I love oil. I think its one of the most important beauty items a gal can have on her vanity (proof is on the Pure + Simple shelves). But while I have used oils as a moisturizer, protector, sebum-regulator, circulation increaser and makeup smoother, I have never used it as a cleanser. Sure I’ve removed eye make up with oil before, but fans of the “Oil Cleansing Method” use oil instead of their daily face wash each day and/or night.
What is the Oil Cleansing Method?
After a quick online search, I found that the most popular method uses a mixture of castor oil and sunflower oil massaged into unmoistened skin then removed with a hot face towel. It not only seemed simple enough but it made sense from my view as an esthetician and product formulator. Oil breaks down oil, which is why removing cakey makeup and cream shadows is best done with an oil (often people use mineral oil…yuck, pleas opt for sweet almond oil or jojoba). And, soap itself is an oily substance that loosens dirt, sebum and debris then rinsed away with water.
Oil Cleansing with Castor Oil
So I decided to try using oil as a cleanser hoping that it would helped my winter-dried complexion. But I opted to forgo using castor oil for a few reasons. I read about a terrible breakout reaction that beauty blogger Beauty Editor experienced. Castor oil has heating properties and is known to break down cysts, increase circulation and assist purgation (according to Ayurveda and other health modalities). The hint to knowing castor oil is heating and therefore potentially inflaming is its texture. The thicker, more fatty an oil is, the more heating it is (conversely, the cooling, anti-inflammatory oils are thin and light like coconut oil). Castor oil is so thick its almost gluey that any time I’ve used it in a formulation, I’ve had to dilute it down a lot so it can be applied it to skin with ease. Online, it is said that castor oil is best for clarifying skin – whether users know it or not, this is because its heating quality stimulates circulation and movement and therefore detoxification. But this isn’t great for all skin types, which leads me to my second reason I skipped the castor oil: its rich. I love emollient, protective skincare, but it has to absorb properly. Castor oil does absorb, but sometimes not fully, which is why a co-worker of mine (and beauty maven herself) found that after experimenting with using castor oil nightly, she got little bumps all over her face as the oil plugged up her pores.
An Esthetician’s Experience
Instead, I tried using Pure + Simple’s Pitta Face Oil. This is a blend of organic coconut oil with jojoba and blue chamomile oils. I thought this would be great because coconut oil is a natural anti-bacterial but also helps to calm redness (which is handy from all the massaging you do with the oil cleansing method).
I followed the Oil Cleansing Method instructions, by applying it to my face over my make up and without water. I continued by working it in through massage and reapplied a few palmfuls of oil as it absorbed quickly (again this was a thinner oil so permeated easily). Some accounts online have said that they have felt sebum plugs in their pores actually come out during this step. While this did not happen to me, I have seen this as an esthetician. When massaging congested skin with oil I have often loosed up corked pores and had bits of dried sebum slide out all over my hands. This is usually only in the case of very dehydrated, clogged complexions.
Myself, I just felt a graininess on the surface of my dry skin – and as I massaged vigorously, could feel some of my dead skin cells move around, pill up, and give way for smooth skin underneath (this was after about five minutes of continuous rubbing). I then applied a hot face towel (you can use any face cloth run under hot water) to my skin, pressed it in as a compress then wiped away the excess oil. While I do think the oil did an excellent job loosening up my dry, dead skin cells, I also think that the friction of the warm towel also offered some gentle exfoliation. My skin was left feeling good, but with slight oil residue. This made it difficult for my serum and moisturizer to absorb when applied after this cleansing process. The oil had created a slight barrier for my more water-based products.
I tried this method out again because I wanted to see the amazing results that other had seen from the Oil Cleansing Method. Though, I have to say that perhaps those who found this transformed their skin may never have used natural skincare or an oil at all. In this case, I could see how incorporating a natural oil into their regime could provide fantastic skin improvements. This time, I thought I should use a richer oil hoping this would be create a less intense castor oil-like effect and dislodge my deeper skin impurities through lubrication. I decided on a calendula infused sunflower oil that I had in my cupboard (my bathroom cupboard is a playground of oil samples and experiments). Again, I followed the same protocol except I added the extra step of adding a few drops of water into the oil massage, working water into the oil as well. Alas, the same results – no miraculous deep-pore purge, but my skin was left feeling supple. Unfortunately with an even heavier filmy oil residue.
Now I have no problem with the feeling of oiliness, its just that my face felt a bit tight because my skin could not fully receive the water from my toner, serum or moisturizer because the oil had created a barrier. Its important to mention that our skin needs both water and oil for proper nourishment as this mimics the combination of sebum and water that our skin tissue holds. Many people assume oil is moisture, but it is only one part of the equation. This is why I have seen clients who are oily with dry, flaky skin who are confused by this perceived conflict. The next day I did find one small break out where there had been some congestion. But I am unsure if it was from the Oil Cleansing Method encouraging detoxification, bringing this to the surface, or if was from the fact I had been massaging my skin really intensely for the last two days, creating both pressure and heat on the area.
Either way, I can see how cleansing with oil can benefit ultra-clogged skin types, which have comedones ready to come out and can use some encouragement through this little oil slip process. It is also good for complexions that aren’t too dehydrated (lacking water) and want to avoid depleting their skin with cleansing agents and detergents. If you have a good amount of hydration, then you don’t rely on the deep penetration of water-rich serums etc. For me, I would only opt to do this as a once a week treatment – it does can be used as a non-drying, non-sensitizing exfoliating measure along with a healthy dose of oil absorption.