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The Oil Cleansing Method: Does It Really Work?

By Amalah

Hi Amy!
This isn’t a product question, but what do you think about the Oil Cleansing Method? It sounds interesting enough to try, but I’m of course a bit leery about putting pure oil onto an already oily/combo face. I’ve been using Purity Made Simple again since Christmas; do you think it would undo the benefits to wash with that after removing the oil? I just can’t imagine that warm water and a washcloth would remove it enough to not leave an oil slick. I’d really appreciate your opinion!
Thanks, and congrats on your newly expanded family!

I think, like pretty much any skincare regimen, that the oil cleansing method works for some people. And doesn’t work for other people. How’s that for a definitive answer?
My mother-in-law is easily the biggest fan of all-natural…well, EVERYTHING in the world. No hair color, no makeup, organic natural chemical-free skin care from head to toe. She’s always reading about some terrible by-product of something that will kill us all and always looking for something even MORE natural and pure to replace anything that comes in a box with a list of more than four ingredients. She has very, VERY sensitive skin that’s prone to very large blemishes and the one exception to the all-natural rule she’s ever used is a prescription acne cream from her dermatologist. So naturally, she tried the oil cleansing method and praised it to the skies at first. She didn’t need to use her prescription cream anymore! It’s wonderful! Her skin was so soft and clean and free of toxins!
And then her skin broke out in a bad, bad way and she went back to her prescription and her bottled face wash.
So that’s my only point of reference for the washing-with-oil thing. I’ve never tried it personally. I’d give it a try, just for the hell of it, if I ever had a bottle of castor oil on hand or could ever remember to buy some for the sake of experimenting. (The method recommends a 30/70 blend of castor and sunflower seed oils for oily skin.) Like you, I’m imagining quite a mess afterwards, particularly in my hair (pinning back does nothing for a crazy hairline like mine), and I can’t imagine NOT washing my skin in the morning, when I already get a bit of a natural oil slick overnight.
But the important thing to note about the oil method is that it is an OCCASIONAL, DEEP-CLEANSING method. So really, think of it as replacing your face mask (if you use one), not your regular cleanser. Like anything, it can be overdone. Which is perhaps what happened to my MIL, who does tend to go whole hog on her kicks instead of using moderation. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it can’t mess you up. Overdoing the oil wash can cause dryness, which can cause your skin to overcompensate with MORE oil, which…sounds familiar. Like something I’ve said about any hardcore anti-oil regimen. Over and over again.
So…yeah. The oil cleansing method is just like any skin cleansing method. It might work, it might not, don’t overdo it — but by all means give it a shot, particularly if you’re not happy with your skin and current product lineup but don’t want to spend a lot of money to experiment with something new. Give it a try for a couple weeks and see what you think. (And then write back and tell me what you thought. I do love the updates.)


Published February 6, 2009. Last updated February 6, 2009.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Amy

    February 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for answering my question! I will indeed give it a shot if, like you said, I can remember to buy the right oils. I just wasn’t even going to bother if you thought it was an insane do-not-go-there idea. I will let you know what it does for me, if anything.
    Sending super-positive vibes for your dad, too.

  • Wallydraigle

    February 6, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve wanted to ask you about this, but never got around to it; I’ve sent you another question in the last month or so and feel kind of stupid about it because I realized after the fact that you’d already answered it a while ago.
    I’ve been using this since around the end of December, and I LOVE it. At first, I wasn’t that impressed, but after a few days my skin became just beautiful. The only time it’s been better is when I was pregnant. I use about 70% Castor Oil/30% Extra Virgin Olive Oil. My skin has always been troublesome, but not bad enough for me to justify spending tons of money on it or getting medication. It’s just a low-level all-the-time a little bit icky.
    The only reason I even tried it at all was because I’d left my face wash at someone’s house by accident and was too cheap to go out and buy some more for the short amount of time it would be before I got it back. I’m at home all the time with an infant anyway, so if it gave me leprosy or something, it’s not as if too many people would be able to see it and mock me before it cleared up.
    To solve the hair problem, I use it in the shower before I wash my hair. I do the oil and washcloth thing; once it’s all wiped off, I rinse a little bit more with warm water, then I rub a little more into the skin and leave it. Before I move on to washing my hair, I make sure it’s good and sunk in.
    I’m sure it doesn’t work for everyone, unlike what the website claims. But I do know that it has worked for people of all skin types. So I suggest just trying it.

