top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Pink Elephant Lady

Clean my face - with OIL?!

Yes! Oil-based facial cleansers are all the rage, encouraged by beauty experts and celebrities alike. It can be tough to wrap one’s mind around the idea of cleansing the face with oil – So...what's the deal?

History of Facial Oils

Before the widespread availability of soap, people in many cultures used oil to cleanse the body. (Soap has existed for thousands of years but was not produced industrially until the 19th century). For example, as part of a visit to the baths, ancient Romans rubbed olive oil into their skin for cleansing and removed both the oil and any dirt with a strigil (an instrument with a curved blade used, especially by ancient Greeks and Romans, to scrape sweat and dirt from the skin in a hot-air bath or after exercise). Oil use on the face has also been mentioned in ancient literature, including the historical writings of Pliny the Elder.

So, How do Oil-Based Facial Cleansers Work?

“The theory behind oil cleansers is that they’re thought to remove bad excess oil because they have similar chemical properties as skin oil, which allow them to interact,” says Arielle Nagler, MD, a dermatologist at NYU Langone Medical Center. “This is in contrast to washing with water, which separates from oil.”

When massaged into the skin, oils in the cleanser bind to surface impurities (pulling out dirt without clogging pores) and allow them to be comfortably rinsed away leaving the skin clean, soft and hydrated, explains Dr. Diane Walder, a Miami-based cosmetic dermatologist. So, cleansing oil does not sink into your pores since it works to remove impurities and then gets washed away.

No matter the skin type, cleansing oil mixes with the preexisting oils already on your face, according to cosmetic dermatologic surgeon Dr. Ariel Ostad. “Some of these oils can either be naturally produced sebum or those from makeup and other products. When you rinse it all off, the ‘good oil’ takes those ‘bad oils’ and dirt along with it."

However, not all cleansing oils are alike. Amy Kassouf, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic, clarifies that many cleansing oils are better suited for people with dry skin who could use a little more moisture, rather than people who naturally produce a lot of oil. Not all oils function the same way, and many of them can have anti-inflammatory properties. And that's actually a GOOD thing for people with acne!

Oil-based Cleansers for Oily and Acne-Prone Skin

Water-based cleansers can fall short when it comes to effectively removing makeup and ridding your face of the excess sebum that can clog pores and create pimples, blackheads, and whiteheads. Meanwhile, super drying products meant to attack acne with ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide may have the opposite effect on skin — they can dry out your skin and actually prompt it to produce even more oil as a response.

Oil cleansers can be used alone before your toner, serum, and moisturizer, or as part of a two-step cleansing routine known as double cleansing, which is popular in Japan and South Korea. This method involves washing your face twice — first with an oil-based cleanser that gently removes oil and makeup, and then with a water-based, foaming cleanser that provides a more thorough deep cleansing to truly rid your skin of all traces of excess sebum and makeup, thereby preventing acne and blackheads from forming.

Oil cleansing can be beneficial for cystic acne (see chart) in the sense that it draws out impurities, bacteria and toxins resulting in cyst reduction.

The scientific principle in the oil cleansing method is simple: Oil dissolves oil. Oil is a non-polar substance; therefore using another non-polar substance that has similar components cancels out pre-existing oil. The pre-existing oil on the skin is removed and replaced with healthy oils. It may seem a bit strange, but oil cleansing is not only natural but the oils used are beneficial for the skin. Unlike commercial facial cleansers that fail to add moisture, oil cleansing maintains a healthy balance of moisture and nutrients without overloading the skin. Water based commercial facial cleansers that contain no oils can potentially strip the skin, leaving a dry and tight feeling. In short, those with either oily or dry skin should not fear oil cleansing as the proper mixture ensures beneficial results.

All Oils are Not Created Equal

Some oils are great for oily skin because of their unique ratio of essential fatty acids, while others can block pores. This is why grapeseed oil, which is naturally high in linoleic acid, is helpful for those with clogged pores and oily skin.

We have to consider how the essential fatty acids in these oils will interact and potentially affect oily skin.

Here are some oils you shouldn’t use if you have oily skin and clogged pores:

Unfractionated Coconut Oil

Briefly, fractionated coconut oil is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature and extends the product’s shelf life. It also makes it a lighter oil that is less likely to clog pores. Heavier oils rich in fatty acids are wonderful moisturizers, but they can be irritating for sensitive skin.

Cocoa Butter

This is another very moisturizing ingredient that has skin-protecting antioxidants as well as plumping fatty acids, but it can be too occlusive for oily skin, especially on the face. (An occlusive is a substance that physically prevents water loss and clogs pores).

Wheat Germ Oil

On the natural ingredient list, wheat germ oil is often listed as one of the most comedogenic. If you have clogged pores, it’s probably best to avoid this oil and restrict its use for hair care.

Shea butter

This butter, though super beneficial for dry skin, may be too much for oily prone skin because of its high level of oleic fatty acids. There are varying levels of shea butter in different products, and the formula matters too—what the shea butter is mixed in with. You don’t necessarily need to stay away from this one, but just be cautious when you see it, and watch your skin carefully for any reactions.

