natural beauty: cleansing oils.

November 12, 2015

cleansing oil | reading my tea leavesIf you’ve been reading for awhile, you might remember that I don’t wash my face. Or rather, that I do, but with a brush and infrequently and without the help of any suds. In college I first noticed the miracle that was leaving not-so-great alone. My perenially problem skin was worlds happier when it wasn’t being stripped of its natural oils. Problem skin? More like problem cleanser. Because I was never in the habit of wearing a lot of makeup, a splash of cool water at night was all that I needed. My skin cleared up practically overnight.

More recently—maybe because I’m officially on the other side of thirty, or because I’ve taken to occassionally wearing a bit of color on my face—I’ve been deigning to wash my face. With oil. I’ve come to relish the feeling of going to sleep with a freshly cleaned and oiled face. Cleaning with oil, it turns out, is a lovely and not at all gross thing to do. 

Fair warning: the first time I cleaned my face with oil, I was disappointed. It was several years ago and I had just come home from an evening spent chatting about natural beauty. Armed with a jar of new coconut oil, I poured a palm-sized portion into my hand and slathered it on my face. The process was slimy. Rinsing it off was near to impossible. I felt greasy and slick for hours afterward. I swore off oil cleansing and didn’t look back until everyone and their mother began to exclaim about cleaning with oils at which point, I gave it a second shot. Here’s what I’ve learned:cleansing_oil_reading_my_tea_leaves9246

Do It Yourself:

There’s hardly a need to look beyond your kitchen cabinet when it comes to cleansing with oil. Stick to low-comedogenic oils like evening primrose, sweet almond, grapeseed, jojoba, and, if the kitchen is indeed the place you want to turn: olive or coconut oil can both do the trick (though they’re slightly less comedogenic than the others listed here). If you want to get a little bit fancier, you can also blend several of these oils together. 

Have Someone Else Do It For You:

Here’s the beauty of cleansing with oil: If you want something a little fancier than what you use to roast your vegetables, can use the same oil that you use to moisturize your skin to clean it. (Here’s my post on those.) In case you’d rather opt for something specially formulated for deep cleaning, here are a few options:

One Love Organics Vitamin B Enzyme Cleansing Oil*: This stuff smells and feels really great. I’ve used this cleansing oil before bed and followed by their Love Springs Eternal Oil for an especially decadent evening ritual. These guys do include fragrance, should that be something you like to avoid.

Beauty Counter Nourishing Cleansing Balm*: My friend Hadley sent me a sample of this cleanser last winter and it was really effective, especially for getting off any lingering mascara. It’s a bit more complex than some of the simplest cleansers out there. Fragrance-free, but with a lovely scent all the same.

SW Basics Cleanser*: If you know that oil’s not right for you, this super simple vegetable glycerin-based cleanser is another really nice option. It leaves your skin feeling clean, but never dry. Also: rosewater.

Rose and Chamomile Cleansing Nectar: Another non-oil cleansing option comes from RMTL sponsor, Marble and Milkweed. This vegetable glycerin-based cleanser is scented with hardworking rose and chamomile. 

If you’re looking for eye-specific cleanser, I’ve recently tested the We Love Eyes Tea Tree Makeup Remover Oil* and the SW Basics Makeup Remover* and have had great luck with both. They’re both made from super simple blends of three oils (and could also be swapped in to clean the rest of your face, if you’re willing to go through a tiny bottle quickly.) In my experience, less is definitely more around the eyes. Oil-based eye makeup removers can get my eyes feeling gloopy if I’m not careful. I like to use a small amount on a cotton swab to avoid blinking through an oily haze all day.

How To Use It:

Okay. But how do you clean with oil? The best way to cleanse with oils is to apply a small amount of oil (I never use more than a nickel-sized amount) to your hands and massage into your face, giving it time to settle into your pores. Admire yourself in the mirror and then run a washcloth under warm water and use it to remove excess oil, gently wiping it away. I like to lay the entire warm washcloth over my for face for a few seconds, letting it steam up, facial style. You might feel a slight film on your skin afterwards, but if you use your oil sparingly you’ll probably just feel a healthy emollience that’s helping to nourish and moisturize.

Oil cleansing removes makeup, so you shouldn’t need to use any other makeup removers before or after.

If your skin feels a bit tight, you can dab a few drops of that same oil blend onto your skin when you are done cleaning your face.

(And, YES, in case you’ve begun to wonder, a single bottle of sweet almond oil or jojoba oil might very well be used to clean your face, moisturize your face, and moisturize your body. The rest is just icing. Ah, simplicity!)

