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Oil Cleansing Causing Dry Skin?


Is it even possible oil cleansing causing dry skin?

Yes, it can!

Sometimes it’s the oil you are using, or your oil cleansing technique that is drying out your skin instead of nourishing it.

If your skin feels dry, tight, dehydrated, or not so soft and supple after oil cleansing, there’s adjustments you can make with the product you’re using, and/or your technique, to make it more compatible with your skin.

As a rule, your cleanser and cleansing technique should never make your skin feel tight, irritated, red, raw, flakey, achey, or dry after cleansing.

You shouldn’t feel like your face will fall off if you don’t moisturize afterwards.

If oil cleansing causing dry skin, or your oil cleanser is working ok, but you would love it to be more moisturizing – check out today’s video and blog post. I go over what oils are better for dry and dehydrated skin types, and how to adjust your oil cleansing method to make it less drying for your skin. Small changes can yield big results.

Find out how to adjust your oil cleansing routine and products you are using if oil cleansing is drying out your skin

Use the right oil for dry skin

Just because it’s an oil, doesn’t mean it’s moisturizing.

Different oils are made up of different ratios of fatty acids, nutrients, antioxidants, have different weights, densities, textures, and work differently with different skin types.

That means some oils are much better suited for oily skin, and others better for dry skin.

Oils that are NOT good for dry skin

Oils like hemp seed oil and grapeseed oil are very good for oily and acne prone skin types. They are high in linoelic acid and help to balance oil production. But for someone with dry skin, straight hemp seed or grapeseed oil will be too drying for your skin.

Castor oil is another oil that is very heavy and occlusive, but is also astringent. Because of its occlusive quality, adding small amounts of castor oil to an oil blend could make a product more hydrating. But don’t use castor oil on its own, it isn’t nourishing enough for dry skin types.

Olive oil is another oil that is easily available, but used topically can actually be detrimental to your skin. Studies has shown that olive oil causes transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and can damage the skin’s protective barrier. Your skin would benefit more from eating good quality olive oil, not applying it to your skin.

Best oils for dry skin

Oils I recommend for dry and dehydrated skin types are safflower oil, sunflower oil, argan oil, and rose hip seed oil. What I like about these oils is that they are moisturizing and safe for acne prone skin.

Other moisturizing oils that are also great for dry and dehydrated skin are coconut oil, avocado oil, marula oil, and sweet almond oil – BUT, if you have acne prone skin, you have to be cautious because these oils can clog pores and cause acne for some people. Sometimes small amounts of these oils can be found in an oil blend and aren’t problematic like using them on their own. If you’ve used these oils before and never had an issue, then I don’t see a problem continuing to use them.

Other oils suitable for dry skin

Jojoba oil is a popular oil. I find it to be a neutral oil, suitable for all skin types. It’s not drying, but it not super moisturizing either. For dry skin, I wouldn’t use it on its own as a cleanser, but instead use an oil blend that contains jojoba oil, plus other nourishing oils to make it more moisturizing.

Squalane oil is another oil that is suitable for all skin types. It’s lightweight, and known for being non-irritating (one of the best treatment oils for sensitive and irritated skin). Squalane oil has a “dry oil” texture which lightly coats and softens the skin. This oil works best as a facial oil but could be added to an oil blend for oil cleansing.

Recommended oil cleansers for dry skin

Recommended oils for oil cleansing

If you are going to use one pure oil for oil cleansing dry skin, I recommend one of these oils:

  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil

Research has shown sunflower and safflower oils are nourishing, strengthens the skin, supports wound healing and a healthy skin barrier.

Recommended oil blends for oil cleansing

How to make your existing oil cleanser more moisturizing

If your current oil cleanser isn’t nourishing enough, you can add a few drops of any of these oils to your cleanser to make it more moisturizing:

  • Sunflower Oil
  • Safflower Oil
  • Argan Oil
  • Rose Hip Seed Oil

Switch to a cleansing balm, cleansing milk, or cream cleanser

Sometimes an oil just isn’t moisturizing enough.

If this is the case where you’ve tried a bunch of oils and oil blends, and no matter what you use, your skin always feels tight and parched after cleansing, why not try another type of cleanser?

Cleansing milks, cleansing balms, and cream cleansers are made with oils, plus occlusive ingredients like waxes and butters which help to seal in moisture.

These types of cleansers are good for treating dry skin, and protecting your skin from a dry environment.

