If you are reading this you have probably heard about oil cleansing. And after the initial shock on The Inter-Webs – “Cleaning your face with oil!? Get a hold of yourself woman, this is madness!” (this is how people speak about oil cleansing) – people are realizing that it works. It will not make your skin oily. Oil dissolves oil, so it’s actually pretty great at keeping oily skin under control.

There are many different oils that are good for many different things; most people should be able to find something that works for them. If you’re prone to breakouts or sensitive skin this can be especially helpful, as it’s effective and natural (if you DIY using natural ingredients or buy a natural cleansing oil, which is what I recommend. Not that I’m trying to tell you what to do).

I am. I am definitely telling you what you should do. Use natural oils.

So here are the basics. If you choose to DIY you will mix at least two oils, and one of them will be castor oil. If you can, get cold-pressed or expeller-pressed organic oils. Castor oil is an anti-inflammatory astringent with strong cleansing properties. It pulls impurities from the skin. How much castor oil you use depends on how dry and how sensitive your skin is. You do not need a lot of this one, and if your skin is dry you’ll want to use less castor and more of the oil you choose to mix it with. If you decrease the amount of castor oil to tiny amounts and your skin is still dry, stop using it and try one of these instead (helpful alternatives that I found on crunchybetty.com):

Castor oil alternatives:

  • If you have frequent breakouts: hazelnut or sunflower oil
  • If you have oily/normal skin: sunflower, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil
  • If you have normal/dry skin: jojoba, grapeseed, or apricot kernel
  • If you have dry skin: avocado or apricot kernel oil

If you do use castor oil – and hopefully you can because it really does work very well – you will notice that it’s really thick. Your second oil will help with that. Here, you have a ton of options. Literally, a ton. (Not literally. But many.)

This second oil – one of millions! – depends on your skin and the results you need or want. Unless you already know that they work for you, I do not recommend that you use olive oil or coconut oil for this. Coconut oil is comedogenic, meaning it can block your pores and cause blackheads. I love coconut oil for many things, but it can be a real bastard on your face. That said, some people do love using coconut oil on their faces and don’t have any issues, but as a general rule, since I do not know you (I’m sure you’re lovely) and would rather you don’t yell at me in the comments about how I’m a bastard for recommending coconut oil, I’m going to play it safe and suggest a different oil to start. I’m warning against olive oil because I have heard of many people having issues with this one too, and also noticed that Crunchy Betty advised against it and her advice seems really solid.

So you have your castor oil (or one of the alternatives mentioned above) and you mix it with another nourishing, “carrier” oil. Sometimes it can take a while to figure out which oils work best for you. Here are some suggestions based on skin type:

Options for The Second Oil (aka Carrier Oil):

  • All skin types: sunflower seed, tamanu, hemp seed
  • All skin types, particularly acne-prone: jojoba
  • All skin types, particularly oily: sweet almond, grapeseed
  • All skin types, particularly mature: argan
  • Dry and mature skin types: avocado, apricot kernel

To make your mix, try these ratios: (*At first it is best to make a small amount until you figure out what works for you. Try using teaspoon measurements before making a full bottle.)

For oily skin: 2/3 castor (or castor alternative) to 1/3 carrier oil
For “normal” skin: Equal parts castor to carrier.
For dry skin: 1/3 castor and 2/3 carrier

Remember, if your skin feels too dry or tight after you’ve been oil cleansing for a while, decrease the castor oil and increase the carrier. And if you have to, omit the castor completely. It’s going to be ok.

If you’ve reached this point in this post and you’ve now realized that choosing and making your own oil cleansing mixture is not for you, that’s ok. There are really good natural options that you can buy online, and here are two excellent ones:

1. Kari Gran Cleansing Oil
Ingredients: Organic Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Organic Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Organic Ricinus Communis (Castor Seed) Oil, Organic Lavandula Hybrida (Lavender) Oil, Tocopherol (Non-GMO Vitamin E from Sunflower)

2. Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil and Makeup Remover (holy-mouthful Batman)
Ingredients: organic helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, di-ppg-2 myreth-10 adipate, polyglycerol-3 beeswax, lecithin* (and) cucurbita pepo (pumpkin) seed oil* (and) papain*, carica papaya (papaya) seed oil, tocopherol, fragrance/parfum

Both excellent choices that smell amazing and have very high-quality ingredients. A little goes a long way, but the Elizabeth Dehn option in particular is very pricey. That said, if you do choose to buy one of these, you will probably not be disappointed.

How to wash your face the Oil-Cleansing way

To get the most out of your oil cleanser, use a soft washcloth. I always make sure to remove my eye makeup with a little oil and a cotton round first (I prefer not to wipe it all over my face). Then massage the oil (about a quarter size amount) onto your face using upward strokes for about a minute or two. After this, wet a washcloth with hot water (not scalding water, that’s crazy), squeeze it out and press it over your face until it cools off. I usually do this two or three times, adding hot water and squeezing out the towel each time. It’s super relaxing (you almost don’t hear your thee-year old banging on the door yelling “are you pooping?!”), and the steam against your skin will help remove any impurities and dirt and gives the oil a chance to sink in a bit.

Sometimes my 3 and 1-year olds manage to break into the bathroom (I’m pretty sure they feed off of each other’s crazy. Like gremlins. I’m pretty sure that’s a gremlin thing.) and all I have time to do is rub the oil on my face with my hands and rinse it a little. Sure this isn’t as enjoyable or effective as the “proper” oil cleansing with a towel method, but it’s better than nothing.

I found this helpful quote on racked.com, from when they asked Tata Harper (namesake and founder of awesome natural skin-care line) about oil cleansing:

“Tata Harper, a natural beauty guru who produces the cult favorite Nourishing Oil Cleanser told Racked it’s simpler than it looks. “Apply [oil cleanser] to dry skin then rinse with warm water to use as a stand-alone cleanser,” said Harper. “Or use it at night as a your first step in double cleansing, or apply to a cotton pad and use it as a makeup remover.”

Oil cleansing can work on all skin types, but if you’re prone to blackheads and acne, massage the oil cleanser into your skin and then use a brush or washcloth to soften your skin before rinsing it off. This exfoliates and helps decongest skin.”

Another bonus of oil cleansing is that you may find your face is moisturized enough that you don’t need to add anything afterwards, especially in the summer.

One thing I’d like to add is that some people experience a sort of “detox’ period when they first start oil cleansing and their skin breaks out a bit those first two weeks as stuff is brought to the surface, but if you find a blend that works for you, things should clear up in a couple of weeks. As long as your skin isn’t reacting badly (itchy, red, burning), try to hold out or adjust the ratios a bit as mentioned above. And if you find that oil-cleansing just doesn’t work for you, that’s not unheard of and you’re not a monster (as far as I know. You may be a monster who cares about natural skin care and a healthy lifestyle, which is cool with me). Definitely do not alternate between your oil cleanser and a store-bought cleanser with sulfates and other nasty chemical stuff, as it will probably upset your skin.

And that’s it! Faces moisturized! Lives changed! Seriously, it’s amazing and one of my favorite parts of my kind of crunchy life. Let me know if oil cleansing works for you or if you have any questions, there’s a lot of information out there and I’m happy to help.