How to cleanse your face with nothing more than oil (and a little apple cider vinegar)

The Oil Cleansing Method

I’ve been a sufferer of acne for seventeen years. In one quick swoop I went from teenage acne to cystic adult acne – no gaps in between.

Seeing other women with fresh, clear skin has always made me envious.

When I first read about oil cleansing, I screwed up my nose in disgust. Adding more oil to my face? You’ve got to be kidding!

It was probably sheer desperation that took me from that original gasp of horror to standing in the bathroom with a puddle of oil in each hand.

Four years on, I’m so glad I gave it a shot.

Sure, my skin still isn’t the dewy, glowing skin you see in magazines. But I have seen a marked improvement through oil cleansing.

The biggest and most immediate difference I noticed when I began oil cleansing was that my skin actually stopped being so oily. And this naturally resulted in less pimples.

I also often get told I look many years younger than I actually am (and that can never be a bad thing, can it?).

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How the heck does it actually work?

Using harsh facial cleansers strips the skin of natural oils. To compensate, your skin then produces even more oil. In contrast, when cleansing with oil, dirt and impurities are gently drawn to the surface without over-cleansing. Over time, the oil production in your skin is able to rebalance.

You can read more about the oil cleansing method over here.

Let me share with you how I cleanse, tone and moisturise my face, and some tips on how I have managed my acne naturally over the years.

The oil cleansing method

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Make-up remover


Coconut oil
Makeup pads


Blot a small amount of oil onto a makeup pad. Gently stroke over your eyes.

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Cold-pressed castor oil
A secondary natural, cold-pressed oil of your choosing (olive oil, sunflower oil, argon oil)
A soft face cloth


1. Create your personal oil blend

Your personal oil blend is a combination of castor oil and a secondary oil of your choosing.

The ratio of oils used depends on the oiliness of your skin. If you have dry skin, you’ll use less castor oil. If you have oily skin, you’ll use more castor oil.

Play around with your ratios until you find a blend that is best suited to your skin type.

I used these instructions to better understand how to make a suitable blend and I purchase all my oils from iHerb.

2. Cleanse

To cleanse with oil, pour a small amount of your oil blend into your hands then gently massage the oil into your face. Use gentle circular motions, paying particular attention to any problem areas. Continue to do this for about a minute.

Run your face cloth under hot water. Squeeze out excess water.

Place the hot cloth over your entire face for a few moments. I love this step! It feels amazing!

The combination of the oil blend and the steam will draw any impurities to the surface which can then be wiped away.

Gently wipe the cloth over your face to remove dirt and excess oil from your skin.

Rinse the cloth in hot running water, squeeze out excess water and repeat the steaming process again.

I use the oil cleansing method once or twice a week in the evening or whenever my face feels ultra-grotty.

For the other days and in the morning, I simply run a face cloth under hot water and place it over my face for a few minutes. The steam draws out any impurities and removes the makeup.

I know this sounds a little crazy but you have read this right. Most days I don’t use a cleanser at all. 

My skin has never been better.

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1 part apple cider vinegar
2 parts water
Makeup pads


1.  Create your toner

In a small bottle mix the apple cider vinegar into the water.

2. Toning your skin

After cleansing your skin, dampen a makeup pad with your toner.

Gently wipe the makeup pad over your face to remove excess dirt.

I only use this toner in the evenings on the days when I have not oil cleansed. I do not use toner at all in the mornings.

I’ve found apple cider vinegar useful for reducing redness on my skin and removing blackheads around my nose.

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While oil works well for me as a cleanser, it’s definitely a no-go as a moisturiser. I’ve tried coconut oil, jojoba oil and argon oil as moisturisers. All three made my face break out badly.

Instead, I use an organic facial moisturiser from Sukin and I always say an affirmation while moisturising:

“Every day my skin is getting brighter, clearer, smoother, younger.”

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My journey with adult acne

From very early on in my seventeen-year acne-ridden journey, I shunned suggestions for the birth control pill and roaccutane. I just knew that it was better to let my body rebalance naturally.

In this time, I’ve tried a whole range of different teas, potions, diets and skin-care products.

I’ve discovered that a simple, clean, vegan diet is the best for my skin (I believe this is because of the elimination of dairy).

I’ve also found four additional factors which influence the frequency and intensity of my breakouts:

  1. Going to bed with a clean face – I always cleanse using the method I described above.
  2. Drinking loads of water – I drink at least two cups of warm hot lemon water in the morning and an additional two litres of water a day.
  3. Limiting sugar intake
  4. Taking a good multi-vitamin and an omega 3 supplement – I use Nutriway Double X from Amway (and have done so for over 10 years) and Melrose organic flaxseed oil capsules.

