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Troubleshooting the Oil Cleansing Method

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The Oil Cleansing Method TroubleshootingA few months ago I wrote a post about the oil cleansing method. I 100% stand by the effectiveness of this skin care ritual. As I stated (and showed before & afters) in my original oil cleansing post, it has been an integral part of clearing and smoothing my skin. 

Since writing my post on oil cleansing, I realized there are a lot of “iffy” habits that you can accidentally get into with this cleansing method. 

What is the Oil Cleansing Method?

Before we get into the trouble shooting, let me refresh your memory on exactly what oil cleansing is. It is exactly what the name implies. You are cleansing your skin and removing makeup with a combination of a nourishing oil and a cleansing oil. You massage the oil into your skin for about a minute and then use a hot washcloth to remove the oil. Repeat the hot wash cloth 1 or 2 more times then follow up with a serum or face oil. Like dissolves like and cleansing with oil is known for balancing the skin’s oil production and detoxing the pores. It is also great for dry skin because unlike soap based cleansers, it does not strip the skin of much needed oils. 

Benefits of the Oil Cleansing Method:

  • Balances the skin’s oil production
  • Reduce blackheads & whiteheads
  • Maintains healthy bacteria balance on the skin
  • Removes hardened impurities in the pores
  • Added exfoliation due to wet heat and a washcloth
  • Moisturizes and nourishes while helping erase fine lines
  • Leaves skin feeling healthy, not tight and sore
  • Removes make up and dirt thoroughly and gently
  • Nourishes the eyelashes
  • Invigorates and relaxes

The oil cleansing method must be done right in order to be effective or you can also cause more skin issues. 

As you can see, there are so many benefits of oil cleansing and it very likely could be the answer to your skin care issues, but there are many pitfalls that could ruin your experience so let’s jump right in and make sure we’re oil cleansing correctly!

Troubleshooting Oil Cleansing

  1. Washcloths can be incredibly irritating for skin.  I recommend using baby washcloths if you have any thought that you might be sensitive.  I have used THESE.  Your washcloth might feel really soft now, but over time excessive use and washing will stiffen and degrade the fibers and could cause tiny cuts in the skin.  This is a really bad thing when you are trying to remove bacteria from your skin. 
  2. Find a place you can hang your cloth properly.  The bottom line-a wet cloth will quickly form bacteria.  Best case scenario-buy enough cloths so you can use a clean one daily.
  3. Temperature is important-If you get your cloth too hot, you can exacerbate the appearance of broken capillaries and other skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea and dermatitis.  Hot water will also dry your skin out, causing your skin to produce more oil!  That being said, steaming your skin is very beneficial when done correctly-it softens the skin and allows for easy exfoliation.  I like to get my cloth really hot, then hold it right under my face.  The cloth doesn’t touch my face until it has cooled to a lukewarm temp.
  4. If you are oily, washing off excess oil with a water based cleanser is a safe way to ensure no breakouts.  There is controversy around leaving oil on the skin when you are prone to clogging.  “Like dissolves like” is true, but honestly, it’s just too iffy when your skin is prone to clogging.
  5. Hemp oil is a great cleansing oil and can be used instead of castor oil. It rates a 0 on the comedogenic scale, meaning it will not clog your pores. Castor oil rates a 1 which is still very low but if you’re nervous about using oils due to clogging-hemp is the best choice. Safflower, squalane and sunflower oils also rate a 0 and could be used as your nourishing oil. 
  6. Get your proportions right!  This can be tricky and you have to be ready for some trial and error.  Basically, the more oily you are, the more cleansing oil you’ll need.  Since I am not oily, I put 1 tbsp. of castor oil in an 8 ounce bottle, then filled the rest with a nourishing oil.  If you are oily, you could very likely be using half cleansing oil and half nourishing oil.  It all depends on your skin type and how your skin responds.
  7. Add in essential oils-bacteria is an issue for acne prone skin.  Adding 10 drops to an 8 ounce oil/castor oil mixture is a great idea.  I would add tea treelavender and/or ylang ylang oils.  This will help fight bacteria and fungus as well as balance the skin. You might be interested in my Oil Cleanser Recipe for Oily Skin.

As you can see-there are a lot of opportunities for failure with this cleansing method.  It must be done correctly to reap the benefits and not have negative side effects.

Before oil cleansing, I was extremely unbalanced, meaning: I was very dry yet very sensitive to allergy bumps and blackheads-it was complicated!  Anyway, I love oil cleansing because it soothes my dry skin.  I do not experience dry patches anymore and after the initial detox period, my skin is happy and smooth again.

