Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Oil Cleanse Method

Skin care regimes, I've found, can be quite tyrannizing. From childhood through college I used to just wash with water and from time to time dab lotion on my face. About the time I decided to start shaving my legs (yes, after college) I figured I should start paying attention to my skin. It seemed like part of growing up. But really it was downhill from there (not the legs part - that was a good decision). Trying to find just the right combination of cleansing, toning, exfoliating, replenishing, and moisturizing lands you with a cabinet full of marginally satisfying products. Not only is this expensive, but it's confusing and complicated. And my skin never achieved the Cate Blanchett dewy flawlessness no matter what product I used.

A little over a month ago, on a morning when I was already researching making my own deodorant (more on that later) Melanie fortuitously emailed me a link to The Oil Cleanse Method. The premise intrigued me, I tried it that night, and I might, I'm not promising, but I might never go back to traditional skin care products.

The oil cleanse method is what it sounds like - you wash your face with oil. It's so counter intuitive, I know. I was terrified the first night I smeared oil on my face. But there are some basic principles behind it that make a lot of sense to me:
* Oil dissolves oil. Apparently that's something you're supposed to learn in science class? I don't know the why and how, but I remember when I was little and we would put that heavy white clown makeup all over our faces or stage makeup for shows we cleaned it off with mineral oil. That mineral oil dissolved the makeup and cleansed our skin somehow.
* Many people experiment with different oils but it seems that the most successful combination is some sort of drawing oil (googling 'drawing oil' always leads to Castor Oil) with a carrying oil (olive oil, coconut oil, grapeseed, jojoba etc.). Castor oil is a deep cleanser with slightly disinfectant and healing properties, and is actually a bit drying. It is supposed to draw dirt and clogged oil to the surface of the pore where you massage it out and away with your fingertips and a warm cloth. Whatever oil you pair it with will provide moisture and vitamins to your skin during that deep cleanse.
* So many of the vitamins and antioxidants they tell you are essential in a skin care product occur naturally in fruit and nut oils or juices/vinegars or herbs. I noticed as I searched Sephora for 'the perfect product' that I was drawn to adverts like 'A moisturizer with antioxidants derived from pomegranate juice' or a toner with 'Organic vinegar that will flake off dead skin cells.' In other words I was more willing to trust the product the more raw natural stuff it had in it. It dawned on me that I could eliminate the middle man (and maybe some harmful chemicals) by going right to that pure good vitamin packed stuff, the straight oils (and vinegars and herbs).
* The Oil Cleanse Method (in various forms) is recommended on many acne treatment sites as the best cure for regular and cystic acne (those white raised bumps beneath the skin that never erupt into a pimple - I realized I have that), for smoothing out age spots and uneven skin, and for gently cleansing sensitive, dry or aged skin. It truly is an all skin types system.
* It's cheap!!!!

My method:
I started with fifty/fifty Castor and olive oil. After about a week I noticed drying spots even after toning and moisturizing. I switched to one third Castor and two thirds olive oil with a few drops of tea tree oil (a disinfecting oil to help with those cystic acne bumps). That combination seems to work perfectly for me. I gently massage the oil around (on dry skin! If you wet your skin first it will repel the oil), press a hot wet cloth to my face for a little bit to open the pores to the oil, then gently wipe it off.
I happened, at the same time, to switch to using a mixture of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, green tea, and water as a toner. Many sites recommended that combination and I remembered that, as I mentioned above, what drew me to the pricey Origins toner I'd been using was their 'Made with Organic Vinegar' advert. I consider the toner a beneficial extra step because with it I feel confident that I remove any last traces of oil. Also, vinegar is supposedly very exfoliating and softening to the skin. Many people say that with the Oil Cleanse Method toner is unnecessary and that might be true. I'm just more comfortable using it.

