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The Oil Cleansing Method: A How-To Guide for Clear, Radiant Skin

Affiliate Disclosure | in DIY Beauty | by | with 407 Comments

The Oil Cleansing Method: A How-To Guide For Radiant Skin

A Note From Mommypotamus: Today’s guest post comes from Jennifer Nervo of 20 Something Allergies And Counting . . . Down. Thank you, Jennifer! (And psst, if you’re looking to simplify your body care ingredients, too, check out this pure coconut oil soap made from just three ingredients.)

The Oil Cleansing Method for acne (OCM) is the most ah-mazing way to clean your face. It rocks my sensitive, acne-prone, dry, flaky, and yet somehow oily face’s world. Does that sound a wee bit insane? It’s probably up there with slathering your skin in beef fat…wait, I do that too thanks to Mommypotamus.

Like animal fat emollients for the skin, oil cleansing is another remedy dredged up by some free-spirited souls looking for a more natural method of cleansing their bodies.

Bless their crunchy little hearts.

The Key to Great Skin

The #1 key to better skin is diet. A nutrient-rich diet that focuses on whole foods and steers clear of processed and chemical-rich foods can heal most cases of the skin crazies. Add in the oil cleansing method, and you have a recipe for near perfect skin.

That said, many of us will sneak a slice of pizza even if it causes us to blow up like a Macy’s Parade blimp and break out like a hormonal teenager. Or is that just me?

How I Cleaned Up My Act

This is what I used to look like.

Before using the oil cleansing method for acne

Before starting the oil cleansing method

The Oil Cleansing Method: Before pic

Oh Myyyyyy

We are about 1 1/2 years into a healing protocol, and I can safely go out without makeup or covering my face whenever possible. We are also well on our way to healing all of our food allergies, hubby’s gluten intolerance and diabetes, and my 4 year old daughter’s severe tooth decay.

The protocol is a hybrid of concepts from the GAPS Diet, The Primal Blueprint, Traditional Chinese Medicine, a tooth healing protocol, and food rotation in case you’re wondering what is working for us. I talk more about it on my site.

My skin cleared up just a few months into the diet changes, and acne was a thing of the past as long as I stuck to the protocol. I also lost 45 lbs and was feeling pretty good.

Then I noticed my skin was getting dry, and a little wrinkly, and kinda saggy. ACK!

Thank You Natural Remedies

Enter the oil cleansing method. I think many of us who try oil cleansing for the first time are either of the crunchy adventurous variety or desperate for a skin fix. Or both.

So move over special cleansers, makeup removers, overnight moisturizers, toners, and night lotions. Oil cleansing covers it all. I certainly don’t need more things to spend my money on or that clutter up my cabinets.

The Oil Cleansing Method For Acne & Sensitive Skin

[Mommypotamus’ note: Though it sounds counter-intuitive, certain blends of oil are great for acne because they help break down grime on our skin without stripping it. This prevents the skin from overreacting and producing more oil. It’s also thought that the avoidance of harsh drying soaps can prevent premature aging.]

The Method

  1. Get your oil mixture, washcloth, and a hand towel.
  2. Wet face with warm water.
  3. Pour about 1/2 teaspoon of oil (quarter size amount) into your palm and rub hands together.
  4. Rub fingers gently over your face in small circles for 30 seconds to 2 minutes to allow the oil to penetrate. Concentrate on areas with blocked pores.
  5. Wet hand towel with just below scalding water, wring out, and fold up to keep the heat in.
  6. Quickly wet the washcloth with super-hot-but-doesn’t-burn-your-face-off water, wring it out, and spread it over your face.
  7. Cover the washcloth with the towel to seal in the steam and to keep the washcloth from cooling right away. This is key.
  8. Leave on until the towel and washcloth have cooled to about room temperature and then wipe your face with the washcloth.
  9. Repeat 1-2 more times, but use the clean towel to wipe your face the second and optional third time.
  10. Voila! You have oil cleansed. There should be a thin layer of oil still on your skin to balance and protect.
  11. If skin feels tight after, it is recommended to rub a small amount of the cleansing oil in. I prefer to use a food-grade skin balm or hydrating oil.

