A helpful guide to oil cleansing, its benefits, and how to do it
Oil: slippery, greasy, and pore-clogging – or is it?
As someone who has naturally oily, acne-prone skin, I had my reservations about the oil cleansing method, too. Slathering my face in even more oil seemed like a recipe for a pimply disaster.
But sometimes you just have to slip into your big girl pants and try something new, and I did just that.
After a week of trying the oil cleansing method, I am now a convert. My skin had never felt so smooth, exhibited such a healthy glow, or felt more hydrated.
I did the hard part – now it’s your turn to give it a go!
What Is the Oil Cleansing Method?
The oil cleansing method is a skin cleansing technique using high quality, all natural oils. Some attribute oil cleansing to Korean beauty (or K-beauty), while other cultures claim it as their own ancient tradition.
The truth is that people all over the world were using oil to remove dirt and impurities before the advent of modern soap in the 19th century. Today, many people are returning to the oil cleansing method in an effort to keep their skin biomes healthy and hydrated.
Let’s take a quick look at how and why it works.
The Science Behind How & Why It Works
Like your gut, your skin has a delicate biome that requires balance. Your skin produces oil naturally, called sebum. While sebum is often vilified as an acne-causing agent, it also contains healthy bacteria that fights infections and keeps unwanted external impurities at bay.
Soap uses (often harsh) detergents that strip your skin of all bacteria, good and bad. You’re probably familiar with that “squeaky clean” feeling of total dryness.
Unfortunately, many soaps break down your skin’s natural barrier to achieve that feeling, leaving it prone to infection and premature aging.
The oil cleansing method, on the other hand, draws out dirt and oil without damaging and drying out your skin. Better yet, most oils enrich your skin’s biome with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, and lock in hydration.
How to Use the Oil Cleansing Method
Oil cleansing is a simple process. Let’s break it down into steps so you can be sure you’re doing it correctly.
First, you’ll want to pick your oil. Below, we provide a list of base oils and their benefits. Start with one and see how your skin reacts. If it doesn’t lead to breakouts or irritation, you can begin experimenting with different mixtures for the perfect cleanse.
Next, apply the oil to your hands and begin rubbing it on your face. Feel free to get wild with it. This is no time to be conservative with oil!
Give your face a thorough massage to stimulate blood flow. Good circulation is a key component of healthy skin. You can massage, tap, and pat your face gently to relax your muscles and tone your skin.
After 3 to 5 minutes, grab a soft, clean washcloth. Soak it in warm water and place it on your face like a mask. Rinse and repeat 2 – 3 times. You should feel your pores opening as the heat loosens the oil, drawing it to the surface.
Finally, rinse your washcloth one last time and wrap it around your hand like a mitten. Gently wipe the remaining oil from your face in an outward motion. Start with your T-zone and brush out toward your hair- and jawline from there.
Rinse your face with cold water and use a toner to close your freshly cleaned pores. Voila! You should immediately notice healthy, smooth, and hydrated skin.
Oils to Use for the Oil Cleansing Method
These are our top picks for the oil cleansing method. You can read more about how and why they work in this research paper from the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Argan oil contains fatty acids, polyphenols, and squalene. Daily application has been shown to improve skin elasticity and fight acne. It also restores the barrier function, improving the water-holding capacity of skin for increased hydration.
Grapeseed oil is an incredible choice for those of us with acne. It has been shown to increase the rate at which your skin heals and may help reduce the appearance of scars. Naturally antimicrobial, grapeseed oil has a high content of linoleic acid, vitamin E, and phenolic compounds to boot.
Sunflower Kernel Oil
Sunflower kernel oil is rich in linoleic acid, which has been shown to repair the skin barrier. As a result, it restores and locks in skin hydration. It may also be chemopreventive, meaning it reduces the risk of skin cancer.
Oat oil is the oil cleanser of choice for people with dry, sensitive skin. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a soothing option. It is rich in linoleic acid, aiding in restoring your skin barrier.
Almond oil is known to improve complexion and skin tone. It is shown to prevent the structural damage caused by UV irradiation.
Rosehip oil is rich in phenolic acids and linoleic acid. In other words, it reduces inflammation and oxidation, making it a promising option for eczema.
Jojoba oil is a current oil cleansing favorite. With a high content of wax esters, jojoba oil is effective in skin barrier repair for damaged skin. According to the NIH, it has proven anti-inflammatory effects, making it useful for anti-aging and healing skin infections.
Avocado oil is the most vitamin rich oil on this list, containing vitamins A, C, D, and E. It also contains beta carotene and lecithin, making it the perfect enrichment source for dry, chapped skin. It’s great for hair too!
Oils to Avoid, Depending on Skin Type
- Coconut oil is still in its heyday, but can be comedogenic for oily skin types. We recommend it for youthful lips.
- Olive oil is also a thick, comedogenic oil.
- Soybean oil contains poly-unsaturated fats, which may increase signs of aging in your skin.
- Mineral oil is a derivative of petroleum. As a result, it can be difficult to wash off, which could result in clogged pores.
Essential oils are powerful extracts that have been used with great effect by some. However, they can be harsh when applied directly to your skin. After finding the right base oil for your skin, you can experiment with a drop or two of essential oils, but use them with caution.
Top 3 Recommended Oil Cleansers
If you’re not one to DIY, you can purchase one of these cruelty-free, vegan cleansers instead.
Cruelty-free, Vegan, Free of Sulfates & Parabens
Organys Cleansing Oil doubles as a makeup remover. Though it uses olive oil as a base, this cleanser balances the thickness with geranium oil and water, allowing it to be washed off easily. This product lifts all impurities, from sunscreen to makeup, making it a hydrating and nourishing daily cleanser.
Cruelty-free, Vegan, Free of SLS, Synthetic Fragrances, Tree Nuts, Parabens, Talc & Gluten
bareMinerals uses a unique blend of bilberry, borage, cucumber, and sunflower oils plus mineral-rich sea salts to create a hydrated and nourished complexion. Still hesitant to move away from foaming cleansers? Just add a touch of water to this oil cleanser to transform it into a rich, lathering emulsion.
Cruelty-free, Vegan, Free of Sulfates, Gluten, Parabens, PEGs, Synthetic Fragrance, Phthalate, Formaldehyde & Mineral Oil
Don’t let the name fool you. Josie Maran’s Argan Oil also contains antioxidant and vitamin rich sunflower seed oil, pomelo grapefruit, and olea europaea fruit to help balance your skin and repair your skin barrier. This product goes on a little heavy, but you can be sure you’re giving your skin spa treatment.