I wanted a way to wash my face every day without getting that awful stiff feeling afterwards, or stripping my skin of its natural oils and causing a rash (or worse, acne). I did a little digging, and discovered the Oil Cleansing Method (often abbreviated to “OCM”). The theory behind it is that natural, “clean” oils, like olive and castor, are ideal for cleansing because they’re “good” oils, which penetrate to draw out the bad ones (the stuff that clogs your pores), supposedly leaving you with glowing, moisturized skin.
The routine: Once a day, I rubbed a quarter-sized amount of an oil blend — 1/8 cup castor and 1/8 cup olive, mixed in an old Smucker’s jelly jar — on my face. I then placed a hot washcloth over it for a minute, and subsequently wiped away the solution. When I needed extra exfoliation, I added a sprinkle of baking soda to the mixture.
Did it work?: For the first two weeks, it did. My roommate commented on how great my skin looked after my first couple of times doing it, and, yes, I was glowing. My skin felt supple, moisturized, and soft — so, so soft. But after two weeks, it started to dry out. By the end of the month, my radiant skin had disappeared, leaving a dull, splotchy mess in its place. It was so bad that I e-mailed NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Heidi Waldorf. “I don’t recommend it,” she wrote. “First, there is a significant risk of allergic contact dermatitis to some natural oils like castor oil. Second, even if the oil applied to the skin helps remove some of the natural oil (sebum) from the skin surface, it is just replacing it with additional oil which, if it isn’t a noncomedogenic oil, could aggravate acne.” You live and you learn.