I need some experienced tips on the oil cleansing method, please.
January 20, 2011 9:52 AM   Subscribe

The Oil Cleansing Method seems to be awfully popular around here. I've been doing it for 5 days now and my skin is both better and worse than ever! If you've tried it, how long did it take for things to really improve? Or did you give up on it?

Despite decades of being told that oil will clog my pores, the information on that website (oil dissolves oil, the cycle of stripping and moisturizing is hard on skin) made sense to me. Throw in so many mefites recommending this approach, and I figured it was worth a try. Last night was the 5th evening in a row that I did it (25% castor oil, 75% sesame oil), and I just keep getting more and more blemishes. It's true, my skin is neither as dry nor as shiny-oily as it used to be (hooray), but I guess I preferred that over all these red spots.

So -- the method says it may take a few days for the skin to normalize. How long should I wait? And as a bonus question: the instructions are awfully vague about how long I should spend massaging the oil into my face. I've been doing maybe 60-90 seconds before steaming. Is this more or less than has worked for you?
posted by vytae to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (33 answers total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe you are doing it too often - it was my understanding that you're only supposed to use the oil 1-2 times per week. I just tried this method out myself, have done it twice in the past week, and my skin feels much better, although I'm the same as you - I still have some zits.
posted by angab at 9:57 AM on January 20, 2011

I tried the method for about 6 months but kept getting nastier and bigger breakouts, so I gave up. It's really not for every body.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I had to play around with the OCM until I found a method that worked. I have dry skin prone to mild rosacea and this is the only thing that works for me:

1x a day: In the morning, I mix about 1.5 tablespoons of almond milk with a splash of high-quality olive oil and a bit of brown sugar. I dampen my face, then massage with the mixture. I rinse off, then apply a very light coating of olive as a moisturizer, which I leave and don't rinse off. At night, I splash cold water on my face and then reapply a light coating of olive oil for the evening.

2-3x a week: after my face wash with the almond milk/olive oil/sugar mixture, I hold my face over warm steam for about 10 minutes. After, I rinse, then moisturize with the olive oil.

Sometimes I use sesame oil instead of the olive oil and that works OK, too.

I tried the OCM as written and I had a similar experience -- even after a couple of weeks, my skin didn't adjust.

I live MN, so our air in the winter is dry and cold. YMMV!
posted by Laura Macbeth at 10:04 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I should add that during my steam routine, I wash off the almond milk mixture BEFORE I steam.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2011

60-90 seconds sounds about right. I'd say it took more than a week, but less than two, before my skin got to be fully awesome. At five days and still getting zits, I'd try changing up the oil ratio: more castor, less sesame.

And can I piggyback on this question? I quit doing oil cleansing because I ended up with washcloths saturated in oil that I could never get out of them. Ew, plus they are a fire hazard and smell funny. Should I have been washing them in Dawn? Something else?
posted by clavicle at 10:05 AM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: I respectfully disagree with angab. I've been using the oil cleansing method for about 7 or 8 years and usually do it nightly with amazing results. It is true that often, your skin will get worse before it gets better. The reason why is because the oil is purging the impurities from your pores and bringing it all to the surface, and depending on your skin (everyone is going to be different) this might take awhile. It also might take awhile to find the right blend of oils and right ratio of castor oil to other oil(s) that works best for your skin. This may mean some trial and error.

It might be helpful for those of us with OCM experience to chime in with more specific recommendations if you tell us more about your skin type. 25% castor is a recommended starting point, but you should consider adjusting the ratio if your skin is overall feeling too dry after (then you would want less castor) or too oily after (then you would want more castor). I have fairly dry, sensitive skin and never put more than 5-10% castor oil in my mix. Also you really need to stick with a certain ratio/blend for at least 1-2 weeks before trying something else usually, or else you won't really be able to tell if it's working - since it really does take take to see positive results. Once you're over that hurdle though, it will be smooth sailing.

I generally rub the oil into my face for about 20-30 seconds, then steam off with a super hot washcloth by laying the cloth over my face for another 20-30 seconds, then repeat this 2 or 3 times before rubbing off the oil. I then massage a very teeny tiny amount of jojoba into my skin for extra moisture. My skin is clear with only the rare blemish, so for me this works, but if your skin is oilier or you are more prone to zits and acne, you might want to extend the process. Again, try something and stick with it for 1-2 weeks and then consider adjusting your routine if it doesn't seem to be helping. I think if your skin has less shine and is less oily, you're on the right track. Give it another week or so and see if your blemishes start to look better.

