OIL CLEANSING METHOD for Oily Acne Prone Skin

Oil cleansing method, OCM for short, is a method of cleansing the skin utilising oil. If you’re thinking “No shit, Sherlock!”, bear with me.

In this post:

  • Why OCM works for oily acne prone skin
  • Why is OCM beneficial for acne prone skin
  • Which oils to use (and which to avoid)
  • Step by step
  • BONUS: Pure oils vs cleansing oil

Why OCM works for oily acne prone skin

Our skin naturally produces sebum, an oil which is essential in maintaining the integrity of the stratum corneum, the protective layer of our skin. This SC waterproofs and lubricates the skin, keeping the inside layers protected.[1] So stripping these oils that keeps the skin healthy seems counterintuitive.

However, sometimes our skin produces too much sebum causing us to be oily. And when mixed with dust and grime from the environment, it makes us susceptible to clogged pores and accumulation of bacteria which then causes acne. It may be intuitive for oily skin to be cleansed off all its oils but that is actually triggering the glands to produce more sebum to repair the SC – it’s a vicious cycle!

It is perfectly conceivable then to suggest that because scientifically (and logically), like dissolves like, it is more effective to use oil to dissolve hardened oil contaminated with dirt and debris. No harsh chemicals, no lathering, nothing that strips the natural oils of the skin.


Why is OCM beneficial for acne prone skin

A few researches have shown that acne prone skin are lacking in linoleic acid and this deficiency subsequently induces acne. [2] Studies have shown that topical application of linoleic acids have shown to reduce the size of existing comedones and go on to reduce the number of breakouts thereafter. [3] This means that linoleic acid could also be an option of acne treatment that works on a different premise to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

How convenient is it that oils of some nuts and seeds are abundant in linoleic acid!

Now, don’t slather that olive oil from your kitchen all over your face just yet! Keep reading.

What oils to use (and which to avoid)

The traditional OCM blend consists of part castor oil and part carrier oil. Castor oil is the most cleansing and dissolving of most oils with anti-inflammatory and healing benefits but it can be very drying. This is where the carrier oil adds a bit of a buffer while providing other good stuff.

A good starting point is 30% castor oil and 70% carrier oil. If you feel like your skin can take a more robust cleaning, increase the amount of castor oil. If you feel like even the tiniest amount of castor oil is too drying, it is okay to leave it out altogether.

I have included a table below for some of the most common oils available in the market. I have taken the liberty to roughly calculated the ratio of linoleic acid to oleic acid and arranged them in descending order.

The oils marked with * are ideal for acne prone skin due to not only their high linoleic acid contents, but also the high ratio in comparison to oleic acid. For the likes of walnut, wheat germ and soybean, although they have decent contents of linoleic acid, it also has a comparatively high level of oleic acid which could aggravate acne prone skin.

Please note that it is important that the oils you use are 100% pure, cold-pressed and preferably organic. So I would not just pick them up from the cooking aisle of the supermarket unless the label states that they are 100% pure, cold-pressed and chemical-free.

Side note: Coconut oils and olive oils have had quite a reputation in the beauty world. While some people sing their praises, there are people who have found that these oils would break them out severely. So I’d tread carefully around these two oils. From the numbers in the table below, you can see why.

Oil % Linoleic Acid % Oleic Acid Ratio
Evening Primrose* 72.6 8.4 8.6
Hemp Seed* 51.96 9.85 5.2
Grapeseed* 70.6 16.2 4.4
Rosehip* 44.1 13.9 3.1
Safflower (low oleic type)* 68-85 8-30 3-8
Walnut 56 21 2.7
Wheat Germ 52-62 12-23 2-4
Soybean 52.97 22.72 2.3
Sesame 45.69 39.21 1.2
Olive 17.48 55.28 0.32
Coconut 5-10 1-2.5
Sunflower 3-20 70-88

Source: Mountain Rose Herb

Step by step

What you need: Your oils, a wash cloth

Step 1:

Dispense a blend of your selected oils in your palm and massage it all over your dry face. If you are wearing makeup, you don’t have to remove it prior. Gently massage your skin from the outside of your face inwards for about 4 minutes. It is surprisingly very relaxing and you won’t even feel the time pass. Make sure you get every corner of your face, the sides of your nose, even your eyelids. The oils will break down any mascara or eyeliner you have on.

Step 2:

Turn on the tap to the hottest setting. Once the water runs hot, run your wash cloth under it. Be careful not to scald yourself. Adjust the temperature to the hottest temperature you can tolerate but not so hot that you burn your skin!

Step 3:

Wring out the wash cloth and while still hot and damp, cover your face and let it sit for 30 seconds or so. When you feel the heat of the towel dissipate, gently wipe your face with the wash cloth. Repeat once more, if you wish.

The great thing about OCM is that it leaves your skin feeling not just clean but also moisturised. Some people would just leave their skin as is for the night but you can follow with your usual skincare routine.

This method can be done as often as every night or as infrequently as once a week and you will still see results. It is normal, in the first week, to experience some minor purging. If it persists beyond that, you may have to tweak your oil blend.

Bonus: Pure oils vs cleansing oils

In case you are wondering if cleansing oils can be used in OCM, the short answer is no.

Most cleansing oils in the market are made with blends of oil with some additives to emulsify the oils when water is added turning it into a water-based cleanser. These additives are usually synthetic chemicals to make the cleanser easier to rinse off.

The additives in the cleansing oil deviates from the philosophy of OCM which uses only pure oils for cleansing without the use of chemicals. This is not to say that cleansing oils are bad – it is just not a product used in traditional OCM.

When using cleansing oils, it is important that you check the ingredients carefully. A lot of makeup remover oils contain mineral oil which have been known to clog pores. However, there are studies showing that mineral oils are just as non-comedogenic as vegetable, nut and seed oils. [4] But everyone’s skin is different. Listen to yours.

Fun fact: Mineral oil is a derivative of petroleum which means that it is not plant based. It is produced as part of the petroleum refinery in an isolated process to be used in food, pharmaceutics and cosmetics. Studies has shown that mineral oil has extensive skin benefits.

If you find that you are getting blemishes from using cleansing oil, it is likely that one of the ingredients in the cleansing oil is not suitable for your skin. For acne prone skin, cleansing oils are mostly used as a 1st step to a double cleansing routine.


The OCM is an effective method to cleanse the skin while also keeping it nourished. It eliminates the need for harsh cleansers and synthetic chemicals that can potentially damage the protective layer of our skin. The idea of OCM is to work with your skin and not against it to keep it at its most healthy. Selecting the right oils for your skin not only help reduce the size of acnes but also prevent the occurrence of acne by increasing the levels of linoleic acid in the skin without drying out the skin. Studies have proven that topical application of linoleic acid have been extensively beneficial to acne patients. While you don’t have to practice it every day, many have seen their skin improve just by doing it once a week (source: reddit & many many blogs). Again, listen to your skin, experiment and learn.

So what do you think? Will you give OCM a try? Hit me up on Facebook or email to discuss or if you have any questions! I would love to hear from you.



  1. Acne and sebaceous gland function by Christos C. Zouboulis MD
  2. Essential fatty acids and acne by Downing DT, Stewart ME, Wertz PW, Strauss JS.
  3. Topical effectiveness of a cosmetic skincare treatment for acne-prone skin: A clinical study
  4. A review on the extensive skin benefits of mineral oil

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