We try it!

We Try It: Oil Cleansing Method

Most of us struggle with making our skin do what we want. It’s too oily and then it is too dry. One day it is lovely and smooth, then the next it appears small red mountains have appeared all over it. I have for many years struggled with cystic acne. Three hardass courses of Accutane over five years seemed to have done the trick, and for the first time in my post-puberty life I was enjoying smooth spot free skin. But that was until summer hit.

My face started to look like an oil slick. “Congestion,” as my beauty therapist calls it, started to appear on my temples and on my cheeks. My normal regime of the Cetaphil Sensitive Wash and then Cetaphil Moisturizer wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore. I had heard about the Oil Cleansing Method (known all over the internet as OCM) and wondered whether that might help sort me out. The basic idea is that you rub a mixture of castor oil and another oil to clean the gross oxidised oils from your face and replace it with moisturising oils that will make you glow. You have many options for the oil you mix with the castor oil. I used jojoba, apparently very good for acne prone skin, but other options are olive, sunflower, sweet almond, grape seed and avocado, just to name a few. This made sense to me, in theory, and I had nothing to lose. It was either this or the super-expensive Dermalogica range my beauty therapist was trying to push on me, so I decided to give the OCM a shot.

First step was to buy the oils. I went to my local health food store where they sold castor oil and jojoba oil that was distributed by a local company. “Good for my skin and the local economy!” I thought. Sometimes I am a sap. I took them home that night and mixed equal amounts of castor and jojoba oil. This is the dosage recommended for normal skinned people by the website that appears to be very popular with people who use OCM. My skin leans towards oily, but I thought this was a good place to start. I then proceeded to rub it into my face for about 5 minutes, in small circular motions. The websites recommend at two minutes, but since this was my first time, I thought I’d give it a good go. Little hard plugs did come out of my skin, like they said it would. I rinsed a face cloth with very hot tap water and put that over my face for 15-30 seconds so my face could steam. I then rinsed the excess oil off. My skin felt nice if slightly gooey and I felt quite virtuous. No extra moisturising needed at that stage. The next morning, I just wiped my face with a little bit of witch hazel extract and carried on with my day.

I repeated this for the next week. During this time Mr. Cesy said, “Your skin isn’t looking too bad!” and it was looking OK. Not much had come out but it hadn’t gotten any worse at this stage either. Then was the test that I knew was coming – Christmas. In addition to summer heat, we have travel, sugary and fatty food and a lot of booze. The first three nights we were away, I was incredibly good with continuing the regimen. Then we went to my parents’ house, and all desire to wash my face vanished after several shots of some bizarre-tasting South African hooch, so for each of the three nights we were there, I failed to wash my face. Unsurprisingly, my skin started to break out. I thought to myself it would be OK once we got back home and I was back into the swing of things.

We arrived back home and I got back into the regime. But at this stage, the zits only got larger and they would not heal. I have not had zits in a very long time and I was distraught to see them back again. The rest of my skin looked quite inflamed too. Congestion in my chin appeared that had never been there before. It became quite painful. I swore to myself I’d give it two more weeks. The websites told me it would take some time. I had all this castor and jojoba oil I needed to use, and I was on holiday at the moment, no one would have to see my hideous face.

I lasted two more days. I could not handle the zits which were coming through fast and thick. My skin was not happy with me at all. So the oils are now under the bathroom sink, waiting for me to work out what to do with them. I went and bought a face wash with some hard core chemicals in it (so full of alcohol there is a flammable warning on it!), and my face is much happier. The zits have already shrunk and are on their way to healing. The congestion is still there, so I will have to do something about that at some stage. As I’ve told Mr. Cesy, I don’t know how I thought some oil would clear my face when it took some hardcore drugs to get rid of the zits in the first place.

So for me, the OCM was a huge bust. It appears  it has done wonders for many, but for me it didn’t work. It appears that a 50/50 mix of castor and jojoba was too strong. I’ve now been informed that a ratio of 10:90 of castor oil to jojoba oil, or 25:75 would have been a better idea. For me though, after 12 years of being a zitty person, I wasn’t going to put up with something that gives me zits and makes all my skin inflamed. My own body can do that well enough by itself.

So any ideas what I can do with half a bottle each of castor oil and jojoba oil?

For those not put off by my experience, this was the best OCM resource I found:  Nitty Gritty on the Oil Cleansing Method, however it was the one that recommended the high castor oil ratio. I’d recommend starting out with the lower ratio and building up, hopefully that would avoid painful breakouts for you.

By Cesy

Cesy grew up in a sheep farm in New Zealand. Accordingly some of her views are a bit strange.

