The truth about oil

Although people are beginning to give oil based cleansers and moisturisers a go as more enter the beauty market, I think the general perception remains that oil clogs your pores and gives you spots. It is counter-intuitive for us to put oil on our face when we’ve been told for so long that oily skin = spots and the many ranges of ‘acne fighting’ products out there proudly proclaim to be oil free.

So does oil really cause spots? What oils are good for our skin? And what do those anti-acne washes actually do?

First up, let’s look at how those ‘spot fighting’ products work. Well, in essence, they just dry out your skin, stripping away the natural oils on the surface of your face through a combination of harsh chemicals and alcohol, in doing so temporarily drying out any spots you have. In the long run, this causes your skin to fight back by producing more oil to combat the unnatural dryness created; hence a vicious cycle begins as your body fights against the products stripping away its natural moisture.

Now instead of fighting against our bodies, shouldn’t we try to understand how they work and how we can work with them to take care of ourselves? You may not know that producing oil is actually one of the body’s cleansing mechanisms. In fact you’ve probably heard that if you leave your hair for long enough it will clean itself. Well, it might not look (and smell) as fabulous as it would if it was freshly washed with your favourite shampoo, but it won’t be the greasy mop you might think it would be.

Still not convinced? Well, did you know that oil dissolves oil? Therefore, applying clean, pure oil to your face is actually the most effective way of dissolving the impurity-ridden oil which has built up on your face throughout the day.

The spots which appear on your face are caused by a number of factors; diet being the main one, as well as bacteria, toxins, hormones and dead skin cells. Oil is not what causes your blemishes. Your skin is meant to produce oil; this is natural. Oil keeps your skin hydrated, protected and moisturised so that it can function properly, not to mention feeling and looking soft and glowing.

How to cleanse with oil

Oil based products and pure oil itself are fantastic for cleansing your skin. If you haven’t used oil before I recommend starting with castor oil. Castor oil has been known for centuries for its healing properties. It’s very thick though so you’ll want to mix this with a runnier oil such as extra virgin olive oil or sunflower seed oil to get it to a consistency good for cleansing. Make sure it’s a good quality, cold-pressed vegetable oil; if possible go for organic too. The oilier your skin the less castor oil you should use: for the oiliest go for a 20%/80% mix; and adapt as necessary to your own skin type. I’d mix the two together in the kitchen then put it in a squeezy bottle which you can take with you wherever you want (try Muji for travel bottles).

Now that you’ve mixed up your very own oil cleanser, you’re ready to cleanse. Do this at night to remove all your makeup and clean off all the dirt, grime and toxins you’ve accumulated throughout the day. There’s no need to do a deep cleanse in the morning if you’ve done this properly the night before. It’s important not to over-cleanse our faces so just use warm water alone in the mornings.

Fill the sink with hot, steaming water and stand over it as you work. Pour some oil into your hands and begin to massage it into your face (without water). Using circular motions massage your cheeks, forehead, chin, nose and neck. Apply enough pressure so that’s it’s comfortable but really work the oil into the skin to draw all the dirt and impurities out of your pores. This is also fantastic for stimulating the blood flow and kick-starting the lymphatic system which will help rejuvenate skin cells and drain toxins.

When you’ve massaged for a good few minutes, soak a wash cloth or muslin flannel in hot water and cover your face with it. The steam will open your pores to loosen the oil and the dirt within them. Keep the cloth on your face until it’s cooled down and then wipe the oil away. Repeat a couple of times until you’ve removed all the oil. You don’t need to scrub – the cloth and the hot water will do the work for you.

Now, your skin should be so silky smooth that you will hardly need much more moisture. But a couple of drops of emu oil will ensure you have all day long hydration, nourishment and softness. Read my post on emu oil to find out more about this amazing non-comedogenic (non pore clogging) oil. If emu oil isn’t your thing (e.g. for vegetarians) just use a couple of drops of pure cold-pressed vegetable oil.

If you’re not the do-it-yourself kinda girl, there are some interesting oil based cleansers on the market. One I’ve tried myself and would recommend is Nude Cleansing Facial Oil (£22 for 100ml). I really liked this as it lifted all my makeup off, even waterproof mascara, and left my skin feeling clean and soft. It contains a combination of soybean oil, vegetable oil and olive oil as well as some essential oils which give is a nice fragrance. So, for a prettily packaged version of the DIY one above, it’s a nice option. But it probably doesn’t do anything extra to warrant the extra cost to be honest!

Finally, remember that your diet is the most important thing in changing your skin. I’ve tested this myself (by giving up sugar) and sadly it is true that what you put on the inside will show on the outside (except for a few lucky people who annoyingly can get away with murder!) My advice is nothing you won’t have heard before but it’s the truth: drink plenty of water, eat fresh, raw vegetables (organic if you can), limit refined sugars and dairy products, and get plenty of omega oils in your diet from oily fish and/or seeds such as linseeds (and/or take omega oil supplements). Consuming enough water, vitamins from fresh vegetables and the right type of oils will help your body maintain optimum oil production that will keep your skin hydrated, soft and healthy. Using oils in your beauty routine complement this perfectly by both cleansing and moisturising in harmony with your body.

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4 thoughts on “The truth about oil

  1. Hi, What a great article. I’ve been oil based cleansing for some time now. In fact I’m working toward being completely soap free as my skin is very sensitive – Check out my site for advice on water free moisturising. Happy Soap dodging!

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