If I follow these steps religiously, it’s not uncommon for me to go weeks without a breakout, and even then it’s just a few small spots. I always know when I haven’t been taking care of myself, as my skin is the first to show signs of distress.

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Finding a skin-care regime that works for you

I want to finish by saying that while the above method works well for me, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will for you.

We all have different skin types and of course that means we all need different skin-care regimes. It may take a little time to find a regime that works best for you and your skin.

Be willing and open to experiment.

If I can help in any way, please pop your questions in the comments below.

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12 steps to cosmetics so natural you can eat the ingredients

This little how-to is the third instalment in our series on how to green your bathroom by swapping to completely natural and cruelty-free cosmetics.

Cleansing your face with oils means you know exactly what’s inside the stuff you’re a-slathering all over your skin.

No more nasty chemicals. No testing on animals. Much less packaging. And, quite possibly, clearer skin.

Stay tuned for part four, where we’ll be sharing our own recipe for homemade organic chocolate body butter.

We’re also volunteering to be your human guinea pigs, so if there’s something natural cosmetics-related that you’ve been a-ponderin’, hit us up in the comments.

Check out the other steps via the links below:


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14 Responses to How to cleanse your face with nothing more than oil (and a little apple cider vinegar)

  1. Janine April 15, 2015 at 9:05 am #

    These are great natural products that I use all the time. As I am nearly 50 I buy vitamin E capsules and pierce one and use a tiny amount under my eyes it has soften the lines on my face. Kind regards Janine, South Australia x

    • Alana April 15, 2015 at 10:50 am #

      That’s a great idea, Janine! Sometimes I blot a little argon oil around my eyes too. It’s apparently very high in vitamin E. xx

  2. Bianca April 15, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    I would just like to start by saying you are both truly special! I discovered your blog only recently by chance (actually I don’t really believe in chance) – found a recipe on foodgawker which brought me to your site. As a fellow Aussie (currently living in England) you both intrigued me and the more I read the more I feel I have in common with you both. All that being said, the timing of this blog is incredible as I have been feeling very conscious of my skin for a few weeks now. I have broken out recently with spots all over my face. As a teen I too suffered from acne – there were days I didn’t want to leave the house and my acne wasn’t even all that bad (looking back now). Ever since changing to a (clean) vegan diet about a year and a half ago my skin just improved naturally but as a I mentioned recently it has all flared up again and I was transported right back in time to my years as a teen and all my insecurities started to manifest themselves again.

    I decided to give up all my makeup (laced with harmful chemicals) and opted to use coconut oil for mosturiser, 100% Pure – Fruit Pigmented Long Last Concealer (most natural I have found and boy I did loads of research), and as a finishing powder/bronzer – arrowroot + cacao powder. I believe though that this is what contributed to my breakout. It took a long conversation with my wonderful man to snap me out of the illusory world I was creating in my head (where everyone had perfect skin and I would be somehow inferior if I didn’t wear makeup to hide my so called blemishes/imperfections) – I have decided not to wear make-up and started a natural skincare regime of cleansing with bicarb soda (twice a week) and every night wiping my face with organic apple cider vinegar and mosturising with 100% organic shea butter. It’s been only a week but I’ve already started noticing the difference – probably more so on my self-esteem and confidence (I work in the corporate environment and would normally feel very exposed but am feeling very liberated). I’ll keep this up and let you know how I go 🙂

    • Alana April 21, 2015 at 4:50 pm #

      Hi Bianca! Welcome! I’m so glad you found us (I don’t believe in chance either).
      And thank you for your kind words – I’m so glad that this post has been timely for you.
      Wow! What commitment to change over to homemade makeup. I am completely in awe! This is not something I’ve tackled and, quite honestly, have been terrified to even go there! Good on you for giving it a go.
      I must say, coconut oil did NOT agree with my skin either – it broke out badly. And the more I read about it online, the more posts I found from other women who also experienced a similar reaction. So it sounds as though, this could be the case for you too.
      My heart goes out to you, hun. Both Koren and I know what it’s like to suffer from acne and not want to leave the house.
      I have heard good things about cleansing with bicarb soda and, yup, acv is awesome, isn’t it? I have not thought about using organic shea butter. Very interesting. Can you keep me posted on how you go with it? I’m very interested.
      Thanks again for sharing your story here. I think it helps if we can all support each other on this journey. Happy Tuesday xx

  3. Nicole April 16, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    Thanks Alana and Koren for your amazing tips and tricks.
    I will definitely be switching to the cleanser and toner that you suggested. Thanks.
    I would love love love to find a homemade moisturiser. I have experimented with blending propolis, vitamin E, coconut oil, jojoba oil and rose water. It is pretty good. But it probably needs a less oily base.
    I thought I would leave that seed with you. There must be a way!!
    Also not sure if you have tackled this one but – shampoo?!?
    Love you both to bits

