I don't have time to mess around with fussy homemade beauty products, but I sure love when I find something simple (and affordable) that works. That's why I was drawn to the oil cleansing method – basically cleaning your face with oil. I've had some pitfalls along the way, so I'm hoping you can learn from my mistakes and eventual success.
As a teen I was riddled with acne. Dermatologists told me again and again that it had nothing to do with food, so I continued to devour my “standard American” fare – Micky-D's fries, poptarts, and all. Meanwhile, I took antibiotics for years, slathered Retin-A on my young skin, and tried drying, toxic face cleansers and products like it was my job.
It wasn't until years later that I really understood how internal health – specifically digestion/gut flora – is directly related to the appearance and health of our skin.
With a clean diet (and plenty of gut healing), I've been able to mostly avoid breakouts. While what I put ON my skin is still important, I now know that what goes into my body is just as important.
My aversion to skin care products
As you might imagine, after years of using topical skincare products with mediocre to detrimental results, I grew to be suspicious of all of it.
For years, I simply washed my face with castille soap (on the advice of a esthetician) and used a bit of coconut oil to moisturize when my skin felt dry.
My breakouts still existed but seemed manageable enough, and I chalked a bad day up to hormones or poor food choices.
I discovered the oil cleansing method
When my friend, Heather Dessinger of Mommypotamus released her book DIY Beauty, I learned some things about skincare that surprised me.
I always believed toners were a scam, until Heather taught me how the right toner can correct the pH imbalance that may occur any time you wash your face with soap, thereby removing your skin's natural mantle of oils.
Crap. I guess I needed toner.
Then I learned about the oil cleansing method, which is basically using oil to clean and nourish your skin instead of soap. While most ladies avoid putting oil on their skin for fear of clogged pores, the oil actually does the exact opposite.
The oil helps to break down and remove dirt (and makeup), and a hot cloth steams open pores to cleanse deeply.
Brilliant! Sounded like that might eliminate the need for a toner AND a moisturizer. I was sold.
With that, I reallocated a jar of coconut oil from my kitchen pantry to my bathroom counter.
For months and months, I would scoop out a bit of oil, rub it all over my face, then use a clean, wet washcloth (hot as possible) to steam and then wipe down my face. Easy-peasy.
Since coconut oil is anti-microbial, I figured I was doing double duty with the cleansing, and for the most part I was loving my new, simple and cheap skin care routine.
How I failed at the oil cleansing method
After a while of doing the oil cleansing method, I started to wonder why I was still having acne breakouts along my jawline.
As this is the tell-tale area for hormone imbalance, I figured I needed to get my hormones sorted out.
I started supplementing with calcium d-glucarate (I use this one), which helps the body to detoxify excess estrogen. I cut back on sugar (ahem… ok, wine and cookies). And while this helped, my skin still wasn't as clear as I would like.
THEN, on a whim, I started to do some deeper research into the oil cleansing method.
Turns out that coconut oil (as well as olive oil) can actually be comedogenic – a.k.a. pore clogging… Eureka! (Thanks, Crunchy Betty.)
Fine tuning the oil cleansing method to work for me
After my little discovery about the pore clogging nature of coconut oil and olive oil, I started to pay closer attention to what I slathered all over my face. After only a little trial and error, here's what I settled on:
My personal oil blend for cleansing:
1 part castor oil
Thick and cleansing, but can be drying, so experiment to find the best ratio for you – This is the organic castor oil I use. You can get cheaper if you go conventional, but be sure to buy cold-pressed and hexane-free.
3 parts avocado oil
Great for dry skin, so blended with a bit of castor oil it's a nice combo. I buy organic California avocado oil from my local store. But if you prefer to buy it online, this one is good and affordable. Since avocados are thick skinned and the trees don't need a lot of chemical maintenance, organic is not absolutely essential.
Neem oil (about 1 teaspoon per 2 cups base oil)
This stuff smells GNARLY – like rotting onion skins – but strangely, I sort of love it. Neem has been credited with helping acne, aging skin, and inflammation, so I love it all the more. Many versions for neem are cut with a carrier oil because neem is solid at room temperature. I prefer this pure neem oil, and melt it before combining it with the other oils by putting the bottle in a cup of hot water.
Other oils to try:
While this blend works great for me (no more break outs!), some other oils you may want to try as your base (with or without castor oil) are:
- Argan oil – This is magical oil and one of my favorites for skincare, but I don't use it for cleansing because it's pricey. This is the one I buy for quality and affordability.
- Joboba oil – A great, neutral oil – good for all skin types – I use this one. But like argan, I feel that it's too pricey to use as a main oil for cleansing.
- Apricot kernel oil – Good for normal to dry skin – this one is organic
- Sweet almond oil – Ideal for normal to oily skin – I like this one
Bonus oils (to add in small amounts for added benefits):
- Tamanu oil – Great for acne – I like this one
- Sea buckthorn oil – Nourishing – especially for aging skin. Doesn't smell great, but in small amounts it's fine. I like this one
- Borage oil – For eczema and acne. This one is high quality
Bottom line, if your skin doesn't feel/look great, first make sure that the problem isn't an internal one – something you shouldn't be eating, or an imbalance that needs to be addressed. Then switch up the oil blend until you find the perfect concoction for you.
In my next post, I'll share my secrets for crafting the perfect DIY anti-aging serum which I obsessed over for longer than I care to admit.
Do you use the oil cleansing method? Which oils have you found work best for you?