Lani’s Try-It Fridays: Oil Cleansing Method

The Theory: So, as I told you last week, the oil cleansing method is a theory of facial cleansing that like dissolves like (a verifiable chemical fact) and thus, if you want to clean your face of oil, oil is the way to go. Although by that same reasoning, if I want to get the impurities off my face, I should slather my face in more impurities. I’m not sure that follows. But like any enthusiastic lemming, I’ll let the obvious go and just do as I’m told, damnit.

Here’s what you do: 1 part castor oil to 3 parts olive oil (or other carrier oil, as long as it’s plant-based, take your pick). Mix it in a container, put about a quarter-sized dollop into one hand. Rub it into your face for a minute, being careful to address problem areas like the chin and side of the nose, wherever your face-centric nasties like to hole up and party. Then get a hot-hot-hot (but not so hot you’ll sue) wet washcloth and set that on your face. Then just stand there and think of England, for about a minute or so, while the towel sucks in and out with your breath and makes you casually wonder if breathing in steaming oil is good for your lungs. (Gotta be! It’s plant-based! Then again, so is tobacco.) After that minute is over, rub it off your face with the washcloth and marvel at your radiant skin which, according to all promises, will be Three-Mile-Island-levels of radiant.

The result: The first time I tried this was in the shower, right before Alastair and I were set to go out for a dinner date. I thought, what better time to have radiant skin than when on a date, right? So I went into the shower, slathered my face, rubbed massaged why does everything sound dirty? for a minute, ran the hot-hot-hot water, wet the washcloth, put it over my face, stood there feeling a little silly for sixty seconds, and then wiped it all off. Then I washed my hair with baking soda and conditioned it with apple cider vinegar. Did all the rest of my bathing duties, threw on my robe and went into the bedroom, where this exchange took place:

Alastair: How was your shower?

Me: I think I have oil in my eye.

Alastair: Wow.

Me: Yeah. (shutting one eye) All the lights look fuzzy out of this one eye. (Blinking wildly) Oh, well. It’s plant-based, and it shouldn’t hurt. It’s just an oil slick on my eyeball.

Alastair: Ew.

Me: Also, I have apple cider vinegar smell. I’m very salad-like.

Alastair: I don’t know about salad-like. Saladish, perhaps.

Me: Salad-esque

Alastair: Salad adjacent.

I walked over to him.

Me: Look at my face. It’s supposed to be radiant. Is it radiant?

Alastair examined my face.

Alastair: I try to be objective about these things, but yeah, you look good.

Of course, this is the same man who says I’m beautiful when I wake up drooling on his chest in the morning. He may not be objective, but he’s mine, and I love him.

Also, when I mentioned that I definitely smell like apple cider vinegar, he said, “Yes, and now every time I see a salad, I get kinda turned on.”

2nd OCM: I don’t generally wash my face unless I’m in the shower, and since I shower every couple of days, that’s when I wash. I am amused by the circus I go through now. Mix the baking soda and water, mix the conditioning rinse (trying lemon juice this week), get a washcloth to soak in hot water and put on my face. It’s this whole thing. I do miss simple showers, and the flower smell, but I’m not ready to go back.

Anyway, I took a shower and did the oil cleansing again, complete with the hot washcloth. This time, no oil in the eyes! It seems an odd thing to celebrate, but there you go. Also, I’m not a fan of the smell of oil, and when you’re wearing a hot washcloth on your face, you really get to smell the oil. Ugh.

Now, I don’t tend to break out (every now and again, when ovulating or menstruating, I might get a blemish, but it’s pretty rare) so what I’m basing this on is how my skin feels. This time, it felt a little dry, and I had to moisturize. That means too much castor oil; I went in, added some olive oil and some drops of orange essential oil (love the smell of citrus).

3rd OCM: Smells a little better because of the orange, but the feel of it is still just weird. Water beads off my face and dribbles down. I feel like I’ve been doused in RainX. So, that’s weird. My pores are not miraculously clean; they’re just as dirty as before, but no dirtier. My previous cleanser wasn’t able to clear those out entirely, either, and I think it’s just because I’m old, my pores run deep like my bitterness, and you’re gonna need some kind of suction to get those babies clean, and that’s where I draw the line. I’m not breaking out, and my skin definitely looks no worse than before. I still have to use moisturizer, but not every day, and my face doesn’t feel as dry as before. So that’s something.