Oil Cleansing Method

Formulas & Recipes

These formulas and recipes are meant as a guide. You will most likely need to make a few adjustments until you reach your recipe sweet spot.

If your mix is too drying, add extra hydrating/conditioning oils. Likewise, if it’s too greasy or causing you to break out long-term, then add more astringent oils and therapeutic-grade essential oils like tea tree or rosemary. Play with it until you are your most beautimous self!


Oily Skin

1:3 Ratio (1 part astringent oil to 3 parts conditioning oil)

Combination Skin

1:4 Ratio (1 part astringent oil to 4 parts conditioning oil)

Dry Skin

1:10 (1 part astringent oil to 10 parts conditioning oil)


The ‘Standard’

1:3 – 1:10 Ratio of Castor Oil* to Olive Oil

A Sweet Treat (combination skin)

1 part Hazelnut Oil : 1 part Sweet Almond Oil : 2 parts Avocado Oil

No More Pizza Face (acne-prone skin)

1 part Borage Seed Oil : 2 parts Grapeseed Oil : 1 part Hazelnut Oil : 1 part Hemp Seed Oil

  • experiment with adding therapeutic-grade essential oils – rosemary, tea tree, lavender, geranium are some good choices

Some Beneficial Oils for Oil Cleansing

Almond Oil (sweet)

  • softens, soothes and reconditions

Avocado Oil

  • rich in essential fatty acids (EFAs) and Vitamins A, B1, B2, D, and E
  • good for those with psoriasis, eczema

Borage Seed Oi

  • reduces inflammation and calms skin
  • promotes blood flow
  • good for eczema, acne, rosacea

Grapeseed Oil

  • well absorbed
  • non-allergenic so good for skin sensitivites

Hazelnut Oil

  • astringent
  • good for oily skin

Hemp Seed Oil

  • nutrition for your skin – antioxident, protein, mineral-rich
  • contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, C, D, and E
  • high amounts of chlorophyll
  • good for eczema, psoriasis, acne, and dry skin

*A Note on Castor Oil

Castor oil is in just about every tutorial for the oil cleansing method out there. I have been using it too but am happy to say that it is too harsh on my sensitive skin no matter the ratio. Why happy?

Castor oil is highly toxic.

Thanks to our dear friend Mommypotamus, I looked further into this little seed and found out that safe harvesting practices are pretty non-existent…as in I haven’t found a sustainable one yet.

There are a plethora of health benefits associated with it, but I can’t promote using it when its main toxin, ricin, causes severe allergic reactions and permanent nerve damage to many of the workers who harvest the seeds to make it. Bad business Big Ag.

Ricin is removed during processing, so the oil we use is deemed safe. There’s no need to run around chucking your supply into the trash. I would however consider looking to other sources when replacing it.

Are you game to try the oil cleansing method? It may just rock your world too. If you have questions, here’s a troubleshooting post that may help.

DIY Organic Beauty Recipes E-BOOKWant more organic beauty tips and recipes?

Check out Mommypotamus’ amazing e-book: DIY Organic Beauty Recipes. 

In this 198 page guide, you’ll learn how ridiculously easy it is to make your own shampoo, conditioner, lotion, tooth whitener, body balm, soap, baby products and more.

Jennifer NervoAbout Jennifer: Jennifer Nervo is a blogger, homeschooling mama, research fanatic, and has been fondly dubbed ‘the witch doctor’ by her hubby though she prefers the title voodoo practitioner. It sounds so much more professional. On a typical day, you can find her brewing up potions, lotions, and concoctions while learning to practice sustainability with her 4 year old daughter and very tolerant husband. She loves the ancient practices that comes with traditional foods and medicines but is also very fond of her modern conveniences.

Jennifer blogs over at 20 something allergies and counting…down about a range of topics mainly focused on healing food allergies and other chronic illnesses, eating an allergen- and grain-free diet, and teaching about rotation diets for optimal healing. Find out the varied life topics that make their way onto the blog here.