28 replies on “We Try It: Oil Cleansing Method”

I guess I’m one of those rare people that LOVES OCM.  I have very sensitive skin and I was desperate to try anything that would work.  After reading extensively about OCM, I was prepared for the “purge” stage.  When you start OCM everything goes great for the first couple of days to weeks, then you break out hugely. On many OCM websites this is called the purging stage.  Your skin has normalized its natural oil production and all the crap that is imbedded in your pores ‘purges’.  The beautiful thing about OCM is that once your skin has purged it will be clear like never before.  Before OCM, I would get big, painful, nasty cystic acne and had horrible blotchy skin tone.  The skin on my face was super oily, but also tight and itchy, and the slightest irritation would cause breakouts and roughness.  After the purging process, OCM settled my skin, restored my skin tone and dramatically reduced my acne.

The thing to understand about both Castor Oil and Jojoba oil is they both (A) do not strip your skin’s natural oils and (B) mimic the effect of your skin’s natural oils.  Because of this, using them excessively will cause your skin to produce less oil, which causes the drying effect.  Unless you have seriously oily skin, you should use the Castor and Jojoba Oils  sparingly.  Most websites I have read recommend a ratio of 25:75 Castor Oil and Cold Pressed EVOO.

I have spent thousands of dollars on the cheapest to the most expensive skin care products, and have seen a score of dermatologist who have prescribed countless creams, lotions, etc. and NOTHING has worked as well as the OCM for me.  You just have to get past the ‘purge’.

I do OCM only occasionally as it tends to migrate into my hair and leave it scuzzy after a while. I only use a small amount of castor and olive (not jojoba for me) oil, mixed together in the palm of my hand and spread over my face.

It has taken a bit of an adjustment period, but nothing works better at staving off dry patches during the winter. I have very dry skin naturally and will sometimes smooth a bit of olive oil right onto my skin to sit overnight.

Have always been intrigued by the OCM but haven’t tried it because, well, I just don’t do a lot to my skin. The oils that do make it near my skin though are tea tree oil and Bio-Oil. Not necessarily to cleanse at all, but if I have a break out or if my skin gets particularly dry.

I tried OCM for about 6 weeks a year or two ago.  I really liked it at first.  I think my proportions were 75% castor and then 25% jojoba, and it worked pretty well.  I have combo skin (dry cheeks, oily t-zone) with blackheads on my nose and a few on my chin and forehead, and my breakouts tend to occur in the oily parts and along my jaw by my earlobes.  The only problem I had was that I never really felt moisturized with the jojoba (maybe it was too much castor?)

OCM was clearing my skin up until I moved into a new apartment.  The hot water didn’t get hot enough to get all the oil off.  So, of course, my face broke out like crazy and it took like 6 months to clear it up again with benzoyl peroxide.

I think I’m going to try it again though, except only 2-3 times a week instead of every day.  I’m currently recovering from a bad breakout/rash from the super hard water and cold weather where I was vacationing for the holidays.  I think I’ll try it with 25% castor and the rest something else.  Maybe olive oil and grapeseed.

I had really crappy skin in high school. Not acne, per se, but my skin was very oily and congested. I started using proactiv and my skin cleared up beautifully. I used it for a few years, but then my skin got used to the regimen and started getting gross again. For about four years I bounced back and forth between a bunch of different products, but my skin was never clear and it was always really dry and dull. Recently I read about OCM and decided to give it a shot.

Instead of mixing my own concoction, I decided to just buy Makeup Forever’s cleansing oil. I also happened to watch Kubrick’s “The Killing” that week, and in it was a scene where a woman is taking off her heavy duty makeup with just some cold cream and a warm, wet washcloth. I remembered a few blogs and magazines that mentioned how great cold cream was, and I had never tried it, so I decided to get some of that too.

My new regimen-

At night: Remove all of my makeup with cold cream and a swipe of a hot washcloth. After that I apply this really great coconut moisturizing night cream. If I have any pimples, I dab a little pimple cream on them.

In the Morning: I wash with the cleansing oil, and then apply a really thin layer of moisturizer with a little salicylic acid in it. After that, I apply more of the coconut night cream because it smells so damn good and moisturizes my face.

My skin has never been better. Sure, I still break out when I’m PMSing, but I don’t have as many random breakouts anymore. I also think that removing the cold cream with a washcloth helps exfoliate my skin without being to harsh.

I think it’s about finding what the right balance is for you and your skin. If something works, keep doing it!

OCM worked for me, but it took a lot more effort than I was willing to put forth. I definitely wouldn’t do such a large castor ratio; I used a 1:9 of castor and olive oil. Many people have found that to be too harsh for them and stick with an EVOO and jojoba blend, or coconut or safflower in place of the EVOO. If you were getting cystic acne, there was definitely something wrong about the proportions and/or the oils you were using — not through any fault of your own, just your body chemistry. It does work, but it takes practice to find the right combination of oils, and experimenting with oils can get expensive, especially when you’re left with the bottle of coconut oil that didn’t work for you. While I think it’s a great method, it’s pretty frustrating for the first few months as you try to find the right balance. I completely understand why people get tired of screwing around with it.

Jojoba is good as a cleanser, remover-of-at-home-leg-wax-remnants, massage oil, or lube (as long as you’re not using condoms or certain kinds of sex toys with it).

