While the oil cleansing method (OCM) is presented these days as being new, the fact is, cleansing with oil is an old-fashioned skin care method.
It has been around for centuries, and as late as the mid-20th century, cleaning with cold-cream (apply and wipe off with tissues as many times as needed until the tissues come away clean) was considered the very best way to remove makeup and clean your skin.
In the 1970s, the notion that all oil must be removed from skin and hair with daily washing and scrubbing was introduced. This reply to many questions about skin problems has been a big money maker for the personal care products industry since then because it sets up a situation that creates skin and hair problems.
In this guide, we will share information that will help you break out of that paradigm so you can save money and enjoy healthy, clear skin. Read on to learn about the gentle, time-tested, effective skin care technique known as oil cleansing.
Won’t Oil Make Your Face Break Out?
Common “wisdom” says that oil causes acne and an oily skin is an acne-prone skin, but you may be surprised to know that this is simply not true. Even if you have an acne-prone skin. There are many factors that contribute to the development of acne, such as:
- Hormone Imbalance
- Natural Life Phases
- Clogged Pores
- Poor Hygiene
Using clean, natural oil as a facial cleanser or face wash on a regular basis will not cause acne. Skin care with commercial products that strip your skin of oil will, and here’s why.
Your skin needs its natural oils (sebum) as protection against the elements and to keep it soft, supple, acne free, and healthy. When you repeatedly use harsh chemicals to remove that oil, you stimulate your skin to produce more and more.
That’s why it may seem as if acne-prone skin produces excess oil. The fact is, the use of chemical acne treatments stimulates the skin to produce too much oil. This creates a vicious cycle that sends acne sufferers to drug stores, doctors, and dermatologists in search of solutions that end up costing a fortune and making matters worse.
Why Does Oil Cleansing Work?
Acne-prone skin does need effective, regular hygiene, but frequent vigorous washing, drying masks, harsh facial scrubs, and the like are not the components of effective, regular hygiene. Instead, regular, gentle cleaning with natural oils works wonders to keep skin fresh and clean, unclog pores, and provide much needed soothing and lubrication. The reason for this is that oil can gently dissolve oil.
If you have clogged pores, scrubbing your face with harsh, drying substances will strip the oil from the surface of your skin, but it will not open and clean your pores. When you clean your face with natural oils, a warm face cloth, and gentle massage, you encourage the pores to open.
The oil you apply will help dissolve oil blockage of your pores so that you can gently clear this obstruction away. This simple, pleasant treatment addresses all skin issues, such as:
- Sensitive skin
- Skin Dryness
How Can Adding Oil Address Oiliness?
The answer to this question is two-fold. First, you must choose the right oils. Some oils promote drying while others serve as a great moisturizer! Second, when you provide your skin and pores with healthy lubrication, it will not be triggered to excessive oil production. As your skin and pores become accustomed to getting enough moisture, its natural oil production levels will gradually reduce.
Can Oil Cleansing Help Cystic Acne?
Cystic Acne involves bacterial infection. For proper treatment of this serious condition, you should see your doctor and/or dermatologist. Oil cleansing may very well end up being part of your treatment plan. But apart from your oil cleanser, you will probably also need antibiotics and/or other types of medical treatment. [source]
The Basics Of Oil Cleansing Method
When you first start thinking about cleaning your skin with oil, you may feel a bit afraid, but there’s really no need to be. Once you give it a try, you are sure to find the process pleasant, relaxing, and helpful. You should realize, though, that this process alone will not clear up your skin. [source]
Just as with every other personal care practice, your success is dependent on your overall lifestyle. In addition to establishing good hygiene practices, be sure to eat a balanced, whole foods diet, get plenty of good sleep and enjoyable exercise, and drink plenty of pure, filtered water.
Staying hydrated is the basis of good health. Drinking plenty of water washes toxins from your system and keeps all aspects of your being operating at optimum levels.
Add regular oil cleansing to your healthy lifestyle regimen and you will soon enjoy a clear, healthy complexion.
Here’s what you need to begin with oil cleansing method.
- Castor Oil
- A natural, organic veggie oil that is suited to your skin type.
Castor oil is a basic, natural, medicinal oil that has powerful cleansing, healing, and anti-inflammatory properties. It is the basis of most oil cleansing method recipes. It is a drying oil, so you will not want to use it in massive amounts. [source]
The purpose of castor oil in your oil cleansing method mixture is to enhance penetration of your main oil and boost its cleansing properties. Your mixture should consist of no more than half castor oil. In most cases, you will use much less.
