How on earth can you wash your face with oils?

It sounds damned weird, doesn’t it?

I know. Oils are what we’re trying to get the heck off our face when we wash.

Hear me out.

You know what art restorers use to clean dirty oil paintings? Oil.

Know what we use to clean stickers and labels off hard surfaces? Oil.

And what do you use when you want to remove stubborn eye makeup?

Did you say … oil?

Oil is your friend.

Far from being the enemy, oil is a powerful ally. The right blend of cleansing oils dissolves hardened sebum deep in our pores, and washes dirt and other blemish-causing oils away. You read that right – oil dissolves oil.

So is steam

The key to the “Oil Cleansing Method”[i] (OCM) is steam.  Steam opens your pores so the cleansing oil can boogey down and push all the dirt, yucky oils, and dead skin cells right out.

After a good steam (either via hot washcloth or by hanging out over a pot of boiling water), you gently wipe the oil off your face (which also exfoliates), and you’re done.

An extra kick-ass bonus is your skin is left moisturized! Yep, the OCM cleanses, exfoliates, and moisturizes your skin in one step. Some folks find they don’t need any additional moisturizers, while other prefer to use nourishing treatments or another layer or two of moisturizers under sunscreen.

Finding the right blend

It’s important to find the right balance of oils when using the OCM. Not just any old oil will work.

Castor oil is a terrific cleansing oil. It has extremely strong anti-bacteria properties, and can be an anti-inflammatory. However, it needs to be blended with at least one other non-clogging oil for maximum effect. Sunflower oil is my favorite choice, as it’s non-comedogenic. Others like olive oil, though I find it too heavy for my face. I also add more specialized oils (depending on skin type) for extra benefit.

As a general rule of thumb, here’s a simple formula to blend your own oils:

Dry skin
Castor oil: 10%
Sunflower oil: 90%

Normal Skin
Castor Oil: 20%
Sunflower oil: 80%

Oily skin
Castor oil: 30%
Sunflower oil: 70%

(Note: Castor oil can be drying because it’s a powerful humectant, which means it attracts water molecules from its surroundings to itself. While it can be a good thing in small doses, in larger doses it can actually pull moisture from your skin out to itself, leaving you less hydrated. Use it cautiously. The oilier your skin, the more you can use castor oil.)

The process

You’ll need your cleansing oil, and very hot water. If you’re in the shower or using a sink, you’ll also need a washcloth. If you’re boiling a pot of hot water, you’ll need a large towel.

Turn the water on as hot as you can tolerate (stand outside the shower stream if possible while you do this).

Rub about a quarter-sized pool of your oil into (preferably dry) skin. Massage for about a minute, and pay special attention to areas that tend to break out or that are congested or rough.

Wet your washcloth under the hottest water you can tolerate, wring it out quickly, and cover your face with it. Hold the washcloth over your face until it cools (again, about a minute). Rinse the washcloth in hot water, and repeat at least once more for maximum benefit. If you’re using the boiling-water method, lean over the pot, and cover your entire head and shoulders with the towel to let the steam from the pot envelope your face. Stay like this for several minutes.

Rinse your washcloth again, and gently wipe all the oil off your face. This might require a few more rinses of your washcloth. Pay special attention to your hairline and your jawline. Remember, be gentle here – you’re trying to treat your skin kindly, not punish it.

Voila! You just washed your face with oil.  Feels fabulous, doesn’t it?

Avoid these common mistakes!

  • It’s really important when using the OCM to use truly very hot water, so that it produces enough steam to open your pores. Of course, you never want to scald yourself, especially your face, but using “just” warm water will not achieve the cleansing effect here. If you can’t stand outside the hot water in the shower, then try it over a sink. Use water that is as hot as you can stand without hurting.
  • Getting all of the cleansing oil off your skin after you steam it is also important, or else the good oils turn ugly. Make sure you are thorough but gentle when wiping the oils away (wash your washcloth frequently when you do this), and pay particular attention to your jawline and hairline.
  • This method usually takes some trial and error to find just the right oil blend for your skin type. Using too much (or too little) castor oil, or using oils that are too heavy or comedogenic, will not give you the desired effect.
  • When you’re first trying the OCM, do it only once or twice a week. If it works for you, then work your way up to three or four times a week.
  • Make sure you use a clean washcloth every time. Warm, wet washcloths left in the shower or bathroom are like nightclubs for bacteria. Don’t do that to your skin.

The Bottom Line

I’ve tested my cleansing oils on all different skin types, and really love my blends.  I add a few extra oils for boosted benefits like antioxidants, vitamins, and other fun stuff. If you want to try the OCM but don’t want the hassle of buying and mixing your own, check out my blends here.

Let me know what you think of this method!