If you’re looking for an improvement in your skin–diminishment of acne, a non-stripping way to cleanse dry skin, a balancing of your oil production, even fewer signs of aging–oil cleansing may just be a game-changer for you. It certainly has been for me.
I decided to try the oil cleansing method because I’d heard so many good things about it, particularly how it improves acne, dullness, dry lines, and tight, parched skin. It has not disappointed.
My hormonal acne is significantly lessened, my skin is brighter, and my face almost never feels dry anymore. I love that the oils I use are full of antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamins to support my skin as I age. Oil cleansing is the single best thing I’ve ever done for my skin.
Below I share with you:
- 5 awesome oil cleansing recipes, each one targeted to a particular skin type or issue
- how to easily perform the oil cleansing method, with tips and tricks to tweak it for your specific situation
There is also a special section below about why the oil cleansing method is ideal for oily and acne-prone skin.
The Best Thing I’ve Ever Done for My Skin
If you’re late to the party as I am, the oil cleansing method (OCM) is a very simple way of using oils to actually remove makeup and impurities to cleanse your skin.
Because oil dissolves oil, these natural seed, fruit and vegetable oils can break down the excess oils on your skin, taking your makeup, dirt and germs with them.
How awesome is that?
Commercial face washes can strip your skin of its natural sebum (oil), which may cause your skin to pump out more oil to replenish it.
However, with the oil cleansing method, the dirt, excess oil and makeup are removed, but your moisture level is left intact.
This keeps your skin’s oil level balanced, not over- or under-producing oil.
This is key, and the reason why so many acne-prone people (like me) find success with the OCM, when using the right combo of oils.
Check out these 5 recipes for oil cleansing, plus a bonus one for soothing irritated, inflamed skin.
A basic OCM recipe includes: an astringent oil + 2 or more treatment oils.
An astringent oil has antibacterial and tightening properties, and is the powerhouse behind the cleaning portion of the OCM. In the recipes below, the astringent oils are Hazelnut oil or Castor oil.
The treatment oils are oils you choose to address your specific skin concerns.
7 Easy Ways to Level Up Your Oil-Cleansing Routine
Download this pretty list of tips & tricks and find out:
- A super-quick and easy way to convert your oils into a gentle, effective scrub
- Which popular oil you should probably avoid, especially if you are acne-prone
- The 2 oils which are fantastic at fading acne scars
The Oil Cleansing Recipes
* I like to use about a tablespoon of oil mixture for 1 face washing, especially when wearing makeup, but you may want less. The percentages below are approximates, you do not have to be exact.
20% Castor oil OR Hazelnut oil / 40% Argan oil / 40% Hemp Seed oil for oily skin or 40% Neem oil for dry skin
Why this works: Argan oil’s fatty acids fight acne formation, and its high Vitamin E content heals acne scars. If you have oily acne-prone skin, Hemp Seed oil will help balance oil production and reduce inflammation. For dry acne-prone skin, Neem oil is rich and soothing, with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. You may want to adjust the Hazelnut/Castor Oil ratio up a bit if you have oily skin, or down if you have dry skin.
20% Hazelnut oil OR Castor Oil / 40% Pomegranate Seed oil / 40% Rosehip Seed oil
Why this works: Pomegranate Seed oil and Rosehip Seed oil are loaded with antioxidants which defend against free radicals. Both also fight inflammation and are great for sensitive skin. You may want to adjust the Hazelnut/Castor Oil ratio up a bit if you have oily skin.
33% Castor oil or Hazelnut oil / 33% Hemp Seed oil / 33% Grapeseed oil
Why this works: Castor oil is awesome for oily skin because it is pretty drying, with strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties. Grapeseed oil is a very light oil that reduces inflammation and absorbs quickly. Hemp Seed oil is amazing at balancing oil production and reducing inflammation and redness.
