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Cleaning your face with oil: An urbanMamas green thing

When I wrote about going shampoo-free a few weeks ago, I had no idea it would inspire such great discussion, action, and several more ways to release myself from the bonds of "product" I've been struggling against since adolescence. Joanna left a comment that once more set me free. "i also haven't "washed" my face in 10 months and no longer have the cystic acne which i was told once by a dermatologist would be with me for the rest of my life unless i took accutane, but i guess that's another blog post."

Indeed, said I, and emailed her for more information. She said she has been using the oil cleansing method (OCM). I Googled around a bit, and found this amazing and detailed post on Simple Mom. I chose to make my mix of about 1/3 olive oil and 2/3 castor oil (purchased at Walgreens, found among other methods of constipation relief) -- good for oily skin -- and tried it a few days later. I've been having trouble with painful blemishes on my shoulders and upper back, so I tried it there, too.

Within a few hours, my skin felt better than it has for a long time. It was already looking smoother and more even, too, and the next day I realized some of the acne on my back was healed entirely. It was such a simple, elegant use of natural ingredients; and the process is restful and relaxing too. I doubt I'll ever buy product for my face again and you can bet I won't be spending my luxury money (at that time in the future when I have some, that is) on spa facials again. After all, I have them right here at home.

Here's the process, simplified:

  • Mix olive and castor oil in the right ratio for your skin
  • Rub a small amount on dry skin with your fingertips (about a 'quarter-sized' puddle on your palm)
  • 'Steam' your face by holding a washcloth, soaked with hot water, to it, for about a minute
  • Rinse your face by rinsing washcloth and gently wiping off the oil

I'd like to try using some of the St. John's wort-infused oil (pictured above) and other oils such as jojoba and grapeseed (the castor oil had the benefit of already being in my cabinet; but it's probably pretty old and definitely not organic). And if you are looking for a good-priced source of organic olive oil, Jim Dixon sells it on Monday evenings from his warehouse at SE 9th and Main (if you have a bottle to refill, bring it!).

Have you tried the oil-cleansing method? Have you used different oils or different ratios? We'd love to hear more. And thanks, Joanna: what a change it's been.


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I'd been doing the OCM off and on for a few months, but I really committed around the time of the no-poo post. Overall I would say I am really pleased with the results. I've still go a bit of the cystic acne along my jawline, and some regular on my back and chest. Which just plain sucks since I'm 40! My face feels so clean and soft at night, but I can't help but wonder if I should also be using another night cream for wrinkles. Hmm. I just love simplemom as a resource for these natural care products. As soon as my deodorant runs out I am making my own, using her easy recipe.

yay, i'm so happy that you tried it and liked it!

i use 45% castor oil, 50% coconut oil, and 5% tea tree oil. i found that specific combo recommended on a site that had different combos for different skin types. a nice thing about using so much coconut oil is that coconut oil hardens as it cools, so this makes my face oil have an almost-solid consistency which i personally find to be easier to work with than just straight oil.

has anyone tried using olive oil as sunblock? i have very sensitive pale skin and redden with even the barest sun exposure, so i use a moisturizer with sunblock whenever i leave the house. i've heard that olive oil can be a natural sunblock, but haven't had the nerve to check it out. would love to know if some mamas here have!

I too tried it after I saw the simplemom post a few months ago, and I love it! I do it once a day in the evening, and then just wipe my face off with water in the morning. I don't even need a moisturizer anymore because my skin is so soft. I did start adding a few drops of tea tree oil to my mix in January because I felt like my face was a tiny bit on the oily side, and that has worked great.

the olive oil plus castor oil thing sucks. Just use jojoba oil.

Since the no-poo post (in which I wrote that I don't wash my kids hair but do my own as I couldn't go to work with oily hair while it adjusted) I decided to try the baking soda and haven't used shampoo since....works great! For some time now...since i ran out of my expensive moisturizer (and unable to afford more), I have been using just plain coconut oil on my face and have been really happy with that....I think I will try it mixed with castor oil as suggested above. To sing the praises of coconut oil....I recently convinced my husband to put it on at the first sign of a cold sore he gets when hes stressed out....he has tried other things but this was the first time ever that it did not blister, instead it got a little red and raised and then went away. I believe if he puts it on daily, it will never rear it ugly head again!.
Thanks Sarah for all your thoughtful and inspiring posts!

