Sunday, May 19, 2013

Oil Cleansing Method

I have been using soapnuts liquid to wash my face and skin with, but I live in a desert and I have dry skin. The soapnuts cleans it, and doesn't strip the oil away, but it doesn't add any, either, and my skin simply never, well, glows.

That's what we all want, right? That glowy, lovely skin that...that I've never had, ever, so why I think I'll get it after 40 is a mystery. But I'll keep trying anyway!

Enter the 'oil cleansing method.'
My first thought on hearing it was: oooh, I wonder if this is like what the ancient Romans did? Because I'm geeky like that (more on this later). But this method is pretty much exactly like what it sounds: using oil to clean your skin. This is not using a special cleansing oil, it's using regular oils to clean your skin. And it actually does work pretty well.

Once again, I found this little gem at Crunchy, followed by a recap and additional information/corrections. And like I often do, I couldn't just take her word for it and had to go check things out myself, too.

How does the Oil Cleansing Method work?

What you actually DO is simple: rub oil on your face, use hot water and a washcloth to carefully wipe it off, and that's IT. Lovely, soft skin. It's awesome, your skin feels great, and you'll never use cleansers again, at least according to many of the folks who use this stuff.

According to proponents of the oil cleansing method, 'like dissolves like,' or 'oil dissolves oil,' so the oil you add dissolves the oils on your face, you wipe the dirty oils away, and you are left with the clean oil on your skin. The hot water opens your pores and allows the clean oils to penetrate more deeply. The fact that you haven't stripped the oils away will enable your skin to stop constantly over-producing oil trying to compensate for dry skin, which should theoretically be better for acne issues, too.

But How Does the Oil Cleaning Method REALLY Work?

I tend to ask this question a lot, especially in my more skeptical moments. I like to know why and how things work, in detail. So when I hear terms like 'oil dissolves oil,' with no other explanation, it grates on me. The idea that you could put something on your skin, it would dissolve all the dirt and nasty old oil and at the same time put on a coat of new oil underneath? And keep them separate? It seems pretty far fetched. 

Turns out, oil cleaning proponents are entirely correct that oil dissolves oil, at least in chemical terms. It's not 'dissolving' in the way my years of sci-fi movie going have trained me to think of, like a gremlin in the sunlight. It's 'dissolving' in the sense that an oil can be a solvent for another oil. They mix together fully: the oil with the greater volume is called the solvent, the one with the lower volume is called the solute. The ability to do this is called 'miscibility.'

When two things are miscible, they can mix together to form a solution. Two oils are miscible; they won't separate over time. Oil and water are immiscible and the way you tell is the fact that they separate. Even if it takes hours, or a few days, if two liquids separate, they were not miscible, although some liquids have a limited miscibility.

Yes, I know I'm saying that word a lot, but it just kind of rolls off your tongue: miscibility. Like parsel-tongue from Harry Potter or something.

So, like really does 'dissolve' like. But what that means for the oil cleansing method is this:
you are not cleaning off all the bad oil and leaving new, clean oil on your face.

Instead, what you are actually doing is mixing clean oil with the dirty oil on your face. It will become one solution of oil that you will wipe off, leaving some of it behind. However, by mixing this oil with your own oils, you're diluting the dirty oil with the cleaner oils, so you will have cleaner oils left on your face. 

And this leaves your face much cleaner than you'd expect. I've tried this only a handful of times now, but even after gardening all day, with dirt all over my face, my face looked and felt clean after I was done. I hear that it does just as well with makeup. I was really shocked at how well it worked. At this point, I'd have to give this a thumbs up. I understand sometimes this doesn't work for some folks, so we'll see how I feel about it a couple months from now.

Does the hot water open your pores?
No. No it does not. Your pores actually don't open and close. They get stretched out by oil and dirt and can form blackheads. They can make whiteheads when pores get blocked and inflamed (good forum post on that here).  And they also get larger when you get older and your skin loses some flexibility - older skin means the skin doesn't stay as tight, including around your pores. And they do not get smaller again once they're all stretched out, I'm sorry to say. Best thing to do is figure this out when you're young and take care of it then.

The good news is that there are ways to make your pores look smaller, which is not a bad thing, all things considered. And if you use an oil with antibacterial properties, that may help with any whiteheads, as well.

Does the hot water really soften the oil on your skin?
Yup, it actually does. Doing this with cold water won't have nearly the same affect - which I tried, so I can say that from experience.

What do you need for Oil Cleansing?

Oil, a clean wash cloth, and hot water. And that's it.

The Oil
Typically you want more than one kind of oil that you will mix together. I would highly recommend getting the most organic, least processed oils you can find. Anything added to the oils, or contaminating the oils, is getting on your skin. Not good. Cold or expeller pressed oils do seem the best.

Castor oil:
This is recommended on every site I've found as a great oil to make sure is in your oil mixture, although a few will admit that it doesn't work for everybody. Crunchy Betty recommends a 2:1 ratio of castor oil to other oil for oily skin, 1:1 for normal skin, and 1:2 for dry skin. Most other sites recommend much less castor oil, like 1:4 or 1:5 for dry skin. After trying it, I'd recommend using less of the castor oil, too.