When done right, the oil cleansing method is a very valid form of cleansing in my book. For many, many people, it works very well.

If you need more opinions on this method, I have compiled a list of posts from fellow bloggers and health blogs about the oil cleansing method.  These are from blogs I trust.

I think the biggest issue people run into with the oil cleansing method is a dirty washcloth. Be sure to invest in at least 5 cloths and be willing to toss them out after a couple months of use. The last thing you want to do is use a cloth that is filled with bacteria. 

I hope this post might answer some of your questions and apprehensions about the oil cleansing method.  The bottom line is, everyone’s skin is different.  This method is not for everyone.   When you find something your skin responds positively to, you should stick with it!

xx, Jenni

P.S.   If you are experiencing a “detox” period that lasts longer than 2-3 weeks, it is either time to give up this method or change the oils and proportions you’re using. 

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Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips

Jennifer Phillips worked as a licensed aesthetician for over 8 years before creating the green beauty blog, Jenni Raincloud and her natural skin care line, J. Raincloud Organics. Jennifer has been blogging full time for 9 years and loves to gain and share knowledge on how to achieve beautiful skin the natural way.

59 thoughts on “Troubleshooting the Oil Cleansing Method”

  1. Hi Jenny…I too tried the OCM. Seemed to go well at first but like you I’m a serious clogger! The fallout was no bueno! What is the commercial products you suggest? I’m typically dry ( I’m dehydrated most of the time) to normal but if my skin isn’t balanced I get very shiny.

  2. Same here. I have tried different oils, essential oils, etc and nothing seems to work. I am interested in the commercial product you mentioned too.

  3. Hi,
    I used the OCM about 6 months ago. I tried it for a few months and it was great at first. I think somewhere along the way I really messed up and now my skin is worse than it has ever been. Frequent hormonal breakouts and clogged pores. I stopped using the OCM and am now using a product line Dzialo made out of NW Portland, OR. I love it, because it is so gentle and feels great, but I’m still suffering from acne and clogged pores. Would love any suggestions. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Becky – I had the same not so great experience and am still trying to get my skin back to what I know after 6+ months 🙁 I feel for you.. not fun and not cheap trying to figure out what will work or not work to resolve the issues.

      Jenny- LOVE your blog!!! So glad to hear you sing praises about Eminence. I’ve been using their products for the last several months while trying to calm and soothe my angry skin (quite a frustrating and emotional challenge I might add). Will be excited to hear your thoughts about the Probiotic Cleanser.. I adore it!!

  4. I’ve been using the OCM for about 4 months now and I still experience breakouts. My skin is very oily and extremely sensitive to many products out there. Since I have acne prone skin, before I purchase a product, I will copy the ingredients list and put it into a website I use and have it scanned to see if there are any ingredients that will clog the skin or cause irritation. It’s been very helpful and prevented me from buying certain products. The most recent product I purchased looked great and shouldn’t have created irritation, but now I’m wondering if I’m allergic to orange and/or citrus type oils. I was interested in the cleanser you use and wonder if it will help my skin. Please share!

    1. Hello, what was the website you mentioned. I’m so overwhelmed by all these products that claim to be the “best”. Unfortunately, I buy a lot of them. I would like to check out the website to help me decide. Thank you!

  5. I’m also interested in the products you suggest. I have very oily, acne skin. Blah!!!! I will try the method you posted here for OCM but it hasn’t been the best in the past. How many times a week do you suggest?

  6. I have been using the OCM with pure Safflower oil with Frankincense, Melaleuca, Lavender and Clove essential oils. Safflower oil is the only 0 clogging oil (besides hemp) so I went with it. Castor oil is a 2 on a scale from 0-5 and I read that oily, acne prone skin should not use anything but a 0. I was scared to use it. My mix seemed to clear up my skin that I’ve been battling with since Jan when I started my own face wash. Long story short, after having 2 weeks of clear skin I broke out…I’m losing heart here! I had to resort to using harsh proactiv then using my mix when my skin gets dry. Which cleanser did you use?

  7. Hi Jenni! I made this for myself and loved it so much that I made it for my sister who has very troubled skin. She had such a bad reaction to it and you helped with great advice on a returned email. I started just recently feeling really clogged and my Estitician also mentioned my skin looked not too good. She recommended a charcoal bar from LUSH. I’ve been using this and it is amazing!! I think that I will turn back to OCM like you said during the winter months. But have you ever heard of charcoal for problem skin? It seriously has worked wonders.