Another thing I love to do is exfoliate 1-2 times a week by adding some brown sugar into the mix. It's gentle, and cheap!

I've used all kinds of different oils in my blend throughout the years - some worked better than others for me, but again, it really does depend on your skin type. feel free to memail me you'd like more details.
posted by katy song at 10:14 AM on January 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

clavicle, I personally bought a stack of about a dozen cheap washcloths solely for this purpose. I use a new one every day and don't reuse the old. I wash them with the rest of my towels with vinegar in the rinse cycle and they wash up fine.

However, Dawn or other liquid dish washing soap is great for stripping oil, so it wouldn't hurt to try that if your current methods aren't working for you.
posted by katy song at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might try Deep Cleansing Oil from DHC. It's an olive oil product, and you feel like you're getting an oil treatment, but it rinses away magically with water. I'm not a shill for this company but this stuff is great - my skin has really improved since using it. (Also there is no nasty washcloth issue.) It's a bit pricey but a container of it lasts a long time and it's totally worth it.
posted by Wylie Kyoto at 10:21 AM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

Sorry, but the idea that your skin is getting infected because a treatment is bringing the impurities to the surface is wrong. It means the treatment is bad for your skin. Skincare is idiosyncratic, so no one method works for everyone. But the right treatment will make it look better, not worse. Infection is bad mmmkay.
posted by tel3path at 10:28 AM on January 20, 2011 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: if you tell us more about your skin type

I would call it combination, but it's never really been the standard "oily t-zone, dry everywhere else." It's more like it's dry and flaky with oil on top, pretty much all over my face. Blackheads on my nose and cheeks, random zits crop up anywhere. I live in MN, where it is very cold and dry right now, so I'm sure I'll have to adjust the routine come humid summer even if I do find something that works in the next few months.

you should consider adjusting the ratio if your skin is overall feeling too dry after (then you would want less castor) or too oily after (then you would want more castor)

This is where I'm still somewhat unsure. My skin does feel a bit tight afterward, which would make me think less castor. But it also doesn't feel like it's really getting clean (I can still see some blackheads immediately after cleansing, though less than before), which seems like it would indicate more castor. It sounds like 1-2 weeks the right amount of time to wait before trying a new proportion, so I suppose I'll stick with this blend for a while longer...

And can I piggyback on this question? I quit doing oil cleansing because I ended up with washcloths saturated in oil that I could never get out of them. Ew, plus they are a fire hazard and smell funny. Should I have been washing them in Dawn? Something else?

Piggyback away. I was going to ask that too, and then decided that might be too many things to ask all at once! So far I am rinsing in hot water with dawn, and planning to wash them in a separate load and air-dry.
posted by vytae at 11:03 AM on January 20, 2011

I can't cross my eyes without it taking 2-3 weeks for my skin to get used to it. I did start the OCM about 10 days ago myself and am not having the sort of upheaval I normally have when I switch brands of cleansers (or they change the formula on me) etc, just sort of a mild confusion that already seems to be dying down. So give it some time, and maybe go every other day for a bit if you think you need to ease into it.

I've always used ammonia to wash oily kitchen linens and planned to do the same to my washcloths.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:09 AM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: I tried the OCM for about eight weeks this past fall. For three weeks, I had the most beautiful skin I have ever had. It was amazing. Then I started getting cystic acne breakouts, which I have never had to that degree. I kept up OCM because I hoped that I would cycle out of it and return to the beautiful skin. After weeks of continuous cystic acne breakouts, I stopped the OCM. The cystic acne stopped within a week. I have a little acne now, but nothing to what it was with OCM.

My skin is noticeably less oily and more dry now than before the OCM. I think that's an interesting result, but I expect it will change again in the springtime (seasonal changes always makes my skin crazy).