10% Hazelnut oil OR Castor Oil / 45% Apricot Kernel oil / 45% Safflower oil (high linoleic only)
Why this works: Dry skin needs a very small amount of astringent oil because of the drying, tightening effect of Hazelnut or Castor oils on the skin. Safflower is light, nourishing, and well-accepted by nearly all skin types, while Apricot Kernel is a rich oil full of antioxidants, with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
33% Hemp Seed oil / 33% Neem oil / 33% Olive oil
Why this works: This is a calming blend that relieves inflamed, itchy, upset skin. Neem, Olive and Hemp Seed oils are particularly adept at reducing inflammation and redness. Neem and Hemp Seed oils are also great for acne-prone skin because of their potent antibacterial properties.
Which oils are best for oil cleansing?
An astringent oil is one that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to actually clean the skin. This is the powerhouse of an oil cleansing recipe.
The most common astringent oil is Castor oil. This rich oil contains a fatty acid called ricinoleic acid, which has strong antiviral, antimicrobial and drying properties.
Furthermore, Castor oil is anti-inflammatory, so it calms the skin while it kills bacteria and germs. Some people may find Castor oil to be a little too drying, and it has become controversial lately because of how it is harvested.
So, a great alternative to Castor oil is Hazelnut oil.
Hazelnut oil is a “dry” oil, which means it doesn’t feel oily or greasy on the skin. It sinks right in.
Hazelnut oil is a great backbone for any OCM recipe because it:
- has a tightening effect, which means smaller-looking pores
- kills bacteria and can reduce blackheads and whiteheads
- contains a high level of antioxidant (vitamin E), which fights wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of aging
- is great for sensitive skin
Of course, if you have a nut allergy, this isn’t a viable option.
In addition to your astringent oil, you will want to use one, two, or more oils that work on your skin goals and issues.
What are the benefits of oil cleansing?
I’ve been using the oil cleansing method for several months now, and of all the things I’ve ever done to improve my skin, this has made the biggest difference.
And it was a difference I saw from my first night of using it; the very next morning, this is what I noticed:
- The under-the-skin bumps along my lower right cheek, and the smattering of bumps on the apple of my left cheek were reduced by at least half. I could barely see or feel them anymore (they are now completely gone).
- My skin looked brighter. I’ve never noticed my skin looking particularly bright or luminous without makeup before, but I could honestly say the wattage on my skin seemed turned up a notch, and my sun damage (small freckles here and there) looked diminished to me.
- Pores looked smaller. My skin looked a little newer and tighter, more like my child’s skin than a middle-aged woman’s.
- Lastly, I had soft skin! As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed I have to do more to get and keep my skin feeling soft, which has usually been too much work for me. But after just that first oil cleanse, my skin felt noticeably soft and smooth.
Beyond my own positive experience with oil cleansing, here are some great reasons to consider the oil cleansing method:
- It’s clean. If you look at the ingredients label of your standard Neutrogena, Aveeno, or Oil of Olay face wash, you’ll see a gazillion, unpronounceable chemicals–some of which are known to contribute to cancer, hormone disturbances and skin allergies. Hard pass. On the other hand, natural oils are just…oils. Clean, simple and effective.
- It’s easy. The OCM is basically just mixing 2 or 3 oils together of your choice, massaging them into your skin with your hands, and using a warm washcloth to clean the oils and dirt right off. Afterward, you’re left with skin that’s better than when you started–soft, clean, moisturized!
- It can save money. These oils can take the place of face washes and pricey moisturizers. Plus, you use so little with each cleansing that your supplies can last you for quite awhile.
Do you struggle with dry skin? Adding a product with hyaluronic acid after your oil-cleanse can help to really boost the moisture level in your skin. Read this post for more info!
How to oil cleanse: the steps:
1. Wet your face with warm water, or begin with a dry face; some people like to start with wet skin, some with dry skin. I like to first wet my face with very warm water because I think that will help my pores start to open.
2. Then pour the oils into your hands and rub them together. Some people mix their oils into a bottle to use, and some (like me) just pour a little oil from each original bottle of oil into their hands.
3. Spread the oil mixture over your face, and gently massage it into your skin. Close your eyes and smooth it over your eyelids and into your lashes. Take this opportunity to give yourself a little facial massage 🙂 .
