Why I Swear By The Oil Cleansing Method

I know, cleaning your face with oil may sound a bit strange if you haven't heard of the oil cleansing method (sometimes referred to as the OCM). Especially if you have oily or acne-prone skin. But once you get it, it will make perfect sense, and you'll never buy makeup remover again!

You see, oil and it's use in skincare go back a seriously long way. The ancient Greeks had a torturous way of cleaning their bodies at bathhouses (before soap was invented) involving oil and a tool called a strigil. And the ancient Greek women used olive oil as part of their daily beauty regime, to cleanse and moisturise.

How It Works

The theory behind oil cleansing is that like dissolves like. Using an oil to clean the skin dissolves pore clogging sebum, dirt, environmental pollution and makeup. The oil cleansing method works by massaging a suitable oil into the face for a few minutes. Working the oil into your pores and problem areas, lifting and dissolving blackheads and grime. The oil is then removed with a piping hot face cloth to soften the pores for a deep cleanse. The OCM is like a mini facial that leaves your skin feeling steam cleaned and soft!

Oil cleansing will remove all traces of your makeup, plus the dirt and grime your pores picked up during the day, and even waterproof mascara!

A Kinder Way To Cleanse

One of the best DIY skincare tips for glowing skin is to get rid of the sudsy cleanser, filled with sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) and harsh alcohols. They may get your face squeaky clean, but they could be aging your skin in the process! Many facial cleansers strip the fats (lipids) from the skin damaging the skin's barrier function, which is vital for healthy skin.


Finding the right oils for your skin type can be trial and error. Make sure to always purchase certified organic oils, as pesticides can pose skin and health risks. Those with oily or acne-prone skin types have low levels of Linoleic Acid (omega-6) in their skin so should look for carrier oils high in this essential fatty acid. These skin types have more Oleic Acid (omega-9) in their skin's natural oils making the sebum thick and sticky which blocks pores leading to blackheads, whiteheads and breakouts.

Low levels of Linoleic Acid in the skin also causes excess oil production. Non-comedogenic (non-pore clogging) oils have a high Oleic, low Linoleic Acid profile which can help balance oily skin.

Prickly pear seed oil is derived from the fruit of a cactus tree native to Mexico and South America. It is fantastic for oily and acne-prone skin types due to its high (65%) Linoleic Acid content which helps to regulate excess sebum production. It has the ability to shrink and tighten pores. It's light and easily absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy residue, and it has a comedogenic rating of zero.

Evening primrose oil also has a high (73%) Linoleic Acid content. It can help balance hormones and is a known miracle worker for hormonal acne. It has a comedogenic rating of 2, which means it is unlikely to clog pores for most people. It can also be taken internally for skin disorders like psoriasis and dermatitis.

Coconut oil is a superb facial cleanser, it easily removes makeup including waterproof mascara! It has many protective antioxidants and antimicrobial properties that help to balance fungal and candida related skin issues. Coconut oil has a very unique fatty acid profile of lauric, capric and caprylic acids which are immunity superstars. One of the very few other places lauric acid is found is in breast milk.

The advice on coconut oil for acne prone skin is conflicting, and once again it comes down to trial and error and finding out what suits your skin. A 2014 study found that caprylic acid is effective at treating acne due to it's anti-microbial and antibacterial properties. The good bacteria present on our skin convert lauric and caprylic acid into new compounds that prevent acne-causing bacteria from growing on the skin and also help reestablish our skins acid mantle.

Castor oil is a must for many when it comes to oil cleansing, it has strong detoxifying and purging qualities. The key ingredient that makes castor oil so unique is a fatty acid called ricinoleic acid. This gives it a much higher viscosity than other oils, and makes it much more soluble, meaning it dissolves into things like alcohol, which is why castor oil and its many derivatives have applications in the manufacturing of soaps, pharmaceuticals, perfumes and cosmetics.

It is also a great natural home remedy for fighting mild acne. In vitro research has shown that castor oil is effective against lots of bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, which is can cause acne and serious skin infections.

Macadamia nut oil is very light in consistency and is perfect as a base oil in your cleansing routine. It has purifying and anti-inflammatory properties which can soothe and reduce acne breakouts. It is incredibly moisturizing and regenerating, due to its high Oleic acid content. It is also high in the anti-aging fatty acid, palmitoleic acid which our skin has plenty of when we are born and in youth but decreases with age leading to loss of elasticity and firmness in the skin. Regular use of macadamia nut oil can help to restore this.


Once you have your oils all you need now is a cotton face cloth and hot running water.

  1. Begin by warming a generous amount of oil between your hands and apply to a dry, dirty face. (No need to remove makeup)

  2. Massage into your face for 2-3 minutes using slow, firm circular motions across the face and neck. At this point turn on the tap so the water can warm up.

  3. Take your time and relax, working the oil into your pores and problem areas so that blackheads and impurities can be dissolved and steamed away.

  4. Now soak your face cloth under hot running water, it should be hot enough to open the pores and remove the oil, but not scalding.

  5. The next step you are essentially steaming your face as an aesthetician would during a facial. Wring the cloth out and hold it on your face for 5-10 seconds. This steam will soften and open the pores so you can then wipe away the dirt and grime from your day. Rinse the cloth and repeat until all of the oil is removed from the skin.

If you have acne-prone skin it is very common to experience a skin purge when you first start oil cleansing. I will stress that it's very important to rinse all the oil off thoroughly. Doing the oil cleanse as the first step in your double cleanse is a good way of completely removing all traces of oil.


If you're into homemade skincare and want only natural ingredients in your products then give this cleansing balm recipe a go. It's suitable for all skin types and is so easy to make, it can also double up as moisturiser when you travel!

You can change the oils and amounts as there is no set recipe, just what suits your skin. I make this amount (it fills a 500ml glass jar perfectly) because it lasts me ages, and who has the time to make DIY's every week! Sometimes I use coconut oil straight out of the tub to remove my makeup.

Essential Oils Used

Lemongrass oil (Cybopogon flexuosus) is the 'quiet powerhouse' of essential oils. It has major skin healing benefits due to its vast vitamin and mineral profile. It contains vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C, Folate, Calcium, Copper, Magnesium, Phosphorous, Manganese, Iron, Zinc and Potassium. It is a very effective cleanser and is a great addition to DIY shampoos, soap, deodorants and conditioner. It can sterilise pores, tone the skin and strengthen skin tissue due to antiseptic and astringent properties.

Tea Tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is very popular for treating skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis due to its high antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. It is known for its ability to fight off acne-causing bacteria, lift oil and dirt from clogged pores, and soothe breakouts. Tea tree oil also contains antiviral and antiseptic properties which can aid in treating scalp issues like dandruff and head lice and fight bacterial, fungal and viral infections. Most topical anti-acne creams contain tea tree extracts. It has been proven to be as effective as benzoyl peroxide in fighting acne.

Lavender oil (Lavendula anguvstifolia) has many, many skin benefits and is suitable for all skin types. It helps to repair damaged skin and speeds up the process of skin cell regeneration. It balances excess sebum production and has antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties making it a great oil for skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis. Lavender essential oil is high in antioxidants so it will help to protect skin from environmental damage and it is very hydrating. I add this oil to everything!


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