Sea Buckthorn Oil

This oils is full of protective antioxidants, but it’s low in linoleic acid, too. It’s not particularly high in oleic, so if you combine it with some other oils that are higher in linoleic acid, it’s likely you could still enjoy the anti-aging benefits without having to worry about clogged pores.

Other Oils of Concern for Oily Skin

Several oils are high in “oleic” fatty acids, which are believed to cause more clogged pores than those high in “linoleic” fatty acids. Since oily skin is believed to be low in linoleic fatty acids, oils with more of these typically work well, while those with more “oleic” acid may cause more issues. Based on this theory, some to avoid include olive, avocado, apricot kernel, and sweet almond oil. Meanwhile, some oils that are great for oily skin include grapeseed, rosehip, evening primrose, hemp, and pumpkin seed oil.

What Does 'Non-Comedogenic' Mean?

Ingredients used in skin care and cosmetics are often referred to as "non-comedogenic", implying the product will not aggravate or induce acne. In fact, the term is often misused. It usually refers to whether an ingredient is non-occlusive, which means it will not clog pores. Ingredients that do not clog pores are considered to be less aggravating to acne-prone skin, which certainly makes sense. However, there are MANY different causes for acne, including stripping the skin of natural oils for some.

"Oil-free" is a term applied to cosmetic formulations that do not contain oils. As a marketing term, it is meant to imply that it will also be good for skin prone to acne or blackheads. However, is it not the case that all oils will cause acne or block pores.

Here is a short list of plant-based oils and other natural ingredients that have a lower pore clogging probability:

  • Almond Oil

  • Apricot Kernel Oil

  • Avocado Oil

  • Beeswax

  • Bentonite Clay

  • Castor Oil

  • Emulsifying Wax NF

  • Emu Oil

  • Evening Primrose

  • Glycerin

  • Jojoba

  • Kaolin Clay

  • Olive Oil

  • Peanut Oil

  • Safflower Oil

  • Sesame Oil

  • Stearic Acid

  • Sunflower Oil

  • Tea Tree Oil

  • Aloe Vera (cold pressed)

Plant-based natural oils as listed above, when used with a light hand, aid in retaining a moisture layer on the skin without clogging pores. Natural oils such as Olive, Jojoba, Almond and Safflower have lipid profiles very similar to that of human skin. This quality makes them ideal to treat skin disorders such as acne, psoriasis and seborrheic eczema. In addition, Olive oil has a large proportion of vitamins A, D and K, and E, which is known to fight against free radicals that produce oxidation of cells.

Scrubbing and drying out skin causes irritation and a breakdown of the protective barrier of the skin, making it more susceptible to bacteria. Dry skin also flakes, which can further clog pores.

An occlusive agent which seals moisture into the skin does not allow the natural exfoliation from inside the pores to come to the surface and be washed away. A sealed skin also keeps bacteria and skin oils close to the surface. Use of a moisturizing agent that is not pore-clogging helps keep moisture next to the skin while allowing natural exfoliation of the pores, and also allows toxins to be released from the skin.

Consider judicious use of natural plant-based oils in your beauty routine!

Our Oil-Based Cleanser

Pink Elephant Product's Zesty Orange Dual-Action Facial Cleanser is our oil-based cleanser that's formulated specifically for those who have dry and/or aging skin. This product will leave facial skin clean and nourished without that "tight" and "dried out" feeling that often comes from soap based products as it's soap free! It contains a mild exfoliant to help reveal new skin from underneath dry top layers. We've found that most people who use this product do not need to apply a moisturizer, making this a time saving 3 in 1 product with a gentle exfoliant and a built in moisturizer. Added bonus: the pleasant scent of natural orange, cinnamon, and coconut!

The procedures for oil cleansing are a bit different than using conventional facial cleansers:

1) Wet face with very warm water.

2) Rub oil-based cleanser into skin using gentle, circular motions for up to 2 minutes.

3) Leave on for 30 seconds after rubbing.

4) Wet a wash cloth with very warm water, and remove all traces oil from face using wash cloth (splashing face with water alone will not remove oil-based cleanser).

Be sure to check out the rest of our full line of facial care products, including:

Chamomile & Calendula Facial Toner Pads

Balancing Facial Cleanser

Acne Serum

Acai Berry Facial Moisturizer

Creamy Facial Cleanser

Anti-Aging Serum

Dead Sea Mud Mask

As always, all products are free of synthetic fragrance and hormone-disrupting chemicals!


American Academy of Dermatology 10 Tips for Clearing Acne in Skin of Color Natural Oils for Skin Care

Ann Marie Gianni 7 Oils You Shouldn't Use if You Have Clogged Pores

Black Hair Media Oil Cleansing Method

Enticingly Simple The Oil Cleansing Method: No More Scary Chemicals

Huffington Post What the Heck is Cleansing Oil, and Why is Everyone Obsessed with it?

Wikipedia Oil-Based Cleansing Method

#skincare #facialoils

408 views0 comments
bottom of page