Disclosure: I am sometimes sent beauty products to review for this series. When I love them and think you might too, I write about them. Items that were sent to me for review are marked with an asterik. All opinions are my own.

More natural beauty posts, RIGHT HERE.

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  • Reply Bridgit November 12, 2015 at 9:25 am

    This post came at the perfect time for my dry skin! Question: Where do you get your washcloths, and are they nice and soft for a sensitive face?

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 12, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Alas, no. Ours are actually pretty rough linen!

  • Reply Cynthia November 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

    I became an oil cleansing girl about 4 years ago. My aunt turned me onto DHC’s Olive Cleansing Oil. I’m pretty sure it’s just super refined oil oil but I love it, smells good, and takes off EVERYTHING. Budget friendly at $23 for a large bottle that lasts a couple months.

  • Reply Katharine November 12, 2015 at 10:20 am

    This is just the post I needed–my first purchase of jojoba oil is in the mail now! I was starting to wonder about the difference between oil cleanser and moisturizer labels. Glad to see it can be so simple. Interested to see how it works for my skin.

  • Reply Kari November 12, 2015 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you so much for the clarification. Very helpful. And I love the idea of being able to use one oil for everything. I’m all about multi-use products.

  • Reply Colleen November 12, 2015 at 1:28 pm

    I was first exposed to oil cleansing when a rogue delivery of DHC products found its way to me, instead of the rightful owner – the previous renter of my apartment. Thanks, stranger! I’ve found oil cleansing works wonders on my adult acne and rosacea-prone face. I’ve flip-flopped between the liquid oil and warm washcloth method and just using a bar of Kiss My Face olive oil soap over the years. The bar soap works well for hectic days/late nights/early mornings and I’ve come to see the liquid and washcloth version as a treat for weekends and vacations. Regardless of the method, though, the result is clean, clear, well-balanced skin, which is what I’m after!

  • Reply cait November 12, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    I’ve gotten really into oil cleansing this year since I started reading Caroline Hiron’s skincare blog. If I’ve been wearing makeup, I usually do a double cleanse– the first to take off make-up, the second to cleanse my skin. I’ve tried a bunch of different cleansing oils and balms, and my favorites are by Nude since they all wash off well with no icky residue. The cleansing jelly is my favorite since it smells fantastic. My skin tends to be a little oily so I was wary of oil cleansing, but my skin has been looking great.

  • Reply Jessica November 12, 2015 at 2:32 pm

    I like to decant a big bottle of jojoba oil into a couple of smaller bottles for different jobs and trick them out in different ways: jojoba + lavender for body moisturizing, jojoba + some castor oil + tea tree oil for oil cleansing my face, and then I use a separate bottle of argan oil for moisturizing my face during the winter, when the Alaskan dry cold turns my face to a desert. I love oils so much more than any other products I used to use. Right before I moisturize my face, I spritz on some rosewater from Mountain Rose Herbs. I love the feel and the smell.

    Thanks so much for posting this series! I love it!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 12, 2015 at 2:33 pm

      Lovely! So glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Reply amy November 12, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    I’ve started washing with honey and that has been amazing. I use manuka honey or Marble and Milkweed’s rose and chamomile cleansing nectar, I follow that up with a little rosehip oil and my skin is so happy. Like you, I rarely wear make up, occasionally mascara and a little cheek color.

  • Reply Emma November 12, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Great post, I also love oil cleansing! Just one thing that surprised me: I always thought that coconut oil was rather high-comodogenic? I would definately choose sunflowerseed oil instead!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 12, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      A-ha! This might be why I wasn’t a huge fan of coconut oil alone! Thanks for the sunflowerseed recommendation!

  • Reply Sarah Elizabeth || SEDiva Abroad November 12, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    This is actually so interesting. And probably fantastic. I’ve never thought about doing this; I actually adore the scent of my Nivea cleanser. But I might integrate it maybe once or twice a week and see how it goes. It sounds lovely and like a lot better for your skin than all that chemical nonsense I know is all over mine. Thanks for sharing xx

  • Reply Kate November 12, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    In Australia’s humid climate, I find oil can sometimes be too much – but at the end of a hot and sticky day, witchhazel is an amazing cleanser/toner, and even cheaper than coconut oil! And when its extra dry and my skin needs a little more, Josie Maran’s Argan Oil is a life saver! Also really good in helping cuts/abrasions/chapped hands heal too. Bonus!

    • Reply Angela November 13, 2015 at 1:02 pm

      Second Josie Marian. I just recently started using almost(!) her entire line and love everything so far. Especially the organ oil and argan oil cleanser.