Castor oil is a very thick, sticky oil, so you will not want to use it full strength on your skin. Think of it more as an essential oil which you must mix with a carrier. (See our carrier oils article HERE). Your main oil should be a lighter oil. Some popular choices include:
- Sunflower Seed Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Olive Oil
These choices provide effective healing and nourishing for your skin. Although many people start out with coconut or olive oil, lighter oils such as jojoba and sunflower are often more successful choices. Both tend to soak into the skin quickly. This means that the cleaning properties of castor oil are delivered to your pores faster and more deeply with sunflower or jojoba oil than with coconut or olive oil.
When choosing between sunflower and jojoba oil, you may be better off with sunflower because it is more affordable, provides more fatty acids, and is fairly risk-free. Jojoba oil promotes circulation, which is a good thing; however, people with hemophilia and other blood disorders should stay away from jojoba as it may cause complications and it may interact negatively with prescription medications.
How Do You Know How Much Castor Oil to Use?
Begin by identifying your skin type. If your skin is dry, you will use a very small amount of castor oil in your oil blend. If your skin is oily, you will add more because castor oil is quite drying. Be aware that, as your oily skin improves, your skin type will change. Keep watch while using this as if you’ve used this method excessively, you will end up having a dry skin. Be ready to adjust your personal formula as needed.
Here are some general guidelines:
- Dry Skin: Your oil mixture should be 90% carrier and 10% castor oil.
- Normal Skin: Try and 80/20 mixture.
- Oily Skin: Mix 70% carrier and 30% castor oil.
Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast rules. Begin by mixing up small batches of your oil mixture so that you can adjust and experiment as needed.
How Do You Mix?
When you mix up your solution, always use clean bottles and implements to avoid spreading bacteria. Be sure to measure ounces and count drops carefully, at least at first.
- Dark glass bottles with tightly fitting lids.
- Stainless steel measuring spoons.
- Glass measuring cups.
It is best to avoid using plastic containers and implements because plastic cannot be sterilized thoroughly and it tends to leach carcinogens into oils.
When you become proficient in oil cleansing, you may find that you just skip the bottle altogether and do your measuring in the palm of your hand for a single application each day. This is a convenient, waste-free method that allows you a great deal of flexibility; however, it takes quite a bit of practice to be able to “eyeball” your measurements expertly.
Steps For Cleaning Your Face with Oil
It’s smartest to do your oil cleaning before you go to bed. It is never a good idea to sleep with a dirty face, and when you do a thorough oil cleaning at bedtime, your morning routine can be very minimal and simple.
Here are the items you should gather:
- Your Oil Blend
- A cotton washcloth or one that’s made of microfiber such as Norwex cloth
- A bowl of hot water
Here’s what you’ll do:
- Place the washcloth in the bowl of hot water.
- Pour a dollop of oil into your palm.
- Rub your palms together.
- Massage the oil over your face. Pay attention to the oily t-zone.
- Remove the washcloth from the water & wring it out.
- Place it over your face and relax for a few minutes.
- When the washcloth cools, stroke it over your face and rinse it out with hot water.
- Repeat these steps as needed until the cloth comes away completely clean.
- Rinse your face with cool water.
- Spritz with an astringent if you wish.
- Apply a drop or two of oil to moisturize if needed.
You can follow this process every evening if you want to, or you can do it every other day or several times a week. Only you will know exactly how to schedule your oil cleaning sessions to suit your needs.
Freshen Up Daily
In between oil cleansing method sessions, your facial cleansing routine should be gentle and minimal. When you get up in the morning, you may wish to splash some cool water on your face, pat your face dry with a clean, soft towel, and then apply a light toner such as:
- Witch Hazel
- Apple Cider Vinegar (diluted)
You can follow this up with a little bit of oil if your face feels dry. Do otherwise if you got an oily skin.
To make an apple cider vinegar toner, dilute the vinegar at least 50/50 with water or herbal tea (e.g. green tea for antioxidants or chamomile for soothing). If this cleanser mixture seems too strong, dilute the solution up to one part vinegar and four parts water or tea. [source]
You can also add essential oils at a rate of 6 drops per ounce of liquid if you wish. Some good choices include rose hip oil or frankincense. It’s a good idea to keep this mixture in the fridge to prevent it from spoiling.
Do You Have To Remove Makeup Before Oil Cleansing?