    1. Hi Trina! How is your sister’s skin doing? Yes, I’ve heard of charcoal for clogged skin-I haven’t experimented with it yet but I for sure plan to! I’m so glad you are having great luck with it! I have seen other blogger’s post about doing a charcoal mask-definitely going to try that soon! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I tried OCM in late February, but gave up after the end of March. I had just undergone Effudex treatment, and my skin was raw and sensitive. I did not want to add any chemicals so oil cleaning sounded perfect. My skin is still not great, but I use Munuka honey to clean my face in the morning, and your Lavender mostuizer. I swapped out the olive oil for jojoba and my skin loves it. I use a witch hazel toner/cleaner to wipe my skin before bed. Although I have sensitive skin & Roseacea, I have a very oily T zone. Any suggestions for clogged pores and blackheads.

  9. Jenni, how do you feel about the Eminence Line? I know you enjoyed the skin lightening serum and now you use the cleanser. Do they have any anti-aging products that you think are worth a try? I was using Boots No. 7 Intense Day and Night Cream, but they do have chemicals that I am not comfortable with putting on my skin.
    I tried the OCM for 2 months and my skin broke out so badly, that I am still recovering 4 weeks later and my skin NEVER broke out before, no matter what I put on it. NOw I am using Honest Company baby wash for my face until I figure out a cleanser that will get me on track.

  10. Hello Jenni

    I tried the OCM when I first learned about it from you, but it is not something I have stuck with. I have dry/sensitive skin which did not like the OCM…
    You mentioned using Jojoba oil… I found it to cause breakouts. I also read that Jojoba oil is not recommended for use on the face because it is more like a wax than an oil and can clog pores. Is this just dependent on your skin type as well? I believe when I was using the OCM that I had part Almond (my skin loves almond oil!) part Coconut and just a touch a Castor. Perhaps, my skin did not like it a lot because I tried it during early spring. Maybe, you’re right that OCM is beneficial for winter months. And during the spring & summer a regular cleanser should be called for. I found that my skin felt great after the initial cleanse, but became irritated after using the OCM for a few few weeks… Thanks for your advice! Glad to see you came back to an old post to update it for all your fans to try again. 😉

    1. Angelique, that is the same response I got from the OCM.
      I’m going to try the commercial cleanser Jenni recommended. ..

  11. I was going to email you about this very topic no fooling, lol so glad you wrote this, great follow up. I love the idea of oil cleansing. I tried all kinds of oils apricot, macadamia nut, castor, jojoba, olive, grapeseed tried them all single, made concoctions of all of them, never found the right blend. Apparently all these years my dry skin was oily skin, who knew. I tried OCM several times before your advice (gentle wash cloth like the muslin ones, hot water yes I actually put the hot wash cloth directly on my face) look for a water based cleanser and add castor to the jojoba for oily skin. I will take, I’ll try again convinced that I’ll find what works. That probiotic cleanser you mentioned is that the water base product you said oily should use to cleans the face? Thank you again for the update, thank you 🙂

  12. I am an OCM dropout. Just made me too oily no matter what I did. So I switched to a liquid African black soap with raw shea butter if i feel dry and it has been miraculous on my hormonal acne. I have been using it almost a year and my skin hasn’t been so clear in years!

      1. Yeah, it’s been a great find, especially since it’s so inexpensive and lasts a long time. I had an initial ‘detox’ of about 1-2 weeks (can’t remember exactly as it’s been a while ago) where I got lots of little bumps on my forehead. and then my skin just kept getting clearer and clearer. it practically glows. the only breakouts I get at all now are 1 or 2 right before my period comes. this is how i was before, for pretty much all my life, until my hormones went wacko about 3 years ago. I tried everything. OCM was the last thing i tried before the black soap. my skin did look healthier, but it didn’t stop the breakouts and despite using a very small amount of oil and feeling like I removed it sufficiently, I was very shiny and oily pretty much constantly. the black soap and raw shea butter combo keeps my skin clear, firm and well balanced.

  13. I know this is an old post but had to add my two cents worth. I forts heard about OCM from Wellness Mama almost 2 years ago. I have had horrible skin…oily but aging, cystic acne, etc my whole life. I have always eaten pretty clean but cutting out all grains really helped my skin clear up. African Black soap was helpful too, but I have been doing great with OCM. My oil really evened out…I used to be terribly oily an hour or two after washing with soap. A few things that have helped: Before applying the oil I use a damp washcloth to remove as much makeup as I can. Then I start with a fresh washcloth to remove the oil. I bought tons of dark colored washcloths at target so I have fresh ones every day. In the morning all I do is use warm water on a washcloth to remove and residue, or sometimes apply raw honey for 5 minutes or so before I hop in the shower. Have tried many different oils. Castor mixed with jojoba worked well but right now am using straight coconut oil.