Most proponents of oil cleansing will give you various reasons for using castor oil. According to oil cleaning guys and gals, it's antibacterial, it cleans better, and it's actually a little drying. So, what did I find out when I researched? (well, this site, for one)

- Some people can develop a sensitization to castor oil and start having a skin reaction. While this is not common, it's good to be aware that it's a possibility.
- This study in Nigeria showed that yes, castor oil does have antibacterial properties (dental studies, like this one, show that detergents derived from castor oil have antibacterial properties as well). The extract from the leaves also has antibacterial properties.
- This study shows that it also has anti-fungal properties.
-  Studies have also shown that castor oil's ricinoleic acid seems to have anti-inflammatory affects.
- Whether it's drying or not I couldn't find, but using it, I have to admit that the most castor oil present in my oil mixture, the dryer my face felt afterward, so I'd buy into that idea.

If one has acne or blemishes, I could see where castor oil might be a really important part of your oil mixture. It has a lot going for it. Some folks on reported that it seemed to dry out their skin too much, however.

Other oils to use, and not:
Check here at for a good list of oils one could use, with notes on what is better for what type of skin. Some examples are Avocado oil, that  is supposed to be good for dry and aging skin,  sweet almond oil that is supposed to be good for oily skin, and sunflower seed oil that is supposed to be good for all skin types. I am really not up to researching where she found that information, but it might be worth it, some day. After a lot of feedback from many of her fans, she changed some of her recommendations to include oils not to use.

No Coconut oil - it's is comedogenic, which means it may clog pores. Not so great on the face.

Possibly no Olive oil  - it seems to cause acne break outs in a lot of folks. There's the possibility that this might be due to all the crap and poor quality that is a problem in the olive oil industry, but it's hard to say. I've been using olive oil only a little while, a very high quality organic one from a little family owned company, and my skin's been fine so far (crosses fingers). However, my skin is also pretty dry.

And my own personal recommendation:
Jojoba oil only if it's mixed with at least one other oil that is NOT castor oil - This is because jojoba oil is actually NOT AN OIL. Jojoba oil is a liquid wax. And guess what? It's not immiscible with oil. If you make an oil mixture with jojoba oil, after a day or more the oil and jojoba liquid wax will separate. When I tried this I at first used castor oil and jojoba oil; my skin was terribly dry afterward and my oil production afterward was much higher. I'm assuming that's because while the liquid wax might help make a protective barrier over my skin, it's not going to be adding any oil to it.

Once I added in some olive oil to the castor oil and jojoba oil, my skin felt much softer and did not produce nearly as much oil afterward. Lesson learned: don't assume that words mean what we think they mean, because it can totally mess you up.

The Clean Washcloth:
The most important part about the washcloth is to make sure it is clean. After you wipe off the oil, you are going to have to do more work to make sure the oil has been washed off well from the cloth for the next time you use it. Crunchy Betty adds some baking soda to the wash and apple cider vinegar to the rinse. I've only been doing this a week and I'm about to clean my washcloths for the first time, so I'll see how it goes!

The Hot Water:
You want really hot water. The hot water will, well, make the oil runnier on your face and it's easier to wipe off. You've seen how it works on greasy dishes, right? Works just the same on your face. Even without the oil cleaning method, you'd still be getting some oil off of your face just using hot water.

And now...
How to use the Oil Cleansing Method:
1. Mix your castor oil with a carrier oil, like olive oil (or whatever oil mixtures you are using). A small squeeze bottle that you can pour it into and shake up to mix works great. I tried this with 1 tsp. castor oil and 2 tsp jojoba oil. That was a mistake. Next time, it was 1 tsp castor oil, 1 tsp jojoba oil, and 4 tsps olive oil. That worked much better. 3 tsps made enough that I would say I could use it 2-3 times before I would use up that amount of oil.

2. Wet the washcloth in hot water and wipe it briefly over your face - some people omit this. Now pour a little of the oil into your hand and massage it into your skin (if it has jojoba oil, shake up the bottle first to make sure it's well mixed). I do this for maybe a minute.

3. Making sure the water is really hot, wet the washcloth, press it against your skin for about 15 seconds or until it cools, and then wipe off that area carefully. Rinse out the washcloth well with hot water and lay it repeat this process with another part of your face until you've cleaned all the oil off. I have tried to simply wipe off the oil with a hot washcloth and it did not work so well - my skin felt too oily afterward. Even just holding the washcloth there for a shorter amount of time didn't work as well as really letting it sit there for a little while.

4. And now, you're done! If it worked right, your skin should feel soft and nice and not oily. If it still feels oily to you, I would recommend getting a new washcloth and repeating step 3 again. If it feels to dry, you might want to avoid some of the castor oil next time.

The origins of the Oil Cleaning Method
To be honest, I couldn't find out where this particular variant of oil cleaning started. There are numerous sites that talk about it:
Paula's choice

Everyone is using similar language, and I assumed they were getting their information from the same source, which seems to be this: (this gal recommends a 1:9 ratio for castor oil: other oils, by the way)

But where she discovered this, or how she created it, I have been unable to find out. Not that I looked too hard, because I have a life to deal with other than tracking down interesting but ultimately non-essential trivia.

However, I did a bit of historical digging because I do recall one thing: ancient Romans used to clean themselves with olive oil. Whether or not they used hot water isn't really discussed, although I'd guess more often than not that hot water was a luxury most couldn't afford. Instead, Ancient Romans would oil their entire bodies and then scrape off the excess oil with a special tool  - a curved, flattened piece of metall - called a strigil.

To learn more about this, including how the Greeks did it, and they supposedly did it first, here's an interesting site. It's a bit European-centric because it's actually looking at the origins of words like soap. But fun information on what was done.

It does kind of make you want to just pour on the olive oil for a full body washing session and see how it goes, doesn't it? ^_^

No comments:

Post a Comment