Friday, August 15, 2008

OCM - Oil Cleansing Method

Okay, okay, you're going to think I've gone loonies. But for the past few weeks, I've been trying out this new facial cleansing method using oils - the Oil Cleansing Method, or OCM. No, these are not oil cleansers, they are pure, first cold press, straight up oils.

I know, you're thinking me smearing my face with oils would clog the hell out of my pores. I thought that too, until I tried it and was shocked to be proven wrong. Remember, your skin produces oil, so it's not like it can't take the substance. Also, the stuff that plugs up your pores are extra sebum and solidified oil and dirt. And sometimes, your pores can be clogged so deep down regular soaps and cleansers just can't reach them. But you know, where regular soaps and oils can't reach, there are other oils that can. That's basically the principle for this oil cleansing method - using oils to dissolve oils.

But first, the psychological hurdle. I think this is the biggest challenge for many people, myself included. Think about it this way, oil cleansers are becoming more and more popular these days. However, even though oil cleansers are oil-based, they also have other chemical ingredients and detergent that make them soluble in water so you can feel good about rinsing them off your face. Even then, it took me a looooooong time to work up the nerve to try an oil cleanser given the problems I've had with my oily t-zones. After a few years of using DHC olive oil-based Deep Cleansing Oil, the idea of putting oils on my face isn't that strange anymore. And yet, going from an oil cleanser to 100% oil was a bit scary still. I had to convince myself that I'm already putting oil on my face, and that it wouldn't hurt to put a little more :D

For a thorough introduction of the Oil Cleansing Method, its benefits, and specific how-to instructions, please visit The Oil Cleansing Method website. I got all my information from there and Makeup Alley. If you do a Google search for "oil cleansing method" or "OCM," you'll also find tons of information on this topics with several message boards where people discuss their run-ins with the oils.

You'll need:
1 - A "primary" cleansing oil
The primary cleansing oil must be Castor oil, which has "cleansing, healing, and anti-inflammatory characteristics," according to The Oil Cleansing Method. It can be found at a conventional grocery store among the "laxatives" (Castor oil is a natural laxative), or if it's not there then go to the pharmacy section and ask for it. At Whole Foods, health food stores, alternative medicine, or other herbal shops, it can be found around the bath & body section.

2 - A "secondary" carrier oil
The secondary carrier oil, as the website says, serves the purpose of "moisturizing, nurturing, and helping the Castor oil penetrate" deep into your skin to dissolve the sebum and solidified oil in addition to drawing the dirt out to the surface of your skin. Most people, including myself, use Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the secondary carrier oil. The Oil Cleansing Method recommends Sunflower Seed Oil. However, you could practically use any type of vegetable oil you wish, provided the oil is the first cold press. There are folks who mix a few types of secondary oils together, like olive and jojoba, adding in a few drops of essential oils even for aromatherapy. If you're starting out though, I would recommend sticking with the basic recipe. You don't know how your skin will respond yet, so it's best not to experiment at this stage. There isn't an exact brand to use either, so just pick one you like. Most people just use whatever that's in their kitchen!

The Personal Blend
The oil blend itself is customized to the need of your skin. If your skin is oily, use 75% Castor oil and 25% secondary oil. If your skin is dry, use 25% Castor oil and 75% secondary oil. Most people start out with 50-50% and then adjust as needed.

Right now, I use 25% Castor oil and 75% Olive oil for my combination dry. I may adjust to use less Castor oil, depending on my skin's moisture level in the next few weeks. And even though this oil cleansing method is effective in my case, it should not be used frequently. OCM is absolutely NOT for daily use, as the Castor oil will deep fry your skin. My regiment is every 3rd night. With the nights in between, I just use my regular DHC Deep Cleansing Oil.