  • wallydraigle

    February 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Oh, and I actually do use it every day, but I do it in the morning. I think the key is getting the right ratio of oils so it doesn’t overdry your skin.
    I’ve also heard of using grape seed oil or jojoba oil instead of olive oil or sunflower seed oil.

  • PaintingChef

    February 6, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    Okay. So I actually DID commit to trying this for about 6 weeks. I bought the Oil Cleanser from DHC Skincare ( and all the goodies that went along with it. I’d read all the wonderful things about it and decided that, against what my mind was telling me, maybe it would work.
    My skin is fairly oily AND sensitive which is a fabulous combo. I wash twice a day with Fresh Farmacy soap from LUSH and I usually need to re-apply powder at about noon due to an approaching oil slick.
    The oil cleansing method? HUGE disaster. My skin instantly freaked out. Of course I wasn’t using the castor oil/sunflower oil mix but I think the DHC products operate on the same theory of the oil “grabbing” the impurities from your skin and being a great moisturizer at the same time. I stuck with it for the six weeks I’d committed to in case this was one of those “oh, this is just all the impurities and other gunk coming to the surface because you are cleansing your skin deeper than you normally do” kind of things. It wasn’t. My skin was a wreck and was just oozing oil at every moment of the day.
    So… from personal experience? I’d say pass on the oil method.

  • wallydraigle

    February 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    Okay, I promise I’m shutting up after this comment. I thought it might help to point out that I have really weird skin; things that work for other people do not work for me. I’m prone to smallish blackheads and little whiteheads, but salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide only make them worse and make my skin angry and crazy. In fact, everything makes my skin angry and crazy. So cleansing with oil make work for me while I doesn’t work for other people at all.

  • Diane

    February 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    My skin has benefited greatly from jojoba oil, but not from washing with it..just using it as a night time moisturizer. I found that my oily skin actually did become less oily from applying oil to it, no matter how crazy that sounds. But I do still use a cleanser and morning lotion with sunblock.

  • Christie

    January 23, 2013 at 12:40 am

    I thought I’d share a little tid bit of info with you all since its not common knowledge. In most cases when someone has a poor reaction to the OCM its not  because of the oil. Its because what is IN the oil. Castor Oil contains a biotoxin called Ricin than many people have terrible reactions to. Castor oil manufactures also add in a preservative called dodecyl gallate. Which is a very common allergen.  On top of that, Castor oil is a heavy astringent and can be overly drying to the skin which can compromise the acid mantel (aka the skin barrier) and cause microscopic nicks which allows bacteria to make its way into the skin and pores. Causing breakouts that will then be blamed on the oil. (Rightly so if you are using castor oil)
      Now for grape seed oil: It can be used in place of castor oil because it is also an astringent, however it is more mild and doesn’t contain all the toxins and preservatives that castor oil does. The trick with this one is to make sure you get a cold-pressed oil, not one that is extracted with chemicals.
    I found a good one here:

    I agree the OCM won’t work for everyone. But if you eliminate the previously stated allergens and chemicals you have a much better shot of it helping out your skin 🙂

  • Eileen

    May 20, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    I tried OCM for about two months, and while it made my skin soft and smooth at first, I ended up with more breakouts than when I started. Christie’s post is really interesting about the castor oil…but I’m not sure it’s interesting enough for my to try it again with grapeseed oil! I mostly tried OCM as an all-natural approach to cleansing, not because I had particularly bad skin. So I’m going back to my not-natural cleanser that kept my acne at bay. 🙂

  • Raven Calista MacDonahue

    October 16, 2014 at 1:42 am

    This did NOT work for me AT ALL. The first few days my skin was soft then I got HUGE pimples that didn’t go away for weeks. Oil at night for a serum is okay, otherwise dove soap for me please!