We wash our skin to keep it clean. That much we can all agree on. From here, it gets complicated and sometimes even controversial. I’ll get to my point immediately – Oil Cleansing is by far the most effective cleansing method. It is deeply nourishing, cleansing, and respectful of your body. Whether you are old or young, oily skinned or dry, I am willing to bet that switching to oil cleansing will benefit your skin health tremendously. Throw away your face wash, save your soap bars for your armpits, and get yourself a bottle of cleansing oil (Herbal Oil Cleanse).
Modern cosmetics and skin care practices have us believing that cleaning our skin is similar to polishing a table. We spray and soak and scrape and scrub, then we polish and dry until our skin is smooth and tight and glossy. But the truth is that treating your skin as if it’s a surface to be scrubbed until squeaky clean is extraordinarily damaging to the many components that are essential to proper skin function and in turn, to your health and beauty alike.
Our skin is not a single flat surface, it is a living ecosystem made up of many intricate moving parts working together. The top layer of skin, called the Stratum Corneum, is the foundation of your skin barrier. It hosts two essential elements for healthy skin: first is Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF), which is the skin’s very own moisturizer (made “in house” & fresh daily!). NMF is responsible for keeping your skin supple and elastic, for sealing in moisture, and for locking out toxins and pathogens. The second essential element that is hosted on the skin’s surface is your microbiome- all of the beneficial bacteria and other microbial life that work together with the immune system to keep you safe and healthy. (For more about the skin microbiome read this)
The problem with most cleansers is that they decimate the skin barrier. Let’s look at a few key issues:
- Soap – Often advertised as 100% natural. This is true enough for traditionally made soap bars. Unfortunately, natural is not at all synonymous with gentle. Soap does an excellent job of adhering to dirt and oils on your skin and pulling them off. It also dissolves and rinses off your skin’s protective moisture layer. Moreover, the ideal pH of healthy skin is rather acidic, hovering between a pH of 4.5 - 6. Soap on the other hand tends to have a high pH of 8-10. This means that the soap wreaks havoc on your skin’s microbiome. It takes your skin time to recover from such an attack. Now if you are washing your skin every day, twice a day, you can imagine that it gets harder and harder to maintain a healthy and balanced protective layer under such relentless perpetual assault.
- “Gentle” Soapless Cleanser – There are endless variations of these cleansers. They tend to have creamy or gel-like textures. They look and feel benign, often with minimal lather and low-key fragrances. However, if they are not “soap,” they are probably surfactant based. They remove much more than dirt and excess oil. Often, surfactant-based cleansers disrupt and deplete the oils that make up the skin barrier. Then, once the skin barrier is compromised, these surfactants bond with the exposed areas on your top layer of skin, remaining to cause havoc even after the cleanser is rinsed off. This initiates a cycle of increased skin sensitivity and inflammation, because now that your skin has been sensitized, it is more easily triggered into reacting to other irritants- both in your environment and in other skin care and makeup products.
- Preservatives – Any formulation that contains water-based ingredients must include preservatives. These are essential to prevent pathogenic contamination. However, preservatives are created to seek and destroy microorganisms. They do not have a mechanism by which they are able to distinguish between “good” and “bad” microbiota. This means that by default, all products containing preservatives are contributing to an imbalance in your microbiome. Moreover, many common preservatives could cause irritation and trigger allergic responses, especially from already sensitive or over-cleansed skin.
- Acne – Often acne problems go hand in hand with high oil production. For as long as I can remember, the strategy of anti-acne products has been to attack the oil and add some antibacterial & exfoliating ingredients. The result of this is that acne sufferers end up with dried out skin that is only more irritable and prone to inflammation and infection, and guess what else – oil production levels that go through the roof! The more you attack the skin’s built-in healing mechanisms, of which oil production is an important aspect, the harder your body works to supply more.
Looking at the broader context, imagine what is happening if you are using a cleanser with surfactants + preservatives or a soap bar every day, or even twice a day. Probably after cleansing, you are also applying a lotion or a serum (or both). These moisturizing products likely also contain some surfactants as well as preservatives. Then, as you move on to makeup, you might have a primer or a lightweight liquid foundation product – probably during this step you are depositing a few more layers of preservatives and other ingredients that are preventing your skin from resetting and rebalancing. Even if all of these products are from premium, high quality, possibly “natural” or eco-friendly brands, at the end of the day, if you are not supporting your skin barrier, you are not achieving optimal skin health and glow.
Now that I have explained the problems, I want to focus on the beauty and the benefit of the oil cleanse. Benefits of Oil Cleansing:
- Supports the integrity of the skin barrier and microbiome.
- Removes dirt and debris from skin.
- Pulls off excess oil without depleting important skin barrier lipids.
- Supports gentle exfoliation.
- Encourages a routine of facial massage to stimulate lymphatic drainage.
- Balances skin’s natural oil production.
- Promotes a sense of self love and connection to your skin.
This is my recommended Oil Cleansing Ritual – step by step:
- Pump a few squirts of oil cleanse into palm.
- Massage oil into dry face using gentle circular motions.
- Time allowing, get into some deeper face massage: smooth out furrows, rub stress out of eyebrows, stimulate lymphatic drainage down the neck and décolleté.
- Soak a soft washcloth in hot water and wring it out- leaving the washcloth damp (not dripping wet) and warm.
- Place over face and let it steam for a moment, or until washcloth cools.
- Gently remove oil from face with the washcloth, using a gentle pulling/wiping motion.
- Rinse washcloth and if desired, you could repeat steps 4-6 once more.
- Face will feel clean, balanced, and hydrated when done. If done correctly, you should not feel any slick oiliness on skin.
- Follow cleanse by moisturizing immediately to lock in the hydration from the steaming. (I recommend using just a few drops of an oil serum: Classic, Barrier Repair)
Since oil dissolves oil, and since the oil cleansing ritual begins with a dry face, it allows you to dislodge and remove makeup, dirt and oil build up without needing surfactants to bind oil and water. By removing everything you don’t need while respecting and protecting your body’s fine-tuned mechanisms, you break the unfortunate inflammatory cycle. You honor yourself and perform true self care. And your skin will show it.
I understand that for many people it still sounds crazy and counter-intuitive to put oil on your face – especially if you feel that your skin is too oily. But I have worked with countless customers. I have worked with people depressed because their skin was just too oily. Others had skin so very sensitive or dry. I have begged and pleaded with them to try the Oil Cleanse ritual instead of just relying on makeup to hide behind. And countless times they came back with a new found joy in their cleansing practice and a new found healthy glow in their skin.
So go ahead and throw out your face wash and take the plunge: Herbal Oil Cleanse.