The Oil Cleansing Method: Natural Face Wash
When I first bought Liz Wolf’s Skintervention Guide, I’ll admit that I flipped ahead to the two sections I was most curious about: natural skin care and natural hair care. While the holistic methods were in stark contrast to what I’d spent my life using (frothy, sudsy soaps and water-based moisturizers), it became clear that the benefits outweighed the modern conveniences. Ever eager to heal and find by body’s ideal natural balance, I’ve spent the last couple years experimenting with various methods, products, and approaches. Like we talked about in my inaugural Beauty post, I’ve kept diligent notes and am now thrilled to share my experience with you!
The what’s, why’s, and how’s of natural hair care being an elephant of a topic on its own, let’s focus today on one of the easiest healing beauty routine swaps you can make: wash your face with oil.
I totally know what you’re thinking. I know, because I thought it too.
“Oil cleansing method? That’s freaky. Surly she’s joking. Isn’t the point of washing my face to remove the oils?”
The answer is yes! It’s also no. I’ll explain.
But first, how 'bout a little anatomy & physiology?
Like most of the skin all over our body, the skin on our face is covered in thousands of hairs. Some are thick and visible while most are so small you can hardly see them. Each hair follicle sprouts from a pore! These pores are necessary openings in the skin that allow our natural oils produced from sebaceous glands and dead skin cells to be released. When the sebum (a combination of the oil and dead skin cells) becomes compacted, it can cause a clogged and enlarged pore.
Why do we produce oils?
The oil produced from the countless sebaceous glands all over our face, neck, and chest (and almost the rest of the body, for that matter) help to protect our skin. It’s a natural lubricant perfected to match your exact needs. How cool is that? The overarching purpose of our natural oil is to waterproof our skin. This waterproofing helps keep moisture locked in; which, in turn, helps to defend against winkles. Natural oil production also helps to flush our pores open and free of debris.
Don’t those oils cause zits?
Compacted sebum (oils released from the sebaceous glands that’s combined with dead skin cells) clogs our pores. When these clogged pores become infected and inflamed over time, a zit may form. While an over-production of oil from the sebaceous gland may contribute to the compacted pore, it’s the inflammation and bacteria that can trigger the mini infection.
So why do we even need to wash our face?
A day spent walking around in our modern world, whether we wear makeup or not, will result in an overload of dirt and other toxins on our face. Washing these foreign objects away each day is one way to ensure that we keep our pores cleared and natural oil production running smoothly.
People who are experiencing hormonal changes often undergo a surge in oil production. Adolescence, stress, menopause, and other health complications can all result in overactive sebaceous glands. The overflow of oil can speed up the development of acne if the pores are not unclogged regularly.
While physically clogged pores and fluxes in hormones have an impact on our skin health, diet and hydration are the root of the matter. Enjoying a clean, healing diet will cause us to have clean, healthy skin. You can learn more about the details of “food for skin health” in the Skintervention Guide, but know that the Paleo-friendly lifestyle we follow based on lots of seasonal vegetables, fits the bill.
Enough with the science! Tell me about my options.
The beauty industry has no shortage of options when it comes to face care. You can buff, soap, scrub, and lather your way through thousands of products and thousands of dollars. While the marketing strategies and mysterious ingredient combinations seem endlessly diverse, one thing is true of almost all conventional face washes: they work to chemically clean your skin of dirt and makeup. This “chemical clean” also happens to strip your natural oils. You’re left with unnaturally dry skin that you then must moisturize immediately. Often, this causes our sebaceous glands to ramp up oil production to compensate for the dryness. Excess oil then causes enlarged pores, over-oily skin, and the need for more conventional products. We get caught in an endless circle of dolling out money, falling for enticing marketing schemes, and finding ourselves with depleted skin that’s craving for a healing answer.
OIL CLEANSING METHOD (OCM)
We all know that “like dissolves like,” right? We know that if we get oil-based paint on our hands, washing it off with water won’t work. We’ll need some oil to dissolve it! The principle behind the OCM is just the same. After a long day, our skin has a good amount of natural oil on it. This is normal and expected! In order for us to wash away all the dirt, makeup, and other junk collected on our face during the day WITHOUT stripping our face of the good, natural oils, we need to apply come cleansing oils!
The OCM is a broad concept in which you can customize your best fit. I’ve tried a number of different oil blends and have decided that simple is best, easiest, and most accessible.
Contrary to what you might think, the OCM doesn't leave your face feeling greasy or weighed-down. After you finish washing, you will have clean, soft, supple skin.
Now tell me about how!
After years of traumatizing cystic acne, changing how I wash my face was a huge leap. Liz’s guide was one of my very first introductions to the Oil Cleansing Method. She does a fabulous job of detailing various levels of skin care and all the moisturizing oils available for you to blend your own personal match. While there are also several pre-blended products available for purchase, I’m going to outline my homemade OCM method for starters. I’ll cover the other products in a later article.
Homemade OCM blends are inexpensive and accessible! I literally use some of the same oils I keep in my kitchen. Though, I recommend you store a separate bottle just for your bathroom purposes.
My Daily OCM Wash
Note: this method works great for daily makeup-removal (even waterproof makeup!) and preparing your skin for an evening moisturizer. For those of you looking for a deeper clean (and if you don't suffer from dry skin), I recommend you add 1/2 a teaspoon caster oil to the blend below.
- 2 teaspoons virgin coconut oil (good for skin that’s prone to infections)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil (good for dry skin)
- clean washcloth
- hot running water
- 1 teaspoon castile soap (to clean washcloth)
- At least 1 hour before bed, heat water until hot (but not scalding).
- Drench washcloth in hot water, do not wring-out, and set aside.
- In the palm of your hand, add the 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and then the 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Using your fingers, gently blend the two oils together until you have an even consistency.
- Rub your hands together so that the oil is warmed and coating both palms. Note: this may seem like a lot of oil, so do your best not to drop any in the sink.
- Apply the blended oil all over your face, gently massaging it evenly into your skin. Note: if you’re wearing waterproof eye makeup, gently apply some of the oil over your eyes after you’ve finished massaging it into the rest of your face.
- Grab the sopping wet hot washcloth, gently wring-out half the water, and then lay it over your face. Hold the hot cloth there, focus on relaxation, breath deeply, and remove the cloth once it is cooled. This step really allows your pores to open and lets the cleansing oils in to release any buildup.
- Rinse the cloth in warm water again, lay it over your face once more, and gently wipe the oil and makeup away. Be careful not to scrub your face as it may cause damage to your skin.
- Repeat step 7 until all your makeup is removed and your skin is clean.
- To clean your washcloth, lather it with a little liquid castile soap and scrub until all the oil and dirt is washed away. Store to dry for the next day.
When I travel, which can be quite often, I usually only bring a small jar of coconut oil with me and skip the olive oil addition.
Note: As with all major detoxes, you should expect an adjustment period when you first start using the OCM. You may experience excess oil production at first, but then it will even out as your body reestablishes its perfect balance. Stay with it and adjust your oil blend as needed. If your face feels too oily, omit the olive oil and proceed with 3 teaspoons of coconut oil instead.
I’ll save natural moisturizes, anti-aging serums, masks, and makeup for future face skin care Fed+Fit Beauty articles. I’m a proponent of gradual changes and encourage you to take your time with these new concepts. Working slowly will allow you to fine-tune your beauty regimen and really choose what fits you best.
For more oil blend options and background information, check out the Skintervention Guide by Liz Wolf.
If you enjoy Liz’s work, you should also check out her new Real Food Liz Radio Podcast! Liz invited me to join her on Episode #3!