i've been using the OCM for three weeks now (when i started the 'no-poo'), and i've never been happier with my skin. i use a 50/50 mix of caster and olive oils in the morning, and am set for the day. i don't have the end of day oily patches i had in the past, just really great looking skin (so says me). i also haven't had a breakout in the past three weeks (not even during my peak PMS acne time), and typically i have never ending chin acne (not terrible, but bothersome to me).

i'm also having a lot of luck going 'no-poo'. i used shampoo once in three weeks, and it resulted in a bad hair day. a really bad hair day. i have very oily hair, but using a baking soda rinse every few days has made all the difference. i still use some product, too.

i'm really happy that i gave both methods a chance! i'm super pleased with the results!

the OCM sounds good, but i urge you to try using nothing but water! i also had terrible, cystic acne from age 11 until about age 30 when (observing my tortured, nightly ritual) my sweetie said, "why don't you just stop putting stuff on your skin?" i'm 10 years into using nothing but water, and i only do that every day or 2 in the shower. i use a course wash cloth to rub my face all over and i'm done.

using oil sounds better than using soap, but try using nothing. people stop my on the street to compliment my skin and ask my secret - after 20 years of constant acne.

jojo - most days i do use nothing. i just put my face under the nozzle in the shower, and that's the most that my face gets washed. OCM is meant to only been done a couple of times a week.

I was blessed w/ my mamas skin. But I want to try this.
I use adzuki beans. Just because it is invigorating to exfoliate.
You can buy them in bulk at New Seasons, Whole Foods and the like. Then you just grind them in a coffee grinder until they look like wheat germ. When it's time to exfoliate, just put a bit in your palm, mix with a drop of water to make a paste, scrub on damp skin, and rinse.

Hmm..this gives me a lot to think about- I'd love to try this! I have issues with moisturizers breaking me out, so I wonder if this would help? It sure would save a lot of money, and also get me away from any additional ingredients! Now..what is a good homemade eye "cream" that helps with dark circles? :)

I was really excited to try this, but I've been finding that it actually leaves my face really dry. Has anyone else had that result? Do I just need to experiment with the ratio of olive oil to caster oil?

I've been using the OCM for two weeks now. I have been struggling with all sorts of acne since I was 8. I am now 21 and trying anything to help, being a newlywed I want to look good without makeup. I have used everything from over the counter cleansers and vitamins to prescription topical solutions and pills. I was using ProActvie when I read about OCM. I am trying to go organic about everything and decided to give it a shot.
I now have worse blackheads, small zits and huge oil filled zits that don't pop. I have oily/combination skin and I used 2/3 castor oil 1/3 olive oil and a few drops of almond oil. I added more olive when my skin dried out terribly. It just keeps getting worse. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I'm tired of this battle!

let's join our hands together to stop this kind of wrong doings. It may risk lives in the future if we just let them continue.

This is very interesting. I never heard about cleaning skin with olive / castor oil. Does it act like a moisturizer on your skin?

I have also had experience with the castor oil blend leaving my skin dry when I initially started experimenting with OCM about a year ago. I've recently switched up my routine a bit...For background, my skin is combination/oily, sensitive, extremely easily clogged and acne-prone since puberty- I'm now 30. Lucky me! :/

For those of you who are just starting out with OCM, it can take a couple of tries to figure out which oil works best for you. With all my research, for example, I would have assumed jojoba oil would have been my go-to...alas, it clogged my skin absolutely HORRIBLY. We're talking cystic, painful, months-to-heal awfulness! So unfortunately, there really is some degree of experimentation that you may have to go through before you find your favourite oil! Mine has turned out to be coconut oil. Yum!

Here is my personal permutation of this awesome and gentle cleansing method:

First off, I steam my face with a hot washcloth, give my face a gooooood wipe. Then I take a generous dollop of coconut oil, and massage. And massage. And massage...Feels great, and if you're a fan of coconut (like I am!) the sweet smell of macaroons is definitely a treat! Now, here's where my method strays from the traditional OCM. I remove the excess oil with a cotton pad soaked in hydrosol (I've used both lavender and neroli with great results). Hydrosols are the leftover (but still deliciously plant-infused) liquids that are the result of the steam distillation process for essential oil manufacture!

I was originally introduced to this method via Rocky Mountain Soap Company (great products by the way! And 100% natural!). They sell a cleansing system that includes a cleansing oil and hydrosol toner, and they encourage you NOT to use water with this system!

Give it a try! For whatever reason, this has really worked well for me!

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