Licensed Esthetician + Acne Specialist

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Ditch Your Traditional Cleanser and Pick Up the Oil

April 13, 2018

Ditch Your Traditional Cleanser and Pick Up the Oil

When I think about the main reasons I am so passionate about skincare, one of them has to be how skincare product formulation is constantly evolving for the better. Skincare is progressive, not regressive. Over the past few decades, facial cleansers have evolved from harsh, alkaline products to gentle and slightly acidic. We now know that alkaline products are not good for the skin because they increase your skin’s pH which destroys its acid mantle. (Read more: How pH is Affecting Your Skin Care Results) The oil cleansing trend has blown up over the past few years, with Korean Beauty deserving most of the credit. K-beauty is huge on the double cleansing method which includes an oil cleanser followed by a gel or foam cleanser. They’re clearly lightyears ahead of western beauty. Now? We see oil cleansers popping up left and right. Are they really worth your time and money, though?

Benefits of Oil Cleansing

I emphasize so often how it’s crucial to use products that are formulated with your acid mantle in mind. This is because if your acid mantle is not intact, your routine is essentially ineffective because all of your concerns will continue to worsen or remain the same until you repair your skin. Maintaining a healthy acid mantle is quite simple. Oil cleansing is the first step to doing so. Oils don’t have a pH so they can’t really do much to change your skin’s pH, which is great news for your acid mantle. Because your acid mantle is composed of lipids and essential fatty acids, it only makes sense that your skin would love lipids (oils) right? I mean, that is what it’s main protective barrier is made of.

Dry Skin

Oil cleansing is excellent for helping to restore and maintain your skin’s natural lipid content. If you have dry skin, this means that your skin does not produce enough sebum to protect it’s barrier. Sebum contains the essential fatty acids and lipids that help build up your skin’s barrier. Little to no sebum means a compromised barrier which means increased sensitivity. Oil cleansing is the perfect way to restore your skin’s acid mantle if you have dry skin.

Excessively Oily Skin

If you have excessively oily skin, this is likely because your skin is dehydrated. When your skin is dehydrated, it is not necessarily dry. But because it is lacking water, it begins to be sensitive and imitates dry skin. Dehydrated skin is a skin condition (like hyperpigmentation, acne etc), and dry skin is a genetic skin type. When your skin is producing excess oil because of dehydration, this is because oils create an occlusive barrier that prevents your skin from losing water. Essentially, your skin notices it’s rapidly experiencing transepidermal water loss and it’s water levels are not being restored quick enough, and then goes into overdrive by producing oils to trap in any water remaining.

Normal Skin

If you have normal skin, this means your skin has a perfect balance of oils and water You also have the rarest skin type and me and my oiliness secretly hate you. Nothing is excessive and nothing is lacking. Perfect! You can use nearly any carrier oil without affecting your skin. This doesn’t mean go ham with coconut oil. There are so many other oils out there aside from coconut oil that are significantly more beneficial. Try sunflower or rosehip oil! Rosehip oil is one of my favorite oils because of it’s high vitamin A content which makes it great for hyperpigmentation.

Acne Prone Skin

Acne acne acne…the inhibitor of flawless, glowing skin and the bane of [skincare] society. Luckily, acne doesn’t have to be in your cards forever. Though it is 100% normal and you can’t ever fully get rid of it. Acne prone skin is found to lack the essential fatty acid linoleic acid. Lacking linoleic acid makes your sebum thicker and more likely to clog your pores. Now how does this relate to oil cleansing? Certain oils actually are high in this fatty acid and will drastically help with your acne because of this. Also, because acne is exacerbated by a damaged acid mantle, oil cleansing with the proper oils will help to heal your acid mantle which will help to heal your acne. You want to avoid oils high in oleic acid because this fatty acid can actually exacerbate acne. Source.

How to Oil Cleanse

You oil cleanse the exact same way that you’d cleanse with a traditional cleanser. Dampen your hands and face with warm water (not hot), apply a generous amount into your palm, rub together, and cleanse. Wash it off with warm water. Some oil cleansers may leave an oily residue, which is fine if you follow the next step I discuss. Some people prefer to use a traditional cleanser after to remove this residue, but to me? This kind of defeats the entire purpose of oil cleansing.

