Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort (and a frightening amount of money) on my skin. Growing up in the age of grapefruit-scented and plastic microbead-filled face scrubs and infomercials for skin-care systems that promised to rid your complexion of any trace of acne, it was ingrained in me pretty young that I had to work hard in order to have clear, glowy skin. So, for years, I scrubbed my face with vigor, went all in on pricy products containing this, that, or some other acid that was supposed to be the ticket to having a baby’s-butt complexion—you name it, I tried it.
And then I got pregnant. Before having a bun in the oven, I’d already become pretty conscious of what I put in my body—but this new life chapter made me realize that I hadn’t applied that same level of care to what I put on my body.
Since then, I’ve all but wiped out my entire bathroom cabinet. As with my diet, I want my skin-care routine to be as nourishing as possible. I also need it to be easy; in the early days after my daughter was born, I was lucky if I remembered to wash my face at all, let alone complete some 10-step skin-care regimen. And that’s still the case now that I have a one-year-old running all over the place all the time.
Enter: Oil Cleanser
For quite a while, my routine had devolved into me washing my face with the same Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Pure Castile Soap I used on my body and following that up with a tiny bit of coconut oil instead of moisturizer. Skin-care experts would scoff at me, I’m sure, but it got the job done (save for the coconut oil leaving my hair a little greasy.)
This winter, though, the dry air did a number on my skin—and no reasonable amount of coconut oil could save my face from feeling parched and dry. Figuring it was time to upgrade from my castile soap routine, I remembered something I’d heard on a podcast about oil cleansing, in which you literally wash your face with oil. That concept was about as far a departure from my salicylic acid-soaked skin-care upbringing as I could imagine but, heck, my routine had already gone off the proverbial deep end—so I decided to try it.
The gist of oil cleansing boils down to the idea of “like attracts like,” meaning that the oil you cleanse your face with attracts the oil your skin produces, which traps dirt, dust, and whatever other gnarly stuff your skin comes into contact with throughout the day.
After doing some reading on the basic do’s and don’ts, I treated myself to an oil cleanser. I chose Province Apothecary Moisturizing Oil Cleanser because it’s made from mostly organic ingredients like organic jojoba, avocado, and evening primrose oils—and is formulated to keep skin moisturized, which I desperately needed.
How It Started
Most days, I only wash my face at night, so I was excited to use oil cleansing as a quick wind-down routine after putting my daughter to bed. On that first night, I pumped some of the slightly floral-smelling oil cleanser into my hands and got to it.
Something about massaging the oil cleanser into my face felt like an invitation to slow down, way down. Instead of the furious scrubbing I’d often done when washing my face, as if the more aggressive I was the more grime I’d somehow rub right out of my face, cleansing with oil quickly brought a gentleness (dare I say reverence?) into this seemingly mundane task. As my fingertips circled across my cheeks, around my nose, and over my forehead, my mindset shifted. Cleansing with oil was an act of love, like a restorative yoga flow or a quiet walk outside. I found myself appreciating my face instead of nit-picking everlasting acne scars or the tiredness visible around my eyes. By the time I rinsed the cleanser away, I felt like I’d just meditated.
Now, the more I read about putting oil on our faces, the more I understood that coconut probably wasn’t the ideal option to moisturize my freshly-cleansed skin with, so I typically followed up the Province Apothecary cleanser with either rosehip seed oil (I use one from Life-Flo that’s cold-pressed and organic) or calendula oil (I like Shea Terra’s cold-pressed, extra-virgin oil).
Those first few nights, I spend a few minutes straight-up staring at my skin before leaving the bathroom. Sure, it looked clean—but it also looked nourished. We’re talking plump, perfectly dewy, and really supple. I paraded around the house in my sweatpants like a model in a skin-care commercial. The whole process took less than five minutes; why had I done anything that wasn’t this?!
How It’s Going
I’ve been oil cleansing for about a month now and my skin looks and feels healthier than it has in years—all with so much less effort (and far fewer dollars spent) than the many previous iterations of my skin-care routine. Friends compliment me on my skin all the time, I rarely reach for the tinted moisturizer I used to wear on date night or to parties, and I feel like I’ve broken a long cycle of stripping the life out of my skin just to try to replace it with some overpriced product.
What’s more, though, is that oil cleansing feels like a small but genuine act of self-care, a nightly ritual that gives me a little space to put myself first and do good by my body. No matter how busy a day might be or frazzled I may feel by the evening, gently massaging oil cleanser into my face each night brings me back home. My skin is visibly happier for it, as is my mind.