Oil cleansing is an ancient skincare technique rooted in the philosophy (and chemistry lesson) that “like attracts like.” In essence, using oil to clean the skin will attract similar compounds, such as pore-clogging dirt and sebum, to remove them from the skin’s surface. The oil cleansing method is effective for all skin types and, when done correctly, can promote balanced, healthy skin.
Ahead, you’ll find more information on the benefits of oil cleansing and how you can do it at home.
The Benefits of Oil Cleansing
1. Cleans the Skin
As we mentioned, the whole point of oil cleansing is to dissolve excess oil, as well as remove dirt, makeup, pollutants, and dead skin cells from the skin and clean out pores. Oil cleansing is especially fantastic at removing makeup—even the toughest waterproof mascaras don't stand a chance.
2. Moisturizes and Nourishes
Plant oils are rich in skin-nourishing compounds such as lipids, fatty acids, and antioxidants that help replenish the skin’s protective barrier. This not only moisturizes and softens the skin but strengthens the skin barrier, which is essential for a radiant, healthy complexion.
3. Calms Inflammation
The plant oils used for oil cleansing are gentle, so they won’t irritate your skin. They’re also packed with anti-inflammatory properties that combat redness, dryness, acne, and sensitivity.
4. Helps Treat Acne
While oily, acne-prone skin types may be hesitant to apply oil all over their face, it’s actually one of the best natural methods for treating breakouts. For one, cleansing oils help balance the skin’s sebum production to normal levels. And because oil attracts oil, starting your routine with an oil cleanse can help you target the sticky, waxy sebum clogging your pores.
But that’s not all—oil cleansers high in omega-6 essential fatty acid linoleic acid are ideal for oily, acne-prone skin. Linoleic acid is naturally anti-inflammatory, helps maintain moisture balance, and keeps sebum flowing to prevent clogged pores. People with acne are found to have a low percentage of linoleic acid on their skin, a contributing factor to oil imbalance and acne. And the proof is in the cleansing: One study found that rubbing linoleic acid on faces with mild acne improved the size and appearance of their microcomedones.
Look for these oils high in linoleic acid:
How to Oil Cleanse
Start by warming your oil cleanser in the palms of your hands, then apply it to a dry face. A completely dry face is key here, as the oil cleansing method only works when the cleansing oils combine with the natural oils, sweat, dirt, and other impurities on our skin. Adding water to the mix before you’re ready to rinse will prevent the oil cleanse from working effectively.
Gently press the oil into the skin with your hands and begin loosening up any makeup. Take a minute to massage the oil into the skin with your fingertips using circular motions and upwards strokes. (You can also take this time to incorporate a lymphatic drainage tool, such as gua sha, into your routine.) Pay special attention to areas of congestion, such as around the nose, so the oil can attract impurities and excess sebum.
If your oil cleanser emulsifies (meaning it turns to a white, milky consistency when combined with water), splash your face with warm water to emulsify and cleanse as usual. You can also use a gentle, preferably organic, washcloth to softly remove the oil. Saturate your washcloth in warm water. Warm water – not hot, not cold – is vital, as too hot of water can disrupt the skin barrier, and too cold of water can solidify the oil and make it difficult to remove. Cover your face with the warm, damp cloth to allow the heat to soften the oil and your skin, then use it to remove everything from your skin.
Follow with a second cleanse using a face wash suitable for your skin type that helps ensure the oil cleanser, as well as any lingering impurities, are removed. You don’t need to oil cleanse morning and night. It best fits as part of your evening skincare routine, effectively washing the day away (from your skin, that is).