Homemade Natural Face Cleanser — The Oil Cleansing Method

Photo by Taras Kalapun

{This post was originally posted on Jan. 24, 2011}

Using oil to “wash” your face seems counter-intuitive, right? Especially if you already have oily skin!

I feel very blessed that I’ve always had fairly good skin, without many breakouts. For awhile, I struggled with dry and tight skin and I constantly had to slather on moisturizer, especially in the winter time. However, my luck ran out when my typically normal skin started freaking out on me about a year ago.

I tried switching to the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM), thinking my skin was reacting to chemical cleansers and lotions that I was using, but it didn’t work, and in fact, my skin started to get worse. So, I began trying lots of other options, even going back to my previous routine of conventional drugstore products, but it still did not get better. I had breakouts and my skin was getting really dry, red, and flaky, especially around my mouth and nose. I didn’t know what else to do.

Then, I read a post over at Naturally Knocked Up about the OCM, and saw that she used a different type of oil and in different quantities than I had originally tried. So, I decided to try it again to see what would happen.

This time, my skin reacted much better, and looked better almost overnight! Definitely within the first week of using this method, my skin cleared up – the dry, red patches were gone and overall the skin on my face looked much healthier.

I’ve been using this method for about a month now. Although I’ve heard that some people experience a transition period where their skin gets worse before it gets better, that has not happened for me – I’m not sure how it could have gotten much worse anyway!

My skin is not perfect all the time. I still get the occasional breakout, but it is SO much better than it was before! And I love not using harsh chemicals or ingredients!

The idea behind the oil cleansing method is similar to the no ‘poo method for washing your hair. Your skin produces natural oils which are stripped away by conventional soaps and cleaners and are full of ingredients that should be avoided. Then your natural oils have to be added back in through lotions and moisturizers, which are also full of nasty ingredients, and your skin may react to this process by overproducing oil. Either of these can in turn clog pores and cause breakouts.

Photo by Liz

How to Use the Oil Cleansing Method to Wash Your Face

1. Create your oil mixture based on the needs of your skin. You can use either olive oil or sunflower oil as your base oil, and then you add castor oil to it.

I use sunflower oil now after reading Donielle’s post, and actually find that besides it working better for my skin, I like it better because the smell is not as intense as olive oil. Also, I found castor oil in the pharmacy section at my local grocery store.

The ratio of the oils depends on your skin type.

  • For dry skin – use 1 part castor oil to 9 parts olive or sunflower oil. (This is the ratio I use)
  • For normal or combination skin – use 2 parts castor oil to 8 parts olive or sunflower oil.
  • For oily skin – use 3 parts castor oil to 7 parts olive or sunflower oil.

You can adjust your oil mixture as needed . The castor oil is used for cleansing, but can also dry out your skin. So if you notice that your skin is getting dry and tight, you should cut back on the amount of castor oil in your mix. Or, if you feel like your skin is breaking out and over oily, try increasing the amount of castor oil. You might have to do a little trial and error to see what works best for your skin type.

Fortunately, these oils are quite affordable, and you only need to use a small amount, you can make up a small batch to see if it works, and if it doesn’t, you will not have wasted a ton of money like you would if you were buying a new product from the store every time. For my first batch this time around, I used a 1/2 tsp, so my mixture was 1/2 tsp. castor oil and nine 1/2 tsp (4 1/2 tsp) sunflower oil, so it was a small amount, but it lasted me for two weeks while I tried it to make sure it worked for me.

2. Before bed, pour a little bit of your oil mixture in your palm and then gently massage it into your face.

Then take a hot and steaming washcloth and place it over your face until it cools, and repeat this a few times. The steam from the washcloth helps to dissolve the oil and pull impurities out of your skin.

Then gently rub your face with the washcloth to exfoliate a bit, and pat dry with a towel. If you feel like you need a little moisturizer you can rub a few drops of almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil or other moisturizer into your skin.

You can cleanse this way every day, if you feel like you need it, but some people find they only need to use this method every other day.

3. Also, in the morning, you can “wash” your face by just placing a hot and steaming washcloth over your face (without rubbing the oil mixture in) and repeating a few times. You can also use this to cleanse your face in the evenings on the days that you don’t use the oil mixture.

