Holika Holika Soda Pore Cleansing BB Deep Cleansing Oil Review

July 2014 Update:  After some discussion with other bloggers about cleansing oils, I have updated a few points in this review, marked with **

This week's review, much delayed by a paralysis of indecision on what to review next, is the Holika Holika Soda Pore Cleansing BB Deep Cleansing Oil, which I purchased in my mega-haul from pretty&cute.com

Like most of the items I purchase, there were not a lot of English reviews of this specific cleansing oil, but considering my overall faith in the Holika Holika brand, and the affordable price point, I figured I would give the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) a shot.

OCM, if you haven't heard of it before, is cleaning your face with a blend of oils, usually specific ones with certain properties that lend themselves to this application, rather than smearing whatever you have in your kitchen onto your face.  OCM is something that I have been aware of, but have scrupulously avoided, for years-- primarily because I associated it with hippies who were fond of wearing patchouli and sandalwood in lieu of proper bathing, or trend addicts who were constantly latching onto every new "natural" beauty trend, up to and including cleaning their face with their own urine. (EURGH!)  Thus, OCM was something I was pretty skeptical of, and considering my skin clogs very easily, I was not willing to take the risk.

However, I had read someone describing how the oil loosened their blackheads to the point where it felt like "sesame seeds" under their fingers, and considering my ongoing quest to de-congest my skin, that sounded promising.  Plus, PBunnieP and her video on how to cleanse your face with oil convinced me to give it a try.  I noticed that the actual cleansing appeared to be from massage as opposite to the oil itself doing the "heavy lifting" and that it needed to be removed via emulsification to accomplish a proper clean, which made perfect sense to me.

**Update note #1:  'Emulsification' is a nebulous beauty term, and is casually used by many bloggers, including by PBunnieP in the link above, but more on that later.**

I have been using this product once a week for about 10 weeks, and it's one of those things that I'm glad I took the time to use for a while before reviewing it, because my opinion of it has drastically changed in that time.


Full product name: Holika Holika Soda Pore Cleansing BB Deep Cleansing Oil
Purpose:  Oil specifically designed for deep-cleansing the face, and removing stubborn makeup such as BB cream.   Ingredients include Grapeseed oil, Argan Oil, Olive Oil, and Harrogate water which is a mineralized spa water from the UK.
Texture:  Very light, slippery oil that spreads easily and thinly on the skin.  When worked into the skin, it feels almost like there is baking soda in it, with a very faint grit to it that reminds me of the baking soda face masks I have tried before.  Perhaps the "mineralized" Harrogate water?  Either way, DO NOT GET THIS IN YOUR EYES.  It's not suited for eye makeup remover unless your peepers can stare down a chopped onion without watering.
Scent:  Medium scent, vaguely citrus-y and herbal.
Packaging:  Pump bottle with a handy plastic clamp that is fitted on the neck of the pump to prevent accidental dispensing of the product.
Quantity:  150ml
Availability: Various places online, I got mine from prettyandcute.com
Price: $20
Rating:  4/5 If you had asked me after the 1st use, I would have said 5/5, but like most people's experiences, OCM started off amazing but lost it's luster quickly, see the review below for why.
Repurchase: Yes. I will definitely keep a cleansing oil as part of my regimen, and I am willing to repurchase this if I do not find another I like better.

Read on for the full review, but be warned: there will be pictures of the blackheads my skin ejected after use below, so if you aren't the type to stare in morbid fascination at the disgusting evidence left on your nose pore strip, stop before you scroll to the end.

Full Review

The burning question for me was whether a cleansing oil would de-clog my pores, because I am tired of running my hands over my face and feeling pebbly skin everywhere.  Despite the skin improvements I have been enjoying, I still have an issue with my clogged pores--the Clarisonic brush definitely helps to loosen things and bring them to the surface, but that results in dramatic breakouts from the purge and it's a long process.  What if I could get rid of the clogs without waiting for them to turn into a blemish?

So, does it work?  Yes, it does.  I don't use it the way it's meant to be used, however, so your results may vary depending on how you use it.  In my case, I use it no more than once a week, and I massage my face for up to two hours at a time.  Yeah, you read that right.  I didn't intend to use it that way, it just happened.

