It Sounds Counter-Intuitive
It might sound strange to wash your face with oil — especially after all the years we’ve been taught to look for oil-free skincare products. Doesn’t oil cause acne breakouts and leave our skin a greasy mess?
The short answer is “no”…not always. For some of us, using the right oils on our face in the right way leaves our skin clean, soft, and moisturized. Because oil cleansing balances the oils in our skin, it can work well for all skin types. This means even if your skin is a greasy mess — you should keep reading, my friend.
I’ve been practicing the Oil Cleansing Method with good results off and on for about two years now. But I’ve been hesitant to post anything about it because it gets mixed reviews — some people love it and others hate it!
The OCM works really well for me, so I’ve decided to share what I’ve learned. But in the end, you’re the only one who can decide if it’s right for your skin.
What is the Oil Cleansing Method?
It’s just what it sounds like: using oils to cleanse your face.
Oil cleansing first appeared on the DIY scene about a dozen years ago. In recent years, major beauty brands have picked up on the trend and are now offering mass-produced facial oil cleansers. (Translation: If you don’t want to DIY this, you can buy a facial cleansing oil. I link to one below. But it’s really easy to make your own!)
Benefits to Oil Cleansing
If your skin responds well to oil cleansing — you might find, like me, that your skin is happier than it’s ever been! Here are some of the benefits:
- Gentle but deep cleansing
- Gentle exfoliation
- Clearer, more balanced, less oily skin
- Softer skin
- Moisturized skin without the need for heavy lotions
The Basic Science Behind the Oil Cleansing Method
Your skin produces sebum from the sebaceous glands. Sebum is an oily, waxy substance that is actually good for your skin. These natural oils protect your skin from bacteria and help it to maintain moisture.
But too much sebum can lead to breakouts while not enough can cause dry skin.
If you use a harsh facial cleanser that strips away too many of your natural oils, your skin will go into oil-production overdrive. That’s right. When you try to get rid of too many oils, your skin over-compensates and produces more oil. This seems crazy — but it’s true!
The Oil Cleansing Method stems from basic chemistry that tells us “like dissolves like,” in this case, oil dissolves oil. You’ll be using beneficial oils to dissolve all the makeup, sunscreen, dirt, pollution and other icky stuff that gets trapped on your skin — and in effect, replacing “dirty oils” with clean oils that protect and nourish your skin. The OCM is gentle, effective, and very balancing.
Why Do Some People Hate it?
Some people try oil cleansing and quickly give up because their fears about it come true — they end up with more breakouts and greasier skin. I get it. If I had those results, I wouldn’t stick with it either.
But I’ve read a lot of comments all over the blogosphere and I’ve noticed when someone says it didn’t work well for them, often they are using either coconut oil or olive oil.
Please do not use coconut oil or olive oil for the Oil Cleansing Method. While some folks swear by coconut oil to remove makeup and soften their skin, they’re the exception. Coconut oil is highly comedogenic (meaning it can clog pores). I can’t say for sure why olive oil doesn’t work well for most of us — but personally I find it has a slimy feel and doesn’t absorb quickly.
How Long Will it Take to See Results?
It might take a week or so for your skin to adjust to the Oil Cleansing Method. If you have a few breakouts at the start, you might want to stick with it — before deciding this isn’t for you.
You also might need to experiment to find the best oils and ratios for your skin. Have fun with it! One of the best parts of oil cleansing is that you can completely customize it for your skin.
Which Oils Should You Use?
I recommend choosing a base oil and then adding one other “bonus” oil, based on your skin type. Start by using the recommended ratios (below) for your skin type when first mixing your oils and then tweak them as needed.
You can also switch things up with the seasons. If you’re in a cold climate, for example, you might choose more of a nourishing oil in the winter to counter the effects of dry indoor heating. On the flip side, if you’re in a hot humid climate — you might want to add an astringent oil, even if you’re skin isn’t oily.
Step One: Choose Your Base Oil
Jojoba oil is an excellent base oil (and the one I’m currently using) — although it’s a liquid plant wax and not an actual oil. It closely mimics our skin’s natural sebum and provides nourishing fatty acids to the dry patches while balancing out the oily parts. Jojoba also has a long shelf life.
Other base oils to consider are avocado oil, sunflower oil, or sweet almond oil.