What I like the best about this style of washing my face (besides the fact that I know all of the ingredients in the oil mixture and I can make it myself at home) is that it kind of feels like a spa treatment when I put the hot washcloth over my face and steam my skin. It also leaves my skin feeling smooth and soft, I am very happy with the results!

I encourage you to give the Oil Cleansing Method a try for washing your face and see if you notice the difference in your skin!

*Update 1/12 – I still continue to use this method of washing my face and love it! It really is the best natural and frugal way to cleanse your face!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Oil Cleansing Method! Is it something you think you could use to wash your face, do you have any questions for me about it?

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  1. says

    i just started using this method about 2 months ago and I’m still trying to get my ratio right. Thanks for blogging on this topic. It helps to read your insight!

  2. says

    I’ve also been using the oil cleansing method for about two months with mixed results. I still am having major breakouts on my chin. I may adjust my ratio again…It is no worse than it was prior to OCM, just not improving as I had hoped it would. I’m glad you had success.

  3. Sarah says

    I have been using this method for about 2 years now and love it. I also use this same mixture and add brown suger to it, to do a scrub once a week. I gets rid of the dead skin. I also have very dry skin so I have to be careful the amount of castor oil I use. I have always used olive oil, but may try the sunflower next time. Love your blog.

  4. says

    I have tried this several times and always give up after a while. I haven’t tried sunflower oil, so I may have to give it one last shot.

  5. Tiffany says

    I have been using the OCM for about 2 months with mixed results. I live in the desert. Plus my skin has always been dry. So my question is, what do you use to moisturize your face after cleansing? I usually use an aquaphor type lotion both in the morning and evening.

  6. says

    I’ve been doing this for a month now and love it! I use olive & caster oil 3:1. I haven’t had any trouble with it at all and LOVE how easily it gets my makeup off – especially eye makeup!! I forget to wash my face when I’m not wearing makeup (which is 80% of the time), so I end up only washing twice a week or so. My skin hasn’t gotten dry or too oily in the interim!! When I occasionally splash water on my face to freshen up/wake up, I notice the same drying that I used to get with regular cleaners. I think it’s the chlorine in the water! One those days I put lotion on and try to remember to do oil cleansing that night.

  7. Tami says

    I tried this last evening and loved it! One question I have is this… I would like to try the baking soda/ACV method for hair cleansing and conditioning. I found when I cleansed my face, the oils got into my hair, so my hairline was oily. How can I avoid this? Did I use too much of the oil cleanser?

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Hi Tami,
      I use a stretchy headband to hold my hair back, and yes, I would probably say that you used too much cleanser, or just rubbed it too close to your hair line. I have gotten it in my hair before though too, and I find that it usually absorbs into my hair pretty well by the next day, but my hair is normally on the dry side. You should be able to use the baking soda/ACV method for cleansing your hair while also using the oil cleansing method for your face. Let me know if you have other questions!

    • Emily @ Live Renewed says

      Hi Shannon,
      I sometimes use this in the shower if I have neglected to wash my face the night before, lol! If I’m using it in the shower, I rub the oil onto my face before I get in the shower, and then I try to keep my face out of the water for a few minutes while I wash my hair, and let the steam from the shower do it’s work on my face, and then I use a wash cloth to gently rub the oil off. If you don’t use a washcloth and just try to rinse it off you won’t get it all the way off because the water can’t cut through the oil by itself. I think this method works best when used the traditional way, but you can make it work in the shower every once and a while too. Hope that helps!

  8. says

    Thanks for this Emily, I love it! I’m 58 years old and my grandsons call me “Aunt Liz”. My daughter-in-law was amazed at my skin texture. She asked me what makeup I use. I wasn’t wearing any!
    My face is so clear, even my rosacea has diminished considerably. Wrinkles have become fine lines. My skin has smoothed out.
    In addition, I’m using the original dry skin formula with olive oil. I use it on my face and neck with upward strokes. Maybe it’s the upward strokes, massaging stimulation, and the oil combined, but it has tightened my throat quite a bit where I was concerned about saggy jowls.
    I shared this information with my daughter-in-law. She wants to try it. I asked her to give the oily skin formula to my oldest grandson, to see if it clears up his blemishes!
    I’ll keep you posted!


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