Face cleaning: Oil Edition
April 17, 2015 7:51 PM   Subscribe

I think I need to change up my skincare routine and am interested in going toward the oil cleansing route. Do you oil cleanse? I have some logistical and experience questions within.

I've heard reports of people having good luck with oil cleansing instead of harsher chemicals. My skin has changed over the past year or two and I think my current routine is too drying.

My current (old?) routine is just to use the Grapefruit Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash (without scrubbies, with salicylic acid) at night when I take a bath. I would sometimes use lotion (Aveeno) after. This is similar to my routine since I was a teen. But oh man my skin was so much better back then.

Recently, I've been experimenting with just using a makeup removing wipe then rinsing in the bath/shower at night. Therefore I think my current routine was too drying and keeping my breakouts and scabs from healing. My scabs and dry areas have been healing faster and I'm seeing less breakouts so far. It's been about a week.

Current issues: Dry spots, combination skin with oily spots. I have a pixie cut so I kinda have "bangs" so my forehead will get oily. I get breakouts that scab and then the scabs take forever to heal. (Yes I absentmindedly pick at them, yes I know I need to not do this.) I sometimes get deep pimples that make areas swell up - which I will also spot treat with acne treatment.

I'm interested in going more toward oil, but I HATE oil around my eyes (and it irritates my allergies), and would therefore still like to use a bit of a makeup wipe to get eye makeup off at least. I also think I need a lighter oil since I have a tendency to get oily and I wash my face at night and overnight more natural oils come into my skin.

What oil/cleansing product do you use? I'm willing to order online and the selection on Amazon is HUGE!

Do you wipe off with a washcloth or a cotton pad or what? Logistically, how often do you need to launder your washcloth? Is it possible to wipe off in the shower/bath so I don't have to hover over the sink?

Overall, what's your routine with this and what's your experience with oil cleansing methods? I still plan to spot-treat if I have a little breakout, but I think the nightly salicylic acid was too much. I know each face is different, but I'd love to get some sort of direction.
posted by Crystalinne to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (25 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I love the type of cleansing oil that emulsifies - you rub it onto a dry face, which breaks down your makeup/sunscreen/general oiliness. Then, you add water, and the oil emulsifies and rinses off clean, no need to wipe off or do a second cleanse. It cleanses thoroughly but isn't drying. I've had good experiences with cleansing oils from Shu Uemura, Muji, and Tatcha (though Tatcha is too expensive). Sephora carries several brands, and I've heard MAC Cleanse Off Oil is good too. There aren't many drugstore options in the U.S. - Garnier makes one but I find it too strongly fragranced.

I'm not a big fan of using the "oil cleansing method" that is using straight oil and then wiping it off.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:22 PM on April 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've used the oil cleansing method for about four years now. I have to say that it has been the most effective skincare regimine for me in terms of managing adult acne and patches of dryness/oily skin.
I use straight up olive oil, nothing fancy. I have used jojoba oil in the past and occasionally a sweet almond oil blend or coconut oil, but honestly olive oil is inexpensive and feels the best on my skin. I find it to be thicker and it seems like it absorbs better.
Anyway, I rub the oil straight into my made-up skin. I massage it really well all over my face, getting the oil warm, then wipe a little extra over my eyes and massage that in last. Then I'll grab my washcloth, quickly soak it under hot water, and begin wiping everything off. Once all make up is off (and usually after rinsing the washcloth several times) I might apply a little more oil in any problem areas and then "steam" the area by applying the hot washcloth holding it for 30 seconds or so. I've also used a bit of oil on my cleansed skin as moisturizer or a spot treatment for acne. Call me crazy, but it works for me and replaces a cupboard full of products. Occasionally I will tone my face with a non-alcohol toner and cotton ball, but that's usually just for my forehead (bangs) that sometimes fees extra greasy.
I love this routine. I've gotten used to the "greasy" feeling and now the oil just feels soft and luxurious to me. Soap feels SO drying. It's made a huge difference in my skin and makes my makeup apply much more smoothly. Good luck!
posted by gracious floor at 8:25 PM on April 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

There comes an age when regularly using harsh detergents and acne meds will do more damage than good. If you have acne, oil cleansers will be more pore blocking than you probably want, and are likely to make deep acne worse.

I would start by trying a hypoallergenic soap and moisturizer. The Clinique yellow stuff is amazingly well formulated for the price, and is my go-to recommend for a lot of people for whom I make mineral cosmetics. Their formula is better than anything I can make in my lab for that price point.

