A Month Without Facewash

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I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that you could oil cleanse without using a regular cleanser afterwards, if you repeatedly wiped off the old oil and added more oil to dilute the dirt (not quite what I said in this early post – but that was assuming that you only wipe oil on your face once). So naturally I had to test it out on my favourite guinea pig – me!

I was pretty hesitant to experiment on my face, considering all the effort I’ve gone to over the years to get it to a stage where I can leave the house without make-up some days without wanting the earth to open up and swallow me. My reasoning to convince myself went like this:

Say you have 0.5 mL of dirt and make-up on your face, and you add 2 mL of oil. You mix it thoroughly, then wipe off 80% of it with a tissue. Now you only have 0.1 mL of dirt/make-up on your face.

Repeat: 0.02 mL left.
Repeat: only 0.004 mL left. That’s less than a tenth of a drop!

In practice, I used more than 2 mL of oil each time, and wiped off more than 80% of the oil (20% of 2 mL is 0.4 mL. One drop of oil is less than 0.1 mL, and I use 3 drops of rose hip oil for moisturising my face at night – I had less oil than that on my face after each wipe). So the amount of dirt left at the end would’ve been even less.

(If you’re wondering where I got the idea, it’s from a technique in chemistry called titration, which involves working out concentrations of liquids. In titration, instead of washing out your glassware with soap, you rinse it out three times with your next solution, with the logic that each rinse will dilute the unwanted stuff enough that it’ll be insignificant by the end. It’s a very precise analytical technique, so I figured that if it’s good enough for analytical chemists (who as you may guess, are really anal), it’s probably good enough for my face.)

So I tried it out for a month straight…

My routine

– I used canola oil at first then switched to jojoba when I ran out (I’m sure any of the oils typically used for OCM would work just as well).

– I didn’t use any other cleansers on my face other than oil and Lush Angels on Bare Skin once a week (it’s oil-based and contains ground almond scrubbing grains, no surfactants)

– I didn’t massage the first three “oil rinses” too much as I didn’t want to push make-up into my skin. I splashed the oil on, spread it around for a couple of seconds, then wiped it off with a tissue.

– For the final oil rinse, I massaged the oil around my face for about a minute. I then stepped into the shower with a greasy face, and at the end I blotted my face with a towel. Surprisingly, after this routine, my face didn’t feel greasier than normal – just pleasantly soft and supple, not even oily.
– I’ve only ever washed my face at night – I only splash water on it in the morning and blot off with a towel, so I only went through this regimen in the evenings.

– I kept the rest of my routine the same (if you’re wondering why I haven’t reviewed many skincare and face make-up products lately, that’s why!). I kept using my retinol, AHA, BHA and vitamin C products, and kept to the same tried-and-tested moisturisers.

How did it go?

The Good:

Excuse my bare face with the giant forehead that’s usually hiding behind a strategic fringe:

– Breakout free!!! To my surprise, I didn’t break out significantly more than usual, even though I wore more make-up (I’ve been working 6 days a week and sometimes went out on my day off too). So naturally I’m putting that down to my flawless logic above.

– Goodbye dry – I had a couple of dry patches under my eyes before I started, and winter usually results in some dry patches on my face every few days. None at all during this month – pretty impressive!

– No irritation. It’s winter here in Sydney, and usually my face will be a bit itchy after a warm shower and face wash – no more of that.

– One product does it all – Eye make-up removal, face make-up removal and face wash are all done with the oil.

– Tap not needed – My bathroom was being renovated for most of this time, so there was one bathroom between four people who all shower at night, so having a tap-free washing routine was pretty handy.

– Oil control – Another surprise: my face was less oily than usual during this experiment. I’m usually oily a few hours after applying make-up, but with oil cleansing I lasted til late afternoon.

– Clogged pores begone – I’ve always had some issues with clogged pores (not-quite-blackhead bits) in that region under the eye, next to the nose. After a couple weeks of oil cleansing, there weren’t any left. My forehead usually has a few bumps too – I don’t think it’s ever been so clear!

The Bad:

– Time consuming – This was the biggest downside. After a full day of work and sometimes dance class as well afterwards, the last thing I wanted to do was rub oil on my face for five minutes before jumping into the shower!

– Less potent actives – I found that pimple marks took longer to fade, and the impact of my actives seemed less dramatic. I think this was because of the oily film that the actives had to pass through to get to my skin.

Overall, I don’t think continuously oil cleansing and avoiding surfactants for this long is a good idea for everyone – surfactants are quick and there are many well-formulated cleansers out there that aren’t very harsh. But if you’re prone to dry patches, cutting down your surfactant use to a couple times a week and replacing with oil cleansing is worth a try.

For me at least, successive cleanses with oil is thorough enough to remove make-up, without needing to follow up with a cleanser. Of course, your mileage may vary, depending on how sensitive your skin is, and how comedogenic your make-up is. This winter, I’ll be using this oil cleansing method a couple times a week, and using my actives on days when I’m washing with surfactant-containing cleanser.

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8 thoughts on “A Month Without Facewash”

  1. This is really interesting! I wonder why it took longer for the blemish marks to disappear when we’ve all been told that face oils help to reduce them! You’re skin has that gorgeous flawless look! So jealous! Do you read Caroline Hirons blog? She always says that keeping skin super hydrated and oily is so good for keeping pimples at bay! I listen to that and notice my pimples and discolouration fade way quicker when I keep them quite moist. 🙂

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  2. I’ve been experimenting similarly with oil cleansing, and my face feels so plump and hydrated afterwards! I’ve been using warm washers alongside the oils as almost a steam treatment and it feels really nice. But I am too chicken to abandon normal cleansers completely haha.

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  3. Very interesting! I’ve always wondered if you could go without a regular cleanser after oil cleansing. I feel like I have to cleanse after though, if you know what I mean? The results you had seem really great though and I think a few times a week is a good compromise. Ahaha titrations, I’ve been doing that in Chemistry class the past few terms so I understood that 🙂

    Tasha // shiwashiful.

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  4. I’m glad this worked for you! Maybe I’ve got a ton of dirt on my face that I can’t see, but I don’t follow my oil cleanses with another cleanser and I just do the one time. I do tend to break out if I’m bad about washing my face or use wipes more than a few days in a row, but just one oil or balm cleanse a night keeps my skin clear. After I apply all my skin care, most mornings I don’t even rewash my face, I just rinse it with water. I only use a regular cleanser when I’m tired or lazy. My skin has never felt better.

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  5. This is genius! I’ll do this method when my skin is extra dry/irritated and I’m not using any actives. Then I’ll do the usual double cleanse (with surfactants as the second cleanse) when I’m using actives. This is perfect cause I’m about to use the AHA Liquid from Cosrx which is only used 3 times a week 🙂

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