Oil Cleansing Method

For the past few months I haven’t been particularly happy with my skin – it hasn’t seemed nearly as smooth and my glow is gone, replaced by a lovely mid-day oil slick across my forehead. Last week I was dutifully compiling my research and anecdotes for a Curvy Girl Guide article on dealing with adult acne and I kept coming across the Oil Cleansing Method on the internet. I’d heard of it before when some other bloggers mentioned trying it and I was intrigued to say the least. The final straw came when I was fiddling around with the camera on my new iPhone 4 a few days later (higher resolution and a ZOOM -HELLO FACE) and realized that all these fancy cameras…. make the make-up I’m using to cover my skin up look like lumpy clown paint.


The oil cleanse method was looking better and better.

I googled around so I could read every blogger ever who had tried it and then I checked out the page that seems to be the OCM bible. I also realized my most favorite Cetaphil “oily skin” cleanser is actually made with castor oil……armed with knowledge (power!) I hit up my local Whole Foods for supplies- a pump bottle, castor oil and sunflower seed oil. I picked these oils after reading about different mixtures (some people like extra virgin olive oil, others claim it is too heavy) although sweet almond oil, jojoba and grapeseed oil seemed popular as well. The only “must” is the castor oil, which is the cleansing component.

  • The actual oil blend: my first blend was 25% castor oil & 75% sunflower seed oil. I used this for two cleanse cycles and started developing dry patches – I’d gone too heavy on my carrier oil (the castor) and too light on the hydrating oil. It also smelled…awful…due to the castor oil. Time to reformulate.
  • I stopped at Trader Joes and picked up a bottle of tea tree oil and jojoba oil. I washed my pump bottle out and made a new blend: 20% castor oil, 25% jojoba oil and 55% sunflower seed oil with 3 drops of tea tree oil for added anti-septic properties and a fresh smell. (All in all I have invested about $20 at this point, although I credit that to the low low prices on tea tree oil at Trader Joes.)

Why these oils? The theory behind the OCM is that castor oil is actually an incredibly cleansing, detoxifying and oil-melting oil (after all: like dissolves like) that is the perfect molecular build up to sink deep into your skin, like all those face washes promise to do. By mixing it with something clean and hydrating you dissolve all the crud in your pores and then provide natural moisture for your skin.

How do you do it?

  • Start running your sink with hot water and soak a washcloth in it.
  • Wash your hands and dry them.
  • Now take a generous pump of your oil blend…and start rubbing it into your face. It dissolves make up (even mascara) and you just want to relax and rub it all in – play a song or two on your iPod, but give it time to really soak.
  • Then, wring out your steaming hot washcloth and place it over your face until it cools off. Repeat this cycle a few times, letting your pores open up. They can then release the junk inside of them, and then oils can really sink in. After a few hot steams, wipe all the oil off with the warm wash cloth. Pat dry – if your skin feels dry, a smidge of jojoba oil rubbed in will do the trick.

The verdict?

I’m still in the “purge” stage, where all the gunk in my pores is coming to the surface and leaving a lovely trail of destruction, but in the areas where I’m not breaking out my skin looks pretty awesome. I’m only 5 days in and the pores on my nose and cheeks have gotten so small I really cannot see them any more. Yesterday was my first day in the office (i.e. wearing makeup all day) and when I got home my forehead oil slick was greatly diminished – I’m hoping it continues to calm down as I keep going with the OCM. I’m shocked at how smooth and glow-y my skin has gotten in less than a week and I’m hoping the purge part of the cycle is over quickly! The castor oil really is drying, so if you get dry patches reformulate your mix. I have added some VitaminE cream to the dry spots I got in the first few days, and they should be gone by tomorrow.

  • Edited to add: I do the OCM in the evening, and then in the morning if I feel like I need it I use a small squirt of Cetaphil to rinse my face in the shower, followed by a thin thin layer of jojoba oil when I get out instead of my usual moisturizer. And as always, after that, a layer of sunscreen, I’m partial to Neutrogena.
  • Edited to add (September, 2011): after using the OCM to get my skin where I wanted it, I only use it once or twice a week to get a good deep cleansing. The rest of the week I use Purity by Philosophy face wash, and either jojoba oil or Hope in a Jar (by Philosophy) to moisturize. Still partial to Neutrogena sunscreen. I also discovered the OCM blend is *perfect* for washing bike chain grease off your legs! Go figure.

