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Does Oil Cleansing Work for Oily Skin Too? A Review of the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

Long gone are the days of using harmful products like harsh exfoliants that tear open the skin and drying toner that smells like acetone. Oil cleansing has risen in popularity in recent years as beauty trends like Asian skincare and the clean girl aesthetic have enraptured people both on and offline. 

Oil cleansing, also known as double cleansing, originated in Asia around the fourteenth century It was most popular in Japan and Korea, where women would use an oil cleanser before a foaming cleanser in order to more effectively wipe off the thick white base that was often used in place of modern foundation. Geishas in Japan and Gisaengs in Korea popularized the technique initially, though it seemed to disappear and become a long-forgotten art form until it was repopularized in the last decade or so. 

Essentially, an oil cleanser is supposed to remove excess sebum from your skin. It is also helpful for makeup and SPF removal, hence why it was so commonly used among geishas, who were famous for their recognizable heavy makeup style. 

However, though it may sound great for people with drier skin, I was wary for a long time. I have really oily skin—so oily, in fact, that about an hour after I put on makeup, it’s sliding off my face, and I’m so shiny that light reflects off of my forehead. Why would I want to put any additional oil on my face and add to the problem? 

Both my sister and my mother have drier skin, and they have been oil cleansing for years. They both like the Kose Softymo Speedy Cleansing Oil, which went viral on TikTok a while back, and The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Light Cleansing Oil, which is the same brand of foaming face wash that I swear by. However, whenever I tried using either of these brands, which were recommended by so many people both online and offline, I broke out—bad. I had acne throughout middle and high school, and I was starting to resemble my bumpy twelve-year-old self as soon as I started oil cleansing. I did not change anything else about my skincare routine, but adding the oil cleanser was more than enough to destroy all of my progress. It was devastating. 

I was angry, too. I knew that adding more oil to my face would have such a negative effect, and I swore to stick to what worked for me and never again follow a trend that I knew would be bad for me. 

And then, years later, I tried the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm. 

I was still hesitant, but I wanted to give it another try. Though I had no issue with my makeup removal process at the time, I still felt like I was missing a step in my routine. I could see excess sebum building up on my nose and cheeks, and none of my usual facial masks were helping to clear it up. 

Firstly, using a balm instead of an actual oil felt much better on my face. As soon as it touched my skin, I knew that this was a good product. It felt pretty gross as I used it to take off my makeup, and seeing my eyeliner smeared around my eyes in the bathroom mirror made me laugh, but as soon as I used micellar water to remove the oil, I felt refreshed. I proceeded to use my normal foaming cleanser and finished my usual skincare routine as per usual. After the initial trial, only time would tell if it was a product that worked for me or if I would start breaking out again like I did when I first tried oil cleansing. 

About a week later, I still had yet to break out. I was using the cleansing balm daily to take off my makeup, and my skin felt great—better than ever, in fact. 

I had little to no breakouts, and it was pretty obvious that the few spots that did appear were due to hormones or stress, not from the product. I noticed much less sebum build-up on my nose and cheeks. My skin overall felt much smoother and softer, and I noticed that a few scars and dark spots from acne had faded a little and evened out more. I do believe that this fading was due to my overall skin health being better, and not just from the cleansing balm—after all, that isn’t its intended purpose—but I will never refuse an additional benefit, especially when it comes to taking care of my skin. And, of course, the oiliness of my skin had not increased. It did not decrease either, but my main concern was adding to my oily skin, so I did not expect it to make me any less oily naturally.

However, I believe this positive experience boils down to a few factors. I’ve seen several critiques on this product, and I am inclined to believe that the reason why I didn’t struggle with these issues is because it was just irrelevant to what I do with my skin. For example, I have heard that mascara removal with this balm is difficult, leaving plenty of residue and smudging. I do not use mascara, which is why I didn’t struggle with this problem. The only semi-comparable eye makeup is eyeliner, which came off without any issue for me. 

Promoting or reviewing skincare products can be difficult for this reason: everyone’s skin is very different, and a product that worked great for the reviewer could work terribly for someone else. I know that I am lucky to have the privilege of experimenting with skincare products to see what works best for me. 

In the end, I would recommend this product—though I would caution those who have struggled with cleansing oils and balms prior. Always trust yourself and your gut first. You know your skin better than anyone online does. 

Phoebe Ham

CU Boulder '26

Phoebe Ham is a current contributing writer and editor at Her Campus CU Boulder (HCCU). Though she writes about a variety of topics, she enjoys writing about beauty, music, and Asian-American culture. Outside of Her Campus, Phoebe is mainly focused on her studies, though she hopes to expand her writing career further in the near future. She is a current sophomore at CU, and she is majoring in SLHS and minoring in both Linguistics and Education. Prior to her college career, she won an award for an original short story, and that was where she discovered her love of writing and posting her creations online. For several years, she ran a blog dedicated to her writing, which ranged from poetry and book reviews to short stories and novellas. In her free time Phoebe enjoys reading Asian-American literature, crocheting, and spending time with her friends. Recently, she has been into novels by Haruki Murakami, Min Jin Lee, and Ling Ma. Additionally, she has been trying to incorporate more of her crocheted creations into her wardrobe for sustainability reasons, as well as vocalizing the importance of Asian representation in media through her art.