4. Next, pick up your wash cloth and wet it with very warm water. The point of the warm water is to open those pores and let the oils penetrate. Squeeze out the cloth and immediately lay it over your face. I lean forward at this point so that the cloth is not completely covering my nose. Let the cloth cool down on your face, and then re-wet it and cover your face again. I like to lay the washcloth first over the top half of my face, let it cool, then wet the cloth again and lay it over the bottom half of my face. I may do this all a few times depending on how dirty or congested my skin feels.
5. Lastly, use the washcloth to wipe the oil off, being careful around your eyes.
This video gives a nice explanation and demo of the oil cleansing method. Demo starts around 5:55.
A note about acne and oil cleansing
A lot of people have improved and/or completely cleared up their acne using the OCM. I want to give a few tips for people, like me, who turn to the OCM for this.
1. It’s really important to find the right combo of oils to treat acne. If you’re not having success immediately, or even if things get worse at the beginning, don’t give up! There is sometimes a purge period with some oils. Change one oil at a time until you see results.
2. Great oils for acne scars: Tamanu oil, Rosehip Seed oil, Hemp Seed oil.
3. Remember, good skin care is only one part of the health of your skin. Hormones, stress, diet, environment, sleep habits, genetics, etc., can all affect how your skin is doing, and if you are struggling with acne, it is important to get to the root of the issue.
4. It is super-important to stick to oils that have a very low chance of clogging your pores. Therefore, all of the oils in the chart above are either non-comedogenic or have a low chance of clogging pores.
Will oil cleansing make me break out?
Some oils CAN break you out. This could happen for a number of reasons, including using low-quality, contaminated oils, allergies to the oil, a purging process, or using an oil that is comedogenic to you. Comedogenic refers to the ability to clog pores. Oils have a comedogenic rating, and the higher the rating, the more likely it is to clog your pores. But even a lower-rated oil can clog your pores, though it may not for most people (and vice versa–a higher rated oil may work beautifully for you, whereas for most people it’s horrible).
I mentioned a purge, and that’s because some people may experience this as the astringent oils in their oil blend (i.e, Castor oil and Hazelnut oil) cause their skin to detox for the first week or two of oil cleansing. This is temporary, and many people do not experience this.
Stick to low- and non-comedogenic oils, like the ones in the infographic above, avoid any oils to which you may be allergic, and buy the highest quality oils that you can. When you find the right combo, beautiful things can happen with your skin.
Which oils are best for oil cleansing?
The best oils for oil cleansing are high-quality natural oils that are:
- expeller pressed or cold-pressed
- low comedogenic ratings
Examples of low-comedogenic oils are in the infographic above, but others include sweet almond oil, Meadowfoam seed oil, Emu oil and Rice Bran oil. Here is an extensive list of natural oils, their characteristics and their comedogenic ratings.
Can I oil cleanse in the morning?
Yes. In fact, if you have dry skin like I do, it may be preferable to oil cleanse in the morning AND at night, depending on how dry your skin is when you wake up. When I oil cleanse in the morning, I like to use lighter, drier oils that absorb quickly and don’t leave a greasy residue. My favorite a.m. oils for that “no-oil-slick’ look:
- Argan oil
- Safflower oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Hazelnut oil
To avoid the risk of any residual oil breaking up my makeup, I will apply a little W3LL People powder before applying my makeup, and my makeup stays all day!
Will the Oil Cleansing Method remove makeup?
Yes! I can say unequivocally that the OCM works as well as most face washes/makeup removers, without the toxic chemicals! The natural oils that you use in your oil cleanse dissolve oil and dirt, particularly the astringent oils like Castor oil and Hazelnut oil. But, some people like to follow their oil cleanse with a face wash or astringent toner.
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7 Easy Ways to Level Up Your Oil-Cleansing Routine
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Hey, natural beauty!
If you’re like me, you’ve long ago switched from plastic to reusable, you’ve tossed out those toxic air freshener things, and you support your local farmer’s market. And maybe you’d like to “green up” your beauty routine and swap some DIY beauty recipes. If so, you’re definitely in the right place!
Hi, I’m Soraya, an autism mom, a wife, former nurse, Zumba sub instructor, and East Coast transplant living in TX. I love to talk about all things natural beauty, DIY and essential oils.
So if you’re into that, too, grab a cup of tea or glass of wine and stick around. Learn more about me.