Step Two: Customize Your Blend
If You Have Normal Skin: Using only a base oil mentioned above might be perfect for you. Of course, feel free to add a small amount of another oil (at a ratio of 5 parts base oil to 1 part bonus oil) from the lists below, depending on which way your skin leans or your current climate.
For Combination to Slightly Oily Skin
Use five parts of your base oil, to one part of an astringent oil from this list: Castor oil, grapeseed oil, hazelnut oil, hemp seed oil, pumpkin seed oil. Be aware that castor oil can be quite drying, so go easy with it or eliminate it, if it’s too harsh for you.
For Very Oily Skin
Use three parts of your base oil, to one part of an astringent oil from this list: Castor oil, grapeseed oil, hazelnut oil, hemp seed oil or pumpkin seed oil. Again, be aware that castor oil can be quite drying, so go easy with it or eliminate it, if needed.
For Dry or Mature Skin**
Start with three parts of your base oil and add one part of a nourishing oil from this list:
- Argan oil
- Avocado oil
- Marula oil
- Pomegranate oil
- Rosehip seed oil
- Seabuckthorn oil
- Tamanu oil
*”Mature” isn’t actually a skin type, although our skin loses elasticity, plumpness and tone as we age. Those of us in this category usually tend to one of the other skin types as well.
This post contains affiliate links. If you click on them and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission, at no added cost to you. Read more about my affiliate policy here.
Where to Buy Facial Oils
Many of the basic oils should be readily available at your grocery store or from a local herb or natural living store. This includes avocado, castor, grapeseed, jojoba and others.
For specialty oils, I love Mountain Rose Herbs and highly recommend them. Many of their oils are organic and you can be assured they are pure, high-quality oils.
How to Mix Your Oil Blend
The oil blends are forgiving. Feel free to use a kitchen scale (if you have one), but don’t sweat it if you don’t. You can also use measuring spoons or just “eyeball” it if you want.
Decide on your unit of measure (i.e. the part). It could be tablespoons or 1/8 ounce, for example. Add your selected measured oils to a small bottle. Slowly roll the bottle between your hands to mix the oils.
Note: It’s best to choose a dark amber bottle to protect the oils from light. A bottle with a pump is ideal and adds that little extra touch of pampering.
How to Do Oil Cleansing
- Splash a little warm water on your face and gently pat dry.
- Dispense a couple of pumps (or 1-2 tsps.) of the oil on your fingertips.
- Massage well into your face in upward circles for about a minute. Use about a dime size of oil on each side of your face. It’s okay to use the oil to remove eye makeup, too.
- Run a washcloth under hot water, wring it out and place it over your face — leaving it there until it starts to cool off.
- Take time (if you can) to enjoy the soothing warm cloth on your face and breathe deeply.
- Rinse the washcloth with very warm water and gently wipe away any oils.
- Finish with a toner or moisturizer, if you wish.
My Own Experience with the OCM
I thought it might be helpful to share my own experience with the Oil Cleansing Method. For reference, I had very oily skin prone to breakouts during my younger years — so all these years later, I was still wary of putting oil on my face.
But I now have combination skin (phew!). I still get an oily T-zone, but my cheeks get dry, depending on the humidity in the air.
About two years ago, I mixed up two ounces of oils: equal parts of jojoba and sweet almond oil and then I added a drop of lavender essential oil. I wasn’t aware of any formulas at the time, so I just improvised. I use this to “wash” my face at night about three times a week — using the method described above.
To be honest, I do oil cleansing more regularly during cold, dry winter months and often skip it in the summer. After doing more research for this post, I’m excited to experiment with different oils soon, to see if I can target my mature skin more intentionally. I’ll stick with jojoba as my base oil, but I plan to try rosehip seed oil and then marula oil (in two separate blends) just to see the results. I’ll update this section as I experiment.
Interested in Buying a Facial Oil Cleanser?
This Damascus Rose Cleansing Oil from Badger seems to have a decent balance of oils and I feel comfortable recommending it. Let me know if you decide to give it a try.
One final note: While I warn against using coconut or olive oils directly on your face, they are lovely when used in handmade soap and other skincare products. I have nothing against those oils, just not for this application.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you tried the Oil Cleansing Method?
Have any advice or input on your experience? Please share with everyone in the comments below.
I am not a licensed nutritionist, medical professional or cosmetics expert. The information provided on Honest + Simple is for general informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food + Drug Administration and are not intended to treat, prevent or cure any disease. Before making decisions about your health or other concerns, please consult a qualified professional and do not rely on this website for medical advice.