Oil cleansing is a “come-as-you-are” activity. It is a method of cleaning your face, so if you are sweaty, smudgy, or wearing makeup, that’s just fine. Oil cleansing is a great way to get rid of environmental toxins, dust, dirt, grime, and it also serves as a make-up remover.
It may take a little longer to get your face wash cloth to come away clean if you start with a dirty face, but you will end up with a very clean face.
Does Oil Cleansing Method Make Your Face Greasy?
Contrary to what others believe that they will get an oily skin with an oil cleansing method, when you clean your face with the right choice in oil, warm water, and a soft washcloth, you will end up with soft, clean, smooth, clear skin. Your face will not be greasy at all because your skin will not have to struggle to replace natural oils that have been stripped away.
If you use too much castor oil, you might find that you eventually earned a dry skin. If this is the case, you can reduce the amount of castor oil you use and/or moisturize with just a few drops of carrier oil. You are in complete control.
What If I Don’t Have Time For Oil Cleansing Method?
You can vary your oil cleaning routine for skin care to suit your schedule. Below are some alternatives you can try if you need to save time.
- Before you jump in the shower, apply your oil mixture to your face. Once in the shower, take care of everything else first (e.g. wash your body and hair, shave, etc.) and wash your face last. Don’t use soap on your face, just rinse in the running water and wipe your face gently with a wet washcloth. After showering, pat your face dry with a clean, dry towel, and add toner and/or a few drops of oil if you wish.
- Clean your face old-school. Skip the warm wash cloth. Just apply your oil mixture and wipe it off with tissues. Re-apply and re-wipe until the tissues come away clean.
You can mix these methods up as desired. Do a complete cleaning once or twice a week and use the other methods in between. Rinse your face with cool water or freshen up with tissues or cotton balls and witch hazel or ACV toner as needed.
Pay attention to the way your skin responds to treatment. You will soon be able to establish a customized routine that works perfectly for you. Whatever works is right. Some people cleanse twice a day, some once, some every few days. It’s your skin, and it’s up to you!
Massage Provides Real Benefits
One thing that you should understand about oil cleansing method is that massage is an important part of the process. Massaging your oil mixture or cleanser into your face helps improve circulation. It is also delightfully relaxing. This is especially true if you use an essential oil such as lavender and/or chamomile for aromatherapy benefits.
Don’t skimp on the massage. Give yourself a nice, relaxing face massage and then take your time with the warm cloth steaming. Taking these few minutes every day (or every few days) to pamper yourself can really reduce stress and help significantly with the condition of your skin, as well as your overall health and well-being.
Will I See Results Right Away?
Your skin should look and feel cleaner, softer, and healthier after the first treatment. You may find that you get a little “blowback” in the first few weeks, though. When you begin oil cleansing, you will be disturbing a lot of old dirt and clogs. Your skin may respond by purging, and this can cause a little more breaking out at first.
If you are experiencing severe breakouts or any inflammation and pain, be patient and stick with it for a couple of weeks. Your skin should stabilize and your symptoms should resolve. If not, you may want to adjust the amount of castor oil you are using or change to a different carrier oil.
What To Watch For
#1 – Allergic Reaction
Itching, inflammation, and rash are not normal. If this happens, it means you are allergic to something in your mix. Take a break from oil cleansing method, allow your skin to heal, and then try again with different ingredients.
#2 – Sudden Dramatic Reaction
Severe outbreaks or other sudden and drastic changes are not normal. Again, stop, heal, and try again with a different formula.
#3 – Minor Outbreak
If you get a few pimples after starting with oil cleansing method, you needn’t worry. This probably means that your skin is disgorging toxins (e.g. chemicals from acne treatments). If there is no inflammation or pain, continue for a couple of weeks. If your skin does not adjust and clear up, change your formulation.
#4 – Delayed Reaction
If all goes well for a month or more, and then you begin getting clusters of small, hard pimples, you are probably using an oil that is clogging your pores. Reformulate using a carrier oil that is less comedogenic. (See our Carrier Oils article HERE.)
#5 – Excessive Dryness:
If your skin becomes dry and flaky, you should reduce the amount of castor oil in your mix. If you are using another astringent type of oil (e.g. jojoba), reduce or eliminate it and add a moisturizing oil such as avocado, coconut, or EVOO.
