The Oil Cleansing Method: Skincare for Acne and Beyond

The Oil Cleansing Method: Skincare for Acne and Beyond

Guess what? I haven’t washed my face in two months! Shocking for someone dealing with acne. But wait a minute… let me tell you what I am doing – the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). Totally minimized my routine, saved me tons of cash, and now my skin is hydrated without increased breakouts.

In this article, we’ll go over the different oils, directions, and whether it works for acneic skin. Scroll to the very bottom to see the other homemade skincare weapons in my arsenal.

This is my last Vegan MOFO, #16. It’s Minimalist Beauty Monday!

Oil cleansing is surprisingly logical. For one, it helps bring your natural oils back into balance, just like I talked about in my article on moisturizing with olive oil. For another, the OCM utilizes astringent oils that pull impurities out of the skin. What this leaves you with is clean skin that hasn’t been stripped of its natural moisture.

I’ve been a slave to skincare products for a couple decades. I started in junior high so by now the bill has racked up to thousands of dollars. This has always been the most tied-down, product-heavy area of my lifestyle.

Here’s why this is important to someone with acne.

If you use foundation or concealer to hide your acne, you will need to “wash” it off at the end of the day.

Oil Cleansing Method- Minimalist Skincare for Acne copy
My home-mixed skincare. Castor/ jojoba oil OCM on the left and tea tree/ castor oil zit zapper on the right.

What I really wanted to do was stop washing my face entirely and let the natural oils do their thing. But… I have light scarring and uneven skin and some red pimples. I’m not comfortable being in social situations with a bare face. I aim to heal my skin enough to get there, but until I do…

At this point, I apply cover up on just those splotchy areas. This is a great step for me considering that for over a decade I covered my entire face in foundation every day to hide my acne.

My go-to cover up is Jane Iredale’s Disappear concealer. I love the results – it fades any redness and hides my zits decently enough. I haven’t found anything as effective so, for now, it’s worth the price! Though it works pretty dang well, it does not have an ingredients list I fully approve of. I share this with you in the spirit of full disclosure, and if you know of a product with a more pure ingredients list that works equally well, please share it in the comments!

If I’m having a low profile day around the house or just running errands, I don’t use any concealer or makeup. I figure I will eventually not have anything to cover up so using it is temporary!

Anyways, the point is that I need to remove my coverup at the end of the day, so doing nothing isn’t an option. I originally discovered the Oil Cleansing Method as a way to remove my makeup at the end of the day.

Make Your Mix

You start by creating your own, specific-to-your-skin mix of two different oils, a carrier and a cleanser. The ratio that depends on whether your skin is dry, oily, or normal. For example, you’d use less cleanser versus carrier if you have dry skin. The cleansing oils are naturally astringent and so great for pulling impurities out of the skin. The carrier oils help balance out your skin’s natural oils and moisturize.

Many people who switch over have noticed an adjustment period of a couple weeks as the skin’s natural oils balance out. I don’t remember having any adjustment, but just be aware in case it happens to you. Also, those with really dry skin may not be able to tolerate any amount of cleansing oil, and you can experiment with using one of the other oils as your carrier or just use one type of oil period.

  1. Cleansing Oil

    Castor Oil*
    Hazelnut Oil

  2. Carrier Oil

    Grapeseed Oil
    Jojoba Oil
    Sunflower Oil
    Safflower Oil
    Olive Oil (comedogenic?)
    Coconut Oil (comedogenic?)

When you purchase your oils, make sure you get organic, cold pressed, and pure. Determining the best oils for your skin type and your ideal ratio might take a little while. For help deciding where to start, check out Mommypotamus’ article.

For the week until I knew the right mix for me, I just poured a little of each oil in my hand each night to mix. Eventually, I pre-mixed my preferred ratio in a glass bottle and I’ve been carrying that with me the last 40+ days of my North American road trip. So simple!

Despite my acne, I would say that my skin is more normal than oily. I have been using a mix of 1:1 jojoba oil to castor oil and that seems to work for me.

