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


  1. That sounds really good.

    I have Psoriasis and people have often recommended Olive Oil which I would mix into my other creams and shower washes. It's true that a lot of so called natural products are some what misleading. Castor Oil though is a new one for me. I've been using body shops Coconut range, coconut oil is another very good oil, and it has been helping. I'm interested to try this and see if it works better.

  2. Ooo, I might have to try that. I have super oily/super dry skin.

  3. Hi! I came across your blog..and saw your post on the oil cleansing method..I'm interested in trying out the skin is so complicated I've tried every product out there..from spa to organic etc...
    I was wondering how would I incorporate this OCM into my daily routine or should you only do it a specific number of times a week..thanks

  4. Hi nee! The great thing about the Oil Cleansing Method is you can adjust it to suit. I use it daily, sometimes once in the morning & once at night, other times I only use it at night. It depends how my skin feels.
    My advice is try the method & don't be afraid to experiment - both with the frequency & oil quantities, you'll know when your skin likes it & when it doesn't! Good luck :)

  5. Wow, that was informative! Thank you so much. I have recently switched from very harsh cosmoceutical products to pure coconut oil and my skin is loving it. However, I am still using the last of the old facewash and was wondering what I could use to clean my face with. I'll definitely be trying this. I'm weaning myself of all unnatural, chemical personal products.

  6. I've been using OCM for a little over 2 years now, and it works great for me. In the summer, when my skin gets oilier, I might use soap once or twice a week just when I'm rinsing everything off in the shower, but year-round, I'm just using either EVOO or EVOO/CO. Love it.

  7. Isn't it better to cloth and then steam instead of just using cloth?

  8. Hi would like to know if i use OCM at night, what kinda skincare routine i have to do in the morning? I hv oily tzone and blackheads and want to rid of commercial products that will only rid my natural oil. Do u use cleanser, toner and moisturizer in the morning if u use only OCM at night? What other alternative is there?

  9. hey!

    I'm trying the OCM right now and after a few days I am seeing improvement in my skin!

    Like i have breakouts like you, centred on my forehead, and I picked at them (trying to break the habit lol) and it's left scars, but they aren't as visible now! I love it!
    Thanks for posting about it!


  10. Sorry for the delay in replying to some of these comments - my email notifications are a bit sporadic at the moment, it seems.

    I'm glad so many people are having great results with this method - remember in the winter months you may need to adjust the amounts you use again to provide more moisture (only do this if you feel your skin needs it though).

    Anon. #1 - I'm not 100% sure what you mean.. If you mean would it be better to cloth the mixture off and then steam (by this I presume you mean head-over-bowl steam) than to use the cloth to steam the mixture then I would say no, probably not. It is better to steam while the mixture is still on your face to really help it cleanse the pores.

    Anon #2 - The beauty of this method is that you can adjust everything to suit you. As I said in the post I personally just use Witch Hazel or Rosewater on a cotton ball in the morning to lightly remove any excess oil & freshen my face, finished with a light moisturiser. You can even use the method twice a day if your skin likes it.

    Thanks for all the comments people, it's great to hear so much feedback! :)

  11. I have been doing this for a week or so and I think it is the best skin care routine I've ever heard of. I've always had super-dry skin that is not prone to break-outs (I get a zit maybe every two months), and all I ever did to clean my face was wipe with water in the shower and use toner the rest of the time. Using soap on my face makes my skin flake, so I researched, and discovered the evils of soap. ;).
    When I started this, my skin looked a little nasty the first day (gross impurities), then after that it has glowed and been very smooth. I think it has also blended my skin tone quite a bit. I have tried doing this every night and tried skipping days in between and found that it works just as well either way. For me, at least. Yay for OCM!