What To Do
You will need your personal oil blend, a wash cloth, and hot water:
- Start with your dry face, and there's no need to remove makeup prior. After all, this is a cleansing method. If you need to clean your face to...clean it, what's the point? Just letting you know, OCM took my waterproof sunscreen right off, so it isn't exactly wimpy...
- Using circular motion, slowly and deeply massage a good amount of the oil blend onto your face for 2-3 minutes.
- Wet the wash cloth in hot water, wring it out, and press it against your face until it cools (about 30 seconds). Yes, this is to open up your pores with the hot steam, making it easier for the dissolved oil and loosened dirt to be wiped clean.
- Use your cooled wash cloth to gently wipe the oil residue off of your face.
- Rinse oil residue from the wash cloth with hot water, wring, and repeat the steaming again before using the cooled wash cloth to wipe more oil off.

Most people do the steaming 2-3 times. Personally, I found that steaming any more than 3 times will dry my skin out! Also, when I'm too thorough or harsh with wiping the residue oil off, my skin will also dry out. When this happens, I just dab a tiny tiny little bit of Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream wherever it feels dry, usually right above my lips, around the laugh lines, and the ball of my cheeks. Other than that, a separate moisturizer is not required for most folks.

Many people use this oil cleansing method right before bed. I am a bit nervous about it still, so I do this before my night shower. Unlike other commercial oil cleansers that requires a follow up cleanser to get rid of the residues, it is NOT recommended to use an additional facial cleanser after OCM. I don't use an additional cleanser in the shower with OCM, and I could imagine another cleanser would have a drying effect with my skin.

The Typical Experience
With OCM, most people experience at least 1 of the below:

1. A temporary enlargement of their pores: it makes sense, because of the heat generated while you're massaging the oil into your skin and also during steaming. Someone offers another explanation that because oil and dirt are being drawn to the surface of your skin, they make your pores appear larger as they make their way out. After you have wiped the oil residue off and give your face some time cool off, everything will return to normal.

2. The sensation of tiny sand-like grains: guess what they are - yes, sebum, and solidified oil and dirt! Eww... Of course it depends on how congested your skin is too, so not everyone experiences this. I felt several grains the first time, and subsequently after that I felt only a couple each time.

3. Other: depending on the condition of your skin, you may experience some purging (minor blemishes and blackheads, NOT cystic acne) as you would with other commercial cleansing oils, you may experience a brightening effect, a total change in skin texture, etc., the list goes on...

4. Adverse reaction: as in, massive breaking out due to irritation. Unfortunately, OCM doesn't work for everyone. When this happens, most people tweak their oil blend to use a different secondary oil (olive, jojoba, and sunflower seed oil aren't for everybody!), switch back to their oil cleansers, or just stop using OCM altogether and go back to their previous routines.

My Results
It took me 3 weeks to notice clearer, smoother skin with less obvious pores, although they haven't disappeared (and they're not going to!). If you're looking for something that will make your pores disappear, OCM won't be that miracle (and I don't know if such miracle exists). BUT, if it works for you it will clear out the gunk in your skin, allowing your pores to function properly as they should be.

I would say OCM has evened out my skin tone as well as I used to get some blotches every once in a while due to the oiliness of my t-zones and the dryness of my cheeks. In addition, occurence of the occasional pimple reduced substantially (with the exception of the inevitable one or two during, you know, that time of the month...). Despite my expectation of a huge eruption shortly after the first stint, it never came!

Another thing I experienced was the brightening effect. After the first couple of times, the next day I would look like someone's shining a flashlight onto my face - all day long! It wasn't a soft focus or inner glow or hazy-after-bath glow like some people reports but was just a very strange but obvious brightening. I reckon it's not a bad thing :D

I took these pictures just yesterday night, right after showering and towel-drying my hair. I had no makeup on. Not even moisturizers. Just bare skin! And these pictures are not doctored, cause that would defeat the whole purpose of posting to begin with! As you can tell, I'm not exactly good at taking pictures of myself. The angle is kind of strange because I don't know the "right" angle or the "good" pose. In addition, holding the camera up to my face is just a bitch! See why I don't do FOTN very often? It's such a pain!

I am very happy with my results, although now I'm kind of bummed about not taking a "before" picture...Damn! Didn't even occur to me when I started OCM! I really was skeptical about it, so I didn't expect much. Oh well...