**Update note #2:  Let me interject here and say that 1. I am not advocating marathon massaging sessions as a regular thing, and definitely not in rotation with chemical or manual exfoliants, I am explaining the accidental method I ended up doing and what the outcome was, and 2. you should always, ALWAYS, listen to your skin.  It's ok to read what someone else has tried out and attempt it yourself, but if your skin doesn't seem up for the ride, for the love of mercy, don't persist!  LISTEN TO YOUR SKIN.  Also, I don't use pressure when I massage my face, I let the product to the work, and the moment I feel any sort of sensation of my skin being tugged, I add more oil so my fingers remain lightly gliding over the surface.  I apply the oil like you would apply a moisturizer; you're smoothing the product over the skin, not kneading it in.** 

It's all Netflix's fault.  I first tried the oil while checking out a series I hadn't heard of, smoothing the oil slowly over my skin, and after about 15 minutes, I noticed that "sesame seed" feeling under my fingers.  Under the light, I could see blackheads on my palms, just like they look on pore strips right down to the oxidized tip.  GROSS.  However, it was encouraging to know those were no longer in my face so I decided to keep going until the rate that they were coming out diminished.

**Update note #3:  Please note that I did not set out to massage my face for a insane length of time, I simply planned to continue to massage my face (GENTLY.  VERY GENTLY.) until it stopped rapid-fire gurgitating out plugs from my skin.  This happened to take a long damn time, because my skin was really badly clogged due to my environment (click here).  Also, my skin was warm, as my hands are warm and the oil was warmed to face-temperature, but my skin was not hot, or painful during this process or I would have stopped immediately.**

I continued to slowly and smoothly massage my face, working sections of my face for perhaps 5-10 minutes at a time before moving on to avoid overworking my skin, and then coming back to them as needed.  I got engrossed in the show, and 4 episodes later, I realized I had been massaging my face for two hours and things were still coming out of my skin!

**Update note #4:  Even though my skin was still releasing plugs, I realized "Oh crap, I've been doing this for two hours!  Augh!" and stopped like a sensible person and assessed the state of my skin** 

At that point, my skin felt warm and a little tender, but no worse than your standard particle exfoliant.

**Update note #5:  My skin felt warm, not hot, and a little tender, but not sore.  As I mentioned, it felt the same as using a scrubbing exfoliant, such as Skinfood's black sugar scrub.  I don't scrub my scrubs, I let them do the work while I gently work the product over my face.  If you use too much pressure, or for too long, you risk damaging your skin.**

I took my bowl of warm water to the bathroom and started emulsifying the oil into what felt like a cross between a gel and a milk.  Emulsifying is a really key step, otherwise your oil will "break" and sink back into your pores, leaving you with a greasy face.

**Update note #6: Some folks have raised the question of whether this may be dubious blogger mysticism at work here.  I mean, it makes sense that if you splash water on your face, it's not going to mix with the oil, but to be honest, I haven't actually tested to see if slapping too much water on my partially-mixed oil causes it to separate again, thus undoing all my hard work.  It's what PBunnieP warns will happen in her how-to video linked above, and since I can't say I've tested it myself, please take the above with a grain of hearsay salt.

Also, no disrespect to PBunnieP and her methods, which seem to work for her, but I have found that it's nearly impossible for me to 'emulsify' off the oil (and I have used 2 now, this one and a Japanese brand) with just warm water.  It takes me 15 minutes or more to add water a few drops at a time, work it into the oil until it forms a gel or milky texture, repeat.   It just takes forever.

Worse, it never actually feels all the way cleaned off, as even though it seems clean, a few hours later I can smell the scent of the oil again, which means that it's coming up from my pores.  That means the 'emulsification' isn't successfully cleaning all the oil out of my pores.   Eventually, in order for me to get all the product off, I would have to use a foaming cleanser, and of course that runs the risk of overworking your skin if you're slapping foaming cleanser on there after mixing it with water for 15+ minutes.

Also, some bloggers really hate the term 'emulsify' as it can mislead people into thinking that they can just wash oils in general off by rubbing water on their face.  If you watch the video, you can see what a slow, painstaking process it is to do it correctly, and as I said, I am not even convinced it's all that effective.  Also, asian cleansing oils, unlike regular OCM oils, often contain additional agents which allow them to mix with water enough to be cleaned off the face, rather than through the ~*~*pure powers of emulsification*~*~.  If you think how hard you have to whip your vinaigrette to get it emulsified, how easily would you be able to accomplish that on your delicate skin?

