The Oil Cleansing Method – Natural Non-Toxic Face Cleansing

The Oil Cleansing Method has allowed me to ditch face soap, lotion and even makeup remover and my skin has never been happier! That’s what I love about natural products – many of them have multiple uses and keep my medicine cabinet clutter-free. Not only that, this method is totally safe with no toxins, sulfates, chemicals and despite popular belief, oil does not clog up the pores with oil. You can blame clogged pores on hormones, bacteria and dirt and this method effectively cleans the latter two and moisturizes at the same time.

The Oil Cleansing Method - Natural and Non-Toxic Face Cleansing with Oil

After my face lotion finally ran out two months ago, I vowed I was going to try this method and stop buying face lotion and soap for good. Especially since every other part of my body now receives all-natural care, from my baking soda shampoo and apple cider vinegar conditioner, to my homemade organic body butter, my homemade lip balm, homemade deodorant, and my baking soda body scrub. Cosmetics and especially lotions are known for being loaded with unwanted garbage that I’d rather not have on my face.

I learned from my good blogging buddies, Sarah, from Nature’s Nurture, and Amanda, from Natural Living Mamma, what it is and exactly how it works.

How it Works: Oil Dissolves Oil

According to the, the basic concept is that oil dissolves oil so applying oil to the face removes dirt, makeup and oil and leaves the face cleaned and moisturized. I found that it’s the same concept for cleaning the hair, like in my no-poo post where I discuss how traditional shampoos, which contain synthetic detergents called sulfates, strip the scalp of its natural oils and cause the scalp to overproduce oil to compensate. This creates a vicious cycle wherein you need more shampoo and daily cleaning to remove the excess oil, thus drying out the hair and requiring conditioner. Once you start cleaning the scalp and hair with a shampoo that doesn’t contain those sulfates, the scalp returns to its natural state and produces the correct amount of oil and doesn’t need daily cleaning.

Sulfates Bad, Oil Good

So the same concept applies to our skin. Sulfates in body washes and face soaps strip our skin of sebum, our skin’s natural oil, causing our skin to be dry and to overproduce oil. Little do most of us know that our skin naturally regulates perfect oil production, but we remove its ability to do so when we disrupt the balance with artificial chemicals like sulfates.


Make Your Oil

Are you ready to try it yet? Great! It’s very simple and you might even feel like you’re in a spa.

Oils Needed:

  • Castor Oil (where to buy) – key ingredient, a must-have because it dries and cleanses.
  • Other carrier oil like: Extra Virgin Olive Oil (where to buy), Sunflower Oil (where to buy), Jojoba Oil (where to buy), or Sweet Almond Oil  (I Buy This One)
  • UPDATE – After making my own room deodorizing spray, I decided I wanted my face oil to smell as wonderful as the spray, so I added 2 drops each of Rosemary, Cedarwood and Orange essential oils. Frankincense is excellent for supporting skin health as it heals sun spots blemishes, but you might want something sweet like Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Grapefruit, or Sweet Orange to sweeten up the scent (where to buy high quality essential oils). The result is AH-mazing! It smells divine and I really enjoy washing my face now because it truly feels like a facial. PLUS, my face was even more moisturized and soft.

The Right Ratio For Your Skin Type

The basic concept is that oily skin needs more Castor Oil, and drier skin needs less. My skin is a on the dry side, so I’ve found I need 1:4 ratio of 1 part Castor Oil and 4 parts other oils. I have used Sunflower, Olive and Sweet Almond Oils and honestly don’t notice much of a difference between the three, so I now just use whatever I’ve got in my cabinet at the time. Each person is so different, so I suggest experimenting until you get the perfect combination.

  • Oily Skin – 1 part Castor Oil to 2 parts other oil, or 30% Castor Oil and 70% other oils
  • Combination Skin – 1 part Castor Oil to 4 parts other oil, or 20% Castor Oil and 80% other oils
  • Dry Skin – 1 part Castor Oil to 9 parts other oil, or 10% Castor Oil to 90% other oils

The Oil Cleansing Method Steps 1 and 2

The Fun Spa Part – Cleaning Your Face with Steam and Oil

Here’s how I do it, and there’s no right or wrong way as long as you use steam to open up the pores. I like to do it at night but in the morning I generally do nothing because splashing water on my face dries out my skin.

  • Take a washcloth, place in the sink, and turn on the faucet to warm.
  • While waiting for the water to get very warm, take a small amount of oil onto the fingers and rub until it becomes warm.
  • Apply the oil to your face and massage in a circular motion to loosen dirt, oil and makeup. I like to take a moment to enjoy the massage, too!
  • Check to see that the washcloth is very warm, but not hot and scalding, of course.
  • Squeeze out the water and drape over your face. Here is where I practice my deep yogic breathing and concentrate on relaxing and clearing my mind of the days’ stresses. Leave it on as the steam opens your pores, then remove once it cools to room temperature.
  • Use the washcloth to wipe your face – this removes the dirt, oil, bacteria and make-up trapped in your pores.
  • Repeat if desired, which I always do.
  • If your face still feels dry (if it’s winter time, this is a possibility), just take a dab of oil and massage it into the skin as a moisturizer. You’ll know it’s too much if your face is shiny and oily.
The Oil Cleansing Method Steps 3 and 4

Next, take your warm washcloth and place on your face, leaving it until it cools to room temperature. The heat and steam will open up your pores so they can be cleaned. Then, wipe off the oil, dirt, and makeup from your face with the cooled cloth. Repeat if desired.