Aside from removing makeup and SPF, oil cleansing is really supposed to help repair your skin’s moisture barrier. So if you follow up with a traditional cleanser, you can easily end up over-cleansing your skin trying to get rid of the residue that isn’t harmful to your skin at all. It’s counterproductive to me, but this is 100% up to you. Double cleansing is a really popular K-beauty method, and I only suggest it if you’re wearing heavy makeup. If not? Oil cleanse then follow this next step.

The best way to remove this residue, solely for the purpose of enhancing product absorption and removing any potential oil barrier that can prevent your lightweight water-based serums from absorbing, is to use a micellar water or toner. Preferably a hydrating one. My current go-to is the Cerave Hydrating Micellar Water or the Delish Condish Bamboo and Ginseng Essence and Toner. These will only remove the excess oil residue, and still leave your skin feeling silky smooth and your barrier healthy from the oil cleanser.

The Cerave micellar water is not your traditional micellar water. It has cholesterol, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides–the 3 things your skin’s barrier absolutely loves and needs. This means it helps with repairing and maintaining your skins barrier and therefore, it increases product absorption. The Delish Condish has soothing ingredients to help calm down your skin. I love it for when my skin feels dehydrated or I feel a cystic pimple on the way. It really helps with inflammation. Follow up with either one post-cleanse and watch your skincare routine change for the better. You can use my affiliate code ‘Caveofbeauty’ to save money when you purchase the Delish Condish toner!

Picking the perfect oil cleanser

Oil cleansing is revolutionary and all, but if you’re not using the correct oils…it can be traumatizing to your skin. Avoid oils high on the comedogenic scale such as coconut oil. Not only because it will clog your pores, but also because it is not really an effective moisturizer. It also can’t hydrate, contrary to popular belief. No oils can hydrate. Hydrating is when you give your skin water. Oils and water do not mix at all (without an emulsifier, at least).

For oily/acne prone skin

For dry/sensitive skin

One Ingredient Cleansing Oils

Cleansing oils don’t need to be fancy. When I first started using oils to cleanse, I stuck to sweet almond oil and avocado oil. My skin had never looked better. The weekly breakouts I was getting came to a halt. This is because sweet almond oil has a high percentage of vitamin A (think: retinol). Vitamin A helps to increase your skin’s cell turnover rate. So, if you’re on a budget, sweet almond oil alone is great for oily, acne-prone skin. It is non-comedogenic and will help to balance the excess oils on your face. If you have dry skin, avocado oil is high in essential fatty acids and is a perfect oil cleanser to help with the dryness.

Have any of you tried oil cleansers or been curious about trying them? Anyone giving their skin an oil change after reading this? Let’s chat in the comments!

Written by:

  1. Johnna

    I’ve been using the ocm method for a little over 3 months (I am also prego so this has been my go to routine) what’s your take on the almond oil and castor oil mix?

    • Hi, Johnna! Congrats on your bundle of joy! I would recommend switching to avocado oil which is higher in essential fatty acids and will provide more protection for your moisture barrier during your pregnancy. Let me know how you like it if you try it!

  2. Sheyna

    OMG thank you! I'm gonna get the Simple oil cleanser and some Sweet Almond Oil! Saw your thread on Twitter and I'm definitely throwing out my St. Ives Apricot scrub! Yikes!

  3. Mariah

    Hi, I’m going to start by saying I absolutely love and am truly inspired by your passion for skincare! Reading your work has motivated me to try new things regarding skincare and my skin had been flourishing like I’ve never seen before. I have dry skin and reading this has definitely got me wanting to go get a good and affordable avocado oil, but I have an issue. I struggle with correctly getting rid of pimples. I don’t really have acne but when I do, I try to get rid of it as soon as possible (but not too early). Recently I’ve been struggling with scans and acne leaving dark marks on my face. My questions are 1) How do I prevent that from happening? 2) If scabbing and dark marks do appear, how do I get rid of them? Please help! Again your inspiration, I hope you answer this, and thank you in advance!!!