Spot Treat Breakouts During Transition
If you do have minor breakouts as your skin is getting used to oil cleansing method, you can spot treat using one of these nourishing, anti-bacterial, all-natural solutions:
- Pure Tea Tree Oil
- Pure Raw Honey
- Turmeric Paste
Make turmeric paste by mixing a small amount of turmeric powder with a small amount of water to form a paste. Place the paste directly on blemishes overnight. Note that you should oil clean after using turmeric paste, as it may stain your skin.
You can also make a paste with turmeric and honey. Mixing honey 50/50 with tea tree oil also makes a good spot treatment.
You can also simply combine your oils in the palm of your hand each time. To do this, you would pour a dollop of your carrier oil into the palm of your hand (approximately a half or full teaspoon) and add 3-6 drops of castor oil. Rub your palms together and apply. This method has the advantage of keeping your oils fresh and giving you the flexibility of changing your formula as you see fit.
Choosing The Right Carrier Oil
When choosing an oil for your skin, you should know your skin type and understand the comedogenic rating of the oils you have in mind. Additionally, it is very important that you purchase only high-quality ingredients.
Cold-pressed oils are the most nourishing. Refined oils are usually subjected to extreme levels of heat that destroy many of the benefits inherent in the oil. Processing can also render oils carcinogenic. Look for organic, non-GMO, cold-pressed oils. These three qualities will ensure that the oils you choose deliver the greatest benefits and are free of pesticides and other contaminants.
Oils can be expensive, so when you are just starting out, buy small containers of oil to try out until you have determined what will work best for you. Avoid mixing up big batches of oil initially. Play with your ingredients until you hit upon the perfect combination.
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You may wish to limit your mixtures to just a couple of ounces at a time. You may even wish to mix your oils in your palm each time you oil cleanse. Making small batches or mixing one treatment at a time gives you flexibility. Your needs may vary depending on factors such as sun and wind exposure, hormonal fluctuations, the foods you eat, illness, or any number of variables.
When choosing oils for your oil cleanser mixture, be sure to take your food allergies into account. Don’t use nut oils if you are allergic to nuts. If you are in any doubt, consult your doctor before using a given type of oil. Always perform a patch test (place a drop of oil on your inner forearm and wait 24 hours) before applying any oil to a large area of your body. [source]
Ideas For Good Oil Mixes
#1 – Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Castor Oil
EVOO is a wonderful moisturizer filled with antioxidants. Castor oil helps it penetrate the pores deeply and draws out bacteria and other impurities.
#2 – Grapeseed Oil & Castor Oil
Grapeseed is a lighter oil that is absorbed very quickly. It has effective astringent properties that may be very helpful to acne prone skin.
#3 – Jojoba Oil
Jojoba oil is non-comedogenic and is similar in chemical makeup to the sebum that is naturally produced by the skin.
#4 – Avocado Oil
Avocado oil is moisturizing and good for treating skin in need of healing (e.g. sun or wind-burned, scarred). It can make a good addition to a lighter mix, or use it on its own (or with castor oil) for cleaning very dry skin.
#5 – Apricot Kernel Oil
Apricot Kernel Oil is sweet-scented, light, non-comedogenic and pleasant to use combined with castor oil or on its own.
As you become more accustomed to oils and their functions, you may wish to mix several types of oils for a custom blend. When you are first starting out, it’s wise to use only castor oil and one other type of oil.
Adjust as needed, first to oil ratio and then, to oil types. If you mix too many oils together right from the start, you will have a hard time determining the effects of individual oils on your skin. Save complex concocting for when you have more experience.
Basic Concepts of Oil Blending
An oil mixture for facial cleansing may consist of both carrier oils and essential oils. The carrier oils are sometimes referred to as “fixed” oils. These are the oils that make up the greatest proportion of your facial cleansing mix. [source]
Commonly used carrier oils include coconut oil, EVOO, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, and so forth. Most people consider castor oil to be a carrier or a fixed oil; however, this is not strictly true. You don’t have to use castor oil at all, and if your skin is very dry, you may decide to leave it out altogether.
Alternately, you may decide to include a small amount of it as if it were an essential oil. For this reason, castor oil straddles the line between carrier (fixed) oils and essential oils, which are used in small amounts as additives to attain specific purposes.
Essential oils are volatile oils that have medicinal, cosmetic, and/or aesthetic value. You might add an essential oil such as tea tree oil for its antibacterial and antifungal properties. An aromatic oil like lavender brings calming properties to your mix, as well as medicinal properties. Frankincense is excellent for an anti-acne mixture. There are hundreds of essential oils to choose from, and learning about them is an enjoyable and enriching pursuit.
