Though I’ve used SPF almost my entire life, I only hopped onto the cleansing oil craze in the past few years. Like so many others, I’d been fed the well-intentioned lie that oily-skinned people should never use facial oil products; rather, we should just use harsh face washes and toners to remove both our oil and our makeup in the same steps.
Unfortunately, as public knowledge has finally started to realize, this is actually bad advice as super harsh cleansing can actually make oil production even worse – if you strip your skin too much, it will try to overcompensate by amping up its oil production to replace the moisture that you’re scrubbing, washing, and toning away every day. While there are still many brands out there that still cater to teens (who have oil for hormonal reasons and may have sturdier skin; products for teenage acne/oiliness generally won’t work well for adult acne/oiliness as the base causes are not the same) and/or people who just can’t get past the idea that they need to make their skin super dry and squeaky-clean to prevent acne, most brands and beauty magazines have pretty much caught on to the idea that less is more when it comes to cleanser strength, and that you CAN remove oil, makeup, and sunscreen without making your skin feel like a piece of ancient papyrus. This concept was proven to me when I tried to use The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil line and it turned my skin into a total mess due to how drying it was – but that’s a topic for another post!
Nowadays, cleansing oils are generally considered to be the optimal way for all skin types to gently dissolve and remove their makeup and sunscreen. I’m sure you’ve all heard the basic selling pitch: oil attracts oil, it gently dissolves the makeup and/or SPF and allows it to rinse off easily, and if you’re oily, as long as you follow with a good, gentle cleanser, you won’t suffer acne or clogs from using the oil.
With all that said, cleansing oils can STILL be hard to find in grocery and drugstores, meaning that unless you’re willing to import or pay high-end prices, your options will be extremely limited. I realized this about two months ago – I was under a lot of work-related stress at the time and totally forgot to re-order my cleansing oil until I was almost entirely out, so I ended up stuck in limbo where I needed SOMETHING to remove my daily SPF, but I didn’t want to go to Sephora and shell out $30 for a product that I’d only be using for a couple weeks until my Skinfood oil showed up. So I decided to grab a random drugstore cleansing oil and hope for the best during the 2-3 weeks until my “real” oil cleanser arrived.
To my surprise, however, I found a whopping total of ONE cleansing oil in the skincare aisle at my local Target. A check at Kroger and Meijer proved the same – Garnier Nourishing Cleansing Oil was apparently the only option. Now, I have a love-or-hate relationship with Garnier: as much as I totally worship some of their products (Sakura White cleanser is top-tier for me), I’ve also used items from the brand that I’d personally love to banish to the pits of hell (I remember borrowing one of their shampoo/conditioner sets from a roommate once and having my hair dry out so badly that it started BREAKING OFF IN CHUNKS). So I approached this product with some trepidation, but hope, as well. So I purchased my bottle for around $6 at Target, and crossed my fingers.
Yes, it says right there on the label: for DRY skin. However, as I said before, at the time this was my only affordable option. Plus, I figured, I’m using it as a sunscreen/makeup remover only – I’ll be washing it off with my foaming cleanser afterwards anyhow, so how bad could it be?
Read more to find out!
First, let’s look at the ingredients.
Mineral Oil, Zea,Mays/Corn Germ Oil, Polysorbate 85, Carthamus Tinctorius,Oil/Safflower Seed Oil, Cetyl Ethylhexanoate,,Sorbitan Trioleate, Simmondsia Chinensis Oil/Jojoba Seed,Oil, Glycerin, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, Squalane,,Parfum/Fragrance, Water, Propylene Glycol, Tocopherol, Linalool, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl,Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Hexyl Cinnamal, Isopropyl, Myristate, Moringa Oleifera Seed Oil, Alpha-Isomethyl, Ionone, Imperata Cylindrica Root Extract, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer.
I know that mineral oil gets bad rap, but IMO it’s just one of the word-of-mouth panic ingredients of the moment. You know how it is – people read a 3-4 line blurb in some blog or magazine about very preliminary studies showing a possible, not at all confirmed connection between X ingredient and X negative effect, and BOOM! That ingredient is demonized for years, even when the full studies show up and prove that initial connection to be false or so small that it doesn’t really need to be acknowledged. In reality, to quote Paula Begoun, “Cosmetics-grade mineral oil and petrolatum are considered the safest, most nonirritating moisturizing ingredients ever found” – and I personally have never been able to trace any skin irritation or breakouts to mineral oil, so I’m totally fine with using products that include it in their formulations.
However, mineral oil controversy aside, just looking at the CosDNA flags should pretty much scare anyone with oily/combination skin off from using this product.
Squalene (1 for acne) and Carbomer (1 for irritation) are the low-risk triggers – you probably don’t need to worry about them unless you know you’re sensitive already. Tocopherol, aka Vitamin E, gets a 2 for both acne and irritation, but once again that’s low enough to be a YMMV kind of thing. The big offender here is Isopropyl Myristate, a well-known acne trigger – it ranks a 5 for acne and 3 for irritation. This ingredient is why you should probably stay away if you’re acne-prone, oily, clog-prone, etc.