For acne, consider buying real, undiluted tea tree oil. do not buy essential oils at the mall or retail stores, those oils are crap and are filled with adulterants. Try Camden grey or similar suppliers, and just get a small amount. Mix 3 drops of tea tree with three drops of light carrier oil, and dab it on your spots with a qtip, and they should clear up faster than with the acid bases and less damage to surrounding cells.

If you're still not seeing results you want, after two weeks of trying the Clinique and tea tree, ping me, and I'll see if I can customize a formula for you using ingredients you can easily obtain.
posted by dejah420 at 8:39 PM on April 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I used the DHC cleansing oil for a while and it worked pretty well for me. It's easy to rub it on before getting in the shower (you have to apply it with dry hands/on a dry face) and then rinse it off in the shower. I think it helped when I was struggling with dry air and ouchy dry skin. I definitely still needed moisturizer afterward. Currently I use Simple moisturizer, which I like because it doesn't have any fragrances and doesn't leave me feeling greasy.

I don't wear makeup, so I ended up just falling back to just rinsing my face off with water in the shower, and doing a tiny bit of washcloth scrubbing once in a while if I'm looking flaky.
posted by that girl at 8:48 PM on April 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

I use DHC's olive oil cleanser followed by their gentle soap and I love it. One thing that escaped me for years is that my skin responds positively to moisturizer even during the times I think of it as oily or breakout prone. When I was more prone to breakouts, Origins "Checks & Balances" made a very big difference for me. I strongly recommend it. DHC is at DHCCare.com -- you can call them and get a free sample of the oil ccleanser sent to you for free. It's fantastic.
posted by janey47 at 9:03 PM on April 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Jojoba oil is excellent stuff for dry skin. It's chemical structure more closely mirrors human sebum than other oils, so it moisturizes w/out clogging up the pores. If there isn't a TJ's near you, check your local health-food store.

Mrs. PBZM uses it as a make-up remover.

Best of luck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:17 PM on April 17, 2015

I've been doing the same thing as gracious floor described above, but with coconut oil. I mix in some good tea tree oil as well. I have mild to moderate rosacea and my skin has responded wonderfully. I do it at night before bed, and I wake up to calm, smooth skin. It's been a bit over a year now and I'm absolutely sold on the method.

I would suggest you try different kinds of oils to see what works best for you. Lots of people love jojoba, for example, but my skin doesn't. Other popular ones are olive oil and almond oil. Don't give up if the first one you try doesn't suit you.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 10:39 PM on April 17, 2015

The oil cleansers that emulsify with water sound promising! Great question!!

I'm a little concerned about your current regime and your descriptions of scabbing - holy shit. You should not have that.

My father had very bad acne, and I inherited that. I used Neosporine on my breakouts. Cleared them right up. I don't get them anymore. For years and years.

If I do get a small breakout, I reapply Neosporin, like I would to any infection. Works like a charm.

Once your breakout is completely healed, I use baking soda with vegetable based soap and rinse in the shower a few times per week. When I wear makeup, I'll try the emulsifying oil. Usually, I just rinse with water and wipe with a towel because I only wear sunscreen and a little concealer these days, most days, so really I'm just prepping my skin for some sort of moisturizer (usually virgin coconut oil, tbh, which I think has anti-bacterial properties - but research.)

Treat your skin gently!!

I do an acid mask maybe 2x per month. The baking soda maybe 3X per week. Only natural vegetable soap, if any, on my face.

Back when I used Neitrogena salicylic acid face wash it was really really bad for my skin.

Heal your scabs. Try the Neosporin. See a dermatologist in a month if the Neosporin doesn't clear things up.

I use the Neosprin gel, not cream, YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 12:17 AM on April 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

I think doing the oil cleansing method as an alternative to using an oil free acne face wash would be like going from one extreme to the other.

I also have combination skin and have had great success with cream cleansers. I really like this cream cleanser, but that's not really going to be an option if you don't live in Australia. I don't think it's that hard to find a more local product, though, since I found something similar in Germany too.

In addition to using something less harsh to cleanse, I think you really need to be moisturising every night and morning. Keep using the Aveeno lotion at night if that works for you, but make sure that you're using something with SPF during the day.

