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This post has been updated.
This post, written in 2010, is about oil cleansing, which did amazing things for my skin and planted the seed for my natural skin care journey and the eventual release of my Skintervention Guide. Remember, however, true transformation isn’t just about topical strategies. No amount of oil cleansing can fix a nutritional deficiency, and nutritional deficiencies set the stage for acne, skin problems, hormonal imbalances, and – yes – stinky pits and bad hair. The quality and sources of our food – the only fuel we have – determines how well every single bodily process works.
Update:You don’t have to work as hard at this regimen as it seems. One day per week of by-the-book cleansing (as explained below) is excellent, but the rest of the time you can do a few different things: You can massage your oil of choice into your skin (I like ^coconut and ^jojoba, and ^tallow is excellent for sensitive skin), then briefly cover your face with a warm (NOT HOT) washcloth and wipe away – once to remove makeup if necessary, then again to cleanse.
Alternatively, you can allow your single oil or your castor-oil blend to sit on your skin while you shower, rather than using a warm washcloth, then wipe off. Moisturize with a dab of your oil of choice (not castor, which is too drying alone, but the other oils).
In my Primal journey I’ve been led to re-evaluate so many of my personal-care practices.
First, nutrition. As my wise sister says, “food is the top personal care product you can get.” So true. Eating a diet of appropriately fed meats, grass-fed animal fats and fat from coconut oil and other healthful sources, along with lots of veggies, has improved everything from my disposition to my skin and dental health.
Don’t believe me? Check out my before-and-after:
Next, I’ve re-evaluated my surroundings. I used to be a bit of a bleach addict (I can’t explain it – I just love the smell) but I’ve begun played around with beneficial bacteria for home cleaning – yup, probiotics like those found at SCD Probiotics and Protection in Probiotics. Why fight constantly re-colonizing “bad” bacteria when you can crowd them out with the good stuff and maintain that positive environment?
Last, the way I treat my skin from the outside has changed.
What truly sent me over the skin-clearing edge was tossing all the harsh/gentle/foaming/non-foaming/astringent/non-comodegenic CRUD I’d been smearing on my face for years in hopes it would treat a symptom (acne) rather than addressing the root cause (hormonal and bodily imbalances). Switching to the Oil Cleansing Method, along with using oils exclusively to moisturize, truly made my skin better and more clear than it’s ever been. And I no longer put ingredients I can’t pronounce on my skin every day.
More on the Oil Cleansing Method can be found here, and I describe my personal regimen, which I believe improves upon that method, below. While it’s a more time-consuming process, it seems to balance incredibly effectively (much like proper nutrition).
I started with three basic oils: castor for cleansing (I am currently evaluating hazelnut oil as a replacement for castor, as castor oil production is not ideal), grapeseed as a skin-nourishing counter-balance to the intense cleansing ability of the castor, and jojoba for post-cleansing moisture. (Update: I now use ^organic sweet almond oil or Kasandrinos Olive Oil for cleansing, as they suit my skin better).
I have used various oils for moisturizing since this post was first published, including jojoba, coconut and tallow. I find that while many people swear by coconut oil, most people tolerate tallow best.
Castor oil has a long history in wound treatment and holistic medicine, and even Ayurvedic tradition. It’s incredibly potent, considered a topically-applied anti-inflammatory, and NOT EVER EVER EVER for cooking. Unless you’re not planning on hanging on to your meal for too long. (That’s a motility joke.) As previously stated, I am currently evaluating whether castor oil production methods warrant a new recommendation of hazelnut oil. I’ll keep you posted.
I add 1 part Castor oil to 2 parts grapeseed (or other complementary oil) for the cleansing mixture. In the evenings I apply a generous amount of the mixture to my face, massage for a few minutes, then apply a very warm washcloth to my face to open the pores, holding the warm cloth on my skin for a few minutes. (Remember, if it’s too hot for your hands, it’s too hot for your face.)
As I learned in 7th Grade Biology (or as the interwebs tell me that I should’ve learned), “Like dissolves Like” – so does the cleansing oil dissolve the oily gunk stuck in my pores. At the same time, the oils nourish and balance my skin.
After the first stint with the warm washcloth, I massage the remaining oil in again, use the warm washcloth again, then gently wipe all remaining oil off as best I can. I pat my skin dry, then add a thin layer of jojoba, coconut oil, or tallow.
Jojoba oil is actually a wax ester, and is extremely close in structure to the skin’s natural sebum. It creates the perfect balance – your skin won’t over-or under-produce oil when it’s nourished with jojoba. Coconut oil is great for more intensive moisture, though not all skin types tolerate it well, and the Lauric Acid is thought to have a great affinity for the hair and skin. Both have anti-microbial properties and keep “bad” bacteria from thriving. Tallow is well-tolerated by almost all skin types, and has become a new favorite.
You can find all many skin care oils at Whole Foods, as well as online. The first week using the OCM I saw a nice little breakout – a detox, perhaps – but I stuck with it. After a week my skin began to steadily improve, and after a few months my skin looked amazing – better than the results of years of dermatological intervention.
In the morning I simply splash water on my face or add a teaspoon of baking soda to a dash of water and VERY gently sweep the baking soda across my skin for a gentle exfoliant. I also utilize clay masks for extra deep cleansing each week. (Update: I use this homemade toner and clay masks pretty religiously these days. The benefits are endless!)
I’ve been so happy with this routine, but I love to hear other experiences and suggestions – so let me know what’s on your mind in the comments!