This blog was originally posted in April 2015 and has been updated.
I discovered oil cleansing by accident many years ago. It was the 90’s and I was using sesame and almond oil as moisturizers, even though my friends thought it was crazy, and told me that my skin would break out, I did it anyway. I argued that the skin produces sebum to moisturize and protect itself, and oils naturally mimic sebum. I also knew that drier skin breaks down faster and was more prone to lines, so nutrient-rich plant oils fit into my skin care ritual perfectly.
A little later when I was advancing through cosmetology school, I was seeing an esthetician who I shared my skin oil moisturizing theory with and she told me that although she "admired my experimental thinking," she believed that the oils I was applying “did no good because they didn’t absorb fully.” I argued that the oils were moisturizing and repairing by reinforcing the skin's protective barrier. I knew I was right and continued moisturizing with nut and seed oils and began making new blends for myself as well that included shea butter and beeswax.
I respected this esthetician very much, she had her own ideas about skin care that I hadn’t heard before, so she was great fun to talk with. She explained to me how she believed tap water dries the skin and advised me never to put my face straight into the shower head when showering because the water force hitting the skin strips down the mantle barrier, leaving it tight and vulnerable to break down and disruption. This made sense to me, I knew she was right. So I stopped cleansing my face with the typical high-foaming face wash cleanser and water and I stopped getting my face wet in the shower and bath as well. I would cleanse my face with a damp, wrung out, warm washcloth only - granted, I don't wear makeup. This approach felt fresh and really worked for my sensitive skin.
One day when I was applying my sesame & vitamin e oil moisturizer on my face, I remember slathering a bit too much on, so I wiped it all off with a cloth. To my surprise, I immediately noticed how soft and truly CLEAN my skin felt. I thought about what had just happened; I didn’t use a wet wash cloth, I used a dry one, and it was just the oil. My skin felt clean and I wasn’t using water at all. I was amazed.
From chemistry lessons in cosmetology school, like attracts like. The oil applied to the skin has the ability to attach to unwanted, imbalanced sebum and draw dirt and impurities with it. Oil cleansed my skin.
Keep in mind there is no singular, right way to cleanse the skin. Cleansing differs for each person's skin and varies by season. Oil Cleansing or Dry Oil Cleansing might be appropriate for one person but not the next.
The popular way to oil cleanse is with a wrung-out damp washcloth. When oil cleansing with a damp washcloth, the water in the washcloth does help remove dirt and impurities, and effectively clean the skin, but I find that the water in the damp washcloth can cause this technique to remove too much oil for many skins. I found that damp washcloth is helping gather and remove more dirt and imbalanced oil from your face and pores, but the water in the washcloth is actually removing more oil than necessary.
Without the water on the washcloth, the straight cleansing oil attaches to the imbalanced oil in the pores, gathers dirt, impurities, and make up on the surface of the skin because oil easily picks up dirt. The oil cleanser pulls the imbalanced oil with the dirt and debris off the skin effortlessly, leaving clean, moisturized skin without disturbing the skin’s natural oil balance. Of course, a wet washcloth always feels refreshing, and that is wonderful if you like that method. But less water contact and water rinsing will always retain more hydration in the skin. Retaining hydration in the skin offsets skin decline.
PORES ARE NOT DOORS
Pores don’t open and close, there are no muscles, they are just small openings in the skin. Steaming your face before hand can help loosen imbalanced sebum and clogged pores, but not because the pore is “opening.” It’s the proper balanced oil that will draw out the unwanted oil and dirt, regardless of steaming or the use of a hot washcloth.
The right oil for your skin won’t need any help effectively pulling the imbalanced dirt and oil from the skin. If you are steaming to loosen clogged pores, after steaming, pat the face dry then oil cleanse on a dry face.
*Also - the water in the washcloth isn't "hydrating" the skin either, that's just tap water and that's what a Hydrator is designed for after cleansing. Even if you're moistening your cloth with your hydrator instead, you're wasting it - hydration is meant to be layered on after cleansing, to be sealed in with oils and a moisturizer, and to prep the skin to receive and deliver the nutrients in your moisturizer, oil and serum effectively. The skin responds to oil and water differently - the steps must be layered.
Here's my Dry Oil Cleansing Method:
- Massage Herbal Infusion Oil onto skin well - this loosens skin surface tension and the friction helps dissolve imbalance oil.
- Next use a dry washcloth and PRESS the skin firmly all around the face and neck for an effective removal and cleanse. Do not use sweeping motions, unless you’re gently removing make up from the surface with your first cleanse. Cleanse a second time if you need to remove make up.
As someone who comes from the beauty industry, your innovative products and ideas have sparked my love for natural skincare again! By the way, I am hooked on your shampoo and can’t wait to try something else.
I will most definitely try this in the mornings, a video tutorial would be amazing for this ritual.
Wow great advice. I will stop with my dace under the shower! I love makeup and wear a lot of heavy eye makeup, concealer, foundation, ect so I like double cleansing. I will have to bust out my muslin and At least try no water…
Hi again, I did in fact manage to get your Moisturising cleanser from A Beautiful World and I am loving it. They also sent me a tester for the oil but unfortunately it was titchy and not even enough to do a double cleanse :-( I don’t mean to sound ungrateful as obviously it was free but it would have been good to try it for a couple of nights to make sure it could do what I intended it for. I also bought a shampoo and conditioner and am loving them too. Whoop whoop for the Content stocking – the more the better as far as I’m concerned. Thanks again for all the advice.
Hi! Thank you so much for reading. Yes, I love a dry muslin cloth – my favorite!
