Go Messy or Go Hungry

How Oil Cleansing Helped my Acne

Aug 11, 2019 | Acne, Articles

How Oil Cleansing Helped my Acne | Go Messy or Go Hungry

Today we’re talking all things oil cleansing! Specifically, why I do it and how it helped my acne, but I’ll also be covering all the basics like how I do it and what types of oils I use. Let’s dive in!

Yes, I clean my face with oil.


Ok I’m going to address the elephant in the room (post?) first: yes, I’m talking about cleaning my face with oil. Yes, my acne-prone, sometimes oily face. WITH OIL. Now, if you’re an oil cleansing believer and just want to know what I do specifically for my hormonal acne, skip to the below sections! But if you’re thinking to yourself “wow this girl is crazy” and considering closing the browser window… hear me out!


I too also thought this sounded like the craziest hippy BS for the longest time. Like, why on earth would I want to put oil on my already oily face?! It sounded like a sure recipe for more breakouts.

I used to have what’s commonly referred to as “combination” skin — meaning, it got oily really easily, but also got dry really easily (so yeah, the worst type). I also subscribed to the “dry the pimples out” line of thinking, and had been liberally applying drying ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid on my face since puberty. All in the hopes that if I just dried up the pimples, that would kill them and make them go away.



But drying my acne out with benzoyl peroxide didn’t work.

I mean, sometimes it did. But long-term, it surely did not. My pre-oil cleansing, simultaneously dry and greasy face (yes, really) is living proof to that. And so eventually I had nothing left to lose, and I decided to see what this oil cleansing method was all about.

And spoiler alert: my face hasn’t been overly dry OR greasy since! I think that’s called normal skin?


Why using oil doesn’t make your face oily

So why did putting oil-free products on my face result in a greasy feeling face, but putting oil on my face didn’t ?! On the surface it seems counter-intuitive.

However, if you remember from my very first post on acne, it’s not actually the oil that is the problem; it’s the clogged pores. When everything is functioning properly, the oil that your skin naturally produces actually helps carry dead skin cells and dirt to the surface so they can be discarded. The oil also acts as a natural barrier against more dirt blocking the pores!

But since all those harsh products were drying out my skin, it responded by producing MORE oil. When you think about it, it makes sense. My skin was like “hello I’m dry, better make some more oil!” and that’s how I got the simultaneous dry and greasy situation.

So instead of stripping the skin of it’s natural oil barrier, the oil cleansing method works with it. First you massage clean oil into your dirty face. Remember “like dissolves like” from chemistry? It’s ok if you don’t — basically all it means is that the day old dirty oils on your face are being dissolved into the clean oils you’re applying to it. Next you steam your face with a warm washcloth to open your pores and allow the oil to get in there too. Finally, you wipe off the oil and voila! You’ve got a clean but not super dried out face.

Again, it’s one thing to sound good in theory, but I can attest to over a year of oil cleansing: IT ACTUALLY WORKS. I’d say that in addition to balancing my face’s moisture levels, it also helps my skin get over pimples quicker, if that makes sense. Otherwise they’ll stick around for ever.

Ready to do it? Gather your oils (see below for what to use) and get ready for a clean face!

Looking for more? Read my Marie Veronique Skincare review for my complete skincare routine!

What oils to use for oil cleansing

I’m sure you’re super stoked to start oil cleansing, but before you run into the kitchen and grab whatever’s sitting next to your stove hang on a sec. Not just any oil will do and in fact, if you have acne-prone skin there are some you should absolutely avoid.

AVOID OLIVE OIL AND COCONUT OIL. I know, that’s probably what you have lying around already. But both are highly comedogenic (meaning, they clog pores) so if your face has a tendency to clog its own pores you definitely don’t want the help!

The good news is that you definitely still don’t need to spend a fortune here, and you can probably find the basic oils at your local grocery store for less than $10 each. I would advise to look for cold-pressed and certified organic whenever possible. Remember, your pores are absorbing this so you want it to be the highest quality possible!

I’ve included links to everything, but most of these I buy at Whole Foods (duh).

Basic oils to use

You can get fancier (see below), but at the very minimum use these two oils. Castor oil can be very drying (I know! seems weird but it’s true), so the ratio you use will be dependent on your skin’s current moisture levels.