So…what do you think?

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35 Responses to Oil Cleansing Method

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  • Sara says:

    I’m really curious about this. I think one of the most important things I forget to do is washing my hands really well before cleaning my face. Duh, right?

    I have pretty dry skin, but I’ve noticed it’s quite splotchy lately and I’ve considered an oil based cleanser, like DHC, but I haven’t yet.

  • Marge says:

    This is really interesting… I am just kind of a product whore so I don’t know that I could give up my clarasonic and face washes… How do you deal with sloughing dry skin?

  • Chibi Jeebs says:

    I’ve been doing this for about a week and a half, but haven’t noticed anything monumental. I’m still struggling with finding the right balance – too much oil, not enough oil, looks like I’m not leaving the facecloth on long enough to steam, too dry (and still using my Cetaphil moisturizer instead of a drop of the jojoba oil… ).

    I’m not sold, but I’m not entirely ready to give up yet. I’ve yet to have that !PURGE! of crap so many people describe – y’know, where they say it feels like all of a sudden they’re using a scrub because of the junk coming out of their pores while they massage with the oil? Nope. I feel like I’m doin’ it wrong. :-s

    • lacey says:

      I let the oil sit on my face for a good 5 minutes or so then began to message and I had all kinds of stuff come out of my pores lol. Give it an opportunity to soak in and see if that helps. ;)

  • Amber says:

    This is totally unrelated to the oil cleansing method…I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I’ve followed your updates on Rhett Butler’s anxiety.

    My fiance and I recently adopted a year and a half old lab/pyrenese mix. She was already crate trained/housebroken. However, after about a week, she started having accidents in her crate. These happen whenever we leave her alone.

    I was wondering if you had any advice/recommendations on the Thundershirt/Prozac. We’ve tried over the counter anxiety treats, we leave the light on for her at night, and she gets plenty of exercise.

    Any suggestions you may have or more information on what works/doesn’t work on your process of acclimating Rhett Butler to your home would be greatly appreciated.

  • Daisy says:

    @Amber- I’m working on an email for you to answer your question.

    @AJ- I’d say I leave it on for about 3-5 minutes (taking it off to heat it back up w/ more hot water) but I get bored too. I try to remember to turn some music on before I start so I can entertain myself a little, but when I forget I try to just clear my mind and relax. Not always succesful, but I try.

    • HeyGurlHey says:

      Hi Daisy,

      How long did the purging stage last? I am currently in the purging stage but I have an important date coming up where my skin needs to be perfect. Also, how often did you do the OCM? Once per day?

  • JustAnotherJDinCherryCountry says:

    I’ve been thinking about trying the OCM for a while now, but haven’t taken the plunge yet.

    Question for you: You say you are using a pump bottle, which is what I would prefer to do rather than use some ugly plastic travel shampoo type bottle, but I was wondering about oil separation. I know the castor oil and the hydrating oils have different consistencies, so to my no science since high school brain that makes me think about different densities and the oils separating while sitting in my container. Is that a valid concern? What has your experience been so far with getting a well distributed solution out of a pump bottle? Do you think it would make a big difference to use a small plastic bottle and shake it each time before you squirt some out?

  • Daisy says:


    You know, I *thought* I was going to have the same problem (and of course my bottle is dark blue and while I can see the LEVEL of oil, I can’t see the colors/separation if it were happening) but when I premixed all my oils in a mixing cup before pouring it in, they all mixed together quite nicely (as opposed to what oil & water looks like when mixed). However, as I pump it out is clear that it is still mixed together – I can smell the tea tree oil, and it has the same consistency as it did when I poured it in- on their own the castor oil is VERY thick and the jojoba and sunflower seed oils are very thin. When I travel I’ll probably pour some into a plastic travel “shampoo” bottle, but I’m sticking to my pump at home.

  • Kristan says:

    I’m definitely intrigued by the OCM but am pretty happy with my skincare regimen from Lush. Two things I learned from them about the oils used for your face: (1) Jojoba oil is awesome for skin because it gets ‘accepted’ as if it is the oil your skin produces on it’s own, and (2) Almond oil is also great because it’s similar in makeup to the oil that babies’ skin produces.

