Water, though hydrating when taken internally, is actually drying to the skin, especially when soap is used. Soap and water strip the skin of it’s natural protective oils (sebum) and not only dry out the skin, but lead to oily breakouts, because the skin compensates for dryness by creating more oil. Soap and water also change the pH of the skin, oddly enough creating a favorable environment for bacterial growth. This increased production of oil combined with bacteria can result in acne. The only way to break the cycle is to “fight like with like”. Oils dissolve dirt and makeup without disrupting the sebum and pH balance established by the skin.
Why is maintaining the skin’s sebum layer so important? The skin is the largest and heaviest organ: constituting 15% of your weight and covering 12 to 20 sq ft. It is 70% water, 25% protein and 5% fat. It is the interface between the body and the environment. It helps rid our bodies of toxins and can absorb up to 60% of certain things that are applied, however, this is dependent on molecular size, weight and transdermal delivery system. Our skin produces oils that protect it from heat, wind, ultraviolet radiation and bacterial invasion. Constantly washing the skin rids it of this protective mechanism.
Water based cleansers change the pH of the skin which invites unfriendly bacteria to inhabit the surface of our bodies. Oils maintain the skin’s slightly acidic, protective mantle so healthy probiotic colonies can flourish. The cells of our bodies are 1/10th human and 9/10 bacterial, the majority of which inhabit the skin’s surface, mucous membranes and intestines. We are learning more about how friendly flora actually help us stay healthy which makes proper skincare that much more important to our total body health and not merely a cosmetic fix. Sebum also has a certain sun protection factor (SPF) that helps repel harmful rays while allowing our body to metabolize sunlight and produce immune supporting vitamin D. I would suspect over washing could make one that much more susceptible to absorbing harmful UVA/UVB rays, although I have not read anything to that effect (it is purely my intuition). All of these are reasons why oils have been used traditionally to care for the skin.
Plant based oils have a long history. In addition to their culinary use, oils like olive oil were used medicinally, as well as in ritual purifications (anointing).Ancient Greek athletes covered their bodies with it, believing it gave them strength (probably the polyphenols delivered transdermally). They also cleansed with oils using strigils to scrape the excess and exfoliate dead skin cells as depicted in this image: Ancient Egyptians would place scented oil cones on their heads that would gradually melt and cover their skin with fragrant unguents. Ayurvedic medicine uses oils to heal and balance the body.
The oils I use come from cultures that have included them in their diets for centuries, have been grown organically and extracted using traditional cold pressed methods. Proper extraction preserves the phytonutrients and prevents early oxidation. Olive oil from the Mediterranean, shea butter from West Africa, argan oil from Morocco, neem oil from India, marula oil from South Africa, virgin coconut oil from the Philippines, macadamia and kukui nut oils from Hawaii, rose hip seed oil from the Andes. The use of oils in traditional cultures around the world is ubiquitous.
So what is the best way to cleanse the skin? I have devised a unique routine I call Water-Free Oil Cleansing (TM). Unlike the typical oil cleansing method (OCM), my method does not use water which ultimately defeats the purpose of using oils to cleanse in the first place.
Before retiring at night, pump some oil onto two cotton pads (or the corners of a clean washcloth) that have been sprayed with toner. The toner helps “activate” the oil so the cotton won’t stick to your skin and dirt/makeup/dead skin cells are are loosened.
Gently press and roll the cotton pads/over the entire face and eyes, not forgetting the neck. If you have eye makeup on you will have to work a little harder to remove it and if a little gets in your eyes, it’s ok, it won’t hurt.
Blot excess with a tissue.
Follow with a spray of toner.
Go to bed. Do not use creams or night creams as they can block the pores that are working so hard to eliminate toxins through respiration at night.
In the morning spray toner onto face. Run a clean wash cloth under hot (not scalding) water. Always use a freshly laundered washcloth because used washcloths are breeding grounds for bacteria due to the moist environment which allows microorganisms from sloughed off skin cells to proliferate (YUCK!). Wring out and place on face. Repeat three times so pores can open.
Scoop out some moisturizer using spatula (this reduces the introduction of bacteria), distribute onto fingertips, then pat, pat, pat all over your face, neck and decoletee.
For women, I recommend doing a light circular breast massage with the cleansing/body oil at this time. It helps increase circulation throughout breast tissue.
Allow moisturizer to settle in before applying makeup. I usually get dressed at this time.
Cleansing with oil can be done all year and is beneficial for all skin types, especially oily! It is probably the single most important step towards maintaining lifelong healthy skin.