The Oil Cleansing Method: Are You Doing It Right?

In recent years, the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) – cleansing the skin with oil, in lieu of a traditional soap or cleanser, has gained quite a bit of momentum. If you haven't already heard of it, the concept is that by using oil, you are dissolving and removing dirt and oil, while not stripping your skin with a harsh product.

For normal, dry and mature skins, the OCM is intended to gently cleanse the skin, while encouraging the retention and proper balance of moisture. For oily or acne prone skins, it is touted as a way to balance skin’s oil production and clear up breakouts by using the “like cures like” philosophy.

Although the OCM has many devoted followers that claim it has improved their skin, just like any skin care approach, it does not work for everyone. The best way to know if the OCM will work for you is to give it a try for 28 days. 28 days is a good length of time to determine if a new skin care approach is going to work for you.

If you have already tried the OCM and it didn’t work out for you, you may just need to tweak your method a bit. Here are a few tips based on my experience using the OCM on myself and clients. This information may differ from some of the more widespread OCM advice out there, but it is what I have found to be most effective.

Choose the best oil(s) for your skin type.

Traditionally, the OCM oil contains a portion of castor oil, combined with a portion of another single (or blend) of carrier oils. However, castor oil is not necessary unless you want to have a more drying effect on your skin, therefore, if you already have dry skin, I wouldn't necessarily recommend including it at all. 

You can also choose to add essential oils as a cleansing booster (more details on all of this another day).

Oily and acne prone skin types will want to stick with lighter oils, such as hazelnut, apricot kernel and grapeseed, or antibacterial oils such as neem and tamanu. Coconut oil is drying and can work for some with oily skin, but it can also have a tendency to clog pores in some individuals that already have acneic skin.

Dry, sensitive skins sometimes do best with a bit heavier, protective oil, such as avocado, olive or argan oil.

Normal skin can do lovely with jojoba and can consider adding in some of the other oils above based on the season (adding heavier oils in the winter/lighter in the summer).

Experimenting with different oils and their proportions you use in your oil blend can help you to find the right ratios to suit your skin.

Apply and remove the oil properly.

While some folks recommend applying your cleansing oil to damp skin, I prefer applying it to dry skin, allowing it to more effectively dissolve makeup, dirt and debris. Oil cleansing is best done at night, since your face needs the funk of the day removed. In the morning, splashes with water, followed by toner and moisturizer/sunscreen are usually sufficient.

Massage the oil gently into dry skin for about a minute. Place a warm (pretty darn warm - but not yet scalding hot), wrung out, damp cloth over your face and allow to sit for about a minute. Rinse the cloth again with warm water and thoroughly remove the oil from your face without tugging, rubbing or scrubbing.

Follow with a gentle exfoliation a few times a week. 

This is where I have seen the OCM go awry. Introducing an oil cleanser to the skin every day without properly, regularly exfoliating is a recipe for a breakout and congested skin. Dry, flaky skin can get in the way of the OCM working properly. Be sure to exfoliate 1-2 times a week. I prefer to use a daily herbal face polish following my oil cleansing that is gentle enough to use everyday for a thorough cleanse.

Tone and moisturize.

This is a step that is often forgotten, but is still important, even with an oil cleanse. Apply your favorite toner with a cotton pad or spray bottle and finish with a light serum or a few drops of your cleansing oil.

As with any skin care routine, you may need to make adjustments along the way to achieve your desired results. I'd love to hear how these tips work for you!

The Boring Disclaimer: The Plant Glamour Blog™ is based on my own personal experiences as a licensed aesthetician, aromatherapist and herbalist. The content is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any particular skin care or medical condition. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Please follow the information presented at your own discretion and risk, as this blog (and I, Camille Leinbach) will not be held responsible for any adverse reactions or any other situations that may occur or arise. Please see a qualified doctor or dermatologist if you are having any serious or chronic skin care issues, are pregnant or have any other conditions present. Please take responsible care when following any of the recipes on this site, as some individuals may be allergic or sensitive to some of the ingredients included.