The “Clean” Oil Cleanser That Actually Works

by Jessica DeFino

“Glowing, healthy skin starts with a clean canvas.” Allison McNamara, the founder of MARA Beauty, begins her email to me with this simple statement. It is, by all accounts, very true. But the pursuit of that “clean canvas” — one that’s not overly cleaned, or stripped of natural oils, or irritated by fragrance, or exposed to harsh chemicals — can get surprisingly complicated. “I hadn’t found [a cleanser] that checked off everything I was looking for,” McNamara says. Enter: MARA Beauty Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil, the latest launch from the skincare brand.

The new oil cleanser checks of all of McNamara’s boxes and then some: It features “clean ingredients and no synthetic fragrance” and is “easy rinse-off, removes all makeup, and doesn’t strip or dry out the skin.” That last one is of particular concern when it comes to cleansing (blame all the sulfates and foaming agents). “Many cleansers dry out or strip the skin of its natural oils, which can cause tightness, irritation, or even breakouts,” McNamara explains. “I like my skin to feel fresh and, of course, clean, but I do not like that 'squeaky clean' feeling because I know that comes with consequences.” MARA is all about hydration — its previous products include the thirst-quenching Universal Face Oil and Algae Retinol Oil — so the founder set out on a mission to formulate a cleanser that “moisturizes and delivers mega nutrients.”

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The first step? An oil base, naturally. “We added gorgeous hydrating ingredients like moringa, chia, and squalene,” McNamara says. All three oils flood the skin with moisture and barrier-boosting Omega fatty acids. Next, the formula includes what MARA calls its “quatre enzyme blend: a mix of four gentle yet effective fruit enzymes — papaya, pumpkin, pineapple, and grapefruit — that works wonders for sloughing off dead skin, makeup, and environmental pollutants.” Think of fruit enzymes as natural, low-key acids. They exfoliate just a touch before they’re rinsed off. “You can also leave [the cleanser] on for five minutes for a deeper exfoliation,” McNamara suggests. Rounding out the Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil is the ingredient that gives it its name: spirulina, an algae “packed with cleansing chlorophyll and tyrosine that naturally slows down cellular aging,” the founder shares. There’s also kelp, a mineral- and vitamin-rich algae that removes toxins and helps the skin retain moisture.

While traditional oil cleansers are intended to be used as the “first cleanse” of a double cleanse routine, the Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil can also be used on its own, on wet or dry skin, morning or night. “In the morning, I dampen my skin, use Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil — you will see it will turn into a milky froth, which I love — rinse, and follow with a vitamin C serum, Universal Face Oil, and SPF,” McNamara says. “At night, I dry cleanse, because it really removes all my makeup that way, rinse, and apply both Algae Retinol Face Oil and Universal Face Oil.”

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As lovely as that cleansing situation sounds, there’s no need to overdo it. “I do think people over-cleanse,” McNamara muses. “Some mornings, all I do is splash water on my face.” But when your skin is in need of a good wash? Look no further than this moisture-boosting, pollution-protecting, enzyme-powered option from MARA.

Shop Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil