Cleaning Oil with Oil

Double double toil and trouble…

Have y’all heard of the oil cleansing method?

It wouldn’t surprise me if you have, here in 2020. It’s certainly not new. I’ve been using it for over 6 years now, and I don’t think it was necessarily new back then.

The oil cleansing method, or OCM as it’s known in the hip circles I’m privy to (…), is simply put, a way to wash your face. It uses a blend of oils that, once warmed with hot water or steam, remove the dirt and grime from your face without messing with your skin’s natural oil production. It’s based on the idea of like repels like (the oil from the cleanser “repelling” the oil from your pores), though honestly I am unsure how much actual science goes into it.

Scientific or not, it is a way of cleaning your skin, particularly your face, by using oils instead of soaps.

I’ve always had problem skin. I have what I like to refer to as a “reverse T-zone,” with oily cheeks and chin, and dry skin on my nose and forehead. I suffered with acne throughout my teen years, and tried pretty much everything under the sun, until my parents actually let me take Accutane treatments. After about 6 months of horrifically red, flaky skin while I was taking it, poof! Clear skin, finally! (Note: I am not recommending Accutane. The possible side effects are many and scary, and I think the list of them has even grown since I took it. It definitely is effective, but so is DDT as a pesticide…).

The clear skin continued for about 8 years, but by the time I was living in NYC, the pimples had begun to reappear (though significantly less intense, thank goodness).

At this point I was beginning my more natural journey, and not wanting to put harsh chemical treatments on my skin or in my body. I started eating better, which definitely helped the acne, but in my experience, skin issues always do best with a two-pronged approach, combating it from both the outside and inside.

So I did a little research online and stumbled across OCM. At first I was skeptical. Washing your face with oil? Say what now? But I was willing to give it a try.

OCM was actually my first foray into DIY body care products, and there was definitely a bit of a learning curve. None of the ingredients were things I had just lying around the house (Castor oil? Isn’t that from the 1800s? Do they still make that?). I definitely had to tweak the recipe a few times before it really worked for me. But I was persistent, and it felt really good to be making something for myself.

Fast-forward a couple months and my skin was almost as clear as it was post-Accutane. Significantly better texture as well. Not to sound like an infomercial, but I was actually receiving compliments on my skin. And while the initial cost was a little high, since I didn’t have any of the ingredients, over time it has saved me a significant amount of money, especially as I got comfortable with the recipe and could buy in bulk.

So yes, in this case, like does repel like. Now to see if I can tweak the recipe to slow these wrinkles that have been creeping in since I turned 30!

Quick Swedish lesson: Ricin is Castor oil, Aprikos is Apricot, and E-vitamin is Vitamin E (I’m hoping you got that last one…)

The Ingredients

Like all my favorite recipes, both culinary and cosmetic, this is a greatly customizable product.

The recipe boils down to just two parts: Castor oil and a moisturizing carrier oil. Beyond that are many things you can add, but they are unnecessary.

Castor oil is the foundation of the cleansing oil, as this is the ingredient that lifts the grime and oil from your skin. Castor oil, as I found out when I first started making this product, has many medicinal and cosmetic uses, including its best known use as a laxative. Thankfully, for the purpose of this post, the only “cleaning out” it will help you with are your pores (I know, I know, bad joke). It’s antibacterial as well, which is always good for a skincare products.

It can also be fairly drying of your skin, which is why the OCM adds a carrier oil. This can differ depending on your personal skin characteristics. Sunflower seed oil is a great, inexpensive oil to try if you have normal skin or aren’t sure of your skin type. Jojoba oil is your best bet with acne-prone skin. Sweet almond or grapeseed are great for oily skin, while apricot kernel, hemp, or avocado oil really moisturize dry skin (apricot kernel oil also has pro-collagen properties which makes it great for aging skin).

As far as extras, one of the most popular is to add essential oils. These can be added based on your scent preference (I’ve been loving lavender and citrus for springtime), but many essential oils have other benefits for your skin (Check out my Mama Butter post for a short breakdown of some of these benefits).

I also add a few drops of Vitamin E oil to my blend. Vitamin E is a preservative, which is helpful if you keep your cleansing oil in the shower like I do, and it gets exposed to warm temperatures and humidity on a daily basis. As a perk, vitamin E is also great for skin’s elasticity.

The Recipe

The basic recipe for this cleansing oil is a 1:1 ratio of castor oil and your other oil (or oil blend). I would recommend making a small batch at first, with this ratio, and work from there.

If, after a few weeks of using, your skin seems to be drying out, try a new batch by lowering the amount of castor oil to a 1:2 or even 1:3 ratio of castor oil to carrier oil/blend.

If on the contrary, your skin seems very oily after trying the basic recipe, make a new batch with a 2:1 castor oil to carrier oil/blend ratio. Remember, though, it is very important to try it for several weeks (at least 4 to 6) before switching the recipe. Many commercial cleansers are overly drying, which causes our oil producing glands to work overtime. When we switch to a more gentle approach like this one, our skin needs time to adjust, and figure out it can stop producing so much oil.

So again, for clarity:

  • Normal skin: 1 part castor oil + 1 part carrier oil/blend
  • Dry skin: 1 part castor oil + 2 parts carrier oil/blend
  • Oily skin: 2 parts castor oil + 1 part carrier oil/blend

If you are going to add essential oils, a good rule of thumb is around 10 drops per ounce/30 ml of total oil. Same is true for vitamin E.

For example, I have combination skin, but mostly dry. So in my most recent batch, in a four ounce bottle I blended:

  • 1 oz castor oil
  • 2 oz carrier oil blend (1 oz sunflower oil + 1 oz apricot kernel oil)
  • 1/2 tsp (~ 30 drops) vitamin E oil
  • 10 drops tea tree essential oil
  • 15 drops lavender essential oil
  • 15 drops sweet orange essential oil

Great for my acne- and wrinkle- prone dry skin, and smells heavenly to boot.

A hand holding three bottles of essential oils: Sweet orange, lavender, and tea tree.
One of my current favorite essential oil blends.

The Method

One of the biggest perks of the OCM is the fact that the cleansing oil remove makeup as well, so no need to use makeup remover beforehand. Simply dampen your face with warm water (either at the sink, or in the shower), then massage in the oil all over your face and let it soak in. Next, wet a washcloth with as hot of water as is comfortable for you. Wring out the excess water and put the hot washcloth over your face. Leave it there for at least 15 seconds (though longer is better – try to leave it until the washcloth starts to feel cool again), and then use the washcloth to wipe the oil off your face. If your face still feels like it has cleansing oil on it, repeat the washcloth process. Follow up with toner (optional) and moisturizer.

And voila! Even if it hadn’t cleared up my acne, I love the way my skin feels afterward: soft and hydrated, but not greasy at all.

Have you ever tried the oil cleansing method? If so, what are some of your favorite oil combinations?

2 Comments on “Cleaning Oil with Oil

  1. Pingback: Super Simple Hair Care – These Wandering Roots

  2. Pingback: New Year, New Adventures! – These Wandering Roots

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