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407 Responses to The Oil Cleansing Method: A How-To Guide for Clear, Radiant Skin

  1. Amanda says:

    Can I use this oil cleanse method to remove make up as well or does the make up need to come off before cleansing?

    • staci says:

      Assuming you don’t have a TON of makeup, the oil will take it off just fine.
      In fact, a dab of jojoba on a Q-tip is the best thing I’ve found to remove waterproof eyeliner, and a couple drops on a cotton ball will take off everything else. :)

  2. Sima says:

    Hi! I just tried oil cleansing for the first time the night before last. It seemed lovely. I used jojoba and castor oil because I didn’t realize castor was bad and that jojoba was a wax. I don’t have acne, just sometimes clogged-ish pores on my nose and forehead. My question is: another oil cleansing site said not to do it every night because that could overdry out the skin – too much deep cleansing. What do I wash with on the nights that I don’t oil cleanse? I want something gentle but that will remove the junk of the day! (I don’t usually wear make up, but sometimes a mineral sunscreen but I still want to wash the day off!) I then just splash with water in the morning. Also – what do you exfoliate with????
    Thank you! Sima

    • staci says:

      Castor oil isn’t bad, neither is jojoba. It’s the MAKING of castor oil that is toxic, and I wouldn’t EAT it, but it’s fine to use on your skin. Jojoba is lovely on slightly-dry skin, thin and moisturizing.

      Oil cleansing is not a one-size-fits-all plan, you can certainly TRY every night and see if your skin seems dry. If you don’t do it every night, you can just rinse with a wet wash cloth.

      (my skin is far too dry, I don’t steam and I don’t do it every night, I had dry and peeling spots.)

  3. Atiya says:

    can i use olive oil on my face regularly? is there any side effects of using it on face ?

    • staci says:

      olive oil can clog pores, it works for some people but not everyone. you can try it out, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work out well.

  4. Gary says:

    For years I had cystic acne which left scarring. Fortunately I no longer break out unless I use something harsh. I have found that the dewier and more moist my skin is, the healthier it is, and it also makes the scarring I have look less pronounced. I use organic hemp seed oil as a cleanser, but I find that it can sometimes be a bit drying. Can you recommend a non pore clogging oil I can combine with it, and or a new oil cleanser that I can replace it with?

  5. Ness says:

    Thank you so much for this amazing information. The “pizza face” potion is whats going to be used. What kind of moisturizer can you recommend? Is cleaning, toner, moisturizer needed to be done in the morning or through the day?
    Any additional information will be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!

  6. elise says:

    just an fyi, a lot of people who use proactiv and then switch to oil cleansing will find, just like i did, that they break out for a while before their skin settles down. this is because it takes a while for your skin to replenish itself and for the acid mantle to rebuild. benzoyl peroxide strips your skin of nutrients and so when you stop using proactiv, there is literally nothing on or in your skin to protect it and so acne will flair up. i think it IS possible to avoid breaking out after quitting proactiv, but there are a lot of factors at play. first of all, you can’t have any severe hormonal imbalance. most people who suffer from acne don’t have any major hormonal imbalance, just minor which compiled with lack of gut health and skin abuse result in acne. the second thing is that you need to be putting things into your body that are anti-inflammatory and pro-gut healing. omega 3, pro-biotics, a raw multi-vitamin, l-glutamine are all good things to take. magnesium and zinc are also helpful in a general way. the final and most important thing is that you need to eat according to an auto-immune diet, AND you need to make sure you’re not eating any of your food sensitivities. generally food sensitivities are mostly avoided by eating an auto-immune diet, but it’s possible for them to be included, so get checked for food sensitivies.

    doing all of that should prevent you from breaking out until your skin has recovered from proactiv. it will also help heal your gut in the meantime, which is the real benefit. once your skin IS recovered and your gut has healed, as long as you eat mostly a whole food diet then it shouldn’t cause a breakout even if you cheat and eat a horribly inflammatory meal.

    good luck!