Fragrance is also relatively high up in the list, and there are quite a few fragrance ingredients in the mix. This became noxiously obvious as soon as I opened the product at home: to me, this cleansing oil smelled BAD. It had an extremely strong scent of cheap cologne to my nose – gave me flashbacks to those guys in high school that you could smell before you saw because they basically drowned themselves in AXE each morning. This gave me pause, because I know that highly-fragranced facial care can be bad news for me. I’m okay with lightly scented stuff, but when a company decides to pour in vats of fragrance, it can often result in my skin becoming very red and irritated. However, I decided to try this oil anyhow since I was weighing a possible risk (fragrance irritation) against a known issue (not properly removing SPF = big, greasy blemishes).
The texture of the oil is… fine. I mean, it feels like mineral oil. It works in the same fashion as most other cleansing oils that I’ve tried: you apply it with dry hands on a dry face, and after some massaging, start adding water and a circular motion with your hands to lift and dissolve the oil and impurities from your skin. I eventually end up rinsing with a konjac sponge, since I need the extra dose of exfoliation and I find simply rinsing with water to be too messy with my sink. I follow it with my normal cleanser (at the time of this product testing, Garnier Sakura White Pinkish Radiance Gentle Cleanser) and toner, serum, etc.
First of all – did the oil do its job? Did it remove the SPF and makeup completely?
The answer is, unfortunately, NO. I use a tinted SPF most days, so it was actually really obvious – I was still getting SPF residue with my normal cleanser and even on my toner’s cotton pad! So I have to say, this in itself should make this product a no-go for most people. If it can’t remove the sunscreen and makeup that it’s supposedly created to remove, then it is a failure as a product already. However, let’s count a few more offenses while we’re here in case you weren’t yet convinced!
The oil itself did not rinse off easily. Meaning, the cleansing oil itself created new residue as well as not managing to remove my sunscreen. My konjac sponges usually last me about 2-3 weeks, but I had to use THREE in the 3 weeks that I tested the Garnier oil, because it created build-up that I simply could not adequately remove from the sponge. This dramatically shortened their useful lifespan. Normally, konjac sponges are very easy to rinse.
My gentle cleanser and toner could not even fully remove the residue left from this oil. This means that I would need to use a harsher cleanser, which I don’t want to do for reasons already explained at the start of this post, if I were to use this product on a permanent basis. Since I initially bought this to save money, I didn’t want to go buy another face wash just for a couple weeks in ADDITION to already buying this temporary cleansing oil, so I just dealt with the build-up for a few weeks. I didn’t know if the cleansing oil residue would be worse or better for my skin than just having sunscreen build-up.
Verdict: it didn’t break me out as MUCH as not removing my sunscreen at all would have, but it definitely gave me lots of tiny bumps and congestion and the strong fragrance did give me some irritation-caused redness as well as those teeny-tiny bumps that can accompany inflamed skin.
Additionally, the packaging is BAD. It’s a pump, which is normal for cleansing oils, but even when you screw it “closed” the product will drip and pool wherever you have it stored. I actually started keeping it on my bathtub corner because it would make anywhere I put it so greasy.
So all in all? This product was a big, fat FAIL for me. Not only did it clog my pores because it was so hard to wash off, but it ruined my other cleansing products like my konjac sponge due to the residue, and the overload of fragrance inflamed my skin and gave me classic irritation symptoms. And of course, it didn’t even work properly! My sunscreen wasn’t being completely removed by this so-called cleansing oil in the first place!
It’s possible that people with dryer skins or who aren’t sensitive to fragrance or prone to clogged pores will be able to use this oil and even like it (check the related posts, I’ll be picking some reviews from other skin types to feature there), but my experience with it was so bad that I literally CHEERED when my Skinfood cleansing oil showed up in the mail. Removing the Garnier cleansing oil from my regime and replacing it with an oil that did its job removing my SPF without leaving residue made a clear and obvious improvement in my skin almost immediately.
I gave this oil to my mother, as she has very dry skin and wears sunscreen daily – I figured we’d see if she had a different experience since her skin type is so dramatically different from my own (thanks, dad, for the mega oily skin, lmao). She doesn’t find the scent nearly as strong or aggravating as I do, but she did tell me that the packaging was such a mess that she ended up putting into a new container. And in the end, she still prefers her cold cream for removing SPF. So if you were wondering why no pictures, well, that’s why. I am no longer in possession of the product and it’s in a new container anyhow!
So there you have it: my Garnier Nourishing Cleansing Oil review is, sadly, very negative. There were just too many problems with this product for me to even finish using the bottle, much less repurchase or recommend it to anyone else. Pass.
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