  • Erin says:

    This has got me really intrigued, especially since my face has been a nightmare the last couple years (my skin was always really excellent until I hit about 25. Why does no one tell you that there’s a high probability of your face exploding in your mid-to-late 20’s??).

    I read a lot of the links you posted and was ready to try it, but instead settled on Trader Joe’s Spa Face Wash with Tea Tree Oil. It’s got mostly oils (no castor) and a little castille soap in it. It’s a little too drying (maybe the tea tree oil?), so I’ve been following it with a dab of Oil of Olay (need to get some Cetaphil or something).

    Anyway, if this works well, I’m going to take the plunge and try the full OCM that you wrote about.

    Thanks for the tips! :)

    • Daisy says:

      Thanks Kourtney! I’ve actually read that article, but the Cetaphil that they are discussing is not the same product I use – I’ve checked out the ingredient list on my bottle and it doesn’t contain some of the “really bad” ingredients.

      • Kourtney L. says:

        Would you share the product details with me? I would like to check it out. I have looked at Cetaphil before I haven’t seen this other product with better ingredients before. If you have the ingredient list would you share it with me?

        Thanks for the response.

        • Daisy says:

          Sure! The product they are talking about in the article is the basic Cetaphil that most people use, it is labeled “Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser” and it contains Water, Cetyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Stearyl Alcohol, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben. The Cetaphil cleanser that I like is called “Daily Facial Skin Cleanser” and it contains Water, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, Glycerin, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Butylene Glycol, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Phenoxyethanol, Masking Fragrance, Panthenol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben. Still not the greatest list of all time, but it doesn’t have *all* the bad things in it. That said, since writing this post, I’ve gone back to an old, old favorite skin cleanser, Purity by Philosophy. A little pricer (but lasts forever) and its ingredient list contains: water (aqua), sodium lauroamphoacetate, sodium trideceth sulfate, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, coco-glucoside, cocos nucifera (coconut) alcohol, peg-120 methyl glucose dioleate, aniba rosaeodora (rosewood) wood oil, geranium maculatum oil, guaiac (guaiacum officinale) extract, cymbopogon martini oil, rosa damascena extract, amyris balsamifera bark oil, santalum album (sandalwood) oil, salvia officinalis (sage) oil, cinnamomum cassia leaf oil, anthemis nobilis flower oil, daucus carota sativa (carrot) seed oil, piper nigrum (pepper) seed extract, polysorbate 20, glycerin, carbomer, triethanolamine, methylparaben, propylparaben, citric acid, imidazolidinyl urea, yellow 5 (ci 19140). I think that is a little better sounding and it definitely gets the job done! I hope this helps.

  • Annette G says:

    I heard about the OCM while getting my Shellac nails done (must try Shellac if you haven’t done so already… it is amazing stuff and it lasts 2 weeks). I’ve always had combination oily skin… mainly oily in the T-zone area. I’m fair-skinned and tend to break out every now and then. My biggest problem, however, is poking at my face when I see the slightest blemish forming or even just a blackhead. This then causes my ok-looking complection into horribly red, splotchy, and irritated spots everywhere. Grrr! I get so angry at myself each time, but somehow I just can’t stop. After hearing about the OCM (using grapeseed oil as the secondary oil – awesome moisturizer too, btw), I googled it, and researched it for days. I decided to try it out and figured I had nothing to loose at this point… and it’s all natural. I noticed a difference in the way my skin felt after only the 1st cleanse. I was so excited… I think I may have finally found the solution!! It’s been a couple of weeks now and I have to admit… I am more than impressed! The one problem I still have, though, is the nasty urge to poke at my face. I’m working on it, but it’s really hard :(. Do you have any suggestions or ideas on what I can do to make myself stop poking at my face so much? I’m afraid that I won’t see the full benefits of the OCM until that nasty habit of mine subsides. Even then, though, I see a huge differnce. Anyhow, your help/advise is greatly appreciated.


    • Daisy says:

      I’m a big fan of working on the reward system myself. Give yourself an end of week treat, (maybe add on a parafin treatment at your next manicure, movie tickets, a new beauty product purchase) and then if you can go the week without picking, reward yourself! Don’t beat yourself up too much if it is hard for the first month, but it doesn’t take long to establish new habits. I bet you’ll be there before you know it. If you are home, you can also try putting a bandaid over the spot you want to pick as a physical reminder not to touch!

