Monday, 7 April 2008

OCM - the Oil Cleansing Method

I posted this on my old blog, over at Vox, and it turned out to be quite popular. I decided to update it a little and post it here so that anyone, not just members of Vox, can comment with questions/tips/reviews etc.

I became interested in natural living a few years ago, it all started with my skincare regime. I was fed up of how much money I'd spent and how many products I'd tried throughout my teen years, only to find that the products didn't live up to their promises, or when they did, the great results didn't last. I was sick of heavily perfumed and foul-smelling products which could cause irritation even if they claimed to be 'suitable for sensitive skin'. The first thing I did was to start buying natural and organic alternatives of the products I used to buy. This was more expensive, but the products smelt better & felt better than my previous chemical laden ones. The more I learnt about this aspect of natural living the more I realised that (in most cases) buying organic & natural products wasn't much better; products which claimed to be natural often contained chemical preservatives known as Parabens, linked to breast cancer in some studies, and also SLS (Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate) - a foaming agent, bulker and harsh detergent which often causes skin irritation.

I stumbled across the oil cleansing method in the Natural Living community on LiveJournal. The thing about OCM which first stood out to me was the ability to adjust the quantity of oils to suit your skin, as it changes. Other benefits included being able to make it myself, it's reasonably cheap in comparison to other natural/organic skin care products and I could add the essential oils my skin liked. After trying it I also found it to be highly effective, and so I wrote a blog post including the original articles and my own tips/discovery, along with some helpful resources. Here's the updated version:

The Method

When cleansing and moisturising your skin, it is imperative that you keep in mind that oil dissolves oil. Do not be afraid of applying oil to your face. Oil, alone, will not cause you blemishes. Pimples, cysts, zits, blackheads and white heads are a result of several different factors including hormones, bacteria, dead skin cells and the build-up of these factors. Your skin naturally produces oil because it needs it. It is not a malicious force to be reckoned with, it is there for the benefit of your skin. It is naturally occurring. Oil helps lubricate, heal, protect, and moisturise your skin so that it may function properly. Properly functioning skin is beautiful, clear, and glowing.

While I'm talking about the benefits of oil applied externally, I'd like to mention how important it is to moisturise from the inside as well. WATER! Drink no less than 8 glasses of water a day. If your skin has issues with blemishes, drink up! Water will help release and remove the toxins from within, leaving behind glowing, dewy, toned skin. Carry a bottle of water around with you throughout the day so water is always available.

Now, to the point of this article.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) is used for moisture, while Castor Oil (CO) is used for cleansing. Castor Oil tends to be a bit on the thick side, so a mix of the two (EVOO/CO) is frequently used. This allows for the Castor Oil to really sink into the pores and draw out the dirt and grime to the surface. You can vary this ratio to match your skins needs. More EVOO for moisture or more CO for cleansing (25/75 EVOO/CO for Oily skin, or 75/25 EVOO/CO for dry skin). EVOO is incredibly high in antioxidants, while CO is excellent for drawing and healing. CO has been the focus of many books and medical discussion because of its seemingly "magical" healing properties. It only makes sense (after a bit of research) that one would use CO on their face to help treat blemishes and acne, or simply to make their skin look and feel better.

As quoted in The Oil That Heals by Dr. McGarey, a country doctor (unknown?) states, "Castor oil will leave the body in better condition than it found it."

The Routine:
Massage a substantial amount (the cup of your palm, while hand is held open) of EVOO/CO into your face and neck.

This is to be done over make-up or any visible dirt. Take this time to give yourself a facial massage. Really work the oil into your skin. Take your time, breathe deeply, and relax. Sit down to do this if it helps.

You, of course, do not have to sit and relax, but keep in mind that stress isn't good for your skin and you should take any moment you can to destress and let tension float away.

Take a wash cloth, terry cloth or flannel preferred, and soak it in steamy hot water. Wring it out and drape it over your face.

What we are doing is steaming your face as an esthetician would, but without the steam machine. You want to open your pores. This helps release any impurities from deep within your pores.

As the wash cloth begins to cool, gently wipe the oil and dirt away. This will also help remove any dead skin cells that are stubbornly clinging on.

Rinse the wash cloth out in hot water and wipe away any remaining impurities. You may have to do this two or three times more to remove any remaining dirt and oil residue, but it will come off leaving your skin with a beautiful, healthy glow. No additional cleansing is necessary.

