The oil cleansing method: is it right for you and how to do it

Dr Hannah Sweilam

Oil cleansing is becoming increasingly popular, but is it suitable for everyone? Dr Hannah Sweilam takes a look and tells you how to do it properly.

Ever considered cleaning your face with oil?  The oil cleansing method is a hot topic right now but it seems a bit weird, right?  When it comes to ridding your face of the day’s dirt and grime, chances are your inclination isn’t to reach for the cooking oil.  There is method to the madness, though.

The Ancient Romans were among the first to appreciate the cleansing benefits of oil, and a trip to the Roman baths was not complete without having been doused in olive oil which would then be removed using a curved blade, hot water and steam.  Curved blade aside, people are rediscovering this cleansing method and finding it to be effective.

As we learnt in our chemistry lessons, like dissolves like. This means that oil does not dissolve in water- but oil does dissolve in oil.  Our skin produces natural oils which trap dirt and other impurities, and a lot of make-up products contain oil (usually mineral oil).  The aim of this cleansing method is to dissolve, draw out and wipe away the oils and impurities that have built-up in pores.

I’m a fan of this method as it leaves my skin feeling deep cleansed.  Done properly, it won’t leave skin feeling greasy or heavy.  Here’s a quick guide to help you get the most from this method, should you decide to try it.


5 steps: How to oil cleanse

Step 1. Choose your oil

The first step is to choose the right oil. Sunflower seed oil is a good one to start with if you’re unsure where to begin. Caster oil, hazelnut oil and grape seed oil can work well too.  Castor oil is very deep cleansing and should be mixed with at least the same quantity of another oil, so that it doesn’t dry the skin.  I don’t recommend coconut oil as it’s a known comedogenic (blocks pores).  Olive oil seems to work well for some people and cause others to break out in spots.

Step 2.

Pour about a tea spoon of oil onto your fingertips, rub your fingertips together and smooth the oil onto your face.

Step 3.

Take a few minutes to gently message the oil into your skin, allowing it to seep into your pores and soften any impacted oils and impurities.

Step 4.

Take a soft wash cloth (preferably a microfibre one) and drench it in warm water. The water needs to be warm enough to open your pores and allow the oil and impurities to be removed, but not so warm that it burns your skin.

Step 5.

Hold the wash cloth over your face and leave it there until it cools. Then gently wipe the oil from your skin. Mixed in with the oil will be impurities and dead skin cells. You may need to repeat this final step a couple of times to make sure the oil is completely removed. Do not rub hard or scrub as this may damage the skin’s surface and aggravate sensitive skin, acne or rosacea.


This method should leave skin feeling deep cleansed and soft, and if you have congested pores, they should look less congested after a few cleanses.  This method doesn’t need to be undertaken every day; too much deep cleansing dries the skin. Once or twice a week is usually enough.

Oil cleansing won’t be for everyone.  It’s more time-consuming than using a regular cleanser, it generates more laundry (the wash cloths), and some people’s skin just doesn’t take to it. If you look at the reviews on,  you’ll see people have varying reactions to it, with some claiming it’s been a disaster for their skin and others who swear by it. But if it does work for you, you’ll have a new and natural way to deep cleanse your skin.



Who is it best suited to? It can be used for all types of skin.  If you have oily skin, caster oil can have a drying effect and may be a good choice as it is very good at sinking into pores and is particularly deep cleansing. (Try mixing it with sunflower seed oil so that’s it’s not too drying.)

Will it cure my acne? It may help in some cases but it will depend on the underlying causes of your acne.

Will it make my acne worse? It could if you choose a comodogenic (pore blocking oil) or don’t remove it properly. Stay away from coconut oil.

Can I use essential oils or fragrant oils? No, essential oils or highly scented oils could burn or irritate the skin.

Are all oils suitable? As mentioned before castor oil can be drying and some studies have shown that olive oil can irritate the skin so it is best to avoid it. Coconut oil can block pores and make acne worse.

If it’s ok for my skin is it ok for my baby’s skin? No, research shows that oils can damage a baby’s skin, so are best avoided unless advised by your doctor.


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