When you begin branching out into more and more types of oils, keep these guidelines in mind:
#1 – Fixed /Carrier Oils can make up as much as 90% of your oil cleansing method mixture. Some examples include:
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Sunflower Seed Oil
- Sweet Almond
- Hemp Seed Oil
- Flax Seed Oil
- Avocado Oil
- Hazelnut Oil
- Apricot Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Jojoba Oil
#2 – Carrier/Essential oils can make up as much as 50% of your mixture or may be used in small amounts like essential oils. Some examples include:
- Argan Oil – antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, very nourishing and very costly. It pays to use it in a dilute formula with a high-quality carrier.
- Neem Oil – antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial. Do not use if pregnant, nursing or attempting to conceive.
- Castor Oil – astringent and drying. If you have problems with castor oil (i.e. excessive dryness) you may wish to just use a carrier oil without castor oil. Here are some top picks for solo oil
Normal/Combination Skin: Sweet Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil or Sunflower Oil
Dry/Normal Skin: Apricot Kernel Oil, Grapeseed Oil or Jojoba Oil
Very Dry Skin: Apricot Kernel Oil or Avocado Oil
Acne Prone Skin: Hemp Seed Oil, Sunflower Oil or Hazelnut Oil
Note that you will need to wipe your face a bit more thoroughly if you are not using any castor oil as these oils alone will tend to leave an oily film.
Using Essential Oils For Oil Cleansing Method
Essential oils are medicinal and/or aromatic oils that are added at a rate of about 6 drops per ounce of carrier to attain specific results:
Top picks include:
- Chamomile: Calming, soothing, anti-inflammatory. Good for sensitive skin.
- Ylang-ylang: Stimulates collagen growth. Good for acne and scar treatment.
- Basil: Soothing, anti-inflammatory. A good choice for sensitive skin.
- Cypress: Acts as an astringent and can reduce broken capillaries.
- Frankincense: Tones and tightens skin. Good for acne scars.
- Clary Sage: Anti-aging and reduces swelling and puffiness.
- Lavender: Healing, antibacterial, antifungal, calming.
- Juniper: Accelerates healing and can prevent infection.
- Tea Tree: Medicinal, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal.
- Lemongrass: Toning and astringent properties.
Acne prone skin may especially benefit from the following concentrated oils:
- Pomegranate Seed Oil
- Sea Buckthorn Oil
- Borage Seed Oil
- Turmeric Oil
- Tamanu Oil
Proceed with Caution
Don’t add essential oils without knowing what they do. These oils have real medicinal purposes and results and can have negative side effects. For example, lemongrass oils and citrus oils can cause sensitivity to sunlight if overused. Tea tree oil, oil of cinnamon, and citrus oils can cause a burning sensation. If you want to use essential oils, be sure to follow a specific recipe and/or study enough to know what you are doing.
Essential oils can be added at a rate of about 6 drops per ounce; however, this is not hard and fast. Adjust as you need to for your own preferences. As little as 4 drops per ounce can be effective. As much as 12 drops per ounce should be safe. Essential oils should make up no more than 2% of your mixture.
When purchasing essential oils, always read labels carefully and look for products that are 100% pure. Go with established brands rather than off brands. Just as with carrier oils such as olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, and others, the quality of your essential oils will make all the difference in the results you attain. Poor quality oils are ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst.
Keep It Clean!
- Be sure to use clean equipment. The bottles you store your oil mixture in should be washed and sterilized between batches. Be sure your bottles are completely dry before filling with oil. A drop of water can contaminate your mixture.
- Your washcloths should be thoroughly washed in hot water after each use. It’s best to launder them separately using baking soda as a washing agent and white vinegar as a softener.
- You may wish to boil your washcloths occasionally.
- Be sure to use 100% cotton washcloths as fabric that contains petroleum-based fabrics (i.e. polyester) will retain oil no matter how you wash them.
- Use a fresh towel every day.
Practice Makes Perfect
Trial, error, experience, and study will guide you in combining oils to create custom blends. Once you have some experience using the oil cleansing method on your skin, you will understand what your skin needs. When you have tried out a few different types of oils, you will know how your skin responds.
When you have studied oils, you will have a knowledge base that allows you to predict how a given oil will perform for you. In short, combining multiple types of oil is something you will get a “feel” for. Luckily, it is not recommended to novice oil-cleansing method fans. Until you do have knowledge, skills, and abilities, just stick with two oils at a time. This is how you learn which oils do what for you. It is a very individual process.