Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil Review

Cleansing oils are fabulous inventions; they have all the benefits of the Oil Cleansing Method but unlike traditional OCM blends, they are formulated with extra ingredients so they emulsify with water and can be rinsed off cleanly.  With water.  How crazy is that?

They are a staple in the Korean double cleansing technique, which I discuss in more depth in my  Skincare Discovery: Cleansing Part I megapost if you are unfamiliar with either double cleansing or oil cleansers.  As I mention in the breakdown of double cleansing, the first cleanse is really meant as makeup and sunscreen removal, not actual skin cleansing.  Sunscreen is serious business to remove, I have discovered, and oil cleansers do a wonderful job of it.

The challenge I have found is trying to find an oil cleanser that works for me, as the Holika Holika one I have used is too stripping for daily double cleansing and also broke me out a bit.  After seeing Etude House's Real Art Moisture cleansing oil recommended on Get It Beauty, I figured I'd give it a try.

I love the Mona Lisa 'art' on the packaging, such a cute touch.

Etude House makes several Real Art oils meant for various skin types and troubles, and this one is for dry skin; although I do not have dry skin, my logic was that since I needed an oil cleanser that was less stripping for my double cleanse, a formulation for dry skins should be ultra gentle, right?

I received this oil back at the beginning of August and am only reviewing it now due to the fact that I don't wear makeup often and thus rarely need to double cleanse, that I wanted to confirm the results, and that I wanted to combine it with several other products to verify that it wasn't just a perfect storm triggering my skin's reaction.


Full product name: Etude House Real Art Moisture Cleansing Oil
Purpose: An oil cleanser formulated to emulsify and rinse off using just water, used in Asian beauty routines as a first cleanser and meant to be followed by a foaming cleanser.
Scent: Light citrus scent, very pretty and not nearly as heavily fragranced as my Holika Holika cleanser.
Texture:  A slippery oil.
Quantity: 200ml
Availability:  Etude House is pretty widely available, you can get it on their official site, and from the usual suspects like RoseRoseShop, Testerkorea, Beautynetkorea, etc. I purchased mine from Avecko when I bought my Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick.
Price: I purchased mine for $13.93 while desperately trying to find something to buy before the MRSC went out of stock and hit the $45 order = free shipping threshold.  Avecko outdid themselves in giving me prestige samples and thus kept themselves on my radar despite their prices being a bit higher as they have such a low threshold for free shipping- anytime you purchase internationally you have to take into account the cost of shipping and determine what price + shipping combination is the best choice. 
PH Level: Unfortunately there is no reliable at-home testing method for measuring the pH of oils.  Yes, they have a pH (it's an important step in testing biodiesel, for example) but it's out of reach for DIY testers at this time.
Rating:  1/5  I wanted to like it.  Really.  It was so promising at first.
Repurchase:  Nope.  

Full Review:

So since I went into detail in my Avecko haul post about this oil cleanser and why I grabbed it along with the MRSC (the main reason for said haul), I'm going to quote the relevant bit here:
Etude House Real Art Cleansing Oil in 'Moisture' 
Ok, I admit I bought this because I wanted free shipping and because I was flailing to get my order in before Avecko ran out of stock, which happened immediately after I placed my order so I may have literally gotten the last one.  However, I purchased it because I am currently a fan of the double cleansing method, which requires 2 very gentle cleansers.  One oil cleanser to break down your makeup and especially sunscreen, followed by a gentle foaming one to clean off the oil residue and actually clean your skin.  
The only cleansing oil I had is the Holika Holika Soda Pore Cleansing BB Deep Cleansing Oil (reviewed) which, as the name suggests, is not really meant for daily gentle cleansing.  It's meant to blast crud out of your pores, and I use it 1x or 2x a month-- it's not a frequent thing.  Since adding an AHA serum to my routine, my skin is a lot smoother and more delicate, so the Holika Holika pore obliteration oil needs to be retired in favor of something gentle. 
I wanted this oil in particular because it won the "Blind Test" on Get It Beauty (link to Blind Test segment, link to episode product list on their site) which is Korea's hugely popular beauty show.  One of the key segments is the "Blind Test" where  the top 5 products in a category (i.e. the best pink lipstick) are tested by experts (including dermatologists who test with fancy looking equipment, and famous professional makeup artists), by online followers, and by the audience of 'Better Girls' who are present for the show.  The testing is usually quite thorough, and it ignores the price and origin of the product that 'wins'.  
This cleansing oil does come in two other varieties: "Light" and "Fresh", but this one is recommended for dry skin and is supposedly the most gentle.
I believe the oil actually comes in at least three varieties now, as I have seen a "Deep" version as well.

Since it was recommended by Get It Beauty, I had high hopes for this oil, but after 4, almost 5 months of testing in various combinations, techniques, follow-up cleansers, and attempts to deny the truth, I must finally conceed that my skin hates this product.

It may have something to do with the ingredients, found here on cosdna, but since I am already sticking a fork in the usage of this product, I'm not going to get into the ingredient details.  I am quite confident that it is not the coconut oil, as I use other products containing it and even have used straight coconut oil on my skin and hair without issues.

It's really a shame, because the Real Art Moisture definitely is gentler than the Holika Holika oil, yet is just as effective at removing makeup and sunscreen, and even does a decent job of loosening grits.

If you are not familiar with the term grit/grits, oil cleansing is famous for loosening the congested contents of your pores as you massage your skin, resulting in tiny sesame seed-like 'grits' on your fingers which are blackheads, pore plugs, and sebaceous filaments.  It works on the 'like dissolves like' principle, and this is also why many people find cleansing oils to be drying instead of making their skin more oily.

If you want to see gory details, take a look at the Holika Holika oil review I linked above as it includes photos.

The oil stays slippery on the skin for longer than the Holika Holika oil, so if you are like me and like to do gentle (GENTLE!) massages every few weeks to clear my pores, it's a nice oil for massaging too.

As per usual, when I oil cleanse or massage, I let the oil sit on my skin for a few minutes before I start working it in with my fingertips.  As I mentioned in the Skincare Discovery: Cleansing Part II megapost, I follow the Go Hyun Jung cleansing technique of washing against the grain of the skin and I follow this with my oil massage as well, as I find this pulls the largest (and therefore the oldest and most stubborn) clogs out of my pores.

All in all, the oil is very pleasant and effective to use, which is why I didn't want to admit that it wasn't working for me.  The problem starts when I try to get it back off.

Firstly, unlike the Holika Holika oil (or the Japanese one a friend decanted and sent to me), this oil cleanser is a pain to remove.  When I add warm water per usual, the oil sort of splits, with one layer easily emulsifying with the water on my hands and turning milking/rinsing clean, and a slipperier, thicker layer that clings to my skin.  I have to work to get it off, and even when it seems to have rinsed 'clean' and I can no longer detect any texture under my fingers/see anything turning the colour of the water, when I use a toner-soaked cotton square to check for residue, I can smell the scent of the oil on it.

This makes the 2nd (foaming) cleanser step an absolute necessity, and even then when I carefully (and at great length) clean my face, use toner, confirm there is zero detectable residue, and do my full routine- within hours my face turns oily.  You would think this is just my natural oils reacting to dryness or some such, but based off the unmistakable scent in the air/on my fingertips if I swipe my skin, it's actually the cleansing oil somehow seeping back out of my pores. It's like it has been lurking and biding its time down in the depths of my pores, like some sort of marine predator that conceals itself in the ocean floor until nearby prey lets down its guard and it leaps out to strike.

I have tried everything, different foaming cleansers including forbidden high pH ones, using my Clarisonic, using a Konjac sponge, every form of thorough cleansing I could come up with.  All had the same result; the oil apparently penetrated so deep into my pores that the cleansers could not touch it, and then gradually was released back out of the skin over time.

I have noticed this effect, based off the scent as evidence, lasts up to a full day.  I am quite sure this oil is not meant to be left on the skin for 24 hours.  So that leads me to the final straw:

Like clockwork, two days after use my skin starts breaking out, badly.  And not little reaction pimples either, these are angry pores rising up against the injustice of tyranny and rioting across my face, leaving destruction in their wake.  Inflamed, sore, regenerating pimples that take days and liberal applications of Mizon Acence Blemish Out Pink Spot (reviewed) and 3M Nexcare Acne Sticker hydrocolloid bandages (reviewed) in rotation on the same blemish to recover, and then I am left with bunch of PIH marks as long-term fallout.

I will say that although the Mizon balm cleanser I am currently testing does not work as well for makeup removal and especially not as well for de-gritting my skin, at least it does not break me out and doesn't seem to permeate my skin like this one does.

Final Thoughts:

If you do not have dehydrated skin like I do, which tries to suck in every scrap of moisture it stumbles across, this cleansing oil may really work for you.  After all, it was the winner of Get It Beauty's blind test, and seems to be reasonably popular.  I think the issue in my case is that my skin is trying to absorb it like a facial oil, and hold onto it instead of letting it rinse away, which is triggering the breakouts.

I think if it was less of a challenge to rinse/wash off, it would be less of a risk of getting trapped in my pores and thereby also trapped in a bitter feud with my skin.  It's too bad, because there were so many things I liked about it, but there's no getting past something that's damaging your skin.