Anyway, I don't think OCM is for everybody. Some people have great results, but lots of people seem to get results like mine. I found a lot of evidence of that in reviews around the internet.
posted by aabbbiee at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2011

Stopped by to second Wylie Kyoto. DHC's deep cleansing oil is the best makeup remover I've ever used, bar none, and leaves my skin soft, clean and acne free. Good stuff. Sign up on the site and they'll ship you samples and give you "loyalty discount" every time you order, too.
posted by bearwife at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

just using oil doesnt work for me, i need the kind that emulsifies with water and comes off my face. i've had bad results with mixing my own oil, but great results with DHC cleansing oil that comes off with water.
posted by raw sugar at 11:39 AM on January 20, 2011

I used the OCM for about four months. My experience was that even after adjusting the ratio of castor to olive oils, making sure I had a clean washcloth each time, even finishing with a gel cleanser to get all the oil off; I had massive cystic breakouts where I'd never experienced them before, right on my cheeks and the sides of my face. I have some scars there from my experiment. Now I just stick to a gel cleanser and light BHA lotion.

My skin in pretty oily and always has been. I really would have liked for the OCM to reduce the amount of oil my skin feels compelled to pump out, but, no dice there.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 11:52 AM on January 20, 2011

clavicle, I use black washcloths because I hated how light colored cloths would get stained with makeup. I also make sure to wash them in hot water (I use cold for everything else). I'm also going to try Lyn Never's suggestion for ammonia since I've heard it elsewhere too.
posted by annaramma at 11:52 AM on January 20, 2011

I used a 30:70 mix of castor oil and jojoba oil. I find jojoba to be nice and light, unlike some of the other recommended oils. I've found, though, that using slightly less oil but massaging for much longer (at least 5 mins) works best for me. So, rather than slathering oil on and calling it a day, I just use a few drops (enough to lubricate my fingers so I don't tear my face off) and realllllllly work it in. I don't, however, do OCM every day; I think that a really good session 3 times a week is better (and less time consuming) than doing it daily.

I only had a very mild breakout at first, but I am not prone to acne at the best of times. As far as the blackheads/general pore cleansing, I would say it took me a very long while to see results in that department. It was certainly a case of "baby steps."
posted by oohisay at 11:56 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Your skin sounds like my skin and the OCM never worked for me. The oil production never balanced out and the breakouts never stopped. Honestly, no moisturizer, cleanser or lack of cleanser ever fixed the out of control facial oil production.

But spironolactone did. I moisturize every morning and my face is still mostly matte by the end of the day. My acne finally cleared up. And I only have to wash my hair twice a week.

If you've got health insurance and a dermatologist you might want to look into it. The only side effect I've had is the diruretic thing - which is annoying but not a dealbreaker.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:07 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with oohisay, I also only use a very small amount of oil and just work it in really well ("a very small amount" to me means no more than a quarter-sized drop, sometimes less). I think it's important to make sure you are really wiping all of the oil off too when you're done. The hot water helps with this - if your water is warm or lukewarm I don't think it works as well. You don't really want a film left on you skin, but you don't want it to be dry or tight either - which is where a small drop of oil massaged in as a moisturizer helps me.

I've never used sesame before, so I can't really comment on that. My blend usually consists of almond oil, apricot kernel, sunflower, jojoba oil, vitamin e, small amount of castor, and a few drops of lavender essential oil - heaviest on the almond oil (I don't measure, just kind of wing it depending on what I have on hand at the time). I found olive oil was too heavy for my skin so I don't usually use it. I have also in the past used just almond on its own with good results too, it was very gentle and was enough for me (again, I'm not really prone to breakouts).

I do recall when I first started out I used a 75% olive oil/25% castor oil mix and I did get some zits and blemishes for the first week, a lot more than I was used to. Though at the same time I saw that my previously combination skin (oily T-zone, dry cheeks) was becoming much more balanced. I can't really recall the changes I made to my mix at the time, but it did take a bit of fiddling around to find what worked for me and eventually my skin calmed down and has been great ever since - 8 years later.

I must say I'm humbled by so many reports of cystic acne after trying OCM - that was not my experience and I've talked to a lot of people/read a lot of stuff online over the years and while it hasn't worked for everyone, I've found the overwhelming response of those who tried it and stuck with it was very positive. Clearly my sample was not indicative of the population as a whole, and no one thing is going to be perfect for everyone - so certainly listen to your body and skin as you try this. I definitely would not recommend sticking it out for months on end with acne breakouts and no positive results - you should see a good change in a week or so if it's heading in the right direction. I would suggest trying a different ratio and perhaps a different oil (it could be sesame isn't playing nicely with your skin) for another week or two before stopping just to be sure, if you think it's giving your skin some benefit even if it's not perfect just yet.

