The Oil Cleansing Method: How to wash your face with oil

Coconut oil is a useful face wash and make-up remover.
Coconut oil is a useful face wash and make-up remover. Creative Commons

Each night before bedtime — after a long day of exposing myself to myriads of people, places and things; after eating greasy meals and exposing my face to withered paper napkins; after and coughing sneezing into much loved tissues; and after touching my face probably hundreds of times with bacteria laden hands — I wash my face. With oil.

When you think of cleaning any part of your body and washing away the grit and grime of daily life, I’m almost certain the last thing most people think of using as a cleaning agent is oil. But when it comes to face wash, I swear by it, and have for years.

That’s right; this is a DIY column I’ve spent years testing, and every part of me — especially my face—fully advocates using the Oil Cleansing Method.

My backstory is like that of many women: Marginal skin issues until pregnancy, whereupon horrible cystic pimples erupted and continued to do so throughout most of my adulthood. There I was, well into my 40s, reading another blogger’s woes as she, too, contemplated both Botox and acne cream — when I’d become resigned to my fate. I imagined a future where I would compare the most effective zit remedies … with my great-grandchildren. I’d be the only 90-year-old using the occasional dab of Benzoyl Peroxide.

I don’t exactly recall where in my Internet travels I first read about the Oil Cleansing Method, but since 2011, I have been removing my makeup, washing my face and moisturizing daily with organic virgin coconut oil — the same kind of coconut oil I keep in my kitchen. The breakouts stopped (barring the very rare hormonal pimple) and the patchy dryness ended. Sure, I’ve used high-end, anti-aging cleansing systems for periods of time (only because I’m horribly, horribly vain) — but when the system runs its course, I always go right back to my Oil Cleansing Method.

What is it?

The basic concept of cleaning one’s face with oil is simple science: like dissolves like. Ever notice how, when oil is added to water, the two substances never mix? It goes back to what you learned in eighth grade science class: water is a polar substance and oil is a non-polar substance. The oils and sebum (the skin’s secretion responsible for waterproofing and lubricating skin) are non-polar substances. Washing your face with water removes surface dirt, but — unseen by you — the hardened sebum/dirty oils in your skin that you want to remove? Those stay put. Like, however, dissolves like; oil dissolves oil. Using oil to cleanse your skin dissolves pore-clogging oil and sebum.

What kind of oil?

While I’m loudly and proudly advocating washing one’s face with a plant-based oil, it needs to be said (and this may shock you): Everyone’s face is different. (”WHAT!” you scream, “How is this mischief possible when we all look exactly alike?!”) Specifically, while most all of us have skin on our faces, the alkalinity of said skin differs slightly. Thus, it stands to reason that not all oils work the same for everybody.

What I can suggest is using a plant-based, all-natural organic oil. Examples include: Jojoba, almond, hazelnut, grapeseed, avocado, sunflower, coconut, or extra-virgin olive oil. I also suggest avoiding motor oil, because that would be just awful.

Even better, consult our buddy, Mr. Internet, in regards to what might work best for your specific facial situation. There are several websites dedicated to the Oil Cleansing Method, each with instructions on combining different oils for different skin types (from very dry, to excessively oily and everything in between). Remember: I’m not an aesthetician. I’m just some gal that has been washing her face with organic virgin coconut oil for years, which personally works for me — and I swear by it.

What’s the process?

▪  Take a liberal amount of oil and massage the oil onto your face and neck for a minute or two, saturating your skin.

▪  Next, take a hot, wet washcloth, and lay it over your face. The warmth will open your pores.

▪  Finally, wipe off the oil. The oil will leave your skin feeling moisturized. That’s because your skin is moisturized. And clean. Amazingly, there’s no greasy feeling afterward.

That’s pretty much it. Expect your skin to take a week or so to get used the process, as the oil is pulling out dirt, dead skin cells and old sebum to the surface — which initially may result in minor breakouts. But when you find the right oil combination for your skin, you’ll find your skin looking and feeling cleaner, smoother and healthier.