What is the Best Way To Clear Acne Caused By Oil Cleansing?

"This has been a skin nightmare!"
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Michelle Villett
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"This has been a skin nightmare!"
Oil cleansing method acne

The oil cleansing method can cause acne (even if you've never had it before).

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Q: Hello! I came across a post where Michelle stated that she tried the oil cleansing method, as did I. I have a huge mess on my hands regarding what the OCM did to my face. I'm 31 and have never had acne before. This has been a skin nightmare! Any advice she may have for me on how to recover from this would be a true blessing. I, too, tried tons of natural remedies, and none have worked. Thank you. — Regina

A: Ah, the Oil Cleansing Method. Does everyone know what Regina is talking about? It's one of those beauty trends that got massively popular from the internet a few years back and shows no signs of going away.

What's involved is washing your face—with straight oil. The principle is that "like attracts like," so the oil you're rubbing around is supposedly more effective than a regular cleanser at picking up your own (dirty) sebum, along with clogged pores, blackheads and whiteheads. It's 100 percent natural and non-stripping, which I will admit are very compelling benefits that I can get on board with.

How Oil Cleansing Can Cause Acne

Problem is, there are just some of us who CANNOT handle this method of cleansing. 

I detailed my experience here, and to reiterate what my dermatologist, Dr. Nowell Solish, told me: some skin types are just so sensitive that even cleansing this way ONCE can cause a bad infection. And yes, that's even if you're doing it "right" by completely removing all traces of the oil afterward with a regular cleanser.

Many people will say, "Oh, you just used the wrong oil; it would work if you used ____." That's probably true. In retrospect, I think coconut and jojoba oils would've been safer on my skin than castor and olive oils, but it really depends on the individual. I also think oil quality and freshness is important; you don't want to be using something that's potentially rancid. 

Plus, the act of massaging in the oil can cause problems in itself. I wouldn't recommend more than five seconds before removing the oil.

Personally, I only tried OCM two or three times, didn't feel like it did anything, and then quit. Within a month, I started getting a strange rash on my chin and forehead, like small, under-the-skin bumps that were not acne. Within two months, that turned into a full-blown cystic acne infection. It was the WORST.

If this has happened to you, I'd say to ignore advice about having to "purge" or that it "has to get worse before it gets better." This is the only way I saved my skin:

1. Consider Antibiotics

You guys know me; I'm never one to use harsh medical interventions when you can do things the natural way. This, however, isn't one of those occasions. In my OCM disaster, I tried every home remedy in the book, but the infection was so deep that I needed an actual course of antibiotics to get rid of the infection. I only regret I didn't get on them sooner.

I recommend seeing a dermatologist (not just any MD), and you can even bring this article if you need proof of someone else who experienced the same thing. I can't remember the specific antibiotics I was prescribed (maybe doxy?) but I DO remember that I had to stay on them a full six weeks, and it was two weeks before I noticed my skin starting to clear. So stick with it!

2. Avoid All Topical Oils

If we've established that you can't handle OCM, then you really shouldn't be putting any other oils on your skin.

The best thing would be to leave your skin alone to heal, just being patient while the internal antibiotics work their magic. You could ask your dermatologist if he/she recommends a topical antibiotic (although mine didn't, since my skin is too sensitive even for that).

If you really must use something on your face, make it a bland serum or moisturizer that you already know from the past won't cause you any problems. Personally, I love Consonant HydrExtreme, a light, watery serum, and find it's enough on its own to give me moisture. It only has two ingredients (!!), so it's not very likely you'll have a problem with it.

3. Choose Mineral Makeup

If you must use makeup, opt for oil-free mineral powders during this time. Jane Iredale PurePressed Base Mineral Foundation SPF 20 has the best coverage level of any powder foundation I've tried:

Colorescience has an excellent Mineral Corrector Palette of powder concealers to help you cover the spots while they're healing up:

4. Consider Laser Treatments

Depending on how severe your infection was, you may be left with some pretty nasty aftermath: reddish/purplish post-acne pigmentation marks. 

Dr. Solish did vascular laser treatments on me, which really helped to fade the marks more quickly. Vascular lasers are painless and seek out red and red/purple tones in your skin. I would suggest at least two or three sessions in order to see a difference.

Good luck!