I would recommend against putting the following things on your face:
x. coconut oil (it can cause acne)
x. vinegar or baking soda (these can mess with the pH of your skin and affect the acid mantle)
x. any pure essential oils
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:25 AM on April 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Have you tried Cetaphil cleanser? It was "prescribed" for me by a dermatologist many years ago for my oily and large pored yet sensitive and rosacea prone skin, and I have never found anything better. It is gentle, but doesn't clog, you can use it with or without water, even as an eye makeup remover, and it is inexpensive and available in drug stores around the world.

Now that my skin is getting a little dryer, I follow my face wash in the morning shower by rubbing in a couple of drops of Bio Oil while my skin is still wet. My skin has never been so calm, soft, and happy.
posted by rpfields at 2:13 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am in my thirties with combination skin with varying degrees of acne at various points. So I can relate to a lot of what you say.

Cleansing wipes feel really rough on my skin and they never seem to get all make up off. Even if I use two or three and go round my face a few times there are always some traces of make up on the last one. So I only use them when I am travelling for example to take off make up on a long haul flight.

Give the cream cleansers a try. There are many on the market that won't clog your pores - you could try Lush Ultrabland as a fairly reasonably priced one that a lot of people with sensitive skin get on with. I like to take these cleansers off with a hot facecloth and I have come to enjoy this as a ritual. I come home, take off my jwelery, work clothes and my make up as a last step. It leaves me feeling refreshed to quite literally take the day off my face. It is also a gentle way to exfoliate, especially as you get older.

I have a large stack of very cheap, thin, small facecloths that I wash after every use. With them being small and thin 7 facecloths/wk does not considerably add to my laundry pile. I have 20+ so I don't run out of clean ones - I like to wash them with a hot load and as I live alone it takes me a couple of weeks to accumulate a full load of things I want to wash on a hot setting.

You could always start by taking your eye make up off with eye make up remover if you like. Some eye make up does not respond well to oil/cream cleansers anyway. In particular tubing mascara needs water/watery eye make up remover to come off. I do use my cream cleanser all over my face including eyes but I need the damp facecloth to get off the tubing mascara. Do whatever feels comfortable to you.
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:47 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I use WEI oil cleanser, and I love it. I rub it onto my face right before I get in the shower, then I just stick my face under the water and rub my hands over my face until the oil is gone (not long). I do use makeup removing wipes separately to take off makeup, the oil + water + hands method doesn't work for me for getting makeup off.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 4:01 AM on April 18, 2015

You've gotten plenty of advice already, but I'll just describe the mechanics of my routine. I use coconut oil. I keep it in a little covered container on my bathroom counter, and it is solid or semi-solid at room temp. I scoop a bit out and it softens up with my body temp. I massage it onto my face and then step into the shower, rub some hot water on my face, and the wipe the remaining oil off with a scrubby washcloth. I have a pile of these and I use a fresh cloth every day. About once a week I exfoliate with a fancy microdermabrasion powder, and that's about it in terms of cleansing. I've been doing this for a few years, and I'm really happy with the method. It's cheap, gentle, and minimalist (both in terms of chemicals and supplies!).
For eye makeup, I use coconut oil, too, but I have had allergic reactions to commercial eye makeup remover. The eye makeup remover by LancĂ´me (Bi-Facil) is very good, and you could just put some of that on a cotton ball and then use oil on the rest of your face.
posted by katie at 4:21 AM on April 18, 2015

Oil cleansing was a game changer for me. I'm 50 and have been oil cleansing for years and I really do receive comments on how great my skin looks. I use either 6 parts jojoba or sweet almond oil mixed with maybe 1 part castor oil. Apparently the castor oil has some antibacterial cleansing properties.

I massage a teeny bit all over my face and neck, really work it up, then get a clean washcloth (so yes, I have like 20 washcloths) super warm, then lay it over my face for a few seconds. Then I massage the washcloth around my face, moving down towards and over my neck, and the oil comes off. I flip to the clean side and wipe off the oil.

At first, you have to be mindful of not pushing the oil towards your hairline and leaving residue because you can break out.

I use a little Retin-A and CeraVe moisturizer with sunscreen and seriously, my skin is like butter.

It's also this very soothing ritual. No matter how shitty my day, I look forward to this last nighttime self-care.
posted by kinetic at 4:22 AM on April 18, 2015 [7 favorites]

I didn't know one could use straight-up food grade oil. I'll have to try that.

I use Josie Maran's light argan oil kit. The cleanser emulsifies. I love it. I usually get my hands damp and then put about a nickel-sized blob on my fingers. I then gently rub this into my dry face. Avoid your mouth because while it smells lovely, it tastes super creepy. Rinse off with warm water and pat dry.

