How I became friends with oil cleansing
It has taken a long time for me to come around to the idea of cleaning my face with oil. The logic of oil being the best thing to break down and clean the oily grime that builds up on the face, while stopping the face over or under producing sebum, as can happen when you strip the skin makes sense.
Despite the logic, it has taken a long time for me to make the leap. Probably because I have one of those classic pimples-with-wrinkles skin types or what the dermatologists like to call the varying shades of roseacea. It tends to go red easily and is prone to sensitivity. With a pretty strict regime I am able to keep it in check.
However, recently my skin has been in a tail spin with pregnancy hormones and I had to go back to basics. My faithful foaming cleanser, friend for so many years, was causing me problems.
OCM, for the acronym lovers, is my new best friend. The funny thing is my skin is much, much better than it’s been for years. Now there is no turning back. One of the many wonderful things about this method is that you can tailor the oil blend to your skin type and adjust it really easily if your skin changes with the seasons, hormones or whatever else life throws at it.
The good grease on oil cleansing
Castor oil is usually recommended because it has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties. Whereas, my two favourite body treatment oils, coconut and olive, are not on the official list. A lot of people on the Internet seem to use them with great success, even though coconut oil apparently tests comodogenic or pore clogging for the finer facial skin and olive can be problematic for a range of reasons.
You can do oil cleansing a couple of times a week, whilst sticking with your existing cleanser the rest of the time or twice a day, whatever works best. I aim to do this once a day and alternate with my face scrub.
As always, please test the oils in a discrete spot first to check for irritation and bear in mind that the nut oils tend to be more allergenic for those with a nut allergy and similarly, wheat germ can be problematic for those with gluten intolerance.
The face washer
The best washer for this is a big piece of thick muslin or cheese cloth, folded in half. The fabric can be found at any sewing store or failing that, a tea towel is a good option. They both rinse out really well and dry quickly. I have one washer by the sink and one by the shower and I change them out ever couple of days. I have eight in total, so I can use each one twice and wash.
Think of it as a sliding scale with ultra dry at one end and really oily at the other. Use the below proportions and adjust to your skin by paying close attention to how your skin feels straight after and especially 12 hours later. If it’s too dry, cut back on the percentage of castor oil, if too oily, increase the castor oil.
The ultra dry, could start with 1/10 castor oil and 9/10 macadamia, avocado, sweet almond, apricot kernel or wheat germ oil.
The ‘normal’ ones (if there is such a thing) ½ castor oil and ½ sweet almond oil or jojoba.
The oily could start with 2/3 castor oil and 1/3 hazelnut or sunflower oil.
The sensitive may need to skip the castor oil altogether.
If you’re like me and only enjoy using things that smell nice, feel free to add 2 drops of essential oil for every 100 ml/ 3.4 fl oz. Lavender, geranium or chamomile are great for most skin types, while tea tree can help those with pimples.
At the sink: Massage the oil into your face. Turn the hot tap on, when it’s really hot rinse the face washer under the water and cover your face with it, holding it there for 10-15 seconds. It can be worthwhile doing it a second time if that suits your skin. Wipe your face really well. I finish with a squirt of the rosewater toner and use a really light moisturiser if I feel like my skin needs it.
In the shower: I find the easiest and most economical way to do this is in the shower. I turn the hot tap on and while I wait for the water to heat up I stand out of the way and massage the oil into my face by this time my some what slow solar hot water system has woken up and the water is usually hot enough. I rinse my face washer under the water (at the same time I turn the cold tap on my normal shower setting so I don’t waste water), put the washer over my face and leave it there for 10-15 secs. The shower is usually the perfect temperature for me by then. I rinse the face washer and wipe my face with it really well and squeeze the washer out and hang it up to dry and give my face another splash of water for good measure. This probably not an economical method for those with instantaneous hot water.
If you would like a video instruction of how cleanse the face with oil, Keeper of the Home has a good one.
The guru of the oil cleansing method is Crunchy Betty she has several posts on the topic.
UPDATE: There seems to be some issues around the fair treatment of workers in castor oil production and apparently it’s hard to source ethical castor oil. I stopped using it and have found the oil cleansing just as good.