*A note on castor oil. I just started using hazelnut oil a couple of nights ago. I decided to switch after learning about the unsafe practices and toxicity to workers involved in the production of castor oil. The standard cleansing oil in pretty much every OCM article is castor oil, so I’ll give you an update later on how the hazelnut oil works as a sub. So far so good.

Clean Your Face with Oil

  1. Massage

    Massage a quarter-sized dollop of oil mix into your dry face. Work it in for a minute or two.

  2. Steam

    Soak a clean washcloth in hot water (but not so hot it can burn you), wring out, then apply to your face. Leave on for a minute or until it cools down. The steam helps the oils penetrate.

  3. Remove

    Use the washcloth to gently remove the remaining oil. Your skin will still have a light layer and feel hydrated and supple. That’s it!

Here are a couple extra articles for troubleshooting and more detail: Oil Cleansing from Wellness Mama, OCM Trouble Shooting from Crunchy Betty, and Mommypotamus’ followup Q+A.

But Does it Work for Acne?

As with hair and the no ‘poo method, the trend in the raw food and natural living world is towards not washing your face at all and letting your natural oils balance out. And there are many success stories out there. There are also a lot of people who say oil cleansing healed their acne. I think it depends on whether your skin problems were due to negative reactions to product ingredients, over-irritating the skin, or some other topical reason.

You can also find numerous success stories in forums, videos, and blogs where women have gone raw, healed their skin completely, and stopped using any products. Obviously diet has a huge effect on your skin. But sometimes even cleaning up your diet and skincare routine won’t cure acne if the underlying cause is hormonal or something more complicated. I’ve made all the right changes without the miraculous transformation.

Let me tell you about my results with Oil Cleansing.

I do this at night before bed and nothing in the morning. You can imagine how free I feel after 15+ years of cleanser, toner, acne gel, and moisturizer twice a day every day. Now I only have to travel with one skincare product! It’s even easy to do camping – I just wipe away the oil with a facecloth instead of steaming.

My skin feels more hydrated and supple since I started the OCM. I have been doing this for two months, and my acne has not gotten any worse. Yet, I have saved money and simplified my routine. That alone makes it worthwhile in my eyes. Under any pimples or old acne scars, my face looks dewy and wonderful.

I do think I’ve seen some improvement in my acne though it has not been a magical clearing. But then again, I’m working on hormonal acne. Just realize that the OCM is not your magic bullet for getting rid of acne if it’s due to hormones or diet. That being said, it probably won’t hurt anything, and you might be one of those success stories.

One warning for those of you who are acne-prone.

Finding the right oil mix for your skin is very individual and might take some tweaking. There is a lot of variation online for which oils are recommended and which carrier oils are said to be comedogenic. I’d say to start with a couple and test things out on your own skin to see how it responds.

Here are some examples. Coconut oil is said to be comedogenic, but at the same time, there are many people who swear by it. I started off using it, and it repeatedly gave me these little white heads around my mouth. I’ve also heard that olive oil is comedogenic, but I haven’t experienced that one myself. I’ve even heard that jojoba oil is comedogenic, and I’ve been using it fine for 2 months.

Grapeseed oil is said to be good for sensitive skin since it is non-allergenic. That might be a safe one to try, especially if you have oily skin.

Beyond the Oil Cleansing Method


I used to routinely exfoliate and since I started doing the OCM, I ditched all my other routines and only did the oil. After a while I could tell that there was a natural build-up of dead skin cells on my face. So, I added an exfoliation each week, and that did the trick. I’ve been experimenting with food based recipes with ingredients from my kitchen.

Among my favorites are:

The strawberry banana acne mask from The Flaming Vegan which uses mashed banana and strawberries applied to the skin for 15 minutes. Salicylic acid in the strawberries works on the acne while the bananas hydrate. Those are two pretty easy fruits to have around. In the winter, thaw out frozen strawberries to use. It tingled while the mask was on, and afterwards it did feel like any buildup was removed.

The nutmeg exfoliator from Crunchy Betty. I mixed ground nutmeg with non-dairy milk (I used unsweetened coconut-almond because that’s what we had) in the palm of my hand and then massaged it into my face for 5-10 minutes. I think I’ll be incorporating that one weekly. My skin felt really smooth and soft afterwards with no irritation. And all I really needed was ground nutmeg, which apparently is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent. But also nourishing, who knew?

