When I tell people that I cleanse my face with oil, I am almost guaranteed to get that funny, squinty look people give when they a) think you’re totally joking, or b) think you’re totally weird. I mean, oil to clean your skin? Seriously? That makes no sense! I can’t really blame people’s skepticism because until I tried it, I was there, with my astringents proudly lined up on the bathroom counter, convinced that there was only one path to great skin, one lined with cotton balls and stinging solutions. We are taught to believe that oil causes breakouts, so we avoid oil like the plague. I have these early memories of me as a teenager using this brown toner that smelled like nail polish remover. When I swabbed it on my face, my skin would burn and itch and turn red. My eyes would sting from the smell, but I kept applying the stuff, convinced that the toner was sucking up the oil slicks on my face. My face became a tight, cracked, flakey mess. But I thought this was what you did to keep oil off your face. I thought it was a better alternative to zits.
A couple of years ago, when I began seeing the concept of removing makeup and cleansing your face with oil in my online perusals, I was utterly convinced dabbling in oils had disaster written all over it. To be honest, I don’t even know what inspired me to try it. I’d like to say that it birthed from my desire to do all things naturally, but more likely, it due to was the desperation and total frustration I was experiencing after recently developing an allergy-related rosacea that the doctor-prescribed antibiotic creams weren’t taking care of . My skin was red and angry and dry and blotchy. Since nothing seemed to be making my skin better, I decided to throw caution to the wind, go crazy (as in go crazy by putting oil on my face. Yeah, I know, pretty wild stuff) and give this whole oil cleanse a try. I did a bit of research and made a concoction of oils that I thought would work well given their various healing and cleansing components. I got myself some washcloths and dove in. I’ve been oil cleansing now for almost two years and I can’t tell you enough how amazing it has been. Within a few weeks my rosacea started looking better, my skin was softer, more supple, and it cleared up some blackheads I had hoped turning 25 would’ve taken care of. I am not a dermatologist and I am not by any means claiming that this is the only way or the best way to clean your face. I just know it works for me. I have dry, super-sensitive skin that gets annoyed by fragrances, certain dyes, and even seemingly harmless ingredients (I’m talking about you, coconut oil!) But oil cleansing works for me! I was totally skeptical—this whole oil attracting oil business seemed highly unlikely, but I am happy to report that it really does clean out your pores. And, for the record, it does a pretty awesome job of getting off slept-in mascara (not that I ever leave my makeup on overnight or anything). I personally didn’t need a two-week adjustment period and didn’t experience any breakouts however, depending on your skin’s needs, and what products you’ve been using, you may need to allow some time for your skin to get used to the extra nourishment.
Picking the right oils to cleanse your face is important. Everyone has different needs, so everyone’s solution will be a bit different. I have found that the following oils have consistently performed well on my face:
Castor oil: A great cleansing oil. It can actually pull impurities out of the skin and does a great job removing dead skin cells. I can’t say enough about how great this oil is. However, it’s best used in a blend as it can be a bit irritating if you use it solo.
Grapeseed oil: A wonderfully light oil. It does have a short shelf life, but is non-comedogenic, has great anti-inflammatory properties and does well when paired with castor oil and olive oil.
Olive oil: The king of oils. As with the castor oil, I have tried this at 100% and did not love the results. It was okaaay, but not great. Plus, there is some information floating around that it has caused breakouts when used full strength. The olive oil I typically use has been infused with either calendula or borage, both used for their skin healing attributes, but it’s not integral for the oil cleansing.
I have tried a few variations, but have found that the oil solutions that are most successful for me are the ones that combine oils with different absorption rates. So for example, the grapeseed oil I use has a quick absorption rate, meaning that the oil starts sinking in to my skin as I apply it. I then pair that oil with ones that take a bit longer to absorb so the cleanser will have some lubrication while I cleanse. And then the slowest absorbers will hang around on my skin after I’m done cleansing, keeping my skin nice and moisturized.
Keep in mind though, that you don’t have to use the oils I do. The fun part is customizing. Do you have oily skin? Try including some hazelnut oil. Mature skin? What about rosehip oil? Try out different oil percentages. I change up my percentages seasonally and will even omit say, the grapeseed oil and replace it with a slower absorber like avadaco oil, or jojoba, or even sweet almond oil. My only caveat to customizing your own cleanser is to avoid coconut oil for your initial trials. Coconut oil has become this cure-all and while it is awesome for many things: for the face, not so much. The reason is twofold: the first being is that it is super cleansing, meaning it can get a little drying to your delicate facial skin; the second is that is it is more comedogenic than the oils I’ve mentioned, which can clog pores, and do the exact opposite of what you want the cleanser to do. I have read many sites that swear by coconut oil cleansers, and I’m sure their success is real, however, for beginners, do yourself a favour and start with less comedogenic oils.
My Oil Cleanser Recipe
1/3 castor oil
1/3 grapeseed oil
1/3 infused olive oil.
Using a funnel, pour pre-measured oils in a container that can be sealed. I use a brown apothecary bottle, which gives me enough oil for about a month. Put lid on and give it a good shake. Pretty easy, right?
Now, on to the cleanse!
Pour out a good sized amount of oil into your hand (quarter sized is good, but more is fine. As much as you need to make your face feel evenly covered.)
Rub it between your hands to warm it a bit
Apply to face, careful to avoid the hairline.
Rub in small circles all over your face and jawline, focusing on areas that are blackhead prone. It’s like a nice massage, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.
Next take a warm, washcloth and hold it up to your face for a bit, or if you’re in the shower, wash your hair, and just let the oil sit for a few minutes.
Use the washcloth to wipe the oil off your face. You may have to rinse it, wring it, and repeat, depending on how much makeup you have on.
Your face should feel smooth, with a bit of oil residue, but shouldn’t be greasy. If it is, keep wiping.
I follow up with my own cream (post to follow). Yes, I still like a little more moisturization after the oil wash.
Typically I oil cleanse at night and rinse my face with water in the morning. Keep in mind, that oil cleansing does leave a satiny oil residue on your skin, so applying makeup right after cleansing, can be a gamble (#askmehowiknow). If I do oil cleanse in the morning, I wait a bit to throw on the mascara.