I know lots of folks have been using Extra Virgin Olive Oil as a facial moisturizer, body oil, hair mask, etc. I'm not quite there yet, at least not with my current beloved Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream. Using oil to clean my face is already a giant step for me. I know, I'm a total chickenshit!


Anonymous said...

Your skin looks great!
Thanks for this review, I'm now curious about trying this oil cleansing method :)

Dalenna said...

Hi Decorative Diva!

Awww...thanks!!! Yes, please do give OCM a try, and please write a review too, if you would. I'm really curious to see how it works out for other people. Let me know what oils you use too and how you like them!

sweetlorraine said...

Do you know of any alternatives to castor oil as a cleansing oil - it is impossible to find it in the UK!!!I've tried health food stores, pharmacies and our largest chain of chemists (Boots) - to no avail :(
No-one stocks it anymore.

Dalenna said...

hi sweetlorraine,

unfortunately, castor is the main ingredient and i have not heard of an alternative oil for this purpose.

have you tried looking for castor oil on ebay? try the seller "clubnatural," their store can be found at this seller stocks many brands of castor oil and will ship to the UK for only 4-5 pounds (US $8)!

it's entire up to you which brand you pick, but i'm currently using and recommend the brand "Home Health" as their castor oil is cold-pressed, cold-processed, hexane and paraben free. from clubnatural's website, i saw a 16 oz. bottle selling for about 6 pounds - that's a great deal! i have the 8 oz. bottle and barely notice any dips after 6 weeks of use! i bet the 16 oz. will last for a good while!

good luck!

Lilyvanille said...

Hi Dalenna!!

Just found out about OCM and I wanted to say.. thank you so much! I gave it a try and... wow! I can't believe all my waterproof makeup and sebum are gone!!

I used 25% castor oil and 75% olive oil and I poured boiled water on a wash cloth... it's so relaxing and it's so like japanese ritual: a hot wash cloth before eating!

I wondered if I could use it everyday, at least to remove my makeup? And what should I do after? A facial wash and moisturising? Because in winter my skin gets dryer and tightens a bit....

thanks again!

Dalenna said...

Hi lilyvanille,

You're very welcome! I'm so glad OCM works out for you! Yep, it's a relaxing ritual for me too :D

After OCM, another facial cleanser or moisturizer is not needed because the castor+olive combo is supposed to have cleansed AND moisturized your skin. If your skin feels dry, try adjusting the ratio of the castor:olive oil instead, say 20% castor to 80% olive, or even 15% castor to 85% olive.

At the time of my original post, I used 25% castor to 75% olive. Now I've adjusted to 10% castor and 90% olive - that's just how dry my skin gets around this time of the year! When the summer approaches, I may have to readjust and increase the ratio of the castor oil again. It's an ongoing process to adapt to the weather :D

As for daily use of OCM, it's actually NOT recommended. OCM should only be used 2-3 times a week, no more than that. For the days in between OCM, I'd suggest trying an regular oil cleanser for makeup removal. I'm using DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, but many brands carries an oil cleanser nowadays so you won't have any problem finding one. If you would like specific recommendations, let me know :D

I hope this helps! Thanks for visiting my blog!

Lilyvanille said...

Hi Dalenna!

I've been using OCM for two weeks now and yeah, definitely like it!

I've been using 10% castor oil and 75% olive oil and my skin is supple, and smooth and brighter, without using anything else!! thanks again!!

I have also a question if you don't mind....
With the steam, my pores are larger but I didn't experienced the sebum grains... so how do you do for blackheads removal?

Dalenna said...

Hi Lilyvanille!

You're very welcome :) I don't mind any questions. I'm happy I can help you.

With blackhead-prone areas like the nose, once a week after steaming I would use the same towel to gently exfoliate. This may or may not cause some dryness, depending on your skin. You'll definitely know if you over exfoliate though, because your skin will feel dry in that area. So I would recommend keeping the exfoliation to a minimum.

The appearance of my blackheads have diminished greatly since I started exfoliating regularly once a week. Keep in mind though that it's a slow process, so you won't see results right away. Whenever I over exfoliate (scrubbing too hard, too long, etc.) and dry out my skin, I just dab a bit of moisturizer on the dry area and it takes care of the problem :D

Let me know if this works for you!