So I set out to test it last night.  I massaged my face with the oil for an episode and a quarter of The Witches of East End, and pulled a really horrific blackhead out of my skin along with some of its sycophants.  I applied the oil at least 5 times in that period to ensure I always had plenty of slip, as usual.  I headed for the bathroom, and instead of painstakingly trying to clean off all the oil by mixing it with water, I mixed it just enough to turn milky and then switched to a very gentle foaming cleanser.  The result?  It cleaned it off better than trying to 'emulsify' it all, not to mention much quicker.** 

I did have a small amount of purging afterward, which was not surprising considering how it pulled things up to the surface of the skin.

**Update note #7.  I don't extract anything after I have massaged my face, so I do get things that have been pulled up to the surface but not all the way out, and I can feel them when I run my fingers over my skin.  So much self restraint not to get all up in there!  When they finally come to the surface and break out, they have a terrifyingly huge, hard core which looks like it's been building up since summer of '97.  Arghblarghbarf**

The way it supposed to work is that the type of oil is close enough to sebum that when it sinks into your pores, it softens the sebum's grip on the walls of your pores, making plugs loosen inside the pore.  Then as you manually work the skin, it agitates the plug up to the surface and out.  If you've ever seen a nail get loosened and pop out of the wood because the joint it is holding is flexing around too much, it's the same premise.  Did I mention, gross?

**Update note # 457363: I want to remind readers that by 'manually work the skin' I mean 'gently run your fingers over your face', not 'dig your fingers into your face like a shiatsu masseuse'.**

At first, I was really excited about the results.  However, using it more than once a week was a bad idea for my sensitive skin (always, always listen to your skin and adjust your regimen accordingly) and I only got a decent result if I did a marathon massage session.  Luckily, Netflix has kept me entertained for hours at a time while I absently massage my face.  Also, once the initial buildup had been removed, it didn't produce the same shocking quantity of crud.   While that's encouraging, it also means it's usefulness is limited by how bad off your skin is to start with.

**Update note # 010101000101: I never set out with a time frame in mine, I just gently massage my face until stuff starts coming out of it, and then I continue until stuff stops coming out of it so much or until my face tells me to stop.  I am not goin' ham with an eye on my stopwatch.**

I did try using it as a makeup remover/daily cleanser, but I just wasn't impressed with its performance compared to other cleansers, and it seemed to really shine as a pore decongestant.

Also, it isn't as effective without regular use of my Clarisonic brush, which I use every other day unless my skin is tender.  I took the oil and not the brush with me while travelling for the holidays, and it just didn't work as well without the Clarisonic, even if I used the oil more than once a week.

It seems like the two together make the difference; the Clarisonic loosens things up and keeps the skin exfoliated so when I do a deep clean with the oil, things are ready to move out of the skin.  I have also noticed that when I use gel-type moisturizers after using the oil, just massaging my face causes pores to clear, and the effect lasts for days.  It may just be things that didn't work their way to the surface during the oil session, I'm not sure?

So, it's not the be-all and end-all HG product that will allow you to cast off the expensive chains of traditional cleansers, which was a little disappointing after all the hype, but as part of an overall beauty routine and with a specific task to accomplish, it does it well.  To see how well, scroll down for terrifying pictures of what came out of my skin.

These are after the plugs/blackheads have oxidized enough to be visible.  Usually they are white when they first come out, which means they were completely embedded in the skin without exposure to the air. Yuck.

I would say the first time I used this, I easily had 3x the result you see above.  It's why I kept going so long; the horrors just didn't stop coming out.

If you have never used a cleansing oil and you have congested skin, I would recommend trying this out to see if it fills a gap in your beauty regimen, but it's not going to solve all your issues and it certainly won't prompt me to throw out all my other cleansers like the enthusiasts claim.  I would consider it more like a deep cleaning treatment as opposed to a daily cleanser.

Leave me a comment below if you have a favourite cleansing oil or if you have experience with OCM, I'd love to hear from you!

