Oil Cleansing: Safe and Gentle Skin Care |

Oil Cleansing: Safe and Gentle Skin Care

admin January 23, 2014

In college my roommate shared a neat trick for removing eye makeup: she simply used a cotton ball and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) and her mascara swiped right off! Hello inexpensive and effective alternative to the fancy eye-makup remover I was using!

I ditched that part of my beauty routine when I began pursuing a natural lifestyle because I learned that petroleum jelly is a byproduct (waste) of the oil industry. In addition to concerns over it being a non-renewable resource (not eco-friendly by many standards), some point to petroleum products as potential carcinogens due to contamination with toxins.

Petroleum products are in a lot of skin/beauty care items, though! Add that to the list of other chemicals it’s best to avoid slathering on our skin (our largest organ, afterall), and it can be difficult to find beauty products that work and are still safe. I do use the EWG Skin Deep Database as a reference when purchasing skin care items, but you’ll see that even they give petroleum jelly a safe rating.

Even Safe Ingredients Can Be Too Harsh

I’ve experimented with many different facial cleansers from my health food store and the “natural” section at the grocer. I enjoy wearing makeup when I have time, but I tend to avoid it because washing my face usually makes my dry skin drier, and my face never seems to get clean enough with face wash to avoid clogged pores and breakouts.

So even when I switched over to natural makeup removers, I had to buy a separate eye-makeup remover to avoid petroleum, AND a separate face moisturizer to combat the dryness from the other products. I’m just too frugal for that folks, not to mention using three products just takes too much time for a mom of little ones.

I was thrilled a few years ago to learn that there are many face/body cleansers that can be made at home with ingredients from your kitchen! I’ve done lots of experimenting with those as well, and for more than a year I’ve been pleased to see wonderful results with an all-in-one, easy, and frugal solution: oil cleansing.

The Oil Cleansing Method

oil cleansing before & after

It might seem strange to you that adding oil to your face would clean it, especially if your skin tends to be oily in general. It’s true that the harsher ingredients in other cleansers make your face squeaky clean, but they do that by scrubbing away your skin’s natural, protective oils. Your skin then overcompensates for the lack of protection and will be oilier overall.

The basic concept behind oil cleansing is that “like dissolves like.” Oil cleansing still removes the dirt and excess oil by dissolving the oils that have dried and clogged your pores. Those oils and any makeup or dirt slide right out of the pores and off of your skin with a wash cloth and a little hot water!

Whether or not you choose to wear makeup, this is a gentle routine to cleanse and moisturize your skin before bed or to wake you up in the morning. It is safe for every day, but you may find that you see benefits even when you only use it a couple of times a week.

Items Needed (links are affiliate links):

Empty Bottle/Jar
Castor Oil
Another oil (or two) of choice from list below
Essential oil(s) (optional)
Cotton facial cloth

Commonly Used Oils:

Olive Oil*
Coconut Oil*
Jojoba Oil
Almond Oil
Avocado Oil
Grapeseed Oil

* There is some controversy over whether or not olive oil and coconut oil clog pores. However, plenty of people use them with no ill effect, so if it is what you have on hand, I say go for it!


I use a 3 oz. squeeze bottle so that I can mix a bit at a time and not waste a ton if I decide to switch up my formula. That also makes it handy for travel.

You can find examples of different ratios for the oils all around the web, but in general start with 1/3 castor oil and add your other oil(s) to fill the rest of the bottle.

Just a few drops of essential oils will do. I add about 6 drops of frankincense and a bit more of my rose oil blend and that is plenty for 3 ozs! Other oils you might try include lavender, tea tree (melaleuca), geranium, chamomile, and sandalwood.

To use, wash your hands and then pour a half-dollar sized amount of your oil blend into your fingers. Rub the oil into your skin gently all over, including your eye-lids and lashes. Run hot water over your cloth and wring out. If I’m in the shower and I’ve already been enjoying the benefit of the steam, I’ll just go right to wiping the oil off. Otherwise, take a minute to place the cloth on your face to allow the warmth to open your pores, and then wipe the oil and grime away.