Here's hoping some of the other oil cleanser goodies awaiting me in my stash will work out better!

All the best,

**Disclaimer: All products reviewed/mentioned in my blog, are 100% purchased with my own money, with a single exception of a press sample I tested & reviewed in 2015 which swore me off of them forever.  This blog contains  both affiliate and non-affiliate links, and clicking the former before you shop means that this blog may receive a small commission to assist in this blog supporting itself.  Please see my Contact Info & Disclaimer policy for more information.


  1. hi Cat. too bad this EH cleansing oil did not work for you. i hate when popular products are disappointing! O_o

    Chie | The Brown Eyed Fox

    1. Agreed, plus it means spending more money in the frustrating search for things that work for you. :(

  2. That's so odd! It almost sounds like you got a bad batch, have you tried a different sample with the same results?

    1. No, but considering that I get a similar (but lesser) result with the other 2 cleansing oils I have tried, I doubt that it's a spoiled product.

  3. I tried the Real Art version of the Cleansing Balm and absolutely loved it! It's such a shame the oil didn't work for you, and I'm really sad the balm has been discontinued now. :(

  4. Do you know which version of the Real Art Cleansing Oil was being tested on Get It Beauty? The ingredients should be different for each version. I've never tried it myself, but I'm sorry to hear it didn't work out for you.

    1. It was the yellow one, which is Moisture, the one I have. :)

    2. Ah! That's too bad...after your review, I'm afraid to try it out now. I've broken out from cleansing oils before, but am still looking for one that won't. Thanks for the detailed review!

  5. I tried Real Art Cleansing oil and my skin really did like it and it really help remove my make up :) maybe it really depends on the skin. try other kinds of make up oil remover. :)

    1. Yep, skincare is such a process of trial and error! :)

  6. Hello Cat! Hope you don't mind me saying this but have you consider not putting the oil on your face for a few minutes before you massaging your face with it?

    As when you have makeup and an oil cleanser on your face for a few minutes; the makeup and dirt will start going into your pores without you realising it. Especially when you start massaging for longer then 3 minutes(If I remember the time correctly). When you do that, its like massaging all the dirt and makeup into your pores.

    That's why Korean companies have massage cream sold separately. I love massaging my skin too! However, it would be best to massage your skin without any makeup and dirt on it.

    Seeing your symptoms with oil cleansers, this might be the cause. I might be wrong but I hope it helps you! I know how it feels when every product you try just does not suit your skin.

    I am sorry if this offends you in anyway. Just want to help! Have a great day!! :D

    1. I'm not at all offended! :D I have done massages with actual massage creams, and with a clean, dry face and oil cleansers, as well as experimenting with not leaving the oil on my face for more than the few moments it takes to cleanse my makeup off, but alas they still all clog me and break me out.

      I really appreciate you thinking of that, though, and taking the time to offer the suggestion, it's a good one! :)

      Take care <3

  7. Hi Cat! I'm new to your blog - just a couple of hours ago and well i've been sitting here trawling through it because we are skin twins <3 I'm dehydrated, acne-prone, sensitive and i also live in a crazy hot place (though humid) called Singapore. Three oils i have tried that do not break me out:

    1. FANCL Mild Cleansing Oil
    This one i've used since my early 20s when my acne was RAMPANT and i practically lived on Accutane. I continued using this after my acne problem was solved and it always left my skin soft and clean (NOTHING left over on toner-soaked cotton pads after). FANCL exited from Singapore shortly after (sad) and i continued my quest, which led to:

    2. Innisfree Apple Juicy Cleansing Oil
    This one worked, but always left my face feeling stripped. Still I went through about 3 bottles because it was cost-friendly and easy to find, plus back in those ages, cleansing oils weren't a product staple in most skincare brands. I then moved on to fancier stuff when my wallet allowed:

    3. Shu Uemura Porefinist Cleansing Oil
    This range has several versions targeting different skin concerns. I don't have Oily skin (combi/dehydrated as mentioned) but it had the best reviews on the internet. It worked very well for me, albeit leaving a strange filmy finish but that was not a deal breaker since i always double cleanse and it never ever caused any skin irritation. I went through 2 huge 450ml bottles (this was a span of about 1.5-2 years me thinks) happily. AND THEN!

    FANCL came back to Singapore! Needless to say i went back to my old love again. I'm in my 30s now and acne, my old friend has caught up with me.. some things that worked for me in my 20s cause me breakouts now, but still not FANCL!

    On an side/ending (and non-korean related) note, i find that this PH 5.5 cleanser called Sebamed Teenage Cleansing Liquid works well as a double cleanser as it doesn't strip the hell out of my skin.

    I hope you find your HG cleansing oil someday! Lots of love.