Zit Zapping

To spot-treat zits, I use tea tree oil in a base of castor oil. Just a few drops tea tree in an ounce of castor. Then I dab a little on each active whitehead or pimple in the evening after oil cleansing and by morning it’s usually on its way out.

Now your turn. What’s your favorite oil mix for the OCM? Leave it in the comments.

Hi! I’M ADRIA SOPHIA, Message Clarity Guide, TEDx Speaker, and host of the Quiet Messenger Podcast. I lead cozy Messenger Masterminds where I help introverted women leaders & sensitive souls tap into the message that moves them then clearly & courageously share it so they can call in their people…and their next level of impact.


  1. Ngoan says:

    hey but if you’re outside all day long and there’ll be lots of bacterias on your face,whether this method can protect your skin ?

    • Adria says:

      Hi Ngoan, I don’t think this method would be any better or worse at protecting your skin from bacteria than other commercial skincare products…

  2. Ngoan says:

    hey but if you’re outside all day long and there’ll be lots of bacterias on your face,whether this method can protect your skin ?

    • Adria says:

      Hi Ngoan, I don’t think this method would be any better or worse at protecting your skin from bacteria than other commercial skincare products…

  3. Tamara Piper says:

    Just read your article. Thanks for sharing your insights. Wondering how you made out with using hazelnut oil in place of castor oil? Thanks!

    • Adria says:

      Hey Tamara,
      Thanks for the reminder! I used the hazelnut oil for a few months, and it didn’t make me break out which is good news! The results were fine (and better smelling), but I think the castor oil still did a little better job. What I’ve actually been doing for the last several months is “washing” my face with jojoba oil and that’s been even better for my skin. I plan to write an article on that when I have a free spot in my publishing schedule. 🙂

      • Brandi Snyder says:

        Hi Adria,
        I’m wondering if you ever wrote the update article on “washing” with jojoba oil? Also, do you know a recipe I could use to make a foaming hand cleaner?
        Thanks for your articles on no pooing!

  4. Tamara Piper says:

    Just read your article. Thanks for sharing your insights. Wondering how you made out with using hazelnut oil in place of castor oil? Thanks!

    • Adria says:

      Hey Tamara,
      Thanks for the reminder! I used the hazelnut oil for a few months, and it didn’t make me break out which is good news! The results were fine (and better smelling), but I think the castor oil still did a little better job. What I’ve actually been doing for the last several months is “washing” my face with jojoba oil and that’s been even better for my skin. I plan to write an article on that when I have a free spot in my publishing schedule. 🙂

  5. Patrick Pfeiffer says:

    Okay. First off, thank you for not only sharing your story, but also taking the time to actually follow up, update, and keep us posted with the various experiments/trial runs you conducted! I truly appreciate it. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one 🙂 Likewise I’ve cleaned up my diet two years ago (I have the consistently cleanest diet of anybody I know, including my family and friends; Organic, wheat, flax seeds, no processed foods, you name it. Ironically, I started eating healthier not to become healthier, but purely to cleanse my mild to severe cystic acne. However, now I truly appreciate being health consciousness, and enjoy promoting such a healthy lifestyle to others), am very fit (I do body-building), and I am very particular about what topical creams/cleansers I use. It must be a hormonal imbalance as well… Because I still have acne, after all that! I would seriously pay the individual who discovers (if ever) a natural/herbal medicine that completely heals my skin and destroys acne… Because it gets me down sometimes! And I believe my skin is an outer extension and reflection of my overall/inner health… So something must be wrong if I still have acne! It’s very frustrating as I’m sure you must already know. I’m sorry to hear that acne hasn’t been solved for you just quite yet. However I just want to say that others are suffering as well, and we are listening to your posts, and we want to hear your success story! So don’t give up! Thank you again for posting these updates. I hope one day I will have figured it out as well.