All the best,

*Disclaimer: All products I review are 100% purchased with my own money and my opinions are entirely my own. 


  1. I have been using this method of skin cleaning for 5 weeks or more. I do it about every two days. My skin is dry/mature and I am outdoors in the Canadian winter. My skin has never been so happy. I don't have the product, but I did mix jojoba oil with a little fractionated coconut oil and it works well for me. So the method gets top scores.

  2. This is a great review and a great blog. I'm not sure I understand the bit about the bowl of warm water and emulsifying the oil? Could you please explain a bit when you have time? Thank you!

    1. Sure thing! I would definitely recommend you watch the video of PBunnieP I linked above, as she demonstrates how to do this step, but I'll be happy to explain it more.

      If you just slap water on your face to get the oil off, obviously the water won't remove the oil (since water and oil don't mix) and in fact it will drive the oil deeper into your pores, which can lead to plugs and then breakouts. To get the oil off, you want to wet your fingertips with warm water, because warm water will keep the oil fluid and mix easier, cold water will cause your pores to close up and seal the oil inside, plus cold water will cause the oil to thicken up, making it hard to get off.

      The reason that you want to start off with tiny amounts of water is that it's easier to emulsify the oil, which means to mix the two together. Mayonnaise is an "emulsification" of oil and water, for example, using egg as a binding agent. If you get oil and water to emulsify, they will form a sort of gel texture. The easiest way to emulsify them is to mix them together, such as in a salad dressing, but that's temporary and they'll break apart again once you stop shaking/whipping it.

      In the case here, you are using agitating via your massaging fingers to mix the oil and water together, and by applying tiny amounts of water, you are adding the water slowly enough and mixing enough that instead of separating the oil and water, they are mixing (emulsifying) together and forming a gel/milk/cream texture on your face. Then you just carry on, moving to other areas of your face and turning the oil into the gel.

      By emulsifying all the oil into a gel, it pulls the oil and the impurities in it out of your pores, leaving them clear and preventing plugs, and it allows you to more easily clean the gel off your face. If you tried to cleanse the oil off directly, it would be difficult and require either harsh cleansers that your recently massaged face would not like, or a lot of steaming of hot washcloths like the traditional OCM method uses, again leaving your tender skin unhappy.

      The gel, however, cleans off much easier and I only need to use a toner on a cotton swatch to get off the residue, leaving my face soft and clean and ready for moisturizer.

      Let me know if you need any additional info or if any of that didn't make sense. ;)

    2. That was perfectly clear, thanks a lot! :)

    3. I have updated the review with some additional thoughts on emulsification after discussing it with other asian cleansing oil users.

  3. Hey there i was wondering if you could tell me whether you use the clarisonic before this or after? or even on the same day? I just got the bb oil after reading your blog AGES ago (it took ages to arrive) and I also use the clarisonic so I'm keen for some awesome results!

  4. Thanks so much for your review! I've been struggling with clogged pores for ages and this method that you use seems like it might help. Lucky for me, I'm trying to catch up on some dramas of mine so I definitely will have the time to work this in :) If it's not too much trouble, could you tell me about your skincare routine, including the use of this product (like where you fit it in?) and the Clarisonic?

  5. WOW. This inspired me to get my own! I'm excited to see results :)

  6. hi, I just read your post about cleanser's pH and it's says in there to never use baking soda on your face - how is then soda oil looking pH-vise?

    1. Are you ready for some depressing news? :( At this time, there is no reliable at-home method for testing the pH of oils, as the pH testing methods available to the general public require an aqueous solution to measure, which means it has to be water based. Since these are oils, it won't work. I've discussed it with other skincare nerds (including ones who hold science degrees) and agree that even if you mixed the oil with water, the resulting solution would be reacting to the impurities/emulsifying ingredients instead of measuring the pH of the actual oil.


  7. I see, thank you for your quick answer ^^

  8. hi, perhaps i didnt catch it in your post. when you did your 2 hours massage with the cleansing oil, was your face already washed or is it the first cleansing step (meaning meant for removing makeup/ sunscreen)? thanks.

    1. I wash and dry my hands before I oil cleanse, but I don't cleanse my face first. If you wanted to, you could, but it's not necessary for me. :)