How to do the Oil Cleansing Method, how it helps reduce acne, how it helps with anti-aging, best products to use, and more!
What is the Oil Cleansing Method?
With the Oil Cleansing Method, you wash your face with oil instead of a sudsy cleanser. This method doesn’t disrupt the skin’s lipid surface, which leaves the moisture barrier intact. Since hydration is the first thing to consider when it comes to anti-aging, this is a wonderful way to clean your face if your goal is to age gracefully.
I’m sure you’re familiar with that tight, dry feeling after cleansing with a traditional face wash. The suds make you feel like you’re getting clean, but it may do more harm than good. Oil cleansing leaves skin feeling healthy, soft, and smooth, not stripped or dry.
The Oil Cleansing Method comes from the rule that like dissolves like. Oil dissolves oil, which means the Oil Cleansing Method is perfect for those with oily or breakout-prone skin.
Does the Oil Cleansing Method work?
Your skin has its own microbiome made up of good and bad bacteria. When you disrupt your skin’s barrier and pH balance with harsh cleansing, you strip away good bacteria, which allows the bad bacteria to repopulate. If you have persistent acne, blackheads, or sensitivity/irritation, an imbalanced skin microbiome may be the issue.
According to this article, a disrupted moisture barrier triggers a whole host of skin issues, including acne, oily skin, and even premature aging.
Overproduction of Oil
The Oil Cleansing method works by dissolving dirt and sebum, your skin’s natural oil, and replacing it with skin-soothing oils like jojoba oil, castor oil, and sunflower oil. This allows your face to be cleaned without being stripped!
Your skin needs oil. When it gets too dry, your skin compensates by upregulating sebum production to maintain its moisture barrier. This increase in sebum can mix with dead skin cells and dirt in pores, triggering an inflammatory response – A.K.A, acne.
This means your acne and oily skin could be caused by an overproduction of oil that your skin is making to counterbalance being stripped. It’s a vicious cycle!
If your skin issues are caused by dryness or an otherwise disrupted moisture barrier, the Oil Cleansing Method may be the answer. It’s also a great way for those with already-calm skin to maintain skin health and prevent signs of aging.
Other benefits of Oil Cleansing:
Oil cleansing is appropriate for almost all skin types and issues. Here are some common conditions that may benefit from this gentle but deep cleansing method:
Oily skin can be a sign of a disrupted moisture barrier. If your skin is too dry or dehydrated, it will protect itself with increased sebum production. Since oil dissolves oil, cleansing with oil will give your skin the moisture it’s seeking so it doesn’t have to overproduce sebum.
Rosacea can be triggered by harsh skin scrubbing and personal care products containing alcohol. If you have rosacea, your cleanser may be too harsh for your sensitive skin. Try gently cleansing with skin-soothing oils instead.
Oil cleansing could help soothe eczema by calming inflamed, dry skin. While it won’t cure eczema (which is triggered by internal inflammation), it may help calm dry, painful skin irritations caused by eczema.
Just like rosacea and eczema, psoriasis is often triggered by inflammation. Skin soothing oils moisturize and gently cleanse skin without irritating inflamed skin.
Oil cleansing is also a natural and affordable skincare method. Opt for organic or cold-pressed, hexane-free oils to ensure they have all their skin-loving nutrients intact.
Oils are typically more affordable than cleansers, and they last longer too! You likely won't need to add a toner to your skincare routine while oil cleansing, so you save money on one less product, too.
Let’s troubleshoot and answer specifics:
My favorite skincare oils:
- Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil (strong + safe anti-aging and hydration benefits as well!) This bottle lasts FOREVER.
- Jojoba Oil
- Tamanu Oil
- Sunflower Oil
- Castor Oil
This is a great blog post with recipes for Oil Cleansing depending on your skin type.
