Hippie Hygiene Experiment # 1: Why (and how!) I wash my face with oil

I haven’t used soap on my face in over a month. Yeah, you read that right.  I haven’t washed my face with soap or any kind of cleanser at all in four weeks!  I haven’t had to use heavy moisturizers, I haven’t had breakouts, and my skin looks absolutely radiant.  How do I manage it?

Oil.  That’s right.  Oil.  That’s all I use on my face.  No soaps, creams, toners, masks.  Just oil.

My favorite olive oil
My favorite olive oil

Shortly after Cricket was born, I started noticing that she seemed to break out when I put my fancy, expensive, anti-aging moisturizer on my face.  The days I didn’t wear the moisturizer, her face was clear.  The days I did, her cheeks broke out in itchy, red pinpricks that she would scratch and rub on.

I had to do something.  Obviously, I wasn’t going to continue using something that my baby was clearly sensitive to.  For a while, I used coconut oil on my face with mediocre results.  She still broke out a little, and my face always felt kind of gritty.  My skin looked tired and dull.  I was perusing the Trader Joe’s toiletries section one day, and I came across a bottle of Jojoba oil.  “Good for oil cleansing,” the back of the bottle said.  I didn’t get it, but I did go home and do some googling.

And thus did I discover the Oil Cleansing Method.

Here’s the idea: Your skin is covered by natural oils that it needs to protect and nourish itself.  When we constantly strip the oils out with soap the skin either gets dried out or reacts by overproducing oils and breaking out.  It doesn’t make sense to strip out your skin’s healthy, natural oil only to replace it with a synthetic oil.  Instead, what if we simply gently released the excess oils, dissolve the dead skin cells clogging in pores, and allow your body to maintain its own natural level of moisture?  And what gently dissolves excess oil?  More oil!

Okay, do you think I am insane yet?  I’m not.  This really does work better than any skin care regimen I’ve tried.  To put things into perspective, I used to work at a cosmetics counter, and I’ve always used high-end department store skin care lines.  None of them ever worked as well as a cheap bottle of oil!

If you’d like to try it for yourself, here’s how

Before you get started cleansing your face, you need to mix your oil.  You will mix castor oil with a nourishing oil of some kind.  The castor oil releases the dead skin and unclogs pores while the nourishing oil moisturizes and soothes.

oil cleansing

Some ideas for nourishing oils include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Jojoba oil

Don’t use coconut oil.  It will clog your pores!

Start with a 1:1 ratio of castor oil and nourishing oil.  If you find your skin is too dry afterwards, cut the amount of castor oil.  If you find your skin is too oily, increase the castor oil.  The beauty of this is that you can customize this so that it perfectly meets your skin’s needs.

Right now I use a 1:3 ratio of castor oil and avocado oil. I mixed it in a pretty glass dropper bottle that I got at my local natural food store so it’s easy to work with.

Once you’ve mixed the oil, it’s time to start cleansing!

  1. Put a quarter sized amount of oil into the palm of your hands and massage it into your face.  Pay attention to those really oily bits like your chin and those crevices behind your nostrils.
  2. Leave it to sit while you do something else like brush teeth, wrangle a kid into the tub, or change a diaper.
  3. Wet a wash cloth with very warm water (not so hot that you scald yourself, but as warm as is comfortable) and lay back on your bed with it over your face to steam your pores.
  4. Accept the belly slapping, wet willies, foot tickling, and zerberts that your family bestows upon you as they sense your helpless state.
  5. When the wash cloth has cooled off (a minute or so), sit up and gently wipe the excess oil of your face.  This is the hardest step.  Your instinct will be to wipe really hard to take all the oil off.  Don’t do this as this will dry out your face.  There should still be oil on your face.  This will soak in after a few minutes, leaving your face feeling comfortably fresh.

I do this every night.  Even with the kids and husband piling all over me, it still feels so luxurious.

In the morning, I just rinse my face very briefly in the shower.


Some things I’ve discovered while doing this

  • Use old, cheap wash cloths, preferably ones that are big enough to cover your entire face.  They will get oily and the oil does leave stains on them.
  • Drip a few drops of blue Dawn dish detergent into the laundry cycle if you are having trouble with the oil not coming out.
  • Unless you are much more graceful than I am, don’t try to oil cleanse in the shower.  There’s nothing like stepping on the oil patch on the shower floor at 6 AM and busting your butt.
  • Don’t leave the castor oil out of your mix.  I tried this for a couple of days thinking it was the castor oil drying my skin out and my pores got really clogged and my skin started looking dull.  Turns out I just needed to wipe off the oil in a more gentle way.
  • Expect an adjustment period.  I don’t know if this was more about my skin adjusting to the oil cleansing or me needing to adjust to the way skin should feel in the wild.  Regardless, it took a few weeks for things to work themselves out and for me to feel really comfortable with the way my skin feels with all of this.
  • If you have trouble with dryness during the adjustment period, just use a little bit of the nourishing oil on its own to give your skin a moisture boost.

Have you tried cleansing your face with oil?  How did you do it and what was your experience?


8 thoughts on “Hippie Hygiene Experiment # 1: Why (and how!) I wash my face with oil

  1. I keep hearing about the oil cleansing method but haven’t really looked into it or tried it yet! Thanks for the great step-by-step instructions. I LOVE coconut oil (must be organic, virgin, unrefined for me!) and use it as my only facial moisturizer. It doesn’t clog my pores or create any blemishes. It keeps my skin moisturized and during the summer has a natural low level SPF which prevents me from burning! I suppose we’ll all have different experiences with our skin!


    1. I’m glad you are having good luck with the coconut oil! I use my Bare Minerals foundation (check it out in the skin deep database!) for SPF. Coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it is pore clogging, so it’s just something to be aware of. I was using it for a long time, but when I switched to avocado I noticed an immediate, positive difference in the way my skin looked.


  2. Crazy lady! You’re writing is so good that I actually want to try this now! Humph. What about your eye area? Does it feel ok there? And does it mess up your mascara’s ability to stay on your lashes when you apply it?


    1. Paris, I definitely use it on my eye area. It does a fantastic job with gently removing eye make-up, although mostly I don’t wear it. I was in a situation recently where I was wearing pretty heavy stage make-up. Though it took a little rubbing–and a few washcloths–it got everything off just fine. As far as preventing mascara from sliding off, I’m not sure. I have really sensitive eyes and I can’t wear mascara. Maybe you could try it out and let us know!


  3. I started using the castor oil and olive oil about 3 weeks ago my skin is very dry and I seem to be breaking out in areas I usually do not break out in. I am going to try wiping it off more gently and see if that works. Any other tips? I have been using 1:1 ratio


  4. Thanks for your article on OCM. I had tried for a couple of weeks to rub copious amounts of castor oil on my face and sleep with it on until the morning. After a couple weeks my facial skin got really dry and my pores enlarged it seems. I’m now only using olive oil. I had read castor could dry out your skin. Any comments or recommendations? Thanks.


  5. Also I’m trying to undue the drying effect I’ve had from castor oil. Will olive oil do or borage I had heard was good for facial skin. Thanks.


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