That Oil Thing

For the past decade or so, I’ve treated oil much like Whole Foods treats MSG: vilified and cut from life as much as possible. My skin is oily at best and acne-prone at worst. So when the Internet opened its gates in praise of the “oil cleansing method,” I took a pass on what was surely the fast track to weeks of acne cream and spackled concealer.

But a girl can change her mind, right?

It turns out that when properly used, oil actually clears pores and prevents breakouts. If you dial back to 10th grade chemistry, you’ll remember that for solutions, like dissolves like, so oil used as a cleanser essentially breaks the molecular bonds that trap oil (and makeup and dirt) on your face. Not to mention that it hydrates skin and restores luminosity.

Let’s start with Boscia’s MakeUp-BreakUp, which is the beginner’s formula to oil cleansers. Like all oil cleaners MakeUp-BreakUp is applied to dry skin and massaged over the face for a few minutes. The oil is lightweight and packs a cooling sensation as it flushes makeup and dirt from pores. After rinsing the cleanser, I cheated a bit and applied a small amount of Aveeno’s Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser because well, I’m paranoid and didn’t want to wake up to explosive skin. But this cleansing tale has a happy ending, as I rose to refreshed and hydrated skin. MakeUp-BreakUp is a wonderful introduction to oil cleaners.

Next I tried AmorePacific’s ($50!) Treatment Cleansing Oil. With its high price tag, I expected exceptional results—and it delivered. The oil faithfully uprooted a few stubborn blemishes (without scarring or worse, inflammation). It also has a pleasant scent that makes the experience feel less clinical and more luxurious. Once again, I finished the cleansing treatment with a second rinse of Clear Complexion, and I woke up to soft (and smooth) skin.

But most important of all, no new breakouts.

To end my oil cleansing experience, I devoted a night to the oil cleansing method (OCM), which is perhaps the closest one can get to a spa experience at home. The cleanser is a mixture of household oils that are combined to tailor skincare needs. The star is castor oil, the ingredient that targets pores and sweeps away dirt and oil (note: castor oil is also a laxative, which may explain its exceptional skill to flush out crap). You can combine just about any other oil with castor, in virtually any proportion, bearing in mind that less castor oil is better for dry and sensitive skin and vice versa for oily skin. I used castor, olive, and grapeseed oil in a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio.

Unlike the other oil cleansers, the OCM requires you to steam your face with a hot washcloth after you’ve massaged your face with the oils. I did this twice (massage oil, steam face, massage remaining oil, steam face) and then rinsed. This cleansing method was the cheapest (the castor oil cost $1.50) but definitely the most effective. I’m talking soft, smooth, radiant skin.

And in case you’re wondering, my skin didn’t break out or seem excessively oily. This oily girl is now fully committed to getting a little greasy a few nights a week.

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One comment on “That Oil Thing

  1. April Holman says:

    GREAT post! I love that you are bringing this to everyone’s attention. Goodness, we really need to use oil more! I started using Jojoba oil and it made my skin absolutely glow. Sebum is naturally produced in the skin and in jojoba oil and it is anti-inflammatory, full of antioxidants and supplies vitamin E to the top layer of the skin. To know that oil helps makes me feel so amazing when I slather it on. No need to fear acne when you are healing your skin with such amazing ingredients! Thanks for sharing 🙂