  • nicole says:

    I haven’t washed with soap in a couple months. Lately I haven’t even been using oil! Just water. I’m going to do a FACIAL tonight though. Meaning I’m oil cleansing. I used to have REALY OILY SKIN. But now when I wake up in the morning my skin is still dry. A good dry. Take care. Oh yes. PS. I only use shampoo once a week. I wash my hair everyday with water. Hot and cold. Use silicone sulfate paraben free conditioner. Burts Bees I like. Use LOTS rinse. Hair Feels fabulous. Doesn’t Look Dirty. Feels clean. SOAP IS BAD.

  • Neenie says:

    I have just started this a couple of days ago myself, and so far I am really pleased. How long did it take you for the purging stage to start? My skin feels soft, and my pores/blackheads seem to be less noticeable, but nothing is really happening, if that makes sense.

  • Ryan says:

    This is the worst thing I’ve ever tried! I did OCM for about 2 months and ended up with really bad results. I used extra virgin olive oil and castor oil and kept them in a little plastic bottle. The first few weeks were fine and I thought that it was working. My face felt fine and I didn’t breakout. But a few weeks later I noticed that my cheeks and forehead were getting very bumpy and red. I never breakout on my cheeks so I was worried. Over the next few days, the bumps just got bigger and bigger and even spread to my neck and jaw. My mom even noticed and told me to stop putting oil on my face because I was just trapping bacteria underneath the skin. It looked like my face was just totally clogged up with oils.

    I stopped doing this about a week ago and my face is slowly clearing up from that breakout. I’m using my regular facewash and clindamycin now. I still have some spots but not as bad as when I was on OCM. They are finally drying up instead of looking very fresh and red all the time. I think it’ll be about 1 more month til I clear up from this disaster. If you’re thinking about trying the OCM just be very careful and watch out for any breakout. If you keep continuing with it, your face could keep get worse til it’s too late to stop. Don’t do it! It really is the WORST THING EVER!

    • Daisy says:

      I appreciate that this method doesn’t work for everyone, but I hardly think you could ever get to a point where it is too late to stop. I’d encourage anyone to stop using this method after 2-3 weeks if they didn’t see an improvement in their skin. Clindamycin is an antibiotic, but not everyone suffers from acne caused by bacteria, so for them, the OCM might be a good process/solution. I’ve also read that olive oil is not a good oil to use for the OCM as it is too heavy for some people- lighter oils like sweet almond are better suited. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Olivia says:

        I’ve been reading a lot about the OCM and some people have suggested that castor oil can be really aggravating for some people’s skin. I just used Almond oil for a week while I was waiting for the castor oil I ordered to arrive and was quite happy with how my skin felt and looked. When the castor oil arrived I made a mix using only 10% castor oil as I’d already read by then that some people weren’t sure about it. The day after I used the castor oil mix I got a red, sore itchy patch on my cheek. So I went back to just using almond oil and the patch has cleared up. I’m still working on my perfect mix (thinking of adding some thyme oil now) but I don’t think it will include castor oil.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience! I started OCM this week. I’ve been reading a lot online to see different takes on it. It’s amazing how everyone has their own take on this. I can say that my skin feels great, but not looking really great yet (the purge I guess?). My main concern was looking greasy or feeling dirty and happy to report that I haven’t put soap on my face in about a week and I don’t look or feel gross.

  • Olivia V. says:

    So what exactly do you mean by “purge?” Does your skin only purge the crap out of your pores while you’re cleansing or does it happen throughout the day? Is this an okay method for sensitive skin? I’ve got the weirdest skin ever. Oily and occasionally congested, but super sensitive to harsh ingredients – makes clearing up the congestion impossible to figure out.

    • Tiffany says:

      My question is about the purge too. I tend to breakout ONLY when I wash my face (well used to) until I had my son 9 months ago, now its a whole new game. Im sure.it.can get worse but id.rather.it didnt. If the purging phase is.a massive breakout and oozing grossness while cleansing im not sure ill work past it…. Any tips and better description of the purging phase?

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