I asked Alastair, and he says I look better, that he’s noticed it and my skin is more luminous. So, take that for what it’s worth.

Bottom line, will I continue with the OCM? Probably until the pre-mixed bottle runs out. After that, I’ve got a scrub made from sugar, olive oil and dried grapefruit rind that I’ll do for a while until that runs out. Once that’s done, I’ll reassess, but if I go back to soap, it’s going to be super mild and super simple. I’m convinced that 99% of the stuff they sell for your face doesn’t do what it promises, and you just don’t need it.

No Shampoo Update: I hate the smell of the apple cider vinegar, so I tried lemon juice from concentrate. Didn’t work better, and didn’t actually smell much better. Fresh lemon juice is really the only way to go, but am I gonna squeeze a lemon before every shower? No. On another day, I tried beer; Alastair and I rarely drink beer, but we got a six pack one night and I nabbed one for this experiment. I liked the smell better; some people hate the smell of beer, I love it, reminds me of college where I had me a very, very good time. I poured about half on my head and drank the other half, realizing that even in college I never drank beer in the shower, so I’d just had a new experience! Which is exciting; the older I get, the fewer of those, “Hey, this is new!” moments I have. The beer was good, but not great, at conditioning my hair. Better than lemon juice, not so good as ACV. So I went back to ACV.

Something did change this week, though. At first, when I started this, my hair felt kind of… ropey in the shower. I don’t know how else to explain it; it clumped together in little ropes, and even combing the ACV through my hair with a wide-toothed comb was a bit of a struggle. Now, it’s all easy, and it feels good. Not super smooth, the way that a good conditioner makes it feel, at the cost of the weight of all that product in your hair. Just nice. Natural. Healthy.

And it turns out, I have curly hair. This is what it looks like after washing with just baking soda and ACV, air dried, no fuss.

Not bad, huh?

Bottom line, I’m sold. Cheap, natural, easy, no chemicals, and my hair looks better. Aside from missing the floral scent and the lather, which I don’t miss all that much, I don’t think there’s a reason to go back to regular shampoo. I’m happy.

Next Week’s Try-It: Homemade Deodorant. Ha!

43 thoughts on “Lani’s Try-It Fridays: Oil Cleansing Method

  1. Diane (TT) says:

    Shiny! I don’t, currently, have the mental energy to try any of this, but am observing your results with interest, for when my new food and exercise habits become, well, habitual, and require less of the mental energy.

    Thanks for sharing your experiment, so we can consider it ourselves.

  2. LOL – I think you just gave me an excuse to drink a beer in the shower! 🙂

    Seriously, very interesting results. Not sure I could do the oil thing on my face. My skin tends to be dry anyway – if like dissolves like, what works with dry? Sand? I currently use Pears soap and it is simple and cheap and seems to do the trick.

    I am intrigued by the no shampoo experiment and your hair looks great!

  3. stephanie says:

    Interesting experiments. I’m very sensitive to scents so I’m wondering if I would smell cider vinegar all freaking day? And the oil on my face? I just wonder.
    I do remember using caster oil on my heel when I lost the skin after wearing a cast for months and the oil helped the skin heal. I used it for over a year on the scab and scar in order to help with skin elasticity and to reduce the scarring. It really did do wonders.

  4. “My pores run deep like my bitterness…” LOL! So, that means I’m shallow? I’ve never been a skin care gal, and I’ve done alright, so I will probably never wash my face with oil. But I may still try the baking soda shampoo, because your hair looks shiny and cute!

    I used to steal my father’s squat cans of Rolling Rock beer to rinse my hair. I can’t do that today, because it would be bad for everyone if I started drinking in the shower. Not that I haven’t considered it.

    Didn’t the article mention honey as a conditioner? If the vinegar makes you gag, maybe you could just rub a little honey on your hands and…well, you and Alastair can figure out the rest.