I’m intrigued by the thought of getting those wee pre-blackheads out… but not in return for cystic acne. Yeouch. Can I just do it once?

I think the best thing would be to try and see. If it works for you to do it when you want to, why not? I think sometimes we get so stuck into our regimes that we’re scared to try something new. I did here, and it didn’t work for me, but that’s ok, I’ll try something else!

I was too lazy to do the OCM properly so I started using jojoba oil as a daily cleanser instead – just a bit of it on a cotton pad, the way you would with any other cleanser. That’s been fantastic for me. I have very sensitive skin and I used to get eczema under my eyes all the time (especially when I was tired or hungover), but that hasn’t happened once since I started using the jojoba. It takes off makeup beautifully. I still get the odd spot but way, way fewer than I used to.

I reckon that rubbing my face so much and steaming it every day would totally kill it. Maybe try using the jojoba for a short time as an eye makeup remover, and see how that works for you? It’s made my eyes much happier. It’s also a good body moisturiser or base for a scrub, if you can’t bear to use it on your face again (I make one that’s brown sugar, jojoba oil and a tiny bit of vanilla extract for smell – it’s great, my legs feel amazing afterwards).

Not quite the same, but I’ll often steam my face over a sink full of hot water (towel over my head and the basin) and then scrub my face with olive oil and caster sugar. The sugar stays gritty, so it exfoliates, and the oil smooths you out (and makes you smell nice!).

I tried the oil cleansing method a year or two ago, and also had poor results. I was pretty conservative about it: I used a 25:75 mix every other day. It was very cool at first to see and feel all the little pore plugs coming out, and it did make my skin feel awesome.

At first.

After a month or so, my face started breaking out with deep cyst-type zits like I’ve never had before (and believe me, I thought I’d had every type of breakout possible). I guess what you’re calling congestion. It was hideous. My theory was that the washcloth wasn’t steaming the excess oil away effectively. But I wasn’t about to buy a steamer, so I abandoned the OCM. And I haven’t found a way to use the oils in my cupboard. I’d forgotten about them ’til this article.

Oh, and I don’t believe for a second that “it’s just the gunk leaving your face” and it has to get worse before it gets better.

The congestion was little plug things that hadn’t quite turned into black heads yet. I found they were collecting around my cheek bone and temple, and I think it has something to do with where I rest my hands on my face when I’m working (I’m a lawyer so I sit reading documents all day with my hand on my face).  I’m still battling with the cystic acne that has showed up due to this little experiment, but things do appear to be working better. Interesting theory about the wash cloth, that makes sense to me. It’s about 90 degrees here at the moment, I was finding putting a steaming hot wash cloth on my face quite a claustrophobic experience and not one I wanted to do for very long in 90 degrees.

I’m thinking maybe I can use the oils as a body oil, then wash it off in the shower so I don’t have too much excess on my skin. I’ve got a brown glass medicine bottle full of the OCM mixture, it would be a shame to tip it down the sink!

I use OCM at the end of the day, every day. I find it helps get my make up all the way off and feels so soothing. But I don’t use castor oil. I use extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, plus a dash of jojoba. I no longer get cystic acne when I have an occasional break out, and my zits clear up pretty quickly with a dab of Differin before I put on my moisturizer. Maybe a different combination of oils would help, but I can understand just wanting you skin to be clear and using what you know to get it there.


I had never read that website before, and now I see I am doing a bunch of things wrong. Oops? I’m going to get some castor oil tonight and try a little bit of that, I guess.

I think the thing is if it works for you, do that! I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way. Since I had no idea, I followed their instructions and it may have set me slightly wrong, but perhaps I should have listened to my gut a bit more about the ratios and different oils to use.


You’re right – after I left my comment, I read some more of the website you linked to, plus comments there and this thread, and I decided to abandon the castor oil. I have really sensitive skin, anyway, and I don’t want it to freak out. I never saw those little plugs you mentioned, but I don’t really have blackheads, either, so maybe that’s why? I kind of want to see it, though, in the same way I think hair follicles are gross/cool. If you ever try it again in the future, let us know how it goes!

I also briefly tried OCM. My skin didn’t hate or love it enough to really notice a difference. It sounds lame, but I mostly gave up because I was tired of all the washcloths I was going through. Plus I got oil on a couple good shirts (totally my fault for not changing first, but still … I was irritated).

I may try again at some point in the future though; we’ll see.

Yeah despite all this, I keep thinking “Maybe if I dilute the mixture down, add a few essential oils, invest in a few more wash cloths, I could give it another shot”.

I’m not sure. I’m thinking about doing it more in winter, when it would be more pleasant to have a steaming hot wash cloth on my face.

Apparently so. When I went to buy the oil and spoke to the naturopath, she went “Ooooh, castor oil, nasty stuff”.

I felt a bit like a failure giving up so soon, all the website and OCM zealots say “Stick it out, it’s just the gunk leaving your skin!” but zits cause me such pain, I just wasn’t putting up with that.

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