Another suggestion: a drop of tea tree oil in your hand before massaging the oils in could help with the breakouts (be careful to avoid your eyes though). Also grapeseed oil is sometimes recommended for oily-prone skin as it has astringent properties and is a very light oil, but I found it too drying for me.
posted by katy song at 12:25 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been using OCM for 2-3 months now with pretty good results. I tend towards dry skin, and this is my routine: 20% Castor/80% Olive, about a quarter-sized amount, massage for 1-2 minutes (focusing on problem areas, around nose and chin), steam about 3 times (maybe 20 seconds each time) with really hot water on a washcloth, then wipe away. When I first started, I did this almost every day. Now I'm down to 2-3 times per week.

To answer your questions:

-It's hard to say how long you should wait, but I would do it for a month just to be sure. I got two zits about 2-3 weeks into it, which was unusual for me, but haven't had any since.

-The 60-90 seconds seems about right. I sometimes do it a little longer, just because it feels good and I want to really work on certain areas. But I doubt this is your problem.

-I haven't had a problem with my washcloths yet. I've suspected that maybe the people on the internet who are having a problem with this probably use far more oil than I do. That's my best theory, anyway.

I'll chime in with everyone else and say to keep with it for a few more weeks, try switching the ratio of oils (or the oils themselves, if you're willing to invest), and possibly try doing it less frequently (if you're doing it every day). The best thing I've found is that my skin doesn't really get as oily after days of not washing, so on the days I don't cleanse, I just rinse my face with hot water in the shower. Everyone else seems to have good advice about other products to try, though I can't attest to them. I don't really buy into all the hype about impurities and whatnot, I don't know why it's working, but it is. Hope it ends up working for you, too!
posted by a.steele at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2011

Best answer: How much are you using? When I first started years ago I used Too Much Oil. I poured a palm full (about a quarter size puddle) and sloshed it on my face. My hands slid around easily on the oil slick, like during a massage. But that is Not Good. The oil amount should be small, much less than you think. It should not be the Exxon Valdez on your face. It should be more like the shiny irridescent slick of oil in a puddle on a city street. The oil should cover your palms in a thin layer. At no point should it be even close to dripping anywhere at any time!
I would also ditch castor oil and sesame. Jojoba is awesome, as is squalane oil. I use coconut, too, but I also just use what's on the stove. Canola oil, olive. Whatever. No special mix. It all works pretty much the same. It's coming right off in 30 seconds anyway.
I have never ever had an oily residue on my washcloths. A quick rinse in hot water washes the oil away. Dial back the oil amount. A little bit goes a long way.
posted by hecho de la basura at 1:30 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've used OCM daily for many years, but I don't do all the messing around with massaging and steaming that some sites suggest. I also don't use olive oil, like many recommend, I use jojoba. A dime size amount on dry skin, wash off with warm (not hot, hot water dries out skin) water. If I need exfoliation, I use some caster sugar in the jojoba.

You're right, it takes some time to work, but I would try some different oils before giving up entirely. I like the tea tree suggestion from katy song.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:43 PM on January 20, 2011

Lush have a ready made product based on this method called Ultrabland, it's their best selling cleanser. I've only been using it a few days, so not long enough to be able to recommend it yet but it may be worth trying - people rave about it. And you only need a tiny dab so I imagine it will last forever.
posted by Jubey at 2:27 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

> You might try Deep Cleansing Oil from DHC

The reviews and the website make it sound like it's for removing makeup. What if one doesn't wear makeup, but just wants a cleaner face? Is it overkill?
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:12 PM on January 20, 2011

I gave up on it after a long bout, at least a year if I recall (it was over a year ago that I stopped). It wasn't terrible--I never broke out which seems to be the big fear people have--but it didn't deliver the amazingly different results promised (in fact, at first when I was trying olive oil it was actually more drying than I wanted) and since I'm lazy and it wasn't markedly better than just using a standard cleanser I gave up because it's a little more finicky (the real dealbreaker was trying to travel, I hated packing extra face cloths and bottles of oil which, if they leaked, were a hell of a lot messier than spilled Cetaphil) and actually a lot more expensive (oil isn't cheap, you're supposed to make sure to get cold/expeller-pressed, and there was a trial and error process trying to find the right one...jojoba is supposed to be the best and of course it was expensive as hell). It did feel nice though I worried about the steaming aspect (steam is supposed to be not so good for your skin). After a while I just remembered a dab of cheap Cetaphil each evening was simpler and had the same results, so. Reminds me of the no poo thing--if you've got serious horrible sensitivity to products (we're talking allergic rashy sort of reactions) or weirdly difficult hair or skin that doesn't look ok with anything you've tried it's probably worth it, but if you're doing alright with standard cleansers it seems to be simpler, less fuss to just go along with that.
posted by ifjuly at 4:47 PM on January 20, 2011

