. This is pretty much what it sounds like: you cleanse with an oil formula, followed by a regular lathering one. The idea is that the first step gets rid of makeup, the second gets deeper into the pores. “It means your actives and serums can penetrate better and do more,” says Foster Blake. In other words, every other product in your bathroom cabinet works harder. Pass the oil.

Words by Brooke Le Poer Trench for ELLE