Whatever Wednesday: Oil Cleansing Method

Oil Cans, photo by Ian Britton (creative commons license)
Oil Cans, photo by Ian Britton (creative commons license)

About a year ago, after a lot of reading about it, I thought I’d try this “oil cleansing” thing that the internet was chittering on about.  Honestly, it seemed a little counter-intuitive, smearing oil over the grease on my face to clean it off.  I have had oily skin since I was about 11, which is when the acne started.

I’ve tried all sorts of cleansers and acne systems, most of them harsh and annoying, with the side effects being as bad as the breakouts and just as hard to cover up.  Nothing’s ever been a miracle solution.  Since my skin was oily, I was a big fan of stripping all the oil off, using stripping cleanser followed by really harsh astringents, and ending up with tight, dry, itchy skin that was oil slicked in about an hour.  Eventually I came around to moisturizer, which did calm my skin down a bit.  The oil cleansing, though, replaces all of that.  Adjusting the formula based on the seasons has mostly eliminated the need for moisturizers, too, though I still use them occasionally.  If you do find you need a moisturizer, Denise posted a coconut-derivative-free lotion a while back.

I use the oil cleanser in the evening to remove the makeup and daily grime, and in the morning just splash water on my face and then put on makeup like normal.  It is WAY cheaper than the rather expensive cleanser I was buying before and more effective to boot, so I am a solid convert.  I even had a test phase — last spring, I didn’t pack the oil for a trip, and by day 3, I was breaking out again.  Now I have a travel container.

I started with all the information on the oil cleansing method on the Crunchy Betty website, and have started tweaking my own recipes from that information.  I’d suggest you do the same, but here are my recipes for a starting point.  I’ve done everything as ratios, but I would suggest starting with a small batch (maybe making 1 part a teaspoon) to see how it works for you, so that you can tweak the next one if you don’t love it.  Give it a week or two for each tweak, to see how it shakes out.

Oil Cleansing for Winter, for Oily Skin

  • 2.5 parts castor oil
  • 1 part avocado oil
  • 1 part grapeseed oil

I did this with 15 mL castor, 6 mL each of avocado and grapeseed, 5 drops of thyme essential oil (for acne) and 2 drops of super-strength vitamin E oil to soothe.  This mix will last me close to a month of use.

Oil Cleansing for Summer, for Oily Skin

  • 1 part castor oil
  • 1 part grapeseed oil

You will need a small bottle for your oil mix, as well as a stack of cotton washcloths.  I have found that some makeup stains the cloths — mascara and lipstick, in particular — but rather than bleach the cloths, I use them only for face washing and just wash them on hot.  I have two small bottles, one glass with a dropper and one plastic with a small spout that allows me to dole the oil out in drops.  This does take longer than a quick foaming face wash, but I then spend less time with concealers in the morning.

Here’s the short version of the technique — but really, read the Crunchy Betty post.  It’s good.

  • A few drops at a time, pour oil onto clean fingertips and apply to face. (I do about 3 or 4 drops at a time, until I’ve covered my whole face.)
  • Massage into face.  I know the post says 2 minutes.  I probably don’t do it that long most nights.
  • Using hot water and a washcloth, briefly steam your oiled up face, and then massage the oil off with the cloth.
  • Pat dry or let air dry.
  • Enjoy how not oily your skin is in the morning.

(Oh, and a bonus tip: I admit, I got this years ago from seventeen magazine — instead of using zit cream, try lemon juice.  Just a dab on a breakout.  It’s cheaper, more effective, and tastes great in iced tea. Just like the creams, it will not magically make a zit disappear.  But it will make it go away in less than half the time.)

Have you tried oil cleansing?  How did it work for you?


    1. I have been doing this for a year and a half. I’m on the other end of the spectrum from you, with age 50+ year old skin. The oil method gave me moisture and plumped up my wrinkles. I was able to go back to using my non-toxic, inexpensive (Everyday Minerals) mineral makeup. I use 25% castor oil with 75% sunflower oil. I especially like not having to purchase expensive anti-aging cosmetic products that don’t work all that well.

      1. Your mix makes sense, Julie, and that’s one of the things I love about it — I can change it as my skin changes. Glad it is working so well for you!

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