beauty · skincare

Skincare Basics: Oil Cleansing

Happy New Year, lovelies. Yep, I’m aware that it’s February, and that I’ve been a very bad blogger. I’ve been meaning to post lately but a new job / improv classes / life got in the way.

After chatting with some friends about my basic skincare routine, it became very clear that after spending countless hours on the internet, researching skincare in search of better skin, I have accumulated a fair bit of knowledge on the subject.

So here’s the first post in a series called Skincare Basics. I’m starting with what is the first part of most people’s routine in the evening – cleansing.

Explain like I’m five:

Oil cleansing means that instead of using a soap or cleanser with surfactants or detergents (they dissolve oil), you wash your face with oil. I know, it sounds very counter-intuitive. Oil causes breakouts, right? Fortunately, it doesn’t. Bacteria causes breakouts, not oil, but we’ll tackle that little misconception in another post.

Remember your high school chemistry class, when you learned that ‘like attracts like’? This applies with oil cleansing. Many of the products we apply to our face are oil-based – moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup, etc. Our face also produces oil throughout the day. By rubbing an oil on your face at night, you clean your face more effectively, and it’s less harsh on your skin.

Walk me through your routine:

First, get a clean wash cloth. I have about 20 terrycloth wash cloths that I use and toss in the laundry. Some people like a microfibre one, but I’m not picky.

Second, take your oil, distribute a quarter-sized amount in your hands, and rub this all over your face. Use enough oil so you have a lot of ‘slip’ and aren’t pulling on your skin too much. Really work it in. Warning, if you’re wearing eye makeup, you will look hilarious. 

Now that you look a little bit like the Joker, run your clean wash cloth under warm to hot water. Wring it out, and wipe the oil off your face.

If you don’t wear makeup or sunscreen, one oil cleanse is probably enough. However, I do, so I apply the oil again, massage it in, rinse my wash cloth, wring it out, and wipe it off again.

Your routines may vary. In Asian skincare, it’s common to do one oil cleanse and then use a foaming cleanser. Also, I don’t oil cleanse in the morning, because I don’t feel that I need it, but some people do. Customize your routine to suit your skin, because one size never fits all.

Isn’t my face going to be an oil slick after?

This depends on your skin type. I have dry skin, so my skin loved it. The next day, there was a noticeable difference in my skin. It just looked… happier.

I would recommend giving oil cleansing a couple days for your skin to adjust, if you feel oily afterwards. If you’re using harsh cleansers, your skin will compensate by producing more oil. You may find that you don’t have oily skin at all.

Tell me what oil to use.

This is the fun part. And by fun, I mean scary and intimidating. But have no fear, I have some science to help you out.

Start out with an oil that is non-comedogenic. This means the oil molecules are big enough so that they won’t clog your pores. I started out with mineral oil, which has a comedogenic rating of 0 (on a scale of 0 to 5). After a couple months, I felt confident to experiment a little, so I switched to sweet almond oil, which has a comedogenic rating of 2. I have very acne-prone skin, but have not seen any breakouts due to oil cleansing. You can usually find oils at natural food stores, such as Whole Foods, but my local grocery store had mineral oil (just make sure it has no additives like Vitamin E, because those can be irritating and clogging). I also use argan oil (pure, cold pressed) as a moisturizer, which has a rating of 0.

Here’s a great list of comedogenic ratings of oil. I consult this list every time I buy an oil.

Tell me about linoleic versus oleic acids in oils.

This is where it gets real sciencey. Oils are comprised of two types of acids – linoleic and oleic. Acne is more common in skin types that are deficient in linoleic acid. Therefore, if you’re acne-prone, you want to choose an oil with a higher concentration of linoleic acidsMinimalist Beauty explains this perfectly, and she has a list of oils that are better for acne-prone skin. I’ve been seeing great results with rosehip seed oil as a moisturizer, which is high in linoleic acids.

Okay, I think that’s a comprehensive explanation of oil cleansing. If you have any questions, leave them in the comments! If you’re already oil cleansing, what oil (or mixture) do you use?



3 thoughts on “Skincare Basics: Oil Cleansing

  1. Hey Katelyn! I oil cleanse with a mix of sweet almond and argan now, and moisturize with rosehip. How do you like using the castor oil? It seems so thick! And what’s tamaru oil like?


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