Dry skin: ⅔ Sunflower oil + ⅓ castor oil

“Normal” skin: ½ castor + ½ sunflower oil

Oily skin: ⅔ castor + ⅓ sunflower oil

Combine the oils in a dropper bottle (I use a 2oz one for reference). If you’re not sure what ratio to use, just do equal parts and leave some room in the bottle to adjust.

Maria’s current oil blend

Update: I’ve actually switched from making my own blend to using the Marie Veronique Pure + E.O. Free Oil Cleanser (more details in the Products section below)!

I have a bunch of oils on hand and I mix them each time I run out of what’s in the bottle, so it’s different every time! In the winter I’ll do less castor and more moisturizing oils, and in the summer I like something a little lighter. So basically experiment and see what you like!

I mix roughly ⅓ castor oil, and then I try to do equal amounts of the other oils to fill the bottle!

How to oil cleanse

When to do it: Night time. Your skin should still be relatively clean in the morning (and say goodbye to waking up with a greasy face)!

How often: When I started I was doing every night, but now I do 2-3 times a week. Find what works best for your skin and your schedule.


1. Start with a dry face. Don’t worry if you have any makeup on, we will clean it off! Also, if your water takes awhile to warm up, turn on the tap to hot.

2. Dispense about a dropper of oil into your palm. Rub oil between your hands briefly to warm it up.

3. Gently massage the oil into your skin: using the pads of your fingers, rub your face in a circular motion (up and out on each side) all over your face. I rub my fingertips along my hairline, on my forehead, and across my eyebrows. Then I work down to my temples, all over my cheeks, and on my nose. Lastly, I massage my jawline and chin. If my face is feeling particularly tense, I use my knuckles to lightly massage my jawline up to my temples too.

4. If you’re wearing eye makeup, I like to do that last, just rub gently across your eyelids a few times to get oil on them — we’ll be actually cleaning it off in the next step.

5. Test the temperature of the water — it should be warm but not scalding, so adjust as necessary. First splash some on your face and rub it all around, especially in any problem areas. Do this a few times to help work the oil into your skin and loosen any dirt. If you’re wearing eye makeup, rub the water over your eyelids last to loosen the makeup (yes, it will get all over your face — this is fine).

6. Take a washcloth and soak it in the warm water. Wring the excess water out of the washcloth and hold it to your face for 3-5 slow breaths. Note: if it freaks you out to have it over your entire face, you can do half a time and leave your nose exposed.

7. Rinse and wring the washcloth out and apply once more.

8. Repeat until your face feels clean, any makeup is gone, and it feels like you’ve removed most of the oil. I usually just do twice and then wash with a normal cleanser (see below)

9. Optional (If you’re using the Marie Veronique oil cleanser you don’t need this step): at the end, you can wash off any excess oil with a “normal” cleanser. (I use CLNS by The Skincare Company and love it! Lasts me about 4 months.) This ensures you haven’t left any dirt on your face, so if you don’t do this step make sure you have removed the dirt & oil completely.

That’s it! Dry your face, apply any serums, and finish with your moisturizer.

Products to buy

Key ingredients: If your skin is oily/acne-prone, looks for sunflower seed, safflower, or grapeseed oils. Also avoid olive and coconut oils!


  • Marie Veronique E.O. Free Oil Cleanser ($40 for 4 oz): I recently started using this and am HOOKED. This cleanser goes on like an oil but has something in it that, when you add water, suds slightly like a traditional cleanser and breaks up the oil! Every other oil cleanser I’ve tried (both pre-made and homemade) always feel like they leave an oily film on my skin — but not this one! Of course if you’re on a tighter budget the oil mixture described above still works great.
  • Primally Pure Cleansing Oil for oily skin, normal skin, or dry skin ($36/4oz): I’ve used the oily and normal skin ones in the past and they were nice, but basically the same as what I could make myself.
  • Crunchy Betty Exquisite Stuff Cleansing Oil for dry and aging skin, or It’s Tamanu Thyme Cleansing Oil for oily and acne prone skin ($31/4oz): I’ve never used these but they’ve been the most affordable pre-made options I’ve found.

Other resources

I hope y’all enjoyed this post as much as my face as enjoyed me oil cleansing! Have any questions or recommendations? Drop them in the comments below, and stay messy! (as assuredly you will when filling tiny jars with oil…) ?

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