  14. Jennie i have been rtiyng out most of your DIY stuffs. When it comes OCm I am not sure of the Frequency. Pls can u temme how often can I use this method??

  15. Hello,
    I have just purchased an oil cleanser and am so scared to try it:( It is the Instanatual oil cleanser the ingredients are jojoba oil, olive oil, hemp seed oil, buckweat oil and essential oils. I seem to righ now have really dry peeling skin in some areas but it looks oily:( with lots of little bumps. I want to try this but am way to scared. Have you heard of this at all?

    1. Mandy-The ingredients in your oil cleanser are great. I think you might find some relief with your skin peeling. The OCM might help with balancing your skin. Your skin is really out of balance. I know this condition well because I can get out of balance too. I would absolutely recommend you doing the OCM and using the cleanser you have. Everyone is different, but there’s a good chance that you will have great results! BTW-the bumps could also be due to the imbalance. In my case, curing my out of balance skin came when I found a really good moisturizer and oil cleansed in the evening. Go to THIS post for the products that dramatically improved my skin. Good luck!!

      1. Thank you so very much.. I have been wondering what to do in th a.m as I workout and am just using water right now but feel I need to clean better after I am sweating. You say you used these products in the winter, it is spring/summer now do you junk it is ok for me to use it will they be too oily for this time of year? Currently I do not use a moisturizer at night because I cannot find one that I really like and I am so afraid to try anything new. So if I use the oil
        Cleanser I have in the evening followed by the moisturizer you suggested and then cleanser and moisturizer in the am that may help too.? Also do these products have chemicals ? Your help is so greatly appreciated!!!!!!


        1. Mandy-Eminence is very natural. The only chemicals they use are the necessary ones to preserve, but even still, their preservative is the most natural one possible.
          I have not started a summer routine. I won’t use the coconut moisturizer in the summer because it is more for drier skin types and I’m not super dry in the summer like in the winter. Only use this moisturizer if you feel like you are very dehydrated. Honestly-You can’t go wrong with Eminence. There are a lot of products to search through but I would go through them and pick one that makes sense for your skin type. I have a hunch, from what you’ve told me that the coconut moisturizer might be too much. I would look for something specifically for sensitive skin. I think you might really like the cleanser though. It’s super nourishing and gentle. You do need something more cleansing in the morning for sure.
          Also, you can use a thicker moisturizer at night and a lighter one during the day. Our skin is in repair mode at night and will use the moisturizer you choose for your skin’s benefit and you won’t have to deal with oiliness under you makeup.
          Also, check into a toner. A toner can go a long way helping balance your skin. I just did a post on a super easy toner DIY-Go HERE for that. Or try Eminence for this too. You’ll love spritzing a toner on-it feels so soothing and your skin will benefit. Use it in between the cleanser and moisturizer.
          I hope this makes sense!! Feel free to ask me any questions-I just hope I can help!

  16. Hi Jenni, always love your stuff. I’m going to start OCM again, and I am wondering what combination works best for combination skin?



  17. Jenni, do you think if I try ocm and not use it everyday that it will work/ not clog my pores compare to using it everyday?

  18. So,are you still against oil cleansing for your own skin? I just ordered pumpkin seed oil and I’m so nervous about using it. I’ve tried honey and I broke out horribly bad! I’m also starting to cut out processed foods and de-stress with yoga.

    1. Megan-I need to review this post because I LOVE oil cleansing for my skin! It’s truly changed my skin but there was a detox period where I wasn’t too sure about it. I do it morning and night now and can’t live without it! Keep going with it. I think you’ll end up seeing good results!

  19. Hi there, just started Ocm, day 4 and it’s winter here. I am finding my face extremely dry and flakes. Can I use something on the face after shower to hydrate skin or will this make it longer for skin to adjust. Will I need to use anything else after skin has adjusted?

    1. Tammy-So sorry to respond so late-This is very different-I’ve never heard of anyone getting dry and flakey skin unless you are going through some kind of detox. OCM should really help hydrate your skin. How much castor oil are you using. Castor oil is drying and should be mixed with a more nourishing oil. Sometimes you have to play with the proportions to figure out what is best for your skin. Let me know how you are doing.

  20. Hi Jenni! HELP! So I’ve been using the oil cleansing method for a little bit now and I love it so far but I don’t know if this is a washcloth issue (maybe) but my skin got super rough and it just looks like my pores expanded and leaves just awful indents in my skin and makes it look like I’ve broken out. Whenever I used any other facial cleansers and stuff my skin never did that (i also never used a wash cloth, just my hands) So I’m thinking maybe the hot water with the wash cloth has really damaged my skin. So to get that smooth texture back should I just get baby wash cloths?? And then wait till it gets luke warm to lay it on my skin?