    • German Chocolate Betty says:

      I don’t know, I could really relate to drinking the rest of the beer under the shower. Maybe I would be a nicer person if I did that each morning.


  5. JulieB says:

    “my pores run deep like my bitterness,”

    This made my morning. Thank you. And, cool hair! I’m looking forward to trying it during spring break.

  6. Jane says:

    I love reading about all of this, but all the prep and measuring keep lazy me from trying it. I also have a suspicion that less is more when it comes to messing with my skin and hair so unless things get dire I’m just using a sulfate free shampoo. I don’t use conditioner. It doesn’t agree with my curls (or the curls I used to have before I got old.) I wouldn’t mind looking luminous though. My deep, bitter pores are mostly just in a small area of my forehead. I guess that means I’m mostly content. Thanks, Lani! That line is going to keep me smiling all day.

  7. I don’t cleanse my face. I’ve probably already said that, but I’m forgetful and I figure you’ll forgive me for saying it again. It’s mostly clear except for the red veiny stuff on my cheeks. So there you go.

    I’m tempted to do the bakingsoda shampoo, except I’m lazy and forgetful so I only remember when I’m reading this blog and sometimes when I’m shampooing in the shower when it’s already too late.

    • German Chocolate Betty says:

      Ooooh, yes. The red veiny stuff on cheeks. Anybody got anything for that? I unfortunately inherited my mother’s redhead complexion (but not the hair), and those red veiny things are annoying…

      • Pam says:

        The red veiny thing is a roseaca thing, I think. I had that, and then I went to the dermatologist for acne, and he said “you have roseaca,” and gave me some stuff, and the red veins are gone. Do I remember what the stuff was? Of course not, because my brain, which used to be very good, is swiss cheese now. But at night I use Image Skincare Ageless total repair creme (because it’s expensive, they have to spell it pretentiously). I think it’s available on Amazon. That might be the stuff. It made my deeply bitter pores look youthful and light-hearted, too.

        • It could be spider veins, it could be rosacea, which simply means redness. I use a topical cream for the redness when necessary, but it hasn’t been necessary for many months. I had laser treatment to reduce my redness down by about 60% total (after some rebound during the months following the last treatment). And now for some unknown reason my face looks great.

          I’m still going to try the oil face stuff: I used straight olive oil for awhile but didn’t know how to rinse it off. This is good.

          Now I have to search backward for the hair care recipes. It would be good for my hair to get some serious care-taking. What with the coloring and the lightening (highlights), it’s gotten a bit frizzy and uncurly and I want my hair back. And if I’ll use baking soda for my laundry, then I can use it for my hair. But does the vinegar have to be apple cider? How about white? ….

  8. German Chocolate Betty says:

    Gorgeous hair. What a shine. Unfortunately, as you’re looking down, can’t comment on the existence of or lack of “glow” in your face…

    But Alastair would never fib. So it must be true.

  9. Kelly S says:

    I too stated washing with oil. Have done it 3times. Apparently, I am also old and bitter as the pores are still clogged, at least the blackheads. My breakouts are similarly timed as Lani’s too and I was to have one this week, but didn’t so yay for that. Another good thing that is happening is the rosascha (sp?) is clearing up. My skin is smoother and less red. It does feel a little dry afterwards, probably because Idid the HOT washcloth 3 times instead of one. I also wash with oil about every 3rd day and am still using a Clinque face soap bar #3 in the morning and will until it is gone, probably.

  10. Alis says:

    I’ve been doing the No ‘Poo thing for a while and prefer it, but I’m utterly jealous of the curl you’ve uncovered. *sigh* Mine’s still straight as a stick.

    A quick word of warning on the orange oil in your face cleaning stuff. Orange essential oil (and all the citrus oils actually) can make your skin really unpleasantly sun sensitive. I had a bad burn and splotches for a couple of weeks last summer and apparently it was from an orange/lemon lotion that’d I’d made. Olive oil, beeswax, and just enough of the oils to make it all bright and sunny smelling.

    Sunny. Yeah, the irony gets me.

  11. Meggrs says:

    That is some lovely, shiny hair! I use an oil cleanser from time to time from DCH (a Japanese skin care company, speaking of spelling things out pretentiously, heh), and I like it. Of course, I think the point is that the olive oil in my cabinet would do the same damn thing.

