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How cleaning your face with oils may just change your beauty regimen

If your facial cleanser leaves your skin feeling tight and dry, especially in this weather, and its unpronounceable list of ingredients gives you pause about what you’re actually putting on your face, then the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) might be for you. Touted by beauty bloggers, models and organic product-using mavens alike, the OCM involves massaging one (or a combination of several) types of oil on your face, then rinsing it all off with warm water. The oil(s) work by binding with the oils, dirt and makeup already on your skin, which are whisked away by that warm washcloth, leaving your skin soft and radiant--and maybe even without the need for moisturizer (shocking, I know!). Even those with oily skin can find a combination of oils that works for them (hint: try sweet almond or grapeseed.) Curious? Read on, as we explore the DIY OCM method, and also review a few commercially-made oil cleansers.


My friend Kristen swears by the OCM, which she started using seven years ago and has never looked back. “I use a combination of olive oil and castor oil, but any cold-pressed oil works,” she notes. “I’ve used grapeseed and avocado in the past, but did not notice a difference.” She’s found that the drier your skin, the higher proportion of olive oil you’ll want to use. Her ratio, though she admits it’s not an exact science, is about 60:40 olive oil to castor oil. (Some claim, however, that olive oil makes them break out; luckily, there are a lot of other varieties you can substitute in it’s place. One that’s not recommended, though, is coconut oil, which is definitely comedogenic.) Kristen premixes her oils and keeps them in a jug in her bathroom cabinet, and sets out a soap dispenser for everyday use. At night, she massages about a quarter-size amount of the mixture onto her face for thirty seconds, then wets a clean washcloth with the hottest water she can stand, places it on her face and steams it for about a minute before wiping everything off. “There will always be a little later left on--which is why I only do it at night, as there is no chance I could do this and put makeup on,” she says. No moisturizer is needed after this method--for someone addicted to night cream and eye cream, this could be life-changing. She uses a makeup remover wipe if she needs one other times of the day, and exfoliates her skin in the shower every few days with a little baking soda and water.

The verdict: This method is definitely the most natural, but also takes a little bit of alchemy to mix up your personalized recipe. But once you make the initial investment (Amazon sells any oil you could want, from avocado to argon), you’ll be set for awhile. I’m still researching the best combination of oils for my skin (three or fewer seems to be what’s recommended online, and I’m leaning towards castor and avocado, maybe with a little bit of pricy argon added for good measure), but I’m definitely going to give it a shot.

Boscia MakeUp-BreakUp Cool Cleansing Oil ($30/5 oz.)

Made with olive fruit oil, rose hip, green tea and avocado and rich in Vitamin E, this oil cleanser is said to be suitable for all skin types. Jojoba leaf protects from free-radical damage, while willow herb helps with skin inflammation and reduces redness and irritation. To use it, apply one or two pumps to dry skin with your fingers (or a Konjac Cleansing Sponge) and gently massage in a circular motion (adding a little warm water may help emulsify and remove more stubborn makeup); rinse well with warm water and pat dry. Boscia’s director of product development Michelle Fry says that when using the OCM method, the correct blend of oils is crucial to ensure effectiveness. “Oil cleansing is an amazing way to cleanse the skin as it thoroughly removes all traces of makeup, dirt and debris while nourishing the skin and leaving it balanced,” she touts. She also suggests double cleansing by following with another cleanser based on the specific needs of your skin for a more targeted treatment.

The verdict: The product has an appealing light herbal fragrance. If you are used to a foaming cleanser, this takes a little getting used to--a little bit of warm water definitely makes it glide across the skin a little easier. At around $6 an ounce, it’s a pricier than other options out there, though, and the recommendation for a second cleanser ups the cost even more. And even with all of that oil, it left my skin feeling a little dry (though with repeated use my skin may adjust to that.)

Skinfix Foamer Oil Cleanser ($14.99/3.4 oz.)

This product’s coconut oil base and 97% natural formula has a whole host of ingredients that promise to target various skin issues. Lipids maintain glowing, plump skin, panthenol locks in moisture, red seaweed extract (a natural source of sodium) plumps skin and leaves it dewy, jojoba oil is chock full of vitamins and deeply hydrates, aloe leaf extract repairs collagen and elastin and softens and soothes, macadamia oil maintains the skin’s natural barrier and Vitamin C-rich cucumber extract calms and soothes. The cleanser is free from synthetic fragrances, sulfates, silicones, dairy, gluten, dyes, parabens and phthalates. To use, massage into a lather on damp skin, rinse thoroughly and pat dry.

The verdict: Since I’m used to use foaming cleansers (and in my mind a cleanser isn’t working unless it’s frothy), it was satisfying to use this product. It does have somewhat of an odd smell though, and left my skin feeling a little dry, so I needed to follow with a good moisturizer. At 3.4 oz., though, it’s TSA-approved, which is convenient for travel.

Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Oil ($14/6 oz.)

The oil cleanser from the company known for its natural baby products, lip balms and cuticle cream is also 100% natural. It’s filled with Vitamin E-rich coconut oil and argan oil--the latter is so packed with vitamins and minerals that it’s sometimes called “liquid gold.” Best for normal to dry skin, the cleanser removes dirt and makeup without leaving an oily residue. Gently massage it onto dry skin for about a minute, then rinse with warm water and pat dry.

The verdict: This product doesn’t foam, which can take some getting used to if you are accustomed to a foaming facial cleanser. It does have a lightly floral scent, which is appealing to some but off-putting to others. Its price point makes it a great introduction to the OCM, and the brand is widely available.