  7. Ashley says:

    I’ve been using 1 part castor oil and 2 parts hazelnut oil at the suggestion of a friend for a few months on and off and haven’t seen any dramatic success. I thought it was because of my inconsistency but maybe it is my oil choice.

    I’ll keep using my hazelnut but I guess I’m unsure of what counts as a conditioning oil.

  8. Randi says:

    I have been using the OCM for 6-8 months with great success. Recently – within the last 6 weeks, I have started developing a rash under my eyes. I try to not get the oils there, but it is almost impossible when cleaning my face. I use jojoba with hazelnut for most cleanings. Occasionally I use grape seed oil if I am feeling really dry. The rash comes and goes, I have eliminated then re-added oils; just can’t figure out what is causing the problem. Any suggestions or ideas for oils that won’t cause irritation to the sensitive skin under the eye?

  9. suri says:

    I have very sensitive skin and started getting adult acne after my youngest son. I have had laser done twice and it helped with old scars, but I continued to breakout. I tried numerous over the counter products including proactive. Proactive worked for a short period some what. I have been to the Dr an on numerous acne treatments and none helped. I was told about Citrus Clear products and they helped tremendously! I ran out once and didn’t get anymore and started breaking out again. Not only does it help with treating present acne but it helps preventing future breakouts. 

  10. Lisa Waltz says:

    Hey…I’m desperate. Right after Thanksgiving, I got sick with the flu/strep throat and started on antibiotics. At some point, I am not sure when, I developed a “rash” on my face. It honestly looks to me like it is the area where I would rub something on my face. Forehead a little, nose, a little, top of cheeks, a little, but definitely on my cheeks, chin and going down my neck. It’s a raised, bumpy, red rash. No black/white heads have developed. It’s just there. Red, ugly and for all the world to see. I went to the doctor and she thought Rosacea. I’ve never had that before. I wondered if it was a reaction to something. ???? Anyhow…I’ve been using Dr Bronner’s hemp/peppermint bar soap for the last year. Wondering if the peppermint could be causing it. I am under a lot of stress from various angles. ???? Just not sure what could cause it all of a sudden. It’s been over 2 months. What oil cleansing method would you recommend? I have dry skin normally…must use lotion daily or it gets itchy and tight. Thanks for any insight.

    • Vanessa says:

      I was using Dr Bronners peppermint Castile soap in the shower as a shaving oil on my legs. After about a week I developed an ugly red bumpy looking rash on both legs. Stopped using the Dr Bronners soap and the rash went away.

  11. Nicky says:

    I bought all of the ingredients for the combination skin. I have adjusted it a couple times and still having no luck of getting clear skin. If anything I feel my face is getting worse. I am at a loss and don’t know what to do. I even do the morning honey cleanse and when my face feels dry at night I use the moisturizer of jojoba and carrot seed oil.

  12. Marresa says:

    Hi Heather, I just had a quick question. I was wondering, do you wash the oil off after you’re done with the second set of towels has rested on your face? Or are you supposed to do the oil treatment and then just leave it on your face?
    Thank you!

  13. Amanda D says:

    Hoping someone is still looking at these comments, not sure since it doesn’t look like the last few have been answered, but I’m going to give it a go anyways…..I am about to start the oil cleansing protocol & I’m just wondering what you do about sunscreen? I don’t want to go without it but not sure what to use….thank you in advance!

  14. Lizzy says:

    Where are you getting your information about Castor Oil? I was doing some research and came across this article:
    It contradicts the information you present about Castor Oil, and actually makes me want to try adding it to my own oil cleansing recipe of 1 part coconut oil, 1 part hazelnut oil, 1 part sweet almond oil, and 2 parts grapeseed oil.

  15. Emma B. says:

    I’ve been using the oil cleaning method (as well as the honey cleansing method in the morning) for two weeks now, and I’m a bit unsure how to respond and adjust to the results. My first thought was to increase the conditioning oils, since my skin feels a tad dryer. However, I get the sense that my acne has increased. The oils that I’m using now are walnut oil (1:5), hazelnut oil (1:5), grapeseed oil (2:5) and avocado oil (1:5). Any tips would be helpful, because I’m loving the routine!