Bekah said...

Just wanted to leave a small note, I too began using this method about a month ago, and have done a lot of research on it. Love the way my skin looks and feels. I noticed that one comment was not to use the method but 2-3 times a week. The website actually suggests using it each night, and then wiping with a warm cloth in the morning (this is how I have been doing it). And it works well (and is safe) around the eyes, I even massage over eyelids and lashes to remove make-up, and have had no problems. I agree with using the shower, I find I can get hotter water from there, and more steam. Blog looks great, very chic.

Dalenna said...

Hi Bekah!

Thank you for reading a leaving a note!

I am very glad OCM is working out for you. If you find that using OCM every night is okay with your skin, that's wonderful!

However, regarding The Oil Cleansing Method website ( suggesting using OCM each night, I am not sure I can find this suggestion. I wonder if we are looking at the same website?

Right on the front page, under the last section "The Oil Cleansing Method", the first paragraph says "First and foremost, this is typically done in the evening, prior to bed. There should be no need for deep cleansing in the morning if you're waking up with skin cleansed the night before. In the morning, a quick wipe with a warm washcloth should suffice." It absolutely does not say OCM is to be done each night. The last paragraph further confirms that "This deep cleansing method should be done regularly, but not too frequently. You'll know if you're deep cleansing too frequently by the dryness that your skin will exhibit."

This makes perfect sense to me since Castor oil itself is already harsh, on top of that you are steaming your skin with a hot towel and hot water. If your skin can take it every night, you are truly blessed, but I definitely would not recommend daily use to everyone. But of course, people are completely free to experiment with their skin regardless :)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've read a lot about it and I'm really interested in the oil cleansing method, however, whilst the 'oil dissolves oil' theory of cleansing makes sense to me, parts of the procedure confuse me a little and put me off the idea.

For example, supposedly the heat opens up your pores, but your pores do not open and close at all, thats just an old beauty myth.

Also, I don't understand how placing a hot cloth on your face doesn't damage the skin. If its only very warm, it cools down very quickly until its only cool and won't cause the skin to sweat much or assist the removal of oil. So to effectively clean the oil from your skin and cause it to sweat, the cloth needs to be very hot, or you'd need a lot of steam - both which can damage blood vessels and cause permanent redness, an absolute nightmare.

I understand how the use of a cleanser to remove the excess oil would defeat the purpose of the OCM entirely, however, what effective way is there to remove the oil other than heat?

D. said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you very much for reading and leaving a comment.

Disclaimer first - I am absolutely not a OCM expert, nor did I claim to be one in my post. This post was written to share my personal experience, and I am speaking for myself and no one else. Please consult this official website for more details on OCM -

From my personal experience with OCM, I can see why you are put off with the idea, after all, I too was put off by it for a long time. You are absolutely right - it is a myth that pores on your face can be physically opened or closed. That said, you can help the _appearance_ of your pores being "open" or "close" (

My opinion is that all instructions are to be followed with your own judgment and your own common sense. In my case, a towel too hot for my hands to wring is out of the question for my face. Also, in my own experience, the oil cannot be completely cleansed from my face, and you are absolutely right in that the use of a follow up cleanser to rid the face completely of the oil would defeat the purpose of OCM itself.

In fact, I think an important point here has been misunderstood - with OCM, it is OK, if not encouraged, to have some oil left over on the face after cleansing. The official OCM website above instructs that the hot towel is to be used only 2-3 times for cleansing. After cleansing, should the face feels too dry a drop or two of the oil mixture is advised to be warmed in the palms and patted to the face as moisturizer. I do this, and I do think the oil mixture makes a damn nice moisturizer!

So if you think about it, OCM is not any different than using those good ol' cream cleansers out there, save for the fact that instead of using chemically fashioned creams, you're appreciating mother nature's natural emollients. If you're averse to the feel of a slight "film" on your face, perhaps OCM is not for you. Then again, your skin naturally produces its own "film" too.

Hope this helps.

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