    • Hi, Mariah! Thank you so much for checking out my blog and I'm so happy it's been of help to you! I have a post on hyperpigmentation on my blog as well as one on treating and preventing acne! My top tips for both are chemical exfoliation with salicylic acid for acne and glycolic acid for the hyperpigmentation and acne, too. Also, really hydrate your skin twice daily and use SPF every morning. Keep me updated with your skin's progress!

  4. Ashley

    Hi Lily, Thanks for this awesome article. After reading one of your threads on Twitter, I recently started oil cleansing. I was wondering what are your thoughts on using jojoba oil as a cleansing oil?

    • Hi, Ashley! Jojoba oil actually mimics your skins natural sebum, so it would be an awesome oil cleanser for all skin types and would help to balance your oily skin. You can also use it at the end of your routine to seal everything in. Also, thank you for your support on Twitter! I truly appreciate it and I'm glad you were able to learn something from me.

  5. Lami

    Hi! Great post and I just wanted to ask about your thoughts on using Olive oil as a cleanser along with avocado oil? I trying to determine if sweet almond or Olive oil would be better or maybe just all 3 together. Again I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hi, Lami! Thank you for reading! I would definitely recommend olive oil and avocado oil, both are high in essential fatty acids which are crucial to healthy skin. You can definitely mix all 3 oils together with no problems. Try a sweet almond/avocado mix, avocado/olive mix, and olive/sweet almond mix and see which one you like best! Test each of them for about a week.

  6. Tina

    I’m all about the philosophy cleansing oil for my oily skin, it’s helped a lot but I’m still looking for other/more products to add into my routine so that my oily skin can stop melting my makeup away! Lol

    • Hi, Tina! Oily skin needs at the very least the following steps in order for it to really be balanced: - Oil cleanser (gentle cleanser works fine, too) - Exfoliating toner (BHA) - Hydrating serum - Lightweight moisturizer - Oil to seal - SPF (everyone needs this) What steps are you currently lacking?

  7. Gunjan

    Hi Lily! If I want to use jojoba oil to seal everything in during day time, when do you recommend I should use sunscreen? Before or after the oil?

  8. Nicole

    Hi, What do you think about using vitamin e oil and Argan oil as a cleanser? I tried oil Cleansing for a week and my skin responded very positively too that but last week I fell of with my routine so it’s back too bad skin. Trying too make sure I do everything right.

    • Hi, Nicole! Mixing the two as an oil cleanser is great. Vitamin E helps with inflammation and argan oil is really high in essential fatty acids that your skin needs. I would definitely recommend you pick back up with oil cleansing!

  9. Cayla

    Hi Lily, Thank you for your awesome blog! I have been struggling with oily/acne prone skin since puberty and I’ve been interested in using oils bc recently I’ve been getting weekly facials from my esthetician (to address the acne) and now my face is dry and constantly peeling. So my question are, will using the almond oil help restore my skin? and after using the almond oil should i use my usual murad cleanser or simply alternate between cleansers? Sorry for the super long question but thank you for your time!

    • Hi, Cayla! My first suggestion would be to stop with the weekly facials. That's excessive and is contributing to, if not causing, your dryness and peeling. Right now, I would recommend you use avocado oil to cleanse and sweet almond oil to seal your products in at the end of your routine. Avocado oil because it is high in essential fatty acids that dry skin lacks. I would recommend just sticking to oil cleansing, and not double cleansing until your skin calms down and stops flaking and being consistently dry. Oil cleanse, use a hydrating micellar water or hydrating toner. My fav product to use after oil cleansing is the Cerave Hydrating Micellar Water. It'll really assist with the dryness and peeling because of it's ceramides and hyaluronic acid. Hope this helps! Please keep me updated on your skin :)

  10. Iris

    So cleansing my skin will still be my first step in my skin care routine, following the rest of my products? & Do I use the same oil to cleanse and then apply it again to seal everything in? Or can I use the simple cleansing oil and then the almond oil to seal, for example, to seal... Thanks & sorry for all the questions! <3

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