    // Emma

  16. Jennifer says:

    Hi I am buying the ingredients to do the OCM. I have very sensitive skin. I do not want to to use Castor Oil. I have sunflower and safflower oil. But I believe none of these are an astringent. Hazelnut oil is slightly cosmogenic (i use a chart to base it on). I am thinking of witch hazel? Are there other astringent oils? Thank you!

    • Cindy says:

      Witch hazel is not an oil. You can use it after you cleanse as a toner if you want to. I started using this about 8 months ago and I used mostly Sunflower oil, with a tiny bit of castor and olive oil. My skin looked amazing after the VERY first time. The fine lines under my eyes were gone and I looked younger! I continued using the same jar for like 4-5 months and everything was great. I then ran out and forgot how exactly I made it…. The second batch I made I used a few different oils and a tiny bit of Tea Tree Oil and I broke out in acne everywhere, including large cystic acne ( I currently have 4 of them) and tons of clogged pores that are flesh colored bumps. I have blackheads. I have never had a black head or clogged pores ever before. I am 35 years old. I am not going to give up, because I saw the amazing results from the first batch….. My advice is to keep it simple. One or two oils at most. I am not sure what I am going to use for myself yet…… Good luck!

  17. Enozia says:

    I’ve heard grapeseed oil is great for acne. Anyone used it before?

  18. How To Make Pure Coconut Oil SoapMommypotamus | says:

    […] you can actually wash your face with oil using this method, but it’s a totally different […]

  19. Amanda D says:

    Just a follow up for anyone who is reading these comments & considering trying the oil cleansing method. I have had acne for about 30 years, I am 42 now. It had actually calmed down & I was happy with my skin until I had my first baby 18 months ago & then it was horrid again. I tried a few different brands of product lines and didn’t feel I was seeing any improvement. Wanted something natural, saw how several friends had used oils & their skin just looked so perfect & beautiful, I wanted it. So I tried the above method for 6 weeks, along with honey cleansing in the mornings. I wanted to love this, I really wanted to be able to say “Wow! My skin has totally transformed and is now beautiful, smooth and clear” at the end. But, alas, that is not what happened. Here I sit, at the end of my 6 week trial period, my skin is seriously SO SO SO SO much worse than when I started this. I’m so sad. I stuck with it hoping that the gigantic painful red cysts that appeared around week 3 were just “the oil working itself out of my pores” – but nope. It just has gotten worse & worse. I took before & after pics every 2 weeks and the progression is just unbelievable. Last weekend I think I counted over 40 huge zits on my face. :( So needless to say, I’m done with this method. I really believe that every person is different & maybe this will work for some, but it just made my skin infinitely worse and left me a bit depressed. Now I just am not even sure what to do next. As Liz Lemon would say, “Blerg.”

    • Amanda D says:

      The oils I used were: grapeseed, hemp seed and hazelnut, fyi.

    • Laura says:

      Try Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish! It’s an English brand (guess where I’m from!) but I’m sure you can get it shipped to the US. All natural ingredients and the most incredible, soothing and rejuvenating facial-care regime… I literally get out of bed in the mornings for it and look forward to it every evening. I’ve always had oily / combination skin, prone to breakouts and throughout my teen years used really harsh ‘acne’ products that were effectively just paint stripper. They never really solved anything but just made my skin drier and less oily. Then my mum bought me Liz Earle and I literally haven’t looked back! Now I only get spots if I eat too much sugar or switch shampoos (there’s only one shampoo that doesn’t give me spots but it isn’t a natural one so I won’t post it here!). Rest of the time my skin is completely clear and glowing. I also use their make-up which is very light but gives a beautiful complexion! The face scrub is also amazing and makes you glow so much my colleagues (male as well as female!) always comment on it when I get into work the next day (I only do it once a month). Good luck and I really think you should give it a go – it wins awards for best product almost every year.