That’s it!

Other Tips

You will likely not need any other moisturizer. The oils will leave your face soft and supple, but not oily.

I prefer a textured cotton cloth like the ones in my photos for a little bit of exfoliation, and because cotton washes well in hot water and that will help prevent any residue affecting future washes. I do clean my cloths with my other towels using a gentle laundry detergent.

If you are a visual person, as I am, watch this video by Stephanie at Keeper of the Home. It really helped me understand how simple this whole process is when I was just starting out.

You may need to try several ratios to find the best choice for you. I have been using 1/3 Castor Oil to 2/3 Olive Oil for a year now with no trouble. I recently added Frankincense and a fancy Rose oil just to see if I can make a difference in the age spots that have popped up as I’ve had children. And now that my monthly cycle is back (after having three children in 5 years), I do notice a bit more acne at certain times of the month, so I just purchased some avocado oil to add to the mix.

If you find that this method dries your skin out, try less castor oil. (Some people do well without any castor oil at all, though it is the standard). If it seems to clog your pores and you are using olive oil, you may want to try another oil or switch to an olive oil that is more likely to be pure. If you use almond oil and it irritates your skin, you may have a nut allergy and should switch. Read this post for more tips.

To end on a funny note: “you know you are a blogger when…” you cover your face with makeup right before bed in your pajamas so that you can take photos of yourself washing it off to add to a blog post. 😉

Have you tried the oil cleansing method? What is your favorite oil combination?

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  1. Another great post Anjanette!!! Makes me miss you, but glad to get bits and pieces of you through posts.

    I wanted to chime in because I’ve been oil cleansing for about 8 mths. I really love it, and I was skeptical at first because I do have oily skin. I definitely had to do some trial and error to find which oil works best for my skin. I tried coconut oil first because I had it on hand. It seemed to work very well for about a month. Then it totally started clogging my pores. I literally looked like I was going through puberty again. At that time, I was nursing a very curious 8 mth old baby boy that became busier and busier learning new skills. At times, he forget about nursing more than usual during the day, only to marathon nurse at night. So, milk production did have to change, and hormones were re-balancing again to go with the little one’s new growing phase (seems like always, right?). haha. Anyway, while the reason for the never-ending breakouts could be explained from a combination of coconut oil use for OCM and milk productions changes, as soon as I switched the oil to a jojoba/grapeseed combo, the breakouts cleared up almost immediately and completely. However, again, after a time, I noticed an imbalance in my skin’s appearance, so I dropped the jojoba oil and only use grapeseed oil. (I still do use jojoba oil as a carrier for my everyday EOs.) Grapeseed oil alone has been just perfect for my skin! It is so nice (and so much cheaper!) to do the OCM. My skin feels soft and moisturized and doesn’t appear oily anymore because the natural oils are not stripped from my skin. I think the overall appearance of my skin has brightened too. I do not wear make-up everyday, but do like to once or twice a week. It’s a wonderful thing to grab one product for every facial need. The next thing I’d like to try is adding essential oils to my grapeseed oil…a bit more research needed for that, but looking forward to even more benefits with adding that to my OCM.

    Question…make-up…any particular brand you use? I have a combo of many of the top brands for convenience’s sake. Nothing “natural” though.


  2. […] like oil cleansing to keep my face clean without stripping oils.  It helps to keep your skin clear of blemishes […]


  3. Really great post of tips shared here. Its easy to do this type of treatment at home itself. I am unaware of this type of tip. Thanks a lot Anjanette….


  4. […] This is for the adults.  We’ll be doing oil pulling each morning with coconut oil.  Read more about oil pulling here. […]


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Hi, I’m Kate.  I love medical freedom, sharing natural remedies, developing real food recipes, and gentle parenting. My goal is to teach you how to live your life free from Big Pharma, Big Food, and Big Government by learning about herbs, cooking, and sustainable practices.

I’m the author of Natural Remedies for Kids and the owner and lead herbalist at EarthleyI hope you’ll join me on the journey to a free and healthy life!

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