Did you know that the best way to wash your face is by using the same oils found in your pantry and first-aid kit?

The Oil Cleansing Method uses a mix of castor oil and olive oil to clean skin through the principle that “like dissolves like”. Your skin naturally produces sebum (composed of approximately 41% triglycerides, 26% wax esters and 12% squalene) to protect itself. Sebum is hydrophobic and therefore water-repellent. When it is over- or under-produced, it can cause problems like acne, dryness and fine lines. Washing your face with soap and water removes too much oil leaving your skin without its natural defense. But since everyone’s skin is different, the OCM’s basic premise of cleansing castor oil and protective olive oil should be personally tailored to your needs.

Before you can mix our own oil-cleansing face wash, you need to understand how to link sebum’s components to the ingredients found in commercially available oils.

Oleic acid and Linoleic acid are both triglycerides. Linoleic acid can be helpful for irritated skin at lower percentages in topical oils (~15%) but less effective at higher percentages (~40%). Deficient linoleic acid causes sebum to harden in pores causing acne. Oleic acid is similar in structure to Lauric, Stearic, Myristic and Palmitic acid and will prevent water loss by creating an occlusive barrier on the skin.

Wax esters are similar to triglycerides. Wax esters tend to be underproduced with age. Overproduction can contribute to acne.

Squalene is a double-bonded hydrocarbon. Its production tends to decline from early adulthood and acts as a barrier. Commercially it is available produced from shark livers, and as the more stable squalane from olives.

Read through the following descriptions of common oils to see what your skin needs more or less of, and mix them according to these ratios:

If your skin is…

DRY: Use 25-33% Castor Oil + 66-75% Carrier Oil + Essential Oil(s)

NORMAL: Use 50% Castor Oil + 50% Carrier Oil + Essential Oil(s)

OILY: Use 66-75% Castor Oil + 33-25% Carrier Oil + Essential Oil(s)


Castor Oil

 (2% Oleic, 1% Linoleic) 85% Ricinoleic acid

Castor oil’s claw-like chemical structure means it will bind to and pick up all three major components of sebum. Using it on its own will cause it to dry your skin out too much, so it must be mixed with a carrier.


Coconut oil
(5-8% Oleic,1-3% Linoleic) 45-52% Lauric acid, 15.21% Myristic acid,9-20% Caprylic-related medium chain fatty acids. Solid at room temperature, but will melt on contact with your skin. Its slippery composition makes it a poorer choice for exfoliating, making it less suitable as a makeup remover. Coconut Oil is a mild sunblocker with approximately SPF 7 but may be comedogenic (pore-clogging).

Grapeseed Oil
(15.8% Oleic, 69.6% Linoleic)
Absorbs quickly. Good for sensitive skin, fine lines and cystic acne. Grapeseed oil has a bad reputation for causing break-outs in the first few days of use.

Jojoba Oil
(5-15% Oleic, 5% Linoleic) 30.3% 11-Eicosenoic Acid, 33.5% Docosdienoic Acid, 14.2% Docosenoic Acid, 14.6% 9-Godoelic acid
Actually a wax ester, jojoba oil very closely mimics sebum. It is rich in beneficial vitamin E. It absorbs extremely quickly and forms an occlusive film when dry.

Safflower Oil
(77% Oleic, 13% Linoleic)
Good for normal skin. Safflower has one of the highest percentages of polyunsaturated fats in cooking oils, so its oleic content is more consistent than olive oil. It is slightly less viscous than olive oil, making it easier to remove, but will still absorb slowly.

Sweet Almond Oil
(62% Oleic, 29% Linoleic)
Gentle exfoliant. Great for removing stubborn and theatrical makeup like glitter, eyelash glue and sealed greasepaint. High in vitamin E.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

(55-83% Oleic, 3.5-21% Linoleic)
The variations in commercial extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) make this is an unpredictable ingredient. Its viscosity means you need to scrub to remove it, which is bad for sensitive skin. Like coconut oil, it has mild SPF properties if you keep the oil on.


Use sparingly. Final mix should contain 1-2% or 6 to 12 drops in 30ml.

Tea Tree Oil Can be very drying. Can be applied directly to skin to spot-treat cystic acne by dabbing it on with a cotton swab. It can replace the salicylic acid toners and benzoyl peroxide cleanser in your current routine.

Peppermint Oil Good for nasal congestion, puffiness and redness. Do not apply directly to skin.

Lavender Oil Known for its relaxing smell, it is less effective than tea tree oil at treating cystic acne because it’s less drying. Good for tightening fine lines. Can be applied directly to skin.

Write down the ratio and oils you put in each mix to record what works and what doesn’t work for you. After mixing, put your cleanser in a small plastic squeeze bottle and store it out of the sunlight. Before using, shake the bottle and put a little in the palms of your hand to warm it up. Gently pat the oil on your face then use your fingers to rub it into a circular motion. Keep the oil on for anywhere from 30 seconds to 10 minutes. To remove, wet a clean face cloth with warm water and wring it out. Press the cloth to your face allowing the heat to warm up the oil, then gently wipe the excess off.

You will not need to moisturize if your mix is perfectly suited to you. Residual oil might be left on overnight, but will interfere with daytime makeup application. Once you get the right formula, you’ll never go back to expensive soaps and lotions ever again.

P.S. Here’s a very good infographic on skin care in general from Thank Your Skin! 

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