    1. Courtney-Oh my!! That is really strange. It’s true, a wash cloth can be harsh to the skin and should be used very carefully. A baby wash cloth is much better. I’m not sure this would cause your skin to become rough and indented though. Are you saying that you oil cleansed before but minus a cloth and had good results, but once you used a cloth you had this reaction? I can’t imagine. Could it be something else causing this problem? Some people just shouldn’t do TCM-most should but some don’t have good results. My advice is to do what works (unless it’s loaded with harmful ingredients!).

      1. It wasn’t necessarily rough. It’s really hard to explain. My skin broke out on the sides of my face. Not so much my T zone or anything but I think I was using really rough wash cloths and the skin around my t zone just started to look like my pores were bigger and it just wasn’t smooth. My best friend even said my skin was clear but it just isn’t a flat smooth surface. Like I said it’s really hard to explain :/ I’d have to show you a picture. But I am using cold pressed jojoba oil and it’s all really good ingredients. I think it might just be the wash cloths I was using. I got some baby ones today so hopefully it’ll help. I tried doing the ocm without a wash cloth but I can’t ever get all of the oil out of my skin

  21. Dear Jenni,
    I’m 35 and I’ve suddenly started developing clogged pores on the cheeks. I think it’s hormonal. Do you think that OCM could help me too?
    I live in a tropical city. And I am afraid that the oil will only cause further breakouts.

    1. Niki-I believe so. My skin is so much clearer when I commit to OCM. You should look for or make an oil cleanser with clay in it. That will help detox and cut back on the oily side of it! You can find a recipe HERE. Good luck!

  22. Instead of standing around with a wet towel on your face could you do this in the shower? Apply it to your face and steam in the shower then rinse off?

    1. Nichole-You could-I find that for some reason, it’s not as effective I think because I can’t get the wash cloth hot enough. But that being said, the heat and steam from the shower will have really softened your skin so much more then at the sink so you might really be on to something! I’ll be trying it again.

  23. Hi Jenni!

    I started the oil cleansing method around 2 or 3 weeks ago and I can’t say that I’ve seen much difference. I have combination skin where my nose and chin are consistently clogged with blackheads and whiteheads but my whole face gets dry easily. Super annoying and hard to find the right cleansers! I was hoping all my blackheads would magically dissolve after starting oil cleansing, but they’re still there. :/ Maybe a tiny bit less so, but still there nonetheless. The only thing that seems to make them go away for a couple days is pore strips and I’ve read those aren’t good for your skin.

    I don’t know if I should give up oil cleansing all together or try a new oil. So far I’ve only used the Burt’s Bees cleansing oil. Any tips would be super helpful! 🙂

    1. Rebekah-I would stick with it longer. It takes a good month to really notice benefits. I actually don’t hate pore strips. I have a DIY version too! I wouldn’t do them too often-like maybe 2x a month. You could also up the detoxing ingredients in the cleansing oil. I have several recipes but there is one that is so good for clogged skin. Go HERE for the pores strips and HERE for the oil cleanser. Good luck!

  24. hi Jenni,
    I am 66 years old and live in the high desert of western Colorado where everything is very dry! What do you suggest for my pretty normal skin that has never been prone to break outs?
    thank you,

  25. Hi Jenni!
    Am new to oil cleansing method and was using one oil, the Sweet Almond Oil. It’s NOT organic and cold pressed though. After using nearly 2 weeks, I started developing like small bumps, my skin gets dry and a bit itchy. I stopped for a few days and I noticed the bumps and itchiness are fading away. Do you think it’s detoxification or something else? I still want to consider oil cleansing.

    Hoping for your reply and thank you!

    1. Christine-Hi! It’s impossible to really know what could be causing the bumps but I think it could be detox. Are you using a cleansing oil like castor oil with your almond oil? That could be a problem if you aren’t. Since you don’t want to give up, I’d try using a different oil and nixing the sweet almond oil. What is your skin type? You might need a lighter oil. Also, you might need to have a new wash cloth daily. Maybe you have a very slight nut allergy? If you have coconut oil (unrefined) or virgin olive oil you could try those oils instead for a while. They aren’t exactly light oils but they don’t contain nuts. The oil cleansing method isn’t for everyone since everyone’s skin is so unique. I hope you can find the issue and continue though! Have you thought of honey cleansing or cleansing with grains?

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