Cleansing milks, balms, and creams are usually quite gentle, making them particularly good for dry and dehydrated skin that tends to be sensitive as well.

If you have acne prone skin, do keep an eye on your skin if you decide to try a milk, balm or cream cleanser because sometimes certain occlusive ingredients found in these products can cause clogged pores and acne. Ingredients like shea butter, cacao butter, beeswax, lanolin, and petrolatum products can be problematic for some people.

Recommended products

Importance of using a gentle wash cloth

If you are using a wash cloth for oil cleansing, you have to make sure it’s not too rough. Textured wash cloths can irritate dry skin.

As much as I love the idea of natural fiber wash cloths, most of them are too abrasive. They’re great for your body, but not for your face.

You want to find a washcloth that isn’t too smooth or slick that it doesn’t cleanse your skin effectively, but it can’t be too textured either.

The best wash cloths I have found for oil cleansing are GroVia Cloth Wipes. They are actually designed for babies. They are made of a mix of natural and synthetic fibres, and are so gentle on the skin. They have a way of cleansing and lifting everything off your skin without being harsh.

You can also experiment using microfibre washcloths as well.

If your skin doesn’t tolerate a washcloth at all, you can always use an oil cleanser that is formulated with a mild surfactant so the oil cleanser rinses off with water, no need for a cloth. I recommend MARA Algae Enzyme Cleansing Oil, this is moisturizing and the best oil cleanser for sensitive, maturing and dry skin.

Stop using hot water

If you have dry or dehydrated skin, I strongly recommend not washing your face with hot water.

This one change in your skincare routine can make a huge difference.

You don’t need hot water to do the oil cleansing method. Using cold or lukewarm water is just as effective at cleansing your skin.

If you normally put a hot washcloth on your face to “steam” your face while doing oil cleansing, best to stop. Steaming your skin can be seriously dehydrating and drying, and can even damage your skin.

Your pores don’t open and close with hot water or steam. All that hot water and steam does is loosen up the buildup on the surface of your skin. You can get the same deep cleanse just by spending an extra minute or two giving yourself a facial massage with your oil cleanser. Oil is amazing at loosening up the buildup on the surface of your skin, and by massaging that oil into your skin, not only are you getting a better cleanse, but it can be a lot more moisturizing as well.

And if you normally like to have a hot shower and wash your face in a hot shower, just wash you face with cold or lukewarm water before your shower. Once you’re in the hot shower, avoid getting your face wet.

This can make a HUGE difference.

(And if you want to know more about the benefits of bathing with cold water, check out my blog post and video, Bathing .With Cold Water For 3 Months (Did It Help My Skin & Hair?).

Try the Dry Oil Cleansing Method

There’s actually an oil cleansing method that doesn’t involve using water, which is super beneficial for dry and dehydrated skin types.

While I was pregnant with my second daughter my skin was super dehydrated and no cream or moisturizer could make it better. The only thing that helped was doing the Dry Oil Cleansing Method.

The Dry Oil Cleansing Method is similar to the regular oil cleansing method, the only difference is you’re not using water.

The Regular Oil Cleansing Method you apply oil on your face, and use a damp wash cloth to remove the oil, dirt, debris and makeup from your skin.

The Dry Oil Cleansing Method you apply oil on your face, and use a dry cloth to gently pat and lift the oil, dirt, debris, and makeup off your skin. I recommend using a smooth cotton cloth for dry oil cleansing. You want to use something that it is smooth, soft and absorbent, so it will easily lift the oil, dirt, debris and makeup off your skin. You can even use old cut-up bed sheets or a cotton t-shirt material. This works much better than a traditional terry wash cloth.

The Dry Oil Cleansing Method is a fantastic technique, it’s very effective at cleansing your skin, and extremely moisturizing. You might not even need a moisturizer after cleansing your skin with this method.

If you have active acne, I wouldn’t do the Dry Oil Cleansing Method until your breakout or acne has cleared up. I did a blog post documenting my 30 Day Dry Oil Cleansing Experiment, and I found that when I had any sort of pimple or breakout, this cleansing method slowed down the healing of pimples. Mainly because it’s so moisturizing, it seemed like any pimple would just sit on my face forever, not getting worse, but not getting better either.

As long as you use an oil that is compatible with your skin, this cleansing method shouldn’t clog pores or cause pimples or acne. But, as I said, if you have any active acne or breakouts, better to wait until everything is cleared up before trying the Dry Oil Cleaning Method.