    • Jarrett says:

      Thanks for sharing Patrick! Skin issues are the first indication that something is out of balance in the body. The hard part is knowing that there is an imbalance and that you have tried almost everything to remedy this with limited success. Speaking for myself, not Adria, when I had a skin rash that was diagnosed as incurable many years back, I told myself that it was unacceptable. I tried everything.. cleaned up the diet, cut out skin irritants, chemicals, and toxins, went fully Raw Vegan, and over time all of this made a difference.
      My body ecology finally balanced itself and healed up on its own, and the rash cleared. But… took some time and this didn’t happen until I stopped stressing about what was causing it. The stress of not knowing was making it worse. Today, clean skin, no rash, no scarring and with no help from my doctors and dermatologists. The secret? I got out of the way of what my body was made to do naturally, heal itself. Keep doing what you are doing, I assure you it is making a difference!

  6. ScorpioGirl says:

    Hey i was wondering if i could use Castor oil with rosehip oil as a facial cleanser. I have a very bad acne prone skin. Rose hip oil is great for my skin. Im just not sure about trying other oils since i haven acne prone skin. Do you think rose hip mixed with castor oil will be a good choice to go for?

    • k8stal says:

      ScorpioGirl, your comment is old but I thought I would comment anyway. In the past I’ve tried OCM with castor and jojoba and it wrecked my already acneic skin. I mean, horrible small bumps everywhere and an increase in cycstic acne. After reading another blog about ocm and acne (she breaks down the structure of each oil and which ones are best for acne prone skin and why) and I decided to try ocm again (gasp) and went with rosehip oil only. Keep it simple. Amazing improvements! If Rosehip works for your skin then just stick to rosehip. I’m no OCM professional but I am also battling adult acne and understand the desperation. I use only Rosehip oil and then made a spray of undiluted apple vinegar/ green tea as a toner. Good luck!

      • Miranda says:

        Long shot, but any chance you still remember that blog? OCM with just coconut oil did wonders for my skin, then I started breaking out. I switched to Jojoba and avocado, and it cleared up… for a while until have the breakouts and clogged pores reappeared. I added in a base of sunflower and don’t seem to be doing much better.

        I’m thinking that maybe daily is too much for my skin or that I need a softer washcloth. I’d love to read about the different oils though. Maybe I just need to find a new mix.

  7. lygirl says:

    i have combination skin very oily by the end of the day. I started the ocm and was using almond oil and castor oil for a couple of months. At first my skin was looking a lot better, clearer and less oily by the end of the day. I was getting some cystic pimples on my forehead but I figured it was my period. I was doing this on and off and my skin looked better than everr. Recently my entire face has little bumps everywhere. All over my cheeks and my forehead looks horrible. Now I don’t know what to do, I stopped using the oils but the little bumps didn’t go away. I just received safflower oil and I just don’t know if it will help. Do you think safflower and castor should be better ? and how I can get rid of these bumps I’ve never had my cheeks look like this

  8. Lmdm says:

    How often do you do the OCM? If not daily then what do you do for skin cleansing on off days? I’ve tried it a few times and do like this, but I’ve also noticed that my skin feels like there’s buildup on it…suggestions? Maybe my ratio is off?

  9. A says:

    I started OCM tonight and saw immediate results. I have had a lot of congested pores on my chin, and tried many chemical products- aha and bha toners, etc. and needless to say none worked. Then my sister suggested I try OCM because she too had been dealing with bumpy, sebum-filled pores, but now has smooth, clear skin.

    My skin is on the dry side so I mixed 1 part castor oil to three parts jojoba oil and a drop of tea tree oil. I massaged on my dry face for about two minutes, concentrating more on my problematic areas. I then steamed three times with a hot wash cloth and wiped the excess oil off. My sebum bumps had dissolved! I couldn’t believe that after almost a year of fighting with my blocked pores, the solution was right there- simple and natural.

  10. Anna says:

    Are there any other cleansing oils that could be used? I’m allergic to nuts and would prefer to not use castor oil

  11. Becca says:

    I don’t know whats up with my skin, but I have tried many oils, including grape seed to no avail! ugh.. can we all just move to an island and appreciate our compassion in this struggle away from the judgmental world lol.

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