Oil Cleansing – What is it?

When I first heard about oil cleansing I was mortified. Putting oil on my face? But that will clog my pores! 

I’ve been cleansing with oil for 2 years now and I’m really glad I started. This is a post about my experiences with oil cleansing and the research I have behind it, your experience may differ. I would love to hear your experiences with it as well, bad or good.


What is it? 

Oil cleansing isn’t a new concept, it’s been around for a long time. In Ancient baths, Romans used to use oil to wash off dirt then use a strigil to clean it off (we use much softer objects nowadays though). Many Asian brands will already have pre-made oil cleansers for you to use, but you can also make your own and it’s super easy!

It’s common for people to use oil cleansing as a step before their regular cleanser to wash off makeup, dirt and sunscreen. It’s usually much cheaper than a makeup remover. Some people also use it as their main step.

How does it work? 

I can’t actually find any scientific studies (if you know of any great sources please let me know!), but we do know that oil dissolves oil, the dissolution theory is the principle behind it. Apparently this is a way to help oily skin without stripping the skin, also while delivering moisture back. Many cleansers we use can be quite harsh and strip the skin, causing an overproduction of oil.

In saying that, it is suitable for all skin types. There are so many different types of oils suitable for everybody, including both those with dry and oily skin.

How to do it

There are different ways to do it and it will depend on whether you use it as your main step or a step before regular cleansing. I use this step as a way to remove any sunscreen, makeup and dirt. I then use a cleanser actually wash my face. So I will just list the steps that I personally use:

  1. Make sure you have clean hands and put a small amount of oil in your palm
  2. Gently massage into a dry face like a regular cleanser (don’t massage for too long, you don’t want to irritate your skin. Just enough to dislodge any makeup and dirt)
  3. Wipe oil off face with a damp microfibre cloth
  4. Continue on with rest of routine (such as cleansing with a regular cleanser)

NOTE: If you’re using a pre-made oil cleanser, it will just wash off with water and you don’t need to wipe it off with a cloth.

What types of oils can I use? 

Garden of Wisdom has a fantastic writeup about different types of oils and what they’re good for.  Here is a list of the comedogenic ratings for all oils. Oils can be good for both oil cleansing and as a moisturiser, so I have written about both functions for a couple of them. Here are some popular ones:

Jojoba oil – This is one I personally use every day and love it. It’s slightly comedogenic (2/5) so it needs to be tested before using it on your whole face. This oil is very close in structure to our natural sebum. It’s very beneficial to those with oily skin for this reason (but I have dry skin and still use it). As a moisturiser, it has also been shown to enhance skin barrier and repair from damage.

Neem oil – This is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal, many acne prone people find lots of benefit in it.  It does smell pretty bad though (just a warning!)

Evening Primrose Oil – I also use this every day as a moisturiser. It’s apparently good for hormonal acne, but has no studies to back it up. However, it does have many studies on treating eczema and dermatitis. I find it quite moisturising.

Coconut oil – This oil is highly comedogenic (4/5) so be sure to patch test before trying anything. Has great emollient properties for the skin.

Avocado oil – This is quite a thick oil and is good for dehydrated and dry skin. Also has great antioxidant properties as a moisturiser.

Tea Tree Oil – Very good at treating pimples. However, it needs to be diluted or it could cause burns to your skin. A couple of drops of this in your cleansing oil (1/4tsp to a cup) could work for acne prone skin.

For a full list of other popular oils and their benefits, check out Garden Of Wisdom. There is also a great summary on Reddit by /r/JewsishVampire. Here is a list of the comedogenic ratings for all oils.

Some notes before you start: 

  • Make sure you patch test all of the oils before you start, as they could very well break you out. There are the odd stories here and there about people erupting in terrible acne, so please patch test any products.
  • If you mix a few oils together, you can add an emulsifier so it just washes off with water. However, be sure to research this. It is less moisturising but still beneficial. Here is an example of somebody making their own with an emulsifier.
  • Make sure you use proper oils and not ones with added ingredients. If you want to know whether to buy specific oils in Australia, let me know and I can try to point you in the right direction.

11 thoughts on “Oil Cleansing – What is it?

  1. adamchats says:

    Thank you for stopping and liking my latest post! I have been wanting to try a cleansing oil for a while now, and your post has given me some great ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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