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Oils for Facial Cleansing

I believe in natural products, but I realize that natural doesn't always mean safe.


I Put Oil on My Oily Skin! I Know!

I have never enjoyed splashing water on my face and washing it with soap. I have a talent for getting the soap in my eyes or getting my hair so wet I have to blow dry it. Have you ever breathed in while you have soap suds on your face? I have. The soap went up my nose. I coughed and spluttered. It burned. Ugh! The soap left my skin feeling dry and I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror making faces while I tried to stretch out the dry feeling. It’s not cute. It’s awful! There had to be a better way to clean my face.

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about oil cleansing lately and have decided to try it for myself. The nose burn was my turning point. Oil cleansing made some sense to me but I always avoided oils in cleaners. It scared me to put oil on my oily prone skin. However, as I read about it I realized that not all oils are created equal. Scientifically, like dissolved like, so it was worth a try. I’d like to share my experiences and recipes with you as I discover them.


Why is Oil Important for Our Skin?

Skin secretes oil. This happens to all of us regardless of whether you have a dry, oily, dehydrated or combination skin. It’s just the way skin works. The oily secretion is called sebum and is secreted by the sebaceous glands in our skin. We have sebaceous glands all over our body except on the palms of our hands and soles of our feet. This sebum acts like a barrier for our skin and hair. When we strip it away with soap and chemicals it leaves our skin vulnerable.

When we use the correct oil to cleanse the skin, we use it to remove the sweat, fatty acids from skin cells and environmental grime that lodged itself in the sebum and we feed it with clean nourishing oils. If we don’t have that sebum barrier on the skin, we leave it vulnerable to bacterial and fungal infections. With oil cleansing, we don’t allow that to happen and our skin is never left unprotected.

Why Are Soapy Cleansers a Bad Choice?

When we wash with soapy chemicals, they strip the oil off our skin. Initially, it feels good because we have that squeaky clean result but as soon as the water evaporates off our skin we feel dry. Then we lather on the creams, but the damage is done. Our skin goes into ‘yikes what just happened’ mode and secretes more oil to replenish what was so forcefully taken from it. It becomes a vicious cycle. Strip it, replace it.

The harsh chemicals not only strip the natural oils of our skin they also disrupt the skin’s delicate PH. PH stands for ‘potential of hydrogen.’ The PH scale runs between 0 (acidic) and 14 (alkaline) and measures the concentration of hydrogen ions.

Healthy skin will have a PH of around 5.5 which means it is more acidic. This acidity forms an acid mantle when the sweat and sebum combine on the skin. It protects the skin from harm and dehydration. When we strip this barrier we mess up the skin’s PH balance and leave it exposed to irritants, microorganisms and make it vulnerable to drying out.

PH Scale


What Factors Influence Sebum Production?

It is not so much what we put on our skins that affect it. Our skin health is more affected by our diet choices, stresses, and hormones. Although what we strip off it and expose it to is potentially damaging. Consider reducing your sugar intake and drinking more water to keep the skin safer from inflammation and dehydration.

How Do I Use an Oil Cleanser?

This is where you are going to need a bit of patience and allow for some experimenting. I have dehydrated but oily skin. In other words, too little moisture retention and too much sebum secretion. I am currently using a mix of avocado oil as my base (carrier) oil and I put a few drops of frankincense essential into it. I massage it into my face and leave it on my skin as a mask for 2 or 3 minutes. Then I run a washcloth under very warm water and lightly wipe the oil off. I use my toner and a cotton swab to remove the rest of the oil residue. My makeup comes off easily and I don’t feel dry afterward.

Make sure you know what the PH is of your toner. I am using rose water because it is astringent enough to deal with my oiliness but gentle enough to remove any excess make up. It won’t disturb your skin’s PH because rose water has a PH of 4 to 5.

Oils differ quite a bit and avocado oil can be a bit heavy for some folks. You might want to try coconut oil, rosehip or almond oil as alternatives. You might even decide to mix a few until you find the recipe that works for you. The list below is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak. There are many natural oils that will work wonders on your skin. The rule is – if it causes a breakout or leaves your skin red, stop using it and try a different oil.

Which Carrier Oil Is the Best For My Skin?

As a general rule the following oils work well for:

Normal skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil

Dry skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, evening primrose oil, avocado oil, olive oil

Oily skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil

Combination skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, argan oil

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Blemished or acne skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, tamanu oil, evening primrose oil

Aging skin: jojoba oil, rosehip oil, argan oil, evening primrose oil, avocado oil, olive oil


How to Boost Your Oil Cleanser

I add some frankincense essential oil to my carrier oil but this is optional. However, if you want to give your cleansing oil a little boost, try these essential oils. Please remember, essential oils and carrier oils are different. Essential oils are very concentrated. You cannot put an essential oil directly on the skin. It must be diluted with a carrier oil. You only need a couple of drops.

As a general rule the following oils work well for:

Dry skin: Cedarwood, Geranium, German Chamomile

Oily skin: Bergamot, Cypress, Orange

Combination skin: Lavender, Patchouli, Orange

Blemished or acne skin: Geranium, Lavender, Patchouli

Aging skin: Lavender, Frankincense, Rose

Mixing Oils

Once you’ve determined which carrier oil you are going to use as your base you can start adding the essential oils. Start with a few drops and listen to your skin. If you see or feel any irritation, either stop and change oils or try a more diluted ratio of carrier oil vs essential oil.

A basic recipe:

2 Tablespoons of your carrier oil of choice.

10 Drops of essential oil.

You can split the recipe, for example for more mature skin:

Combine 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil (carrier oil) with 1 tablespoon of rosehip oil (carrier oil).

Then add 5 drops of lavender (essential) oil and 5 drops of frankincense (essential) oil.

Play around with your recipes until you find the best fit.

Store your mix in an amber-colored glass bottle to protect the essential oils from light. They can oxidize if exposed to light or heat.


Caution and Conclusion

Essential oils are very concentrated. If you have any health concerns or if you are pregnant, please check with your Doctor before using any essential oils.

I hope this article serves as an introduction to oil cleansing. I continue to read, research and experiment to find the perfect fit for my skin. I also know that as I age and with each season the formula will change to accommodate my skin’s needs.

Professional resources and education

Essential Oil Safety - second edition (2014) - Robert Tisserand and Robert Young

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy - 25th-anniversary edition - Valerie Ann Worwood

Celeste Wilson - Isla Verde Spa Training Academy Certificate of Aromatherapy Course

Celeste Wilson - Durban University of Technology - National Higher Certificate in Beauty Therapy

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Celeste Wilson (author) on November 03, 2019:

Hi Melanie, thank you for your kind comments. Oil cleansing has been a life-changer for me. I didn't consider black spruce oil. I'm going to look into that one.

Melanie from Wisconsin on October 27, 2019:

Excellent article! I have been oil cleansing for about 6 years and it was the best change I ever made. I had pretty oily skin once I started doing it, so I initially had the same worry. But having done it for so long, my skin balanced out and stopped producing so much oil. Incredible! After I cleanse, I re-apply coconut oil as a moisturizer along with a drop of tea tree and a drop of black spruce essential oil. This has prevented me from having breakouts, which I was also prone to, and my skin has never looked better. Thank you so much for sharing your insight on this. Truly a great read, I'll be back for more!

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