My adult skin has been pretty problem-free (take hope, 15-year-old self…). It’s not too dry, not too oily, and I’ve been pretty content with uneventful skin issues. But when I hit my early thirties, my skin started becoming… blah.
Kinda dull. Losing its vibrancy. A little cloudy. It also became dry and tight after washing, and moisturizing wasn’t helping much.
I wasn’t really concerned about it, until I read about a face cleansing method I’d never tried. I had been going shampoo-free for a few weeks, so I was eager to try this out, too, since it uses no harsh soaps or manmade chemicals.
What did I have to lose, I figured? I’ll try it out, and if I don’t like it, I’ll go back to my tried-and-true method.
Almost a decade later, I’ll never go back. My skin is staring at my forties, just over the horizon, saying, Come at me, bro.
I’ll explain how it works.
The Oil-Cleansing Method (OCM)
It sounds weird to clean your face with an oil, especially if you have oily skin. But oil actually doesn’t cause oily skin or acne. That culprit is usually a combination of hormones, trapped bacteria, and dirt.
Like your hair, the sebum your skin secretes is actually good for your skin—it’s there to protect it from the outside environment and to keep harmful things from seeping in. Since water doesn’t break up oil, most commercial cleansers are marketed with the “oil free” stamp of approval, making them easy to splash off.
But when skin’s natural oils are removed, the body’s reaction is to compensate by producing more oil, much like shampoo does with our hair. Or if your skin’s dry, it’s because all the oil has been stripped away, and your body doesn’t compensate by replenishing it (which was my case).
Here’s a direct quote from acne.org:
“Oil dissolves oil. One of the most basic principals of chemistry is that like dissolves like. The best way to dissolve a non-polar solvent like sebum/oil is by using another non-polar solvent similar in composition: other oils. By using the right oils, you can cleanse your pores of dirt and bacteria naturally, gently and effectively, while replacing the dirty oil with beneficial ones extracted from natural botanicals, vegetables and fruit that heal, protect and nourish your skin.”
Good-quality oil is the perfect substance for cleaning sensitive skin (like on our face) because it removes dirty oil and replaces it with good, nourishing, healing oil.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Make your cleaner
Mix your oils together in a small bottle, give it a little shake, and you’ve got yourself a homemade, frugal facial cleanser. The most common blend of oils for OCM is castor oil + extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO). Castor oil draws out dirt and other gunk from your pores, and EVOO is a fantastic moisturizer, helping heal and nourish your skin.
• For normal skin, start experimenting with a one-to-one ratio of castor oil and EVOO.
• For acne-prone or oily skin, reduce the EVOO, and try three parts castor oil to one part EVOO.
• For drier skin, start off with one part castor oil to three parts EVOO.
Almost a decade later, I now just use straight EVOO—no castor oil at all. It works great for me.
Experiment, and find what ratio works for you. Start with a little, and then try your mix for a few days.
2. Gently rub it in
Pour a quarter-sized amount into your palm, rub your hands together, and slowly massage your skin with your fingertips. Don’t splash your face with water first—you’ll want to apply it dry.
Work the oil into your skin for about a minute, and enjoy the massage. Don’t scrub; just rub.
3. Steam your face
Next, wet a washcloth with hot water (but not scalding!), and rest it over your face for a few seconds. This steams your pores, removing the impurities and the dead skin cells. Enjoy the nearly-free facial.
4. Wipe off the oil
Rinse and wring the washcloth, then gently wipe off the oil. Done.
Photo by Macarena Alejandra
A few thoughts:
• If you’re like me, your skin will feel softer and look a bit brighter. It won’t feel tight, but it won’t be greasy, either. Olive oil has the same pH as human skin, so it’s the perfect cleansing balancer.
• The OCM also brilliantly removes makeup. It works better than any store-bought makeup remover I’ve tried. Cheaper, too.
• You probably won’t need to do this more than once per day. I do this at night, just before bed. In the morning, I simply splash my face with cold water to wake up, then moisturize with Moroccan argan oil.
Castor oil and EVOO are carrier oils and work well, but other people love their OCM with jojoba, grape seed, and flaxseed oils, especially if their skin is oily. I haven’t tried these personally, though.
Coconut oil is fantastic for all sorts of things, but seeing as it hardens in cooler temps, you can use fractionated coconut oil, which stays liquid.
Tea tree essential oil is a natural antiseptic, and it’s great for clearing up acne. Try a few drops into your OCM mixture. Only use a few drops; a little goes a long way.
Years later, and I’m still a massive fan of OCM for my face. It’s great for travel, too! (Olive oil is everywhere.)