Me and oily skin are like white on rice. By 11 a.m., my skin gleams with a layer of grease, and I can see glittering pools of sebum surfacing on my nose mere hours after washing. For thirteen years of my life, I dealt with oily skin the way I had been told to—with oil-fighting cleansers, oil-absorbing clay masks, astringents, nose strips, chemical peels, and anything else that contained alcohol and high doses of benzoyl peroxide. Nothing worked, and I accepted that a perpetually shiny face was my fate.
Sometimes it’s when you stop trying so hard that you find answers.
Like many, my skin was very sensitive from the winter weather, and typical moisturizers weren't helping—in fact, some were irritating. It wasn’t until organic facial oils labeled as “healing” were literally in my hands that I considered putting oil on my face. I applied Cecilia Wong’s oil-based Black Currant Serum to my skin, 100 percent certain that I would wake up in the morning with clogged pores and a greasy complexion. Not so.
After just a few days of using facial oils, my skin seemingly stopped producing excess oil. I would check in the mirror every day, searching for those pools of oil in my pores, but they were gone. I also anticipated a breakout of massive proportions from the oils—but it never came. Was the cure for all my oil, oil? After two months of using an oil cleanser and moisturizer, my skin is glowing and not greasy—so what was this magic? I went to the creators themselves for some answers.
All Oils Are Not Equal
First things first. Oil used on the face cannot just be anything plucked out of your kitchen pantry. No, not even your coconut oil will do. The key to using oil cleansers and moisturizers is to make sure you're using the right oils—meaning, non-comedogenic (non-clogging) oils. Naturally, we think of all oils as being pore clogging aka comedogenic. Comedogenic oils like coconut, flax seed, cocoa butter, and castor oil give the rest of the non-comedogenic oils a bad reputation. Good oils include black currant seed, carrot seed, sunflower, argan, grapefruit, rosehip, bergamot, and almond. They actually regulate oil production by hydrating your skin and penetrate the surface to deliver key vitamins, nutrients, and antioxidants.
How Does Oil Combat Oil?
This was the question I asked myself every day after switching to oil. Denise Cartwright, creator of Crude Personal Care, broke it down for me by using a real life example. "During my days at a waxing studio, if I ever spilled wax on the floor, I couldn’t use soap and water to clean up the wax," she says. "I used oil! Oil breaks down the gunk and slips it right off the floor easily and without stripping." This same analogy can be applied to our skin. The idea behind using oil cleanser is that it breaks up the dirt and oil on your skin (like that wax on the floor) without stripping your skin of it's natural moisture barrier. Cartwright explained that when we strip our skin with soap or harsh products, our skin overproduces oil to make up for what has been lost —often leading to a vicious cycle of dry and oily.
New York City aesthetician and creator of the oil serum I use, Cecilia Wong, further explained the imbalance that occurs when we use soap. "Skin will become more oily when the pH in your skin is off balance. Using the right oil can help balance, hydrate, and prevent the oil glands from becoming too overactive."
Why Does It Work?
"The idea is that by not interfering with your skin's natural processes, you allow your skin to balance itself out," Cartwright stated. This would explain how my skin began producing less and less oil. Before, I was viciously fighting against my skin's system, and it just exacerbated the problem. Cartwright says that our skin is an intelligent system of regeneration and that by cutting out the suds, we stop punishing our skin and actually start treating it with oils that contain non-disruptive healing properties and nutrients.
Wong says that the molecules in mainstream moisturizers and cleansers are too large to penetrate the skin's surface—which they need to do to be really effective. Non-comedogenic oils penetrate through the skin to dissolve dirt and actually moisturize by repairing the skin's natural moisture barrier while also keeping in moisture. Excuse me while shove all of my lathering face washes and creamy moisturizers to the back of my cabinet.
What Are the Long-Term Benefits?
As I continued to use the oil products, I began to look forward to washing my face every night. There is something very therapeutic about massaging your face after a long day, plus, it gets blood circulation going and sloughs off dead skin which benefits your skin health even more. My pores don't fill up with sebum anymore, nor is my dermis painfully raw. My complexion has improved as well, looking more luminescent, supple, and even-toned. But most importantly, my skin feels happy because I'm finally taking care of it by working with it, not against it.
Ready to try oil skin care for yourself? Give one of these oil cleansers and moisturizers a try.