I then moisturize with Origins Night a Mins cream. Sometimes I drop a few drops of argan oil in it beforehand if it's super dry, like in the winter.

I also avoid my eye area. I actually use Pond's cold cream to remove my eye makeup if I have any on, but I have pretty much stopped wearing makeup. I don't like how much trouble it always is to remove, even when I use eye makeup remover proper.

Oh, and be gentle with your skin! Don't rub it hard or use your nails on it or squeeze it. Leave it be as much as possible. And change your pillowcase regularly.
posted by sockermom at 5:02 AM on April 18, 2015

I cleanse in the shower with a scrub I amke in my kitchen of grocery store olive oil and demerara sugar. I mositurise with a 1.99 container of palm or coconut oil. These oils are highly absorbant and will not make your skin greasy. My skin care routine has never been cheaper, easier or more effective.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:02 AM on April 18, 2015

I use straight up oils: castor, jojoba, sweet almond as others have described. I find this reduces how much oil my skin produces although my T-zone will always be oily, and I love how it balances out my dry areas too. I use a salicylic acid lotion from Paula's Choice and benzoyl peroxide a few times a week overnight. In the morning I just splash my face with water before moisturizing.

To reduce the oil that gets into your bangs, I love sephora blotting papers (the blue ones). I blot my face a few times a day to reduce shine instead of powdering up or using shine-reducing lotions and I use each paper until it has no more blotting left in it.

Make sure you change your pillowcase every day if possible if you don't already - you spend a lot of time with your face pressed against it!
posted by lafemma at 5:18 AM on April 18, 2015

I used to use cold cream (emulsified oil) but the formulation has become complicated and irritating since Unilever took over Pond's. If you are in the UK, the Boot's Traditional Cold Cream may do the trick. Right now, the routine is jojoba oil rubbed all over the face and neck with extra care around the eye area then wiped off with cotton pads damp from warm-hot water. This is followed by Neutrogena Rapid Clear lotion on the nasal area (prone to blackheads), sunscreen and moisturizer.

For the acne, stuff like Bactroban/Muciprocin or Neosporin works like a treat. You definitely want to use them when the acne "pops" or bleeds.

Once a week I use the Clarisonic, which, to my surprise, really has worked in deep cleaning my face and hands. It is the best exfoliator.

In the end, it is about sunscreen, moisturizer and water. Drink a lot of water, it does make a difference.
posted by jadepearl at 5:51 AM on April 18, 2015

...forgot to mention: the first week or so after you switch to oil cleansing, your face may erupt in whiteheads. All the underlying gunk pops right up. That ends after two weeks if you stick with it.
posted by kinetic at 7:07 AM on April 18, 2015

I love the oil cleansing method (OCM) and have been using it for over a year. I have aging combination skin with dry patches and OCM works great for me. Basically, whatever cleansing product you are using now, after you wash, your face should NEVER feel tight. If it does, you are drying out your skin!

I started out with a blend of castor and olive oil (1:3 ratio), then avocado, jojoba, almond oil and then ended up with mineral oil (which is non comedogenic, hooray!) Here is my OCM routine:

In the morning, I shower and splash water on my face. I dry off and apply Cerave moisture cream (also low comedogenic) on my face. I then apply a lightweight sunscreen (this is your best defence against aging!). Apply makeup.

When I get home, I stand in front of the bathroom sink and rub mineral oil on my face to take my make up off. I use toilet paper to remove the oil (I bought micro fibre towels but can't be bothered to wash and re-use them). I'll apply more mineral oil to further cleanse. I rub it around my closed eyes and wipe it off with toilet paper. Sometimes I will apply a rosehip serum around my eyes. Then I apply Cerave moisture cream (aka Cerave in the tub).

Have a read though this. Don't OCM in the shower as water won't remove the oil. I want to say that your skin is over-producing oil as it's dry but I don't have anything to back that up. Seconding the tip to make sure you change your pillow case regularly.
posted by KathyK at 9:13 AM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

2nd jojoba oil as a makeup remover. I've used olive oil as well, it's heavier but still ok. I follow that with CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser. (Careful not to get the similar-looking Hydrating version, for dry skin.) Clean & Clear's Essentials Foaming Facial Cleanser for Sensitive Skin is similar to the CeraVe Foaming, slightly more astringent but cheaper. I use the oil with a cotton pad and then wash normally with the cleanser.