If you're choosing to DIY your face oil, I suggest adding a drop of essential oil for additional skincare benefits the cleansing oil alone cannot provide. Three skincare essential oils I recommend are:
- Blue Tansy essential oil – skin clearing and calming properties, antioxidant rich, powerful sweet smell
- Helichrysum essential oil – effective at clearing blemishes and scarring, woodsy scent
- Australian Sandalwood essential oil – reduces oily skin and blemishes, woodsy scent with a mild sweetness
You can do this by pouring a bit of your cleansing oils into your hand, and topping it with a drop of one of the above essential oils. If you'd like to use more than one, you can get all 3 of these powerful skincare essential oils here.
Will the Oil Cleansing Method cause breakouts or purging?
Oil cleansing provides a very deep clean. The oil seeps into pores and actually attracts dirt and makeup. Combined with the steam from the washcloth, your pores are left cleaner than they would be with a conventional SLS based cleanser!
A warm washcloth can also draw deep-rooted blemishes to the surface. This can trigger breakouts and purging for some, but many people don’t have any purging issues.
Is the Oil Cleansing Method good for acne or cystic acne?
The Oil Cleansing Method won’t treat the root cause of acne, but it can help stymie breakouts and treat them faster.
Acne (especially cystic acne) occurs when a hair follicle becomes inflamed due to a combination of sebum and dead skin cells/dirt. The clogged pore becomes infected, triggering an inflammation response and subsequent rush of white blood cells to the infection.
- Since you’re keeping skin moisturized and balanced, your moisture barrier stays intact. This will prevent overproduction of sebum, minimizing your chances of infected pores.
- The gentle exfoliation from the washcloth will also help dead skin cells shed more quickly so they don’t become trapped in pores.
- The deeper clean from oil cleansing is helpful to ensure all dirt, sebum, dead skin cells, and make-up are dissolved from pores.
Those with acneic (acne-prone) skin may want to be careful with OCM, since some oils can clog pores. If you struggle with breakouts and decide to give oil cleansing a try, choose a light, antibacterial oil such as jojoba or tamanu oil. Stick with it past any potential purging period – at least 4 weeks.
Does the Oil Cleansing Method get rid of blackheads?
OCM can get rid of blackheads, but it likely won’t help with sebaceous filaments. Sebacious filaments are commonly mistaken for blackheads, but they’re just the darkening of sebum in your pores. They’re harmless and also tough to get rid of, since it’s just the way sebum looks when exposed to oxygen. A chemical exfoliant like BHA is best for those. This Overnight Resurfacing Peel is my favorite BHA treatment product.
Blackheads occur when dead skin cells, dirt, and sebum get trapped inside a hair follicle and then exposed to the air (as opposed to non-comedonal acne like cystic acne, which occurs under the skin’s surface.) They oxidize just like sebaceous filaments, which is why the two are so often confused. OCM can effectively dissolve blackheads by loosening up the gunk inside your pore.
Is the Oil Cleansing Method good for anti-aging?
When it comes to protecting your skin so you can age gracefully, you want to take 3 things into consideration:
- Barrier function
- Collagen synthesis
Oil Cleansing with a product like this one can very effectively prevent signs of aging by helping to strengthen your barrier function, support your skin’s elasticity, and microcirculation by boosting antioxidants.
How do you oil cleanse?
There are a variety of DIY recipes for oil cleansers, each tailored to different skin types. If you’d like to purchase an oil cleanser that works for all skin types instead of making your own, my favorite is this Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil. It lasts forever, smells incredible, and has really powerful anti-aging benefits as well.
Follow these steps for Oil Cleansing:
- Massage your oil mixture into your face using your fingertips. Use a firm circular motion, and don’t be afraid to massage over closed eyes as well! Oil is fantastic at removing eye makeup. Just be careful not to open your eyes, and preferably remove any contact lenses beforehand.
- Saturate a clean washcloth in warm water, then wring out until damp. You want it hot enough to steam, but not to burn (remember, your facial skin is much more sensitive!) Lay the cloth over your face and allow it to steam your skin for a minute or so.
- Gently wipe your face clean with the washcloth. You can repeat the above steps if desired, and you may want to if you wear make-up.
Apply a serum and moisturize after your skin has dried. Toning afterwards isn’t required, as oil cleansing does not disrupt your skin’s pH like traditional cleansers.