    Either way, this has been such a cool experiment! Thank you for sharing.

  12. Maria says:

    First your hair looks great, but hmm, nope, I’m sticking with my hair stuff. Being the product whore that I am, I refuse to let go. However, I do have a new Moisturizer that I’ve been using that I love. Bio Oil I clean my face, use a spritz of “astringent” which isn’t really, but… then I put the oil on my face, neck, decolletage, hands and arms followed by eye cream and SUNSCREEN 70 Nuetrogena Dry and clear or something like that.

    If you go back to cleansers for your face, I’d recommend Cetaphil which I’ve had several dermatologists recommend. The Bio Oil and the Cetaphil you can buy at Costco for much less. I get the sunscreen at Target. The “astringents” I buy at Whole Foods – great place for organic plant based stuff, but it’s always good to remind yourself that arsenic, oleander, peyote, and various other “natural” plant based items are actually poisonous.

    The only must have in all of that is the SUNSCREEN, I never leave the house without it slathered on. This does remind me that I need to get a dermatologist recommendation from my doctor.

  13. Christine says:

    Your hair looks good. Mine is grayish and blinded so I am worried the soda and vinegar thing would make it like straw. I wonder if some rose water in the vinegar would help with the smell. Middle eastern salad!

    I am now doing the oil on skin thing and I love it but my skin is dry a few hours later. Back to moisturising for me.

  14. I do the no shampoo thing. After a year, here’s what I’ve figured out. At the grocery store, buy empty ketchup and mustard containers. The opaque red and yellow squeeze bottles with the cone-head spouts. Mix Vinegar and water in one. Baking Soda and water in the other. It lasts a while, so you don’t have to make it every time you wash. Give the bottle a good shake before you use it and squeeze only where you need it. I make the solutions very weak–a whole bottle of water to a spoonful of vinegar or baking soda. BS is harsh if you use too much for long. If you really hate the smell of vinegar, try white vinegar. I can’t tell the difference in my hair, and it doesn’t smell as bad.

    My tween-age girls use this too. Sometimes, they announce, “We’re out of ketchup.” and I have to ask, “In the shower or refrigerator?”

    • Elizabeth, you are awesome. Great idea!

      I found that when I pre-mixed the baking soda, it gets all flaky rather than dissolving. Possibly, I use too much, although my hair is in the greasy stage right now, so I’m using a little more baking soda. I really love the squeezable bottle idea.

      And YES to white vinegar. It’s not as strong a smell. It works just as well? Gonna have to try it.

      Great advice! Thanks!

      • Sorry, it’s taken me so long to get back here. Yes. White vinegar works great. I buy it by the gallon anyway because . . . all this chemical free thing started with me because of allergies. I use white vinegar in a spray bottle diluted with filtered water instead of windex or mild household cleaner. Saves a ton of money and doesn’t make me itch or sneeze.

    • Part of my hair is bleached, so very dry, and if I don’t use conditioner it looks insne. But only a couple light spritzes of the vin-water and it’s super soft. (May be due to the baking powder wash as well.) I don’t smell anything after. I’m using white vinegar and water in a spray bottle. –> So I agree with Elizabeth, less vinegar might do the work, and smell less. (Works well as an all purpose cleaner too, with water and a little dish soap. Again, the smell disappears once the surface is dry.)

      Re the face – I’m using mineral oil (shock! oh my!) and the method I read was: rub in some oil, then press a hot-wet facecloth into the face, 3 times, but no rubbing or scrubbing at all. Just press it onto the face until it cools. Maybe scrubbing with the face cloth every time (rather than occasionally) is removing healthy skin, hence the dryness.

      O the drama and excitement of it all!

      In other news, the incidental mineral oil getting on my hands has made hand lotion totally unnecessary!

  15. Your hair looks fab! Might have to try. Though I do wonder about the affect of Baking Soda on hair colour over time. I’m not giving up my hair colour : ) As far as shampoo/conditioner goes, I mostly use an Aussie brand called Moogoo, based on milk products and designed for psorias and allergy sufferers. It’s really gentle.