    • Alana April 21, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

      You’re most welcome, Nicole. Keep us posted on how you go with the oil cleansing.
      Yes, your question about the homemade moisturiser is a good one. I road-tested using just oils but this didn’t really agree with my skin. As my skin seems to be pretty sensitive to oil changes, I haven’t experimented anymore with the moisturiser but let us ponder on this one for a while.
      Regarding your shampoo question. Yup! We have tackled shampoo – well, Koren has anyway. We’ll be talking shampoo in June. So stay tuned!
      Loads of love back to you xx

  4. Zoe April 18, 2015 at 2:44 pm #

    Hey Alana,

    Hope you and Walter are having fun wherever you are!

    I’m definitely giving this a shot. I’m the same; oily skin and acne and it always flares up when it’s REALLY not wanted. And the jealousy of fresh-faced, clear skin people …check!

    I also use a warm towel every night before bed because it’s great for sore and sensitive eyes as well . I just wanted to suggest another method to heating up a towel that doesn’t involve putting your fingers under hot water. I use a microwave 🙂

    I wet the towel and wring it out. Fold it into a triangle, fold two ends in to meet each other and roll it up. Pop it in the microwave for anything under a minute (all microwaves are different). When it DINGS, open the door, wait 10 seconds before pulling it out (saves your fingers) and TA DA!

    It also saves on water if your tap has to run a while before it turns hot.

    I hope Walter has a microwave stashed somewhere. If not, save it for when you return to a world filled with microwaves, phones and drinks at Lefty’s 😉

    • Alana April 21, 2015 at 4:41 pm #

      Hi lovely, Zoe!

      Walter and I are in Adelaide still at the moment. Heading West in a couple of weeks :-).

      I love your idea for heating the towel in the microwave. How brilliant! Thanks for sharing it here. There are no microwaves in Walter though so I will have to save this one for when I return.

      Keep me posted on how you go with the oil cleansing and if you have any questions, let me know. Keep in mind, that for the first week or so you might find the oiliness in your skin increases. Trust me though, this does settle down. This is just your skin readjusting, as your pores are unblocked.

      Hope you’re well beautiful lady. xx

  5. Becs :: Think Big Live Simply May 7, 2015 at 11:50 am #

    Hey lovely – have you tried Hemp oil? It’s completely non-comodermic, so won’t clog pores…I switched to it to cleanse and moisturise from Jojoba oil and have found it wonderful x

    • Alana May 7, 2015 at 11:51 am #

      Ooooo no I haven’t but thanks for the tip! I might just give that guy a shot. xx

  6. Bronwen August 12, 2015 at 9:24 am #

    Thank you! I was sceptical at first about using oil to cleanse my face, but after making the sensational and luxurious whipped body butter, I decided to trust in your excellent ideas and give this a go. I am so glad I did, because my skin feels so much happier. Using bought cleansers I used to have an oily sheen on my face during the day…so I would need to cleanse at least twice a day. Now my skin is even and some days I don’t even bother doing more than splashing my face with water. I’m so happy to be able to experiment with different oils (olive, safflower, castor, vitamin e etc). Love this!!!

    • Alana August 13, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

      Yay Bronwen! That is SO awesome! That happened to me, too when I started oil cleansing. Oily sheen – gone! Sadly, I’ve had to go back to using a face wash just recently. Wearing sunscreen all the time while traveling was making me break out and rinsing with warm water and only cleansing a couple times a week was just not cutting it. But I will go back to this once I’m off the road. My skin really did improve using this method though. And so glad you loved the body butter recipe, too. Woot! xx

  7. Ana Gabriela Zambrano July 23, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    Hello thank you so much for all this information! It’s truly helpful in my journey to improving my cystic acne. It’s been hard for me to find the best oils for my face and sometimes just want to give up. Not sure if doing the things right.
    I have 2 question that I hope you can help me with.
    1. How long after you start with the oil cleansing method did you see improvement? Some people say that your acne goes worst after you start and then start healing. What is was experience?
    2. Why you don’t use acv when you use the old cleansing method? I’ve been doing it but not sure of it’s good.
    Thank you very much for the help you can give. I really appreciate it 🙂

  8. Zena April 24, 2018 at 1:39 pm #

    Hi there! I have recently switched to an all natural face care system. I have been using coconut oil to cleanse and moisturize and apple cider vinegar as a toner. I have diluted the ACV down to about 1 part acv to 4 parts water, but I am experiencing redness in my face. I am wondering if this is normal for the first little while as my face gets used to the new routine, or if I am doing something that could be harmful to my skin. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated 🙂