After you have rinsed well, you can either splash your face with cool water to help tone and close your pores, or if your face feels tight, you can moisturise.

If your skin feels tight, take a tiny drop of your EVOO/CO, rub it between your clean, damp palms and pat it into your damp skin. Massage any oil residue into your skin so there is no film of oil left sitting on the surface. Being prone to breakouts, myself, I've found that this is perhaps the most important step.

Your skin should glow now.

Taken from


Don't be afraid to experiment with this method! Adjust the oils and the ratio to suit you. Some people find Extra Virgin Olive Oil far too heavy for their skin, so they substitute with another moisturising oil such as Jojoba or Sweet Almond. Some people leave out the Castor Oil altogether. You can add skin-friendly essential oils to the mixture to suit also (be careful with essential oils - always use the correct dilusions, anything more and it is likely to cause skin sensitivities/allergic reactions. I think the safe dilution is about 1 drop of essential oil to every 10ml of OCM mixture. It is best to avoid using essential oils during pregnancy unless you know exactly what you are doing.) A great site listing the properties of essential oils, as well as extra cautions: (apologies for the shopping site, the last non-commercial site I used for descriptions is no longer online.)

Some skin-friendly essential oils include:
Geranium essential oil - a good balancer for all skin types.
Lavender essential oil - a great all-rounder for any skin type.
Neroli essential oil - good for dry and sensitive skins.
Rose essential oil - great for mature complexions.
Tea Tree essential oil - good for break outs.
Citrus essential oils (Grapefruit, Lemon) are great for oily skin types but can increase the likeliness to sunburn if used within 12 hours of sun/sunlamp exposure.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is sold for culinary purposes and should be easy to get hold of. Cold pressed is best, and you can also spend a little extra on organic oil if you choose.
Castor oil is generally sold in chemists/pharmacies as a laxative. I have found our local chemist have stopped stocking it, so I now buy mine online (which I actually prefer since I can buy organic Castor Oil). When I first posted this to my old blog 2 years ago you could buy both oils in the UK for under £5. Now the price is probably closer to £6.

I keep my oils, pre-mixed, in a smallish brown glass bottle (it is best not to mix huge batches of the oil if you find your skin changes often & you need to adjust the quantities) - always keep in a cool, dark place away from sunlight.

If you get problem skin in other areas of the body this is great to use all over, even if your skin is not problematic, it will help keep it in condition. I tend to rub the excess oil left on my hands after applying the oil to my face into my hands, cuticles & arms - it keeps my nails strong and healthy, and my skin clear & soft.

Also massage this over your eyelids (when your eyes are closed!) being careful not to get any in your eyes - the castor oil thickens, conditions and darkens eyelashes.

For a time I was using OCM in both the mornings and the evenings with great results. Then my skin changed and I found this was too much, so I started using it in the evening only and again I got great results. If your skin changes it doesn't necessarily mean the method no longer works, work with your skin!
If I am only using OCM in the evening then I use either Witch Hazel or Rose Water in the morning, applied with a cotton pad, and a light moisturiser if necessary. I find I don't need to tone or moisturise after using OCM, but you might prefer to.

Cleaning the cloths

I find that I can wash my flannel fine with my towels, but after a while I find that it does need something extra. Here's a great pre-wash to remove all traces of oil:

Put your cloth in a washing up bowl/mixing bowl. Sprinkle liberally with Bicarbonate of Soda (Baking Soda).
Really rub the Soda into the cloth, this will help to absorb the excess oil.
Pour over enough white vinegar to soak the entire cloth (it doesn't need to be swimming in it) - this will make the Soda fizz a lot!
White vinegar is a great deodoriser.
Lastly pour over some boiling water and leave to soak until the water has cooled (not recommended if you use delicate cloths - just use hot water instead)
Drain the mixture, rinse the cloth & put in the wash as usual.

It is best not to use microfibre cloths, I found the oil ruins the fibres and makes the cloth rough. A cotton flannel or cloth works fine.

Related Links

Google results for "oil cleansing method"
Livejournals NaturalLiving community's memories on OCM
Investigate the safety of your current skincare products

A couple of UK webstores I highly recommend for other beauty products, without the chemicals:

There Must Be a Better Way
Love Lula