And by the way, this Dry Oil Cleansing Method is amazing for maturing skin. If you are looking for a way to soften lines and wrinkles, and bring back some bounce in your skin, I strongly recommend trying the Dry Oil Cleansing Method. The results are instant!

More on dry oil cleansing

References for this article

Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils. International journal of molecular sciences, 19(1), 70. doi:10.3390/ijms19010070

Danby, S. G., AlEnezi, T., Sultan, A., Lavender, T., Chittock, J., Brown, K., & Cork, M. J. (2013). Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: implications for neonatal skin care. Pediatric dermatology, 30(1), 42–50. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1470.2012.01865.x

Kanti, V., Grande, C., Stroux, A., Bührer, C., Blume-Peytavi, U., & Garcia Bartels, N. (2014). Influence of sunflower seed oil on the skin barrier function of preterm infants: a randomized controlled trial. Dermatology (Basel, Switzerland), 229(3), 230–239. doi:10.1159/000363380

About the Author
Hi, I’m Natasha St. Michael, Founder of Inspire Beauty. I’m also a Certified Holistic Health Coach and Natural Health Educator accredited by the Institute For Integrative Nutrition. I’m obsessed with skin care and self-care. I’m 47 years old, struggled with adult acne until I was 30, and now I’m all about preserving the youthfulness of my skin (and sharing all my tips and tricks). If you have a question about a product or need a recommendation, feel free to contact me anytime.


This blog is for information purposes only. The content is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Should you have a medical or dermatological problem, please consult with your physician. None of the information or recommendations on this website should be interpreted as medical advice.

All product reviews, recommendations, and references are based on the author’s personal experience and impressions using the products. All views and opinions are the author’s own. 

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10 Responses

  1. Its wild, I woke up this morning feeling as if my dehydrated skin wasn’t getting any better and lo and behold, you have a new video just for my problem! I have been using Living Libations Best Skin Ever Seabuckthorn and while I love it, it doesnt seem to be improving my dry skin. It does have jojoba oil, which you mentioned can be a bit drying. Do you recommend the Rose Best Skin Ever for dry skin? Perhaps I should switch to a cream cleanser instead?

    1. Hi Sharlen,
      Great timing! I don’t find the Rose Best Skin Ever to be much more moisturizing than the Seabuckthorn. Out of all the BSEs I’ve tried, I find the Seabuckthorn Best Skin Ever to be the most nourishing. In general, they’re all quite light oils, great for normal, combination, or oily skin, but maybe not moisturizing enough for dry skin.

      What you can do is add a few drops of a more moisturizing oil to the BSE to see if that can help (you can try adding a few drops of sunflower, safflower, argan oil or rosehip seed oil). Or, as you said, you could switch to a cream cleanser or another brand that has a richer oil cleanser. For dry skin, I like One Love Organic’s Vitamin B Cleansing Oil or Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser.

  2. Hey! I have been having the same problem with the same product lol so thankful for this article. I have been suffering with millia also 🙁

    1. Hi Amanda,
      I just mentioned to Sharlen that if the Best Skin Ever isn’t moisturizing enough, you can try adding a few drops of a more moisturizing oil to it to see if that can help (you can try adding a few drops of sunflower, safflower, argan oil or rosehip seed oil).
      You do have to be careful with milia and oils, so if there’s an oil you already know in these recommendations that triggers it, don’t use it!

  3. I have acne prone skin on my forehead and chin. I have dry skin on my cheeks. I started using OCM about a month and a half ago. I use 10% castor oil and 90% grape seed oil. The First 4 weeks my skin looked great. NOw my skin feels and looks dry on my cheeks. The acne has cleared up on my forehead and chin. Help please

    1. Hi Reem,
      All these years I’ve been on the look out to find 100% cotton washcloths that I like. It’s hard because they can be quite rough and irritating. Plus many are treated to be soft and fluffy in store but as soon as you wash them it’s like sand paper! But I do continue to buy and try. Personally I prefer a blend of natural and synthetic fiber, much gentler for daily use. My favourite are Grovia Cloth Wipes. But I know not everyone likes synthetic fibres. So far the only all-natural washcloths I like and would recommend are the Organic Hemp Wash Cloths from Living Libations.

    1. Hi Rachel, I’m so sorry for the late reply, for some reason I missed your question. If you still need a moisturizer recommendation, let me know what’s your skin type (do you lean more dry or oily?).

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