In Essential Oils, Evergreen, Everyday Life, New Year
Kelsey demonstrating the oil cleansing method in the bathroom. View of trees out the window.

The Oil Cleansing Method

Clean, tone, moisturize and rejuvenate your skin in one fell swoop…then get on with your day, you have more important things to do!

If you read the title of this post and thought, “Great, she’s finally gone all-out hippy on us!” then take a deep breath and relax, I haven’t! At least not completely! 

But what I have done, is streamlined my evening face-washing/toning/moisturizing routine and wrapped it all into one easy, gentle and noticeably superior way of washing my face. No more buying expensive facial cleansers or moisturizers, no more masks or blemish controls…my bathroom cabinets just got a bit roomier as I’ve tossed all the old, and brought in the new. Or, I suppose I’ve tossed the new and brought back the old?

The Oil Cleansing Method – The Basics

Before the industrialization and wide-spread distribution of soap in the 19th century, people in different cultures around the world used oil to naturally cleanse their skin. If you were to hop in a time machine and visit the Roman baths, it’s likely your first step would be to lather up with oil. This would loosen any dirt on your skin or in your pores, then it would be removed with a strigil, all before plunging into the baths.

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Because oil dissolves oil, the oil cleansing method (OCM) works extremely well for cleansing skin and removing unwanted dirt and oil. The basic concept is to take a small amount of an astringent oil combined with a small amount of a conditioning oil (a total of a teaspoon or so), and gently rub them onto your face in a circular motion. The oil dissolves any make-up, dirt or oil, as well as softens and removes built up dirt or dead skin cells hiding out in your pores…buh-bye black heads! (It’s also a fantastic eye makeup remover!). You then place a hot, wet washcloth over your face and allow the steam to further loosen any dirt or skin, then gently wipe clean.

Before we get too deep, it needs to be mentioned that the number one best way to clear up any skin ailments, whether it’s dry or oily skin, acne, psoriasis or eczema, is from within. No oil-cleansing or facial technique will do what diet can do for your complexion. To read up on a healthy diet, check out this post. And for a sampling of how we eat round these parts, this post.

Discovering Your Skin Type

Ok, now that we’ve covered our basis…the next step is to recognize your skin type. Do you tend to be extra oily, needing to dab at your t-zone throughout the day? Or are you constantly moisturizing, never quite getting rid of those dry patches? Maybe you have combination skin…dry in some areas, oily in others, perhaps a breakout or two thrown in for good measure? If you suffer from psoriasis, eczema or red blotchy patches, your best bet is going to be examining your diet and making changes there first. But a change in diet paired with the OCM could do wonders for you!

Once you’ve nailed down your skin type you can begin gathering your oil-cleansing supplies to combat whatever skin issues need addressing.

Ingredients for the oil cleansing method, including avocado oil, castor oil, carrot seed oil and plant therapy essential oils.

Astringent Oils for Oil Cleansing Method

Astringent oils are oils that are drying to the skin. These oils are great for oily or combination skin types, and beneficial in small amounts for those with dry skin. Astringent oils temporarily constrict the epidermis (outermost layer of the skin) by reducing the blood flow and therefore minimizing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles as well as shrinking pore size.

Astringent oils include:

  • Castor oil
  • Hazelnut oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Argan oil
  • Essential oils such as ginger, rose, rosemary, myrtle, carrot seed, juniper, patchouli, cyprus and any citrus oils (orange, grapefruit, lemon, lime, mandarin, etc.). Lavender is also a great choice because it has both astringent and conditioning properties.

Hydrating/Conditioning Oils for Oil Cleansing Method

These are the oils that will make up the bulk of your oil cleansing mixture. They will soothe the skin as well as provide all day moisture and nutrients. Conditioning oils are beneficial for all skin types, even those with oily skin and skin prone to breakouts.

Oftentimes breakouts occur because your body is over-producing oil due to a lack of hydration on the skin from harsh cleansers or acne treatments. A common misconception is to skip the moisturizers altogether because of this excess oil (such a vicious cycle…and I was caught in it for years!).

These oils will help keep dry skin moisturized, normalize oil production and improve the look of dull, aging skin.

Hydrating/Conditioning oils include:

Oil Cleansing Method for Dry Skin

For dry skin, you’re really going to want to stick to a 1:10 part ratio of astringent oils to conditioning oils. It’s true astringent oils can be drying, but the benefits of the astringent oils is still useful, even for dry skin. We want the advantages of the tightening and pore refining, so with this ratio you should get the best of both worlds.

(I prefer to mix up a large batch of my OCM solution ahead of time. That way I’m not having to measure my oils each night. I mixed up my oil blend and re-purposed a bottle with a pump on top, 4-5 pumps gives me about a teaspoon and the bottle lasts me a month or so.)

A great ratio for dry skin would be 1 tablespoon castor oil mixed with 10 tablespoons avocado or olive oil. Then, if you’d like, add in some Vitamin E oil or Emu oil as these oils have deep moisturizing components that you’ll notice all day long. If you also suffer from dry, irritated patches like eczema, try adding some Lavender and/or Roman Chamomile essential oils to your blend as these are both very calming and soothing.

