What is Oil Cleansing & Should You Be Doing It?

Oil Cleansing

When we’re dealing with breakouts, oil sounds like the last thing we need to put on our face. We’ve grown so accustomed to our soapy, foamy cleansers that we automatically equate these properties with being optimal for clean, happy skin. However, more research is emerging in the skincare world showing that one unexpected approach may work better: oil cleansing.

Ok, I know – it sounds counterproductive, but bear with me here. Cleansing with oils rather than your traditional cleansers isn’t exactly a new idea. Korean beauty in particular has been using this method long before it reached mainstream popularity, and it’s recent scientific backing explains why. Let’s go over what it is, how to do it, and why you may want to try it, too.

What does oil cleansing do?

Generally speaking, cleansers tend to be on the harsher side. Sometimes our skin can tolerate it, and other times it’s the root cause of dryness, irritation and worsening acne due to overproduction of sebum, your skin’s natural oil. When the latter is true, oil cleansing can actually restore what your traditional cleansers lack.

When you apply an oil-based cleanser to your face, you’re actively quenching your skin instead of stripping it away with harsh ingredients often found in foaming cleansers. On top of adding moisture to your skin barrier, oil cleansing has the ability to remove excess sebum, unclog pores, and remove dead skin & makeup, all while helping your skin maintain it’s natural balance of hydration. When you are able to restore the balance of oil in your skin barrier, your skin becomes stronger, effectively lessening the likelihood of an angry skin mood.

How do I do it?

These days, oil cleansers can typically be found anywhere you buy your traditional cleansers. You’ll want to pick a cleanser that is non comedogenic to avoid clogged pores, and fragrance free for less irritation. Remember: oil cleansing is meant to soothe your skin, not harm it, and gentle, fragrance-free formulas will help support that effort.

Once you’ve picked your poison, the rest is easy: simply apply the oil straight onto your face when it’s dry. Begin gently rubbing it into your skin, being sure to wipe away any excess makeup or dead skin that may be lurking on your barrier. You’ll want to do this for a couple of minutes to ensure the oil absorbs into your skin.

After a few minutes, grab a washcloth and soak it in warm water. Gently wipe your face with your damp washcloth, making sure not to tug or roughen your skin as you go. It’s ok if you have some oil left on your face after wiping – if it’s not greasy or irritated, you’ve done the job right. If you don’t want oil to sit on your face afterwards, though, rinsing with warm water should do the trick. Complete the ritual by patting your face dry with a towel.

But that’s not the only way to do it: personally, I’m a firm believer in the power of double cleansing, which is the more traditional way, based on Korean beauty practices. Wary of oil cleansing because your skin produces enough excess oil as it is? The double cleansing method is worth considering, and may even help.

Following the steps above, the “double” part comes into play afterwards. Once you’ve wiped or washed off the oil, follow this up with a gentle, creamy cleanser (this one from CeraVe is both highly rated & proven effective). This will help lock in moisture, while ensuring all dead skin cells have been gently, safely removed. After cleansing, pat your face dry with a towel. If you want to take it a step further, apply a creamy moisturizer. However, it’s not necessary to do so, especially if your skin moods don’t benefit from it. Don’t sweat: everything else you’ve done should give you all the hydration you need.

In terms of frequency and timing, this practice doesn’t require a ton of maintenance on your part – cleansing once a day, preferably at night, is plenty. It’s also gentle enough for everyday use.

What are the cons to oil cleansing?

The good news: oil cleansing, if done with care, is usually a safe, gentle way to keep your skin healthy. The unfortunate news: that doesn’t mean it’s failproof.

Oil cleansing can still clog pores and cause irritation, especially if you’re using an oil that doesn’t work with you. You’ll want to test the product on your skin before using it regularly to ensure you aren’t allergic. Even if you aren’t allergic, though, there are other signs that your approach to oil cleansing needs some work: for example, your skin shouldn’t be breaking out more as a result. Also, if you experience cystic acne, consult a dermatologist before you begin as this method can exacerbate symptoms.

Even if you’re not allergic and your dermatologist has given you the go-ahead, it’s a good idea to monitor your skin’s reaction after each time you cleanse. Are you breaking out noticeably more than usual? You may need to switch something up in your approach. Maybe applying moisturizer is creating clogged pores, or double cleansing is too much for your complexion – or maybe the oil you’ve picked isn’t the best one for your skin.

As with anything new, it’s all about trial and error. Don’t feel obligated to stick to one ritual once you’ve started oil cleansing. Experiment a bit to find what’s best for you, and above all else, listen to your skin. If you like it and it works well for you, oil cleansing could be the answer to your best fresh-faced days ahead.

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