Of all the different product types assembled in my extensive skincare wardrobe, cleansing oil is the one I think about the least. I mean, there’s just not that much to think about. You’ve got your oils to break down and loosen up makeup and sunscreen, your emulsifier(s) to enable easy rinsing with water, maybe a few nice-sounding bonus ingredients, some fragrance, and some preservatives, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t research cleansing oils before I purchase them as I do with everything else I put on my face, and I’ve never really felt I should. After all, I’ve gone through a handful of different cleansing oils and balms all chosen more or less at random, and they’ve pretty much all worked fine.
Yeah, well. My winning streak was bound to end sometime.
Purpose: Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil is an emulsifying, oil-based first cleanser used to remove sunscreen and makeup at the first step of an evening skincare routine.
Best suited for: Normal, dry, or dehydrated skin; people who don’t use mascara or any long-wearing makeup. You’ll understand why in a minute.
Do not use if: You are sensitive to coconut oil, sesame oil, apricot kernel oil, fragrance, or anything else in the ingredients list, or if you are opposed to synthetic, not-at-all-from-nature ingredients.
When and how to use: Dispense two to three pumps of product into palm and spread over dry face. Massage for 1-2 minutes. Wipe eye area with tissue or cotton pad if desired. Wet hands and massage again to emulsify. Rinse with water.
Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil ingredients: Pentaerythrityl tetraisostearate, cetyl ethylhexanoate, trethylhexanoin, PEG-20 glyceryl triisostearate, octyldodecyl myristate, pentaerythrityl tetraethylhexanoate, hydrogenated poly(c6-14 olefin), PEG-8 isostearate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, isostearic acid, camellia japonica seed oil, prunus mume fruit extract, squalane, nelumbo nucifera germ extract, sesamum indicum (sesame) seed oil, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, pinus koraiensis seed oil, prunus armeniaca (apricot) kernel oil, hydrogenated polyisobutene, fragrance
Notable ingredients: Since this is a wash-off product, there’s not much need to delve into the ingredients list. If the product works as it should, it’s all going to rinse off anyway. I will point out, however, that unlike many comparable products, the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil is based on synthetic esters rather than naturally derived oils. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your skin and your tastes. Mineral oil is a very familiar and generally well tolerated base, but some people dislike using petrolatum products for reasons. If that’s the case for you, you may like this product’s ingredients list more. On the other hand, coconut oil and olive oil, two of the more common botanically derived cleansing oil bases, satisfy the desire for “natural” products but are also known acne triggers for many. Personally, I can go either way, or take the synthetic route, without a problem. I don’t much care what’s in it as long as it works.
That’s the problem.
But let’s start at the beginning, as we usually do.
Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil is a runny, light-feeling oil that I disliked as soon as I put it on my face for the first time, because it smelled godawful. I’ve since heard its fragrance described as citrusy and pleasant, and there are some times when I can kind of smell the citrus notes struggling to rise to the top, but to my nose, this product smells overwhelmingly like liquefied burning plastic. Yes, it’s really that bad for me. I used this cleansing oil on my face every night for a solid two weeks and cringed at the smell every single time.
I could have gotten past the smell if the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil had done its job. Could have. If. Uh, it didn’t.
In the first place, this cleansing oil has hardly any slip at all. Even though it’s an oil, my face never felt lubricated enough to massage comfortably, not even with three full pumps of product. Working it into my face always made me feel like I was tugging and pulling and rubbing at my skin. I never got a single grit with the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil, either. And it repeatedly proved itself to be the weakest cleansing oil I’ve ever used. To show how weak it is, I chose to do my cleansing test without any of my waterproof eyeliners or ultra-stubborn Japanese mascaras. The swatches on my arm in the picture below are just regular, run-of-the-mill, non-long-wearing cream lip crayons and lipsticks.
I used two pumps of Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil, massaged it all over the swatches for a solid 90 seconds, then emulsified it with water and rinsed it off as I would for my face. Here are the results.
Look closely, and you’ll see faint stripes of leftover lipstick, especially near my wrist.
Well, that’s not that bad, you might be thinking. It’s barely visible! What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that that was just lipstick, and not even lipstick formulated for extended wear and smudge resistance. If the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil can’t even fully remove some lipstick, how the hell can it handle three coats of Fairy Drops Scandal Queen mascara and a dash of Clio Gelpresso eyeliner?
Yeah, it can’t, that’s how. I regularly had to pump out a second dose of the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil just for my eyes, something I haven’t had to do with any other cleansing oil. And even with the second helping of oil, removing my eye makeup with this stuff consistently took much longer and demanded more massaging than it had with any other first cleanser I’ve tried. Listen, I’m getting old as shit. I don’t need to be putting any extra stress on my eye skin. Vigorous rubbing is not a thing I want to do in that area.
On the plus side, the Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil didn’t sting or burn at all when I inevitably got it in my eyes every night. So…that’s good.
I stuck it out with this cleansing oil for my full cleanser testing period. It did not clog my pores, break me out, or cause any negative skin reactions while I used it. That doesn’t necessarily mean much, though. My skin is typically set to honey badger levels of IDGAF, so not much bothers it in the first place.
Once the testing period ended, I opened up a bottle of Tosowoong Natural Pure Apricot Seed Oil Cleansing Oil and repurposed the Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil as a makeup brush and cushion puff cleaner. I won’t be purchasing this product again.
Conclusion: Skincare is YMMV and no one’s experience, not even mine (huehuehue), is universal or authoritative. Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil has worked for lots of people (my homegirl Cat, for example, found it effective enough and hated it for reasons entirely different from mine). It might work out for you. But my experience of this product was so unambiguously bad that I just can’t personally recommend anyone to try it. To sum it all up, I’ll quote the first line of my testing notes for this product:
Wow, this stuff really sucks.
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