Two to Three Day Transition Period

Just like going no-poo, your skin will have to adjust to producing less oil for a few days. Remember, it is used to over producing oil because soap strips it of the layer of sebum. For me, the transition period lasted only two days where my skin broke out in pimples. After all the impurities had come to the surface, my face returned to normal again on the third day. So, I suggest trying this method on the weekend when you won’t have to go to work (or whenever you have a few days off).

How to Purchase High Quality Essential Oils through My Merry Messy Life

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About Sara McFall

Sara is the owner and founder of My Merry Messy Life, which started in 2011 as a way to chronicle her journey to a natural, chemical-free lifestyle and to share her passions of mothering, real food, homeschooling and crochet. She is a mama to three precious and energetic little boys and wife to a university professor who loves to sing, dance ballet and ballroom, and live simply and naturally.


  1. If the oil cleansing method is not working for you, I highly recommend that you try Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap. IT CONTAINS THE OILS THAT ARE RECOMMENDED with the OIL CLEANSING METHOD, but it also contains one key ingredient that is the main achilles heal of the oil cleansing method. That ingredient is: Potassium Hydroxide. The importance of this one element cannot be overstated. It is what causes saponification of the natural oils together with a base which gives these natural oils the power to pull the excess oil off of the face and replace those oils with the new oils contained in the “soap”….please understand that soap is not evil in and of itself. Almost every soap currently out in the marketplace is NOT good to be used on the face. Many of them have the wrong fats, excess fillers, and are generally very harsh for the face. But the very good properties of the oils found in the oil cleansing method, when combined with potassium hydroxide create a compound that is HYDROPHILIC on one end that hooks to the water when you are rinsing off your face and HYDROPHOBIC on the other end that hooks to the old oils on your face and pulls them off gently. When this process uses good oils such as are in both the oil cleansing method and Dr. Bronner’s liquid “soaps” you are allowing these new good oils to replenish the skin while gently removing old excess oils from the face. It is true that oil dissolves oil but unless you have a compound to hook to water then those old oils will just continue to mix in with the new oils and will not be able to hook to the water molecule in order to be removed properly. This one reason is why so many people are having trouble with the oil cleansing method and it takes so long to try and figure it out. I am not bashing the oils in the oil cleansing method (on the contrary) but they DO need a base such as potassium hydroxide (naturally produced from wood ash just as our ancestors made it) or sodium hydroxide. I sincerely hope that this will help someone and hopefully many people Just try Dr. Bronner’s products. The unscented works great for sensitive skin but the entire line is all natural ingredients with absolutely nothing else. You can make your own soap too using a pretty simple method that combines the oil cleansing oils with a base. By the way, I am a physician myself and I have no interest in Dr. Bronner’s products other than I know they work because they take the natural oil ingredients in the oil cleansing method and link them with potassium hydroxide to give you the power to clean your face naturally and replace the old oils collecting on your skin with these beautiful God-made oils. Good luck!

  2. Just want to add one more thought to my previous post. I have run into an issue before with Dr. Bronner’s unscented soap where I believe not all of the oils were saponified well enough and it must have been sitting on the shelf at the store for some time and the oils had begun to go rancid. In my opinion, if you are going to go this route, either purchase online to ensure the newest product or try making the liquid face soap yourself using these natural oils along with food grade potassium hydroxide that you can search out online and order. Obviously, not everyone has the time for this; but you can learn how to make it online and a large batch can go a very long way.

  3. Hi. I’ve been using the oil cleansing method for approximately 5 – 6 weeks now. I am having some issues, but that is completely due to my “menopausal mania”. 😉 I am having trouble getting the washcloths clean. I’ve been washing the washcloths with the other bath towels, in hot water, regular cycle on the washing machine, with the home made laundry soap. The washcloths are getting icky and funky and their ick and funk is starting to spread to my towels. They smell like rancid oil! EW! So today, I took all the washcloths and put them in the kitchen sink with a pot of boiling water and some Dawn dish liquid. Let them soak till the water was cool enough to handle. Still oily feeling. Then I refilled the sink with more boiling water, more Dawn, and some Oxiclean. Again, I let them soak till the water was cool enough to handle, then I scrubbed the devil out of them. This helped some, but they still smell like rancid oil. I’m beginning to think I need to throw them all out and start all over. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Zhanna! Oh wow, I haven’t had nearly that trouble with my washcloths! They are coming out clean and smelling fresh, after two years I’m still using the same washcloths. It could be several reasons – you could have really hard water which makes it hard for oily things to get washed well and cleaned. It could be your detergent – I make my own (here’s the recipe) and it works very well! You could try soaking them in some vinegar, or using vinegar in the fabric softener compartment of your washer. That works very well for my towels.

