Oil Cleansing with Coconut Oil

Hi friends — thanks for bearing with me through yesterday’s Debbie Downer post. The sun did end up coming out (both literally and metaphorically) and I’m in a much, much better mood today. In fact, my bad mood was pretty eradicated by around 8 PM last night. I’m about 83% positive it’s thanks to the combination with getting dinner with my good friend Reema, and the fact that I own a ukulele. Seriously, impossible to stay emo when strumming one of those things.

Heh. Also, I think generally any song by Alan Menken is pretty much a guaranteed mood killer (the song in the video above, for those who can’t watch, is from the movie Tangled.

Anyway, my mood lifted, I’m back to deliver on my promise to talk about my recent experiments with the oil cleansing method.


For those of you unfamiliar with the term, oil cleansing is the idea that you can use oil — the kind you cook with — to clean your face. There’s a much more detailed explanation if you click the link above, but the general idea is that man-made cleansers actually strip our faces of ALL oils, even the good kinds. So then our skin overcompensates by producing MORE oil because it thinks our skin is dry, which leads to oily, or combination, complexions.

A little bit about my skin history: I’m actually extremely fortunate in that I’ve never really had to deal with “acne” as most people think of it. When I was in high school, my version of a breakout consisted of one, maybe two, pimples forming on my chin or nose. Of course, I had plenty of other issues to deal with in high school, but I know I’m lucky in that my skin was not one of them. Now that I’m an adult, my skin tends to stray to the drier side (especially in my cheeks) and it’s pretty much the same story — a stray pimple every once in a while, no big thang.

That said, it’s not like I’ve had magically perfect skin all my life either. “Acne” as we tend to think of it has never been a problem, but I’ve had issues of my own. I’ve always had a propensity for EXTREME redness in my cheeks. Seriously, like, most people’s cheeks get red when they’re exerting themselves, or maybe when it’s cold out, but my cheeks are ALWAYS red. When it’s cold, when it’s hot, when I’m happy, when I’m sad, when I’m trying on an unflattering outfit in the dressing room… red, red, red. And, in addition to that, I often get small bumps on my cheeks as well. Sometimes they’re flesh-colored, sometimes they’re pink or red. They’re not whiteheads or pimples, and thus not “poppable” (heh, gross), but seem to exist purely for the sake of annoyance.


This photo probably doesn’t provide the most accurate picture, but it is the only makeup-free closeup shot of my face I have in my entire Flickr photostream. You can see some of the redness and a few of the little bumps if you look closely (though you may not want to look TOO closely, ha!).

So in my ongoing quest to rid myself of my bumpy, red cheeks, I have pretty much tried ALL THE PRODUCTS. Seriously. Neutrogena, Biore, Ponds, Clearisil, Clean & Clear, BeautyMint, Clarisonic, Mary Kay, Fresh… and every single cleanser sample that I’ve received in my BirchBox over the past 6 months. Some certainly worked better than others, but none seemed to fully eradicate the problem. So last year when I started freaking out about skin cancer being a “young person’s cancer”, and went to the dermatologist, I finally had some light shed on the situation.

“Looks like you’ve got a touch of rosacea,” he said casually as he wrote out my bill.
“OHHHHHHHHHH,” said my brain. “Of course! Sense is made.” (We’ll ignore the part where I went on to look up rosacea on WebMD and it informed me that it’s a condition that affects people over the age of 30, lending further credence to the theory that I’m actually an old woman trapped in a 20-something body. Or just that I’m wise beyond my years. Pick one?)

So he crammed a dozen trial-sized tubes of, uh, rosacea cream? in my hands and told me I could leave my co-pay with the receptionist. Which I, in turn, dumped into a bathroom drawer went I got home and promptly forgot about.

Flash forward to about a week ago when my skin started TOTALLY FREAKING OUT (perhaps due in part to having experimented with yet another new cleansing product? Who knows?), and in a panic I started digging through my bathroom drawers in search of something that would help. I found the cream and started to use it in accordance with the directions — a thin layer on the affected areas twice a day.

Now. You’re probably wondering at this point what this entire digression has to do with oil cleansing, eh? Well, no to worry, we’ve arrived at the tie-in! See, the rosacea cream stuff (azelaic acid) helps with the blood vessels that run close to the skin, giving me the super red polka dotted look, but it is also SUPER drying. I’ve already mentioned that my skin tends to stray to the dry side anyway, so I wanted to find a cleansing method that wouldn’t exacerbate things. Pretty much every single cleanser I own seemed to make things worse, even when using moisturizer, so I decided to go back to the drawing board.

Enter: Oil Cleansing.

So the principals of oil cleansing are very simple. You pick your oil and massage it into your face dry for a minute. Then, cover your face with a hot washcloth, let the steam do its thing, and wipe off. Easy as (coconut) pie!


Most guides I found online recommend a combination of castor oil and an additional oil, like olive, sunflower, or almond. But of course, I wanted to be a rebel, and I was also too lazy to go out and buy castor oil, and I had literally JUST ordered a new jar of extra virgin coconut oil off Amazon (to use as moisturizer). So I’ve been using that instead. Fair warning, I have read some stuff about coconut oil being pore clogging. Though I’ve also read it has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, so I’m not really sure how it can be both? But either way, all I know is that in the past week of using it, I haven’t seen any blackheads or new pimples pop up.

So my consensus after a week of doing this? I might just be a convert. I’m not saying I’ll never go back to traditional cleaners (let’s be honest, I’m a product whore) but I can attest that my skin gets clean AND it feels softer than it has in YEARS. And whether it’s due to the rosacea medication, the coconut oil, or perhaps a bit of both, the bumps on my cheeks are almost non-existent already. And while my cheeks are still quite pink, I am noticing a distinct reduction of the redness. Hooray!

If you don’t believe that washing your face with oil can actually clean your skin, I challenge you to try it out just once. You can do it the traditional way, with the castor/olive oil combo, or you can give coconut oil a try. The oil is a seriously fantastic makeup remover, and honestly, it feels luxurious to massage your face for a minute every night and follow it up with a nice steam. After I dry my face (and note, it doesn’t feel greasy at all, but it doesn’t feel tight and squeaky clean like you might used to either — though that should be a good thing!) I apply the azelaic acid to my cheeks, and follow it up with another small dab of coconut oil (to moisturize).

Have you ever tried oil cleansing? Would you try it? If you’re against the idea, I’d love to know what skincare products you do swear by! 🙂