I have read this post so many times it’s so amazing, the thoughts behind it! I always cleanse my skin with oil and think I have really nice skin because of this. However, I would use a damp cloth to remove the dirt/oil/makeup and then I would apply my mists and oils after. NOW, I have been trying your method the past few days and WOW I am already seeing a difference! I will NEVER go back… or stick my face directly in the shower water again. Thank you Josh!
Love your posts and the new Tinted Nutrient Day Cream, incredible!
Thanks for this new idea for oil cleansing. I am just wondering what type of cloth you use. I currently use a thin terry-type cloth dampened with water for my oil and/or cream cleansing, but am wondering if you use a terry or muslin-type cloth (obviously without water)?
Lisa,Haha my pleasure!! I am so glad you appreciate it. I totally understand. First of all, abeautifulworld.uk just received more Moisturizing Cleanser so they should have it in stock very soon. They will also have samples of my Herbal Infusion Oil so you can test my cleansing oil make up remover – it’s a treatment serum as well with concentrated actives – not just a cleansing oil. We are hoping to be available at Content Beauty soon as well, stay tuned! ; ) I have a feeling, like you mentioned, that it’s the oil formula you are using, so I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the Herbal Infusion Oil. Here is what I’m thinking – Yes, do a sweeping motion cleanse twice – that should remove ALL of your make up – it DOES with my HIO. If it doesn’t, then yes, do a third cleanse and If you still have residual, it’s the formula – and/or I would suggest this for the evening: a dry oil cleanse to remove make up, then a water cleanse with my Moisturizing Cleanser (most likely you won’t need the water cleanse if you are using my HIO, but if you don’t have it, I suggest the water cleanse). In the morning, JUST dry oil cleanse in pressing motion. Does that make sense?
Me again. That ? Is supposed to be a heart… Commented from phone….
Wow this is really revolutionary! The Dry Oil Cleanse! Of course we ? everything you do as does the rest of the world! Will share this new concept soon with our customers!
Wow – I am loving this one to one advice – I feel very privileged. The first night I used MV Organics cleansing oil. It occurred to me that it might be the formulation so last night I tried NUDE cleansing oil (this was worse as there was an awful lot of product left on my face). I was taking a look at your products ( I wish they were more widely available in the UK – some of them don’t seem to be available at all – so get moving on that one please ;- ) and I thought maybe your cleansing oil might be better? I have been desperate to try your moisturising cleanser but A beautiful World have been sold out for ages… sad times… Ok – back to anal Lisa but do you mean do the sweeping motion cleanse twice? Then do the twist and pull for a third cleanse? Sorry – I’m annoying myself here.
No problem at all! I totally understand, it takes time to find what works and it’s not always easy. Thank you for your comment explaining everything so well. First, what oil/oil combination are you using for your oil cleanse? That may be affecting the result of your make up removal. You should be able to remove all your make up with the oil cleanse – if it’s an effective formula – especially if you do it twice with a sweeping motion. If you can’t get it all off like you experienced, a lot of clients I have do a double cleanse – First oil cleanse and remove make up, then follow that with a water cleansing treatment. Of course my clients use my Moisturizing Cleanser. With this process you should be entirely free of residue. If you want to skip the water cleansing, I would suggest first making sure you have a good oil cleansing formula for your skin, then use the sweeping motion on BOTH oil cleanses. I suggest the Press and Twist action when the face is clear of make up already – To effectively remove make up, a sweeping motion is necessary to pick up the heavy make up on the surface. When the face is free of make up, the Pressing action helps pull from the pore better. Does that make sense? Let me know and hope this helps!!
Thank you so much for replying. I actually tried this last night. My issues were this. I wear makeup and sunscreen every day ( I also suffer from hormonal acne) so making sure both makeup and sunscreen are removed completely is very important to me. So, after a double cleanse (both with oil – the first using the dry washcloth but in light sweeping motions and the second with a dry washcloth but doing the sort of twist and pull method you mentioned). Being my first time doing this I had to be sure everything had been removed before just spritzing and putting more oil on so I went over my face with a cotton ball drenched in lavender water and there was definitely still some makeup residue (not as much as I thought there would be but enough that could have caused me problems if I’d just left it on). What changes/suggestions would you have for someone that wears foundation / sunscreen? Also, what if you use an exfoliating toner after cleansing, is this defeating the purpose? My apologies, I’m so picky – I sometimes feel like I need a complete dummies guide when someone is explaining skincare processes to me :-/
Great article! Thank you!!!! I love oil cleansing but now will try it without water. :)
Thank you! I really appreciate you taking the time to read it. To answer your question, no, now I use my Herbal Infusion Oil which is a combination of jojoba, sesame, sunflower, olive, grapeseed, almond and apricot oils and a potent combination of infused herbal actives that detox, cleanse and treat the skin with powerful anti inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant constituents. I’ve upgraded! lol It’s a sensational cleansing oil and treatment serum. I highly recommend it! let me know if you have any other questions and thanks again for reading and commenting! ? josh
Wow, great post!! Are you still using sesame and almond oil to cleanse or do you have a specific product you recommend to use?
Catherine and Lisa –
You are so welcome and that’s not a silly question at all! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, I really appreciate the support! When double cleansing, I would perform the dry oil cleansing first but if you are choosing to do a water cleanse first, yes, dry your face first, absolutely.
I feel like this is silly to ask, but since I have to do a double cleanse (makeup, sunscreen), should i dry my face after the first cleanse and then use your method? Would love to try this! Also curious about acne-prone skin types, although like you said, I’m sure it differs from person-to-person! Thanks for some great knowledge, once again!
I wondered if you could just confirm whether someone with acne should use this method?
As someone who has done the oil+water cleansing method for ages, this totally made sense to me. Trying your method tonight thanks Josh! Always love your posts ?