Oil Cleansing Method for Oily Skin

When dealing with oily skin you’ll want to up your astringent oils to help combat the overproduction of oil. But don’t go overboard here! A ratio of 1:3 astringent to conditioning oil is a good start.

Try 2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (good for oily skin) and 6 tablespoons avocado oil (full of Vitamins A, B, D and E as well as essential fatty acids). If you’re prone to acne, you can add essential oils like tea tree (antiseptic), lavender (anti-inflammatory and calming), or patchouli (anti-inflammatory and antiseptic).

Oil Cleansing Method for Combination Skin

For normal to combination skin types try a mix of oils at a ratio of 1:4 astringent to conditioning oil.

A good blend to start with is 2 tablespoons castor oil to 8 tablespoons almond oil. Add in your favorite essential oils such as lavender, frankincense and/or chamomile and you’re good to go.

A Few More Thoughts About the Oil Cleansing Method

Remember that not all skin types are the same, and just because you narrowed down your basic skin type (dry, oily or combination) doesn’t mean that the ratio of astringent to conditioning oils will be perfectly blended for you. If you have combination skin, you may find that a 1:6 ratio works much better for you as a 1:4 ratio was leaving your skin feeling a little too dry. Or, if you have oily skin, you may need to make your ratio 1:2, upping the astringent oil a little because you’re still overproducing oil.

The recipes listed above should last you 2-4 weeks. Stick with each oil combination for a week or two before deciding to try a new combination (unless you’re experiencing allergic reactions or rashes). Your skin requires time to adjust to any new changes, especially if you’ve been using harsh chemical-filled facial cleansers for a while. It may take up to 4 weeks just to adjust to this new system.

Allow your face to detox and your pores to do the job they were created to do, which is cleanse and push out toxins. Our bodily systems are pretty miraculous things…and when in good health, given the right fuel, treated properly and not overloaded by chemicals, they work seamlessly to heal and protect from environmental toxins.

You’re Ready for the Oil Cleansing Method

You’ve figured out your skin type, you have your supplies ready to go and you’ve mixed up your preferred OCM concoction…now what?

Grab a clean washcloth (or two), your oil and your face.

How to oil cleanse:

  1. Start with a dry or slightly damp face (I prefer dry).
  2. Get about a teaspoon of oil in the palm of your hand and, with your fingertips, gently begin rubbing the oil all over your face in small, circular motions. (Oil removes eye make up very well, but do be careful not to get the oils into your eyes.)
  3. Continue to massage the oil into your skin for 1-3 minutes, even working along your jawline and neck.
  4. Grab your washcloth and run it under very hot water.
  5. Quickly wring out the excess water and place the washcloth over your face, allowing the steam to open your pores and help any excess dirt and oil to loosen. (Please use common sense, if your water is too hot, allow your washcloth to cool slightly before placing on your face.)
  6. Keep the warm washcloth on your face until it’s room temperature. You can repeat steps 4-6 two or three times, rinsing your washcloth in between.
  7. Rinse your washcloth (or grab a fresh one and run it under hot water) and very gently wipe your face to remove any excess oil.
  8. You will notice a thin layer of oil remains on your face (unless you scrubbed way too hard with your washcloth…don’t do that!), this oil will continue to moisturize and condition your skin all night long!
  9. If, like me, you feel you want a little more moisture than the remaining oil provides, simply add a dab of your OCM blend and rub into your skin.

If you’re working to clear your face of blemishes, eczema or dryness, use this cleansing method up to three times daily. Once your face is clear and moisturized, oil cleansing your face each night should be sufficient. Again, no two faces are the same, so do what works best for your skin!

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    I have been using the OCM on my face for a few days now, it feels so nice! I haven’t hit the break out spot yet, so I am thankful for that. I have been using apricot kernel oil, olive oil, and a few drops of lavender with tea tree in the eve and rosemary in the morning. I am playing with the oils I am using and just mixing in the palm of my hand until I find the combo that works. I am not “new”, yet not seasoned with my essential oils. I know the ones I use often, but am still learning! So, last night as I cleansed after the first tea tree and lavender, I thought, mmmm lemongrass, I wonder how that would be. It sure would smell nice and the lemony smell would be invigorating. Well… a couple drops of lemongrass, apricot kernel oil and a drop or two of lavender…. BURN! It was a little overwhelming with the invigorating! I quickly turned the water to cold, washed, and then quickly grabbed my apricot kernel oil, and generously slathered it on my face. All the while giggling at my ignorance, and my lack of research before I experimented! I cleansed again, this time only with lavender EO and apricot kernel…. My face is fine, no red blotches this morning, no more “over invigoration” ….. but please learn from my mistake… research, even just a little… before experimenting, especially on your face!

    • Kelsey Steffen
      Kelsey Steffen

      Yikes! Thanks for sharing this warning! Yes, lemongrass is considered a “hot” oil and should always be diluted before applying…I can use it undiluted on my shoulders without issue (I actually like the heat for sore muscles), but on sensitive skin it can burn pretty good! Glad you didn’t have any lasting effects!

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    Thank you Kelsey! I am going to try this! You are probably too young to remember the “baby oil” method!

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