Oil Cleansing: Does Castor and Olive Oil Face Wash Really Work?


Oil may be the answer to your skin-care needs.“Oil may be the answer to your skin-care needs.Carolina Garcia Aranda/iStock

Consuming olive oil can have heart-healthy benefits and swallowing a spoonful of castor oil may help with digestion, but should you use these kitchen staples as part of your skin-care routine? These easy-on-the-budget oils may just be a great option for smoother (and possibly younger-looking) skin! Even better? You don’t have to choke down a disgusting spoonful of either.

Using castor oil and olive oil as natural alternatives to harsher cleansers has gotten some buzz online in recent years. The "oil cleansing method" replaces your usual face wash and moisturizers with oil-based products and seems to be getting positive reviews by acne sufferers who’ve switched to this method.

Oil is rich in antioxidants, and certain ones have antibacterial properties. This can appeal to the many people who find the chemicals in foaming facial cleansers too harsh for their skin. But if your skin is already oily, this oil plus more oil method probably sounds like worst-case scenario. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t have to be. Oil in the cleanser attaches to the oil on the face, and both wash away when you rinse.

According to Jeanette Jacknin, M.D., a San Diego-based holistic dermatologist and author of Smart Medicine for Your Skin, oil gently yet effectively removes makeup, dirt, sweat, and excess sebum, the skin’s natural oil that keeps it protected and supple. It does that without irritating sensitive skin. It also maintains the skin’s natural level of moisture. [source: WholeLiving.com]

Though there is no shortage of bloggers and beauty DIYers who applaud this process, not all dermatologists are convinced. "I usually recommend face washes with a neutral PH and mild non-soap cleansers," says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor, Yale School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology. "They are gentle on the skin and are also simultaneously effective at cutting through grease, grime, and make-up. In my practice I do not recommend a castor oil/olive oil face wash. Traditionally, oils are perceived to be comedogenic, meaning they predispose you to getting acne. Even if they have some type of anti-inflammatory or antibacterial effect, the consistency of the product would not be ideal for those suffering from or prone to acne. Also, I would be very hesitant to recommend such a ‘niche’ solution, because it could end up exacerbating the situation for the large majority."

Andrew Ordon, MD, board-certified plastic surgeon, and co-host on ‘The Doctors’ agreed that natural oils may have a place in your beauty routine, just not as face wash: "Olive oil is a great natural moisturizer. It’s good for your skin, hair, and nails." He recommends only using it a few times a week as a moisturizer and applying it at night since it’s messy and has the consistency of baby oil.

But if you are still curious about making your own oil cleansing concoction, mix a small amount of castor oil (usually a drop or two) with a teaspoon or so of olive, safflower or sunflower oil. Because castor oil has strong cleansing properties, you need a richer oil to balance it out. The combined amount should be the size of a quarter. Use slow, firm motions to rub the oil into your skin, then apply a washcloth soaked with warm water to your face. Wipe the oil away gently and rinse your face with warm water, then pat dry with a towel.

Not ready to take the plunge with the oil cleansing method? Start small and use castor oil as a gentle moisturizing eye cream. Just apply on the under eye area before bed, being careful not to get any in your eyes. [source: ReadersDigest.com]

Bottom line? If you’ve been battling acne and want to swap your harsher face wash for a more natural cleanser and moisturizer, it might be worth a try. But it’s probably best to check with your dermatologist first.

Lots More Information

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  • From ‘Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things.’ "6 Ways to Use Castor Oil at Home."


  • Castoroil.org. "Castor Oil Benefits."http://castoroil.org/castor-oil-benefits/
  • Andrew Ordon, MD. Personal correspondence. August 28, 2013.
  • WholeLiving.com. "Oil Skin Cleansers." September 2011.
  • Mona Gohara, MD. Personal correspondence. September 3, 2013.


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