My verdict: I'm not going to lie - my skin still doesn't look like Cate Blanchett's. But I've accepted that I have pores and it's OK if you can see them. I could be imagining it, but I think you can see them less now. I don't think I'm imagining that. At any rate my skin is incredibly soft. I never need to use an exfoliating scrub. My skin feels lightly moisturized right after I wash it, and it's no greasier twelve hours later - it feels balanced all day. It's easy, cheap, and I think it's working as well or better than anything else I've tried so I'm sticking to it for now.
A few more notes: I found my Castor oil at Rite Aid on the bottom shelf below the laxatives. Finding organic Castor oil would be preferable but if you just want to test it with cheap Castor oil check a drugstore.
It seems that everyone needs a different proportion of oils. It might not work the first time but hopefully with some adjustments anyone could find combination they like.
Some people recommend the OCM as a deep cleanse once a week, I do it every night but I don't do the long steam every night, just depends on what I have time for.
There are a lot of articles, forums and blog posts devoted to The Oil Cleanse Method. They explain it much better than I did. If you care so much about skin that you're still reading this post you should read other more informative posts as well.
I know at least two of the people reading this have also switched to The Oil Cleanse Method. I hope they share their thoughts as well.


meg said...

I am freaking in LOVE with this post. What is it with all my amazing girl friends?

I was about to go on the search for another bottle of something and I was dreading the search, dreading it.

This is a healthier, better result and it couldn't have come at a better time. So thanks.

I would also like to hear what other converts think about it.

Melanie said...

I still can't find castor oil for sale. :(

Axon Parker said...

Yeah, I don't know what Sarah is talking about because I have been doing the OCM and I totally look exactly like Cate Blanchett by now. So do it. I'm not kidding. Well, not kidding about how much I like washing my face now. I love the oil (still half and half for me) on my tired face, the warm cloth, the gentle smell of salad dressing after I tone with apple cider vinegar... (Sar, any ideas about how to make my toner smell sexy?) And honestly, I went back to soap for a few days and hated it-my skin immediately looked and felt worse. And the final justification....TOTALLY biblical! (Isn't there something about anointing yourself with oil in there? Ask Jack...)

Billi London-Gray said...

First of all, I'm willing to give this a try. Thanks for all the step by step info.

Second of all, you make every post look like it's ready for a magazine. You have rockin photo skills, Sarah.

Very cool.

Mm said...

Now we just need Aunt Mimi to find us cute little bottles and jars... some for the vanity and small versions for travel. Are you in,Mimi?

Billi London-Gray said...

Aight. I bought my first bottle of Castor Oil. I tried it. And my face feels clean. I'm weirded out, but thanks.

I'll report back on the progress.

Sarah said...

Ax - someone said that Green Tea mixed in makes the vinegar stink less but I have not found that to be true. I don't hate the smell of vinegar to begin with (and Zeb says he can't smell it at all :) and it does seem to fade after a half hour/hour so I just ignore that part. There are probably better solutions to that problem.
Billi - so glad you like it (initially)! Please do update after a week or two.
Meg - if you try please update as well!

lyssa said...

my fav cleanser is one I found a couple months at TJ Maxx: an expensive brand I would never have bought otherwise. It's an oil blend and as I'm getting down to the bottom I was wondering why I couldn't just replicate something similiar but without the added preservatives. Ah ha! A good time to come on over to Sarah's blog! I will totally try my own now.
Oh, and the best thing I've found for babie's diaper rash is to sprinkle olive oil on it. Much better, healthier, cheaper (well, maybe!) and it heals twice as fast than any drugstore creams!

Lizliterarius said...

Ax- I use a homemade vinegar toner that I infuse with mint and lemon. It really helps cut down on the smelly vinegar! And for winter I switch to a vanilla vinegar rinse.

Come check out the details at my blog:

Marianne Elixir said...

So, after reading this I put it on my list of things to do. I was slightly embarrassed to realize that it has taken this long for me to get some castor oil into my house (thank you Azure Standard). Husband and I are both trying it tonight and excited about it.

How is it going 16 months later?

ps - my word verification is "tromi" which I read to mean "try me" - I think it's a sign ;)