  • Reply Claire November 12, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    I am an oil cleansing convert too! I get my oils from Mountain Rose Herbs – sweet almond, avocado and grape seed. I put them on my face at the beginning of my shower and let them “steam in”. I rinse off the extra at the end. I love it!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 14, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      I love Mountain Rose Herbs!

  • Reply Brid November 13, 2015 at 7:43 am

    I believe both coconut and olive oils are considered rather comedogenic (although some lucky people get away with them).

    I’ve been using oil for about a year and a half now, and the only method I would give it up for is maybe dry brushing. I use a blend of castor oil (very cleansing) and grapeseed oil (a light moisturizer) every night. The ratio changes with the season–2/3 castor oil in the summer, but 1/3 to 1/2 in the winter. Plus some lavender essential oil for scent, and occasionally tea tree as an antibacterial. I used this site to get started: I like to use the roughest washcloths in the house to get some exfoliating in at the same time.

    Right now I massage it in, then apply steam with a very hot washcloth and scrub it off. I’ve been thinking about applying it before a shower and washing it off at the end, though–it would be faster, if it works.

    Thanks for the posts on less-commercial beauty!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 14, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      Updated to clarify re: coconut/olive above! Kudos on the castor oil! I can never get past the smell!

  • Reply Katie November 13, 2015 at 9:55 am

    As I’m really firmly entrenched in the 30’s (35), I am wondering about daily facial sunscreen. Would love to hear more about what you use, etc. Love the idea of using one oil for everything!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 14, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Uuuugh. The hardest. I haven’t found one to really love. Working on it!

      • Reply Katharine November 25, 2015 at 9:30 am

        I second this query on facial sunscreen! I was just reading about the supergoop sunscreen oil… has anyone tried this for face? I’ve been using jojoba and nothing else on my face for a week now, which is lovely, but I burn in all seasons and want to at least make an effort to protect.

        • Reply Erin Boyle November 25, 2015 at 9:44 am

          I’ve tried SuperGoop and did like it—but maybe didn’t *love* it! Working on a post for the new year!

          • Tori December 4, 2015 at 5:53 pm

            I use one from Kiss My Face that is great, I think it may not even be their face one, possibly it’s their sensitive skin one? Would have to check but it’s the only facial sunscreen that I can use long term without issue.

  • Reply Lauren November 13, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    Since your last post about moisturizing with various oils, I’ve kicked the jar of coconut oil and started using jojoba and sweet almond oils. The coconut oil was drying out my face and causing my cheeks to chap as the weather became colder. I currently wash my face at night with Desert Essence tea tree face wash, followed by jojoba oil, rubbed into damp skin. In the morning, I wash my face with sweet almond oil and use a warm wash cloth as a way to exfoliate and wipe off excess oil. I have noticed a huge difference in my skin as a result of my new skin care regimen. Thank you for your lovely post as always!

    • Reply Erin Boyle November 14, 2015 at 1:11 pm

      Agreed: coconut oil isn’t the best for me either. Glad you’re enjoying the sweet almond oil!

  • Reply Kaitlin February 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Any tips for keeping your washcloths clean and fresh? I’ve been doing oil cleansing for almost a year now and LOVE it…except for the washcloth part. Since I use it to remove makeup, they get really gunky and smelly and it seems like the makeup (especially mascara) never 100% gets washed out of the washcloth. Desperate for any ideas or suggestions!

    • Reply Erin Boyle February 4, 2016 at 3:30 pm

      Have you tried boiling with a little baking soda? I’ve found that solves all sorts of things!

  • Reply EatsPaste February 10, 2016 at 11:14 pm

    I’m with whoever mentioned Josie Maran’s cleansing oil. It’s amazing.
    I don’t wear much makeup, just blush and eyeliner most of the time. I will say it doesn’t get all the eyeliner but that’s probably because I’m unwilling to rub it into my eyes. (it tastes like orange peels so I suspect it would burn)
    But it removes what are called ‘sebaceous filaments’ like a champ.
    (Google it for the gory details but basically those are what makes the pores look gray but it isn’t quite a blackhead yet).
    The key (with all the oils I’ve tried) is to rub it on your face without water at first. It’s gooey, yeah. Go with it. If you wet your face/hands first it’s just not the same.
    Also, just for the JM oil, shake it first. It doesn’t say to but you can clearly see two layers, so it stands to reason. Happy scrubbing!

  • Reply SEM March 6, 2016 at 9:30 am

    What is your choice brand for almond oil? I worry about certain bottles leaking/breaking in transit and I wonder about packaging that isn’t tinted to protect oils from light. Thoughts?

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 7, 2016 at 11:09 am

      In the past I’ve bough Now Organic almond oil and I always decant into a dark glass bottle (mostly for looks, but bonus for keeping away the light!)


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