  20. Laverne says:

    My mother gave her children castor oil from time to time when we were growing up and every now and then I still use it as a laxative, as the directions on the bottle says to and I have never heard of it being toxic before now.

  21. lina says:

    I have oily combo skin and was using castor and almond oil for a couple of months, at first my skin was the best it ever was my pores were smaller and face was less oily. I started getting some cystic pimples on my forehead but i thought maybe it was because of my period, after a month or two i started getting little bumps all over my forehead, i ignored it until my cheeks were getting horrible bumps which never happened to me before. I stopped using almond oil thinking it was the problem and recently got safflower oil, it hasnt made it worse from what i see but im still getting bumps on my forehead and it makes me feel very insecure. Would you recommend an oil that should clear this up and help me with this problem

  22. Beth says:

    Hi, I’m not sure if this question has been asked, but is it possible/allowed to use
    multiple oils or a combination? Would that be counter-productive?

  23. Diana says:

    I loved this and will soon be trying out this method! One question though, in the video you mentioned something about a cleansing lotion, what was the first ingredient listed?

  24. Laverne says:

    I have been using a combination of castor oil and olive oil for about a week now and my skin is already looking better. I have combination/ oily skin with large pores, blackheads and pimples. I have been using a prescribed antibiotic lotion clyndamyacin (not sure of the spelling) which has not helped as much as cleansing with oil. Thanks Jennifer and everyone who has posted. I’m happy with the results and I will continue to use and experiment with different oils.
    I appreciate you all.

    • Cindy says:

      Be careful trying different oils! If you have a combo that works, stick with it and DO not change it! I used the same combo for 4-5 months with incredible results, but I forgot how I made it and made a second batch that has ruined my skin. It has now been as many months and my skin keeps getting worse…..Stick with what works!

  25. Natural Skin Care Products Safety, Part Two | How We Flourish says:

    […] Add wild orange, basil, and melaleuca to your favorite homemade facial cleanser, such as your oil cleansing or this […]

  26. Olivia says:

    Thanks for the info! I’ve just started the OCM in the past week and definitely love it. I’m struggling, however, with dryness. I’m using avocado oil with a bit of hazelnut and sweet almond oils, which from what I’ve read shouldn’t be too harsh for my skin. I have upped the ratio of avocado to the other oils, to ensure I’m getting lots of moisture, but I still have dry patches showing up around my mouth, chin and cheeks. I’ve heard that this is normal in the adjustment period, but I’m wondering if there’s anything I could or should be doing until my skin adjusts in a week or two – should I apply a bit of extra oil once my skin is clean, or just leave it? Any thoughts would be great! :)

  27. stephanie says:

    I just started the OCM using 1/3 castor oil and 1/2 grapeseed oil all from my local Earth Fare. I’m not sure if it’s going to work but I’ve struggled with mild acne for 10 years now and I’m ready to try more of a holistic path.
    My question is what should i be doing/using to cleanse my face in the morning?

  28. Jennifer says:


    I am extremely interested in doing this and in fact just tried it for the first time tonight. My question is how often skin cleanse with the oils? My current routine is to wash my face twice a day followed with toner, serum, and moisturizer. Do still keep the twice a day routine but leaving out the store bought items?

  29. Robin says:

    Is there a list somewhere of what oils are astringent and what ones are conditioning? Thanks.

  30. zeniah says:

    Hi i do the OCM twice every morning and night. I also do intense workout twice daily and sweat like crazy. My question is what do i do when I am sweating like crazy especially in the morning when i also need to rush to work. Is it ok if i use a herbal facial cleanser in the morning right after i am back from a run and do the OCM just at night. The effects are great however I dont want to ruin my face by doing something wrong kindly help. :) thank you

  31. Julena says:

    Can you please update the ingredients/instructions so it’s more clear what/how to do this? I just see a list of oils and I have no idea which are astringent and which are conditioning, and the part from “The Standard” on totally confuses me. Thanks.

  32. Stephanie says:

    What about coconut oil and tea tree oil? I’ve been adding tea tree oil to my moisturizer, and it clears up my red with white head acne fast, but not the under the skin acne

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