  12. hey there..i have been using OCM for about a month now..and I'm starting to realize that somehow my skin isn't going any better, or should i say worst. I have an acne prone skin, with an oily face,especially on my T-zone. I use a mixture of Olive Oil & Castor Oil (60/40). My skin is so sensitive that I have tried from the most expensive product and to the cheapest in store, but yet, it always turns out the same or worser. I am really3 worried...for once I am wishing that I am able to go out without make-up and not having to worry how horrible i look like without make up. PLEASE, give me some suggestions... =((

    just in case, here's my email,

  13. Hi Shabrina,
    Have you tried different ratios of castor oil & olive oil? If you have oily skin it is better to use more castor oil than olive oil; I would suggest trying co 60/40 evoo at first, if your skin improves with that ratio but is still oily, continue to tip the ratio slightly in favour of castor oil until you have the correct balance. Adding a drop of lavender essential oil (one of the more gentle oils) may also help calm your skin (but use in moderation!).
    If you still have no luck I suggest looking at other factors which may cause skin problems. Diet is usually a big factor, either from a poor diet or perhaps allergies if your diet is otherwise healthy. It's worth looking into if nothing else works. Drink plenty of water.
    I hope you start to see results!

  14. how long have you been using this method? Are the results still good?

    I 've been using ocm since almost 2 weeks ago everyday. I had horrible hormonal breakouts before that. I love the results it gives me. So far, my skin loves it. But I'm afraid if I have breakouts in the future like some people do after awhile using ocm. It's winter now in Australia. It cleanse and doesn't dry out my skin. :)

    I tried using microfibre cloth at first. You're right, it ruined the cloth and I felt that the cloth was rougher than it was before. Ooh and the oil that was stuck to microfibre.. Now I'm using normal cotton face cloth.

  15. Hi Aisha

    I have oily skin and acne-prone skin. Before this my daily routine is I just use my normal facial cleanser and after that I use tea tree oil. The tea tree oil does helps to reduce my acne.

    I’ve been doing the oil cleansing method for 2 times now (yesterday evening & this morning). I can’t find castor oil so the oil that I used is a mix of sunflower oil + Extra Virgin Olive Oil. So far, it helps to make my face moisturise and my face is not flaky. After a few hours now, my skin is also not as oily as it used to be. But I did saw little pimples at the side of my lips and a bit of redness at my left cheek. Is Castor oil safe for our skin? I feel like I want to leave out castor oil as I'm scared if it's not safe. I also did feel that the skin surrounding my lips and my cheeks is sightly itchy. Did I do something wrong here? How many times can we do the OCM ? Can anyone help to advice me? Thanks in advance.

  16. Mrs Alfan; I've been using the method for a few years now. It's definitely still effective, as long as I'm careful to note changes in my skin (the ones which are not hormone related) and change the mixture accordingly then the results continue to be good :)

    One thing to note is I've read that in hotter climates you may find OCM far too heavy. I would suggest in summer only using it on cool days and at night, and on a less regular basis if you find this. Good luck!

    Shanz; I've never used Sunflower oil in OCM, I'll have to look into that one.
    Castor oil is absolutely safe for you skin; it's generally sold as a laxative for internal consumption, but traditionally it is known for treating numerous skin conditions including burns, sunburn, cuts and abrasions. Personally I use OCM once every night, but this may be too much for some people. Sometimes it is too much for me, so I take note of how my skin is and treat it accordingly. It may take some trial and error in recognising what your skin needs and getting the mixture right, but once you've got the hang of it it's pretty easy :) The pimples may just be a 'detox' - the OCM drawing out deep impurities, if they don't heal within a week then I would discontinue use or try adjusting the mixture. As for the itchiness, if this continues I would do a patch test on the inside of your elbow of each of the oils you use in your mixture alone, if it'd an allergic reaction to the oil you will be able to tell which one.

  17. I know this is old, but I stumbled upon this post and I'm excited to try it!

    I've been using Tea Tree Oil for a couple of years and I love it, but I'm looking for a bit more love for my skin.

    Thanks for the great post!

  18. Hey Aisha, I have a question. When u said the safe dilution for essential oil is 1 drop of EO to every 10ml ocm mix.

    Say if i use lavender oil(LO) and Tea tree oil(TTO), will that be:

    1) 1 drop of LO and 1 drop of TTO for 10 ml ocm mix; or,

    2) 1 drop of LO and 1 drop of TTO for 20 ml of ocm mix?

  19. Hey Clover.. Sorry for the delay in replying.

    I would say that as long as you don't exceed 1 drop of TTO in 10ml of ocm mix then you should be fine - LO doesn't have the same potential sensitivity issues that TTO does.
    Of course it's best not to overdo the Lavender Oil, but you can add a couple more drops where you would need to be careful with the TTO.
    (So basically you can do #1 and be safe. If it was TTO and any other essential oil then I would recommend #2)