    • I’m on the fence about hair color. I really hate dying it, and I kind of like my silver sparklies. I’m thinking about just growing it out and seeing how it goes. If I really hate it, I can always go back.

      I do hear that baking soda is bad for color, but once you get past the early stages, you really don’t have to do much. I’m way overdue for a color, so I see my silvers a little more now anyway, but I haven’t noticed it being that much different. I don’t think it’s stripped my color much, if at all. But then, I’ve only been doing it for a little while.

      • Jen Wyatt says:

        Let the silver sparklies come out! There is something really alluring and mysterious about a woman with a young face and bits of grey.

      • I went gray a while back. I don’t color at all–inspired by Shar in Dogs and Goddesses–and my hair is long. A not so nice friend told me a while back that I’d gone all Georgia O’Keeffe. But, I like it silver and that’s what counts. The vinegar/ baking soda method doesn’t dry my hair out, but as time goes on, I need less of the baking soda.

        Do what makes you happy.

  16. Your hair looks great! very shiny. After finding the right products for my hair a couple of years ago, though, I love my hair for the first time in my life. So I don’t think I’m giving them up. yet. You’ve at least got me thinking about it.

    Which lemon juice from concentrate did you try? this stuff is in the freezer section at the grocery store next to the orange juice concentrate (comes in a box, around here it’s always on the top shelf in a corner). Much higher quality than the stuff that comes in the green squirt bottle. It comes frozen, but you stick it in your fridge and after it thaws it stays fresh for several weeks.

    • Barb, that’s great. I had great products that I loved, but they stopped making one, and the other started to make me break out at my hairline, which I didn’t enjoy. Then I found a fabulous one, Bed Head, and I loved that, but it was so expensive, I just couldn’t justify that. The difference between a $5 bottle of shampoo and a $25 bottle of shampoo wasn’t enough for me to feel good about it.

      But this is really working out, and I think once I get the hang of everything, it’ll be simpler and easier for me. And definitely cheaper. Plus, I really like the way my hair feels. It’s taken a couple of weeks to get here, but it’s lost that unhealthy feeling. I’ll check back in in a month or so with an update, but I think I’m sold.

      As for the lemon juice, thanks for the suggestion! I think I’ll stick with vinegar for a while. I may do a fresh-squeeze citrus day once in a while, but I just like the way my hair feels with the vinegar. And I’m getting more used to the smell. 🙂

  17. Micki says:

    LOL, such a funny post! I DID lol, many times. And your hair has such a lovely shine.

    I think there’s a couple of reasons why we use processed stuff. For some people, home-made was crap: mom or dad just couldn’t cook/sew/create products. So store-bought really is better. For others, we want it now! I certainly fall in the second category: I don’t like futzing around for 15 minutes before I take a shower (although, sometimes I will, and it’s almost always worth it).

    I think the ketchup/mustard bottle idea is genius, and once you discover your own little tricks and routines, it’ll all get a lot easier.

    About the flowers: I’ve been thinking about this all week because I like flowers, too. If you turn your head upside down and squirt the underside of your hair with a scent (could be essential oils in water, could be a fine perfume — I like one with green tea and jasmine), you can walk around for a couple of hours in a cloud of flowers. If you want to shower in a cloud of flowers, not sure what to recommend. A candle seems dangerous, and any attempt to do the scent would wash away . . . maybe another washcloth, spritzed with scent and put on the hot pipe that comes from the head of the shower? Or spritz the shower curtain (which might also be anti-bacterial . . . .) Not sure . . . . I think that might be my try-it for next week: introducing scent into my morning shower.

    My try-it for this week kind of fizzled. Too much work, but all week long, I did learn a lot about computers and Tv technology.