      • I have read that ammonia helps. I haven’t tried it yet. I will next week. I’ll report back with my findings.
        And yes, we have hard water. :/

        • OK. I soaked the washcloths again in boiling water, with 1 cup of plain ammonia and a little Dawn dish liquid. I let them soak until they were cool enough to handle, with rubber gloves on. You do not want ammonia on your skin! I gave them a good scrub, squeezed them out, then tossed them in the washing machine with the other towels. I washed them all in hot water with my homemade detergent plus some oxiclean. This helped tremendously!!!!! They are still not completely free of the smell. I’m afraid I waited too long to try to get them clean. I have decided to buy some new washcloths and do the ammonia treatment every week. 🙂

  4. For those of you concerned about using castor oil, you can use evening primrose oil instead.
    “Evening primrose oil is a rich source of gamma linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid of major importance to the health of every organ in the body. It is perfect for the use on skin to help deliver nutrients to keep skin healthy. Evening primrose oil can be used on eczema and psoriasis with great results. Use on hair and skin to help reduce dryness and act as a barrier to hold moisture in. As a natural astringent, evening primrose oil helps to keep oil production in the skin in control to help prevent acne.” A quote from

    • Great tip, Zhanna! Thanks for sharing!

      • I would love to try this as I’m slowly moving towards more natural products. I have PCOS and one of my issues is excessively oily skin, resulting in breakouts. I’ve been seeing a dermatologist for a number of years and have tried many things, but still have significant issues. I want to try something else but am afraid to put more oil on my face since I’ve always been told to stay away from it. Which oil would be a good one to start?

        • Hi Camille! I’m sorry you’re suffering so. I’d start with a higher ratio of castor oil and sweet almond oil. Neither of those are very greasy, and the castor oil can be drying. Your skin will probably go through a transition phase. Have you looked at dietary changes and removing other chemicals from your beauty routine? I believe strongly food is what causes most health problems.

    • Thanks for the extra information on primrose oil. There is so much to learn about skin and hair care. I’m in my 40’s and have dealt with acne all my life. Have been experimenting with the oil cleansing method and invested in a variety of oils that turn out to have a higher ratio of oleic acid which is not as good for acne prone skin. Oils higher in linoleic acid are supposed to be better for acne which is why primrose oil is on my shopping list. I’m also trying to address all the moisturizers, sunscreens, and foundation that touch my face. The DIY face powder is how I found this site.

  5. Hi! , i was wondering if , exclusively if you are doing this , you have to never wash your face with soap anymore? even a Natural or gently soap?

  6. Question about frequency! How often do you oil cleanse? Nightly? Twice a day? I have read some posts that state doing it a few times a week. If you don’t recommend twice a day, do you alternate with a natural cleanser (like dr. Bronners)? I normally wash my face morning a night with a natural cleanser, but want to try oil cleansing. I’m concerned that only doing it at night and not washing my face in the morning with leave my face feeling/looking oily during the day.

    • I do it once a day, at night, and find I don’t need to do it again in the morning but do sometimes find that I need to moisturize again the morning during the winter. I suggest trying and experimenting to see what works best with your lifestyle and skin type.

  7. I can’t believe how much this cleanser had helped my 50+ skin. It was extremely dry and flakey and applying foundation was a nightmare. I could never find a moisturizer that took away the flakes. I changed my whole skin care routine, but this cleanser was the key! I’ve been using castor oil and sweet almond oil mixture every night for a couple of months and my dry skin is gone! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! So easy and affordable to make as well!

  8. WriterSlon says:

    I’ve been doing the OCM for about 3-4 years now, and it’s fantastic. I had a ‘transition’ period of about a week, but after that, my skin settled, and it’s been great. I clean my face twice a day, one of those in the shower. I let my skin get warm, so it opens the pores, apply the oil and let it sit while I shower. I place a warm washcloth directly on my face the last few minutes of the shower, then wipe the oil off. At night, I just apply it and wipe it off with a warm washcloth. My blend is 1 part castor oil, 1 part grape seed oil, and 2 parts olive oil. I follow it up with a facial oil mix for a moisturizer, that includes a base of 2 parts grapeseed oil, 1 part argan oil and 1 part rosehip oil, mixed with vitamin E, carrot seed oil, melaleuca, lavender, jasmine, and helichrysum. I use about 4-5 drops, mixed with 3-4 drops of vitamin C serum (it can’t be premixed, or it will lose its potency), and rub it on my face and neck. It feels so nice, and my skin is bright, soft, smooth and clear.

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