(The Neutrogena grapefruit cleanser is very harsh and is probably contributing to the problem by so denuding your skin of oils as to stimulate overproduction of natural sebum. I don't know what its PH level is, but it feels like paint stripper to me :/)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:47 AM on April 18, 2015

My skin is sensitive & acne prone, plus I have mild rosacea, and the OCM routine has kept it more stable than anything else I've ever tried. I've used all sorts of cream cleansers, salicylic acid, natural products, dermatologist-prescribed nonsense, the list goes on and on. But I've been oil cleansing for a few years now and I'll never look back. I almost forgot how bad my skin could get; I used a natural blueberry face mask a few weeks ago, and I immediately got a bunch of BAD cystic acne. That'll teach me.

Anyway. This site was endlessly helpful when I was just getting started and figuring out what kinds of oil would be best for me. Also, side note - I should point out that coconut oil is NOT recommended -- it's comedogenic. I used it as a moisturizer for a few months before really researching OCM and it gave me crazy blackheads. It's great on the rest of the body, but no bueno for the face.

This is my skincare routine:
Morning: Wash my face in the shower with a Basis sensitive skin bar, apply tinted moisturizer with SPF, makeup as needed.
Evening: Remove any eye makeup with gentle cleansing cloths. I like the Simple or Neutrogena ones.
OCM cocktail of 1/3 castor oil + 1/3 grapeseed oil + 1/3 jojoba oil. I have a little plastic bottle that I pre-mix everything into. Take a few drops into the palm of my hand, warm it between my palms, and apply all over my face, avoiding my eye area (I don't like oil in my eyes either). Massage the oil in for a minute or so. Take a flannel washcloth, wet it with hot water, lay it over my face to "steam" it a little bit, and then wipe off all the oil. I only use each washcloth once before tossing it into the hamper. I have like 15 though so I don't have to do laundry more often or anything. I think I found mine on Amazon for relatively cheap.

I even got my mom into OCM, despite her initial squicked reaction. She's in her 60's and she loves what it does for her aging skin.
posted by darkchocolatepyramid at 2:31 PM on April 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Alright, I picked up a creamy Neutrogena Naturals face wash (without acne treatment, low ingredient list.) . I'll get that going first with just some makeup wipe around my eyes to get all that gunk off. Then if I'm still feeling dry, I'll try some oils to the routine. Thanks everyone for all the advice and it's a great to have some direction and hear what works for everyone - even though each face is different. Feel free to keep more info coming!
posted by Crystalinne at 7:26 PM on April 18, 2015

Sounds like you've identified a good starting place. I would say a less harsh cleanser and avoiding products with alcohol plus more moisturizing will help your skin become more balanced.

I tried oil cleansing with a castor oil + olive oil blend but found it sort of time consuming, plus using hot water and cloths to wipe the oil off still felt like it was drying and irritating my skin.

Now I will usually just cleanse my face with warm water (sink or shower) and rubbing gently with fingers or a cloth. If I'm wearing make-up or feel grimy I use a couple drops of Dr. Bronners soap with my fingers. Then, as soon as I dry my face I apply moisturizer. These days that is 5-8 drops of jojoba and pea-size bit of EveryDay Shea lotion rubbed in my hands to emulsify, then patted/rubbed all over my face. Instead of lotion, I sometimes mix the jojoba with a spritz of rosewater in my hand or just dampen my hands with water, just something to help it emulsify and spread better. I will often also rinse and moisturize like this before bed and again when I get up, but I live in a very dry climate. Using oil as a moisturizer can feel, well, oily when you first apply it but jojoba is light bodied and absorbs beautifully after just a few minutes so my skin just feels soft. No need to wash it off, in my case. I now can't live without jojoba!!
posted by dahliachewswell at 8:58 PM on April 18, 2015

>Do you wipe off with a washcloth or a cotton pad or what?

I take off my makeup with a mix of Grapeseed / Almond Kernel / Castor oil, stored in a pump bottle, using my fingers. Then I wash the oil off with a non-foaming gel face cleanser.

I tried the washcloth thing and it was annoying to manage the cloths plus I didn't enjoy the oily eyes thing either - its more the oily residue that was annoying/irritating, using the oil to take the makeup off around the eye area and then washing it off doesnt leave me irritated. Its nice to use a washcloth once a week or so but I soon dropped it from the daily routine.

I decant the gel wash into a pump bottle too, caps are a pain when your hands are slippery.
posted by Ness at 3:16 AM on April 20, 2015

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