> And can I piggyback on this question? I quit doing oil cleansing because I ended up with washcloths saturated in oil that I could never get out of them. Ew, plus they are a fire hazard and smell funny. Should I have been washing them in Dawn? Something else?

Once a week on laundry day I always put them either in the sink or a bucket with hot water and a splash of liquid Ivory (I don't remember why but when I looked this trick up online people were adamant it had to be Ivory, no other brand). Stirred 'em and squeezed to make sure they all got totally wet and absorbed some of it and then let them sit for at least 30 minutes. Wrung 'em and threw them in with the rest of the wash in my machine.
posted by ifjuly at 4:54 PM on January 20, 2011

Response by poster: OK, it sounds like I should stick it out for another week or so, use less oil each time, try adjusting the oil blend if it's not working after 2 weeks, and stop at the first sign of any cystic acne. I think I will try the brown sugar exfoliation once a week, too. If things don't improve with time, I might order a small bottle of that DHC product to try. Thanks to everyone for the ideas!
posted by vytae at 10:30 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

vytae, hope you will report back in a week or so and let us know how it's working out. :)
posted by katy song at 1:22 PM on January 21, 2011

I use the DHC oil to clean my face, with a little baking soda mixed in sometimes for exfoliation purposes. I put it on right before stepping into the shower and rinse it off while showering. I think this is one of the best face cleansers I've used, although my skin was never particularly bad to begin with. There have definitely been no awful breakouts, just normal small ones that tend to pop up around my period. I at least haven't been having the absolutely awful dry skin feel that I get most winters using some other cleanser, although I do make sure to apply moisturizer after I shower. I recommend trying it if the regular OCM doesn't work out for you.
posted by that girl at 7:11 AM on January 22, 2011

Response by poster: OK, I'll admit, I gave up on the OCM. It wasn't so much that I was getting infected spots, just lots of tiny hard bumps that seemed like clogged pores. I'm still planning to order some DHC stuff to try. For now I'm back to Purpose facewash and Oil of Olay lotion, the best routine I've found so far.
posted by vytae at 10:02 AM on January 29, 2011

Adding late to the conversation - I have had the same problem mostly on my neck, not my face. What's worked beautifully has been honey. I'm using about a dime-sized bit of olive oil on my face and neck, rubbed in and then eventually washed off under a hot shower with some washcloth scrubbing. My skin feels better and is definitely clearer, but a couple of weeks in I had red spots appearing. It felt stupid to go no-chemicals and then use a zit-cream on them, and I had a vague memory of medical honey, so I dabbed a little bit of honey on each red mark and went to bed. The next morning, they had almost faded away. I've been doing this for two weeks now, and my skin is pretty much all clear and smooth. If the honey hadn't worked, I would've given up on the oil cleaning too - even though 95% of your skin feels great, 5% looks awful! But the honey has really helped.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:40 PM on February 22, 2011

I don't really follow a particular routine exactly, but I only use jojoba oil on my face. I use it as cleanser and makeup remover, so at night I remove makeup and massage my face a bit with the oil before jumping in the shower.

I highly recommend jojoba oil if you haven't tried it.
posted by fromageball at 6:11 PM on August 13, 2011

Reading back through some of the comments, I'm not sure how much oil most people are using, but I don't use much at all. I probably use about a nickel-size pool of oil to remove makeup and massage my face, and then when I get out of the shower(or when I get up in the morning) I put on a couple of drops of jojoba oil. You really don't need much.

Before I put makeup on(I just wear tinted moisturizer and dabs of concealer here and there) I massage a drop or 2 of oil in and make sure it's absorbed, and at night I massage my face before going to bed so I don't have to worry about oily pillowcases.
posted by fromageball at 6:15 PM on August 13, 2011

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