  18. Erica says:

    Okay, I totally trust you, Lani. But my god, I am scared to death of trying this. For one, I have the world’s greasiest, oiliest face *and* hair in the world. You know those oil blotting papers that you use to cut down the shine on your face? Yeah, I go through two of those at noon. And if I go 24 hours without washing my hair, it is a superbad deal. You could squeegee my face and hair and run your car with it, I’m convinced. (Hey! A solution to the nation’s energy needs! My head.) I know that washing your hair every day takes out the natural oil, which makes the oil glands over produce, blahblahblah. But I’ve tried going a day without washing, and it’s not pretty. The dry shampoos leave my hair super gross because of all the oil — it forms like a paste? It’s horrible. And I have just now (and I’m 29) got my breakouts under some sense of control, so I’m absolutely terrified to try anything new on my face… I’m just vain and shallow enough to be totally petrified of trying something new and then looking like crap. *sigh* I need more guts.

    • Erica, you don’t need to try it, but keep it in mind. A lot of people with exactly your problem swear by it.

      With the hair, you have to be patient; it will get worse before it gets better. But on the chance it might get better, it might be worth it.

      But seriously, up to you. Just don’t slam yourself for it. It’s not about guts, it’s about whether or not it works for you. I work at home with my husband, so no one’s going to see me besides him, and he can handle it. My bad hair days aren’t a worry for him, and he finds all this amusing. If I worked in an environment where I had to deal with people all day, it would be a lot harder, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s really not about guts.

      What I would do, if you’re intrigued but still scared, is just release it to the universe. If it’s a good idea, you’ll just happen to run across a ton more people doing this, giving ideas and suggestions, just in your every day life. I find that when something’s a good idea for me, the universe doesn’t let me push it aside. Once I’ve gotten three or four nudges, I usually take the leap. If I don’t get the nudges, then it wasn’t a good idea for me, at that time.

      Follow your gut, and don’t judge yourself. There’s certainly no moral virtue in this for me. Yes, it’s cheaper, and yes, probably better for the environment, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I’m interested, and I want to try, and it’s fun for me. I have the convenience of being able to do it, and I report. You decide. 🙂

      No judgement.

  19. Well, I got through a whole week without caving and using shampoo. Cider vinegar and water on their own, really itchy scalp, add tree tree oil (2 drops)per cup and less itch. I still use the conditioner on alternate days when I am too lazy to boil water and measure in vinegar and tea tree oil. By the way the tea tree oil seems to take down the cider vinegar smell but then there is more tea tree oil smell. But I can handle that if my scalp is not itchy and my pillow cases do not stink. And for some reason this solution seems to be toning down the grey.
    As for the using oil to get rid of oil thing, not gonna happen. Tried using olive oil, grape seed oil and others on my face a few years ago and ended up with white mole like things on my forehead and around my nose where the oil clogged my pores. Those “moles” were scraped off … yes I said scraped, not pleasant. Lesson learned these days if I’m not using a cleansing cloth (and I usually don’t unless I’ve worn full make-up) it’s going to continue being a good facecloth (exfoliator) and warm not hot water. No soap.

  20. Your hair is gorgeous!!! I think I’m sold. Gonna try the baking soda thing. Gotta look up some alternate rinses, as Stephen is violently appalled by the merest whiff of vinegar (which means he gets none, NONE I SAY, of my favorite salad dressing).

    Skeered to try the oil thing. Thanks to rosacea and now a nose that won’t stop breaking out. Bah. But I’ll cheer you on from over here in commercial product land!

  21. tara says:

    So I’m not 100% sure if you’re trying the oil on oil thing to use less chemicals or to save money, but if it’s for the use less chemicals thing, have you heard of Norwex? It’s a line of… well basically anti-bacterial cloths. I forgot all the details, but it’s got something to do with an anti-bacterial silver agent woven into the fibers that kills like 99% of…. something…

    I have their body cloths that I use to clean my face, once in the shower in the morning, and then again at night. I’ve always had moderate acne, large pores and bad skin tone. I’ve noticed all of these things have gotten better since I’ve been using the cloth. I’m sure my pores haven’t actually gotten smaller, but they are less noticeable (to me). My fav thing about it? It’s just a wash cloth. wet it and wipe your face off. Done.

  22. I just use olive oil alone on my face and hair (very tiny bit on the hair) for moisturizer and conditioner, [and I look right good for my age!] but now I’m going to try the baking soda. I’ve already changed to baking soda for teeth, but I won’t use it for deodorant as it chafes like fine sand (not that I’ve ever tried fine sand for deodorant).

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