Why Over-Moisturizing and Oil Cleansing May Go Hand in Hand
When it comes to skincare, my goal nowadays is to completely balance my skin so it takes care of itself naturally. I've found that sebum, the oil our skin naturally produces, is our friend. We need sebum to moisturize our skin and to keep our skin looking youthful. It's also our natural protectant. Unfortunately, most of what we do in our daily skincare routines, such as over-moisturizing and possibly oil cleansing, can screw up our production of sebum.
Unfortunately, I've learned this the hard way.
Oily skin and dry skin are both issues. What we want is a nice balance of sebum where our skin feels moisturized and not overly oily and also not tight and dry. But, the majority of us feel like we have one issue or the other, or both when we're dealing with combination skin.
What I'm about to go over is what I've learned over the last twenty years when it comes to finding the right balance. I've had both extremes. I've also had balanced skin in between my problem-skin phases. The good news was I was able to correct both my oily skin phase and my dry skin phase.
I'm taking you through my journey as a warning of what to be careful about. As much as I love natural skincare, ultimately what we want is our skin to be healthy and balanced as much as it can on its own. Getting carried away with ingredients and products, even if they're completely natural, can sometimes be more detrimental than helpful.
That's why I'm wary of the oil-cleansing trend and over-moisturizing in general.
My Unknowing Path Towards Over-Moisturizing
With the Free Clean Beauty Challenge that I host here on Salt & Ritual, I want to teach participants how help their skin heal itself. I've learned a lot over the last twenty years about health and in the last ten years, I've learned a ton about natural skincare, which you could say has been an obsession of mine.
I've made some great choices when it comes to ingredients and routines that I still use today. And I've made some mistakes that I learned from and luckily was able to overcome. But most of all I realized that our skin is designed to take care of itself. The older we get, we may have to give it a little push in the right direction simply because we lose some of the benefits of youth. But we don't want to manipulate or push things too far. You'll learn why below.
It used to be that I would give myself a massage every day with coconut oil. I really thought I was doing myself a favor and for a long time my skin felt great. My routine was I would massage my face with coconut oil and then wash it with honey. And then apply a moisturizer on top of that.
I did this for years and then suddenly my face went completely dry out of nowhere. While I used to have a major problem with oily skin in my youth, now I had the complete opposite problem. And let me tell you, dry skin feels much worse.
I soon realized what the issue was. Before when I had oily skin and decided to convert to natural skincare recipes, I began to apply a facial oil to my oily skin, and in turn it magically became less oily over a couple of months. But it really wasn't magic at all. This is what most of us fail to realize.
When I desperately wanted to get rid of my oily skin when I was younger, I kept stripping it with toners and harsh facial cleansers. Now I know better. I know that trying to remove the oil from your skin doesn't prevent oily skin, it only makes it worse.
Our bodies get signals when to produce sebum (our natural oil) and when not to. So when I purposely tried to dry out my skin, my skin sensed that and went into overdrive to produce more oil than I needed, thus resulting in super oily skin.
But the opposite is also true. After years of continually putting what now seems like gobs of oil on my face (because truth be told, it did feel amazing at the time), my skin decided I didn't need anymore of my natural oil. So it just stopped producing it. It went dry about a year and a half ago and it SUCKED. I thought oily skin was bad, this was way worse.
It didn't take me long to realize that I had gone to the other extreme in skincare: over-moisturizing.
This is what I was doing before I went dry. I would remove my eye makeup with coconut oil (which I still do), but I would also give myself a facial massage sometimes twice a day with coconut oil (which I also used to remove my sunscreen/foundation at night). It felt amazing and I think it actually may have helped with preventing wrinkles. Then after washing my face with honey, I would put on even more oil as a moisturizer.
Now the great thing about honey is that it doesn't strip your skin, so essentially, I didn't even need a super strong facial moisturizer after using honey as a cleanser. And in my case, I wasn't even giving my skin a chance to moisturize itself. I was putting layer upon layer of oil on it.
What We Need to Understand About Sebum
And that's what we need to understand. Our skin naturally produces a moisturizer. And if our skin is truly balanced, then we probably don't need much of an outside moisturizer. But since most of us live in a world where we've been both stripping our skin and/or over-moisturizing, our skin's natural balance is mostly likely out of whack.
My goal now is to get my skin as balanced as it can be so it can essentially be supple naturally.
However, I am nearing my late 30s now, so I do need a bit of moisturizing since the older we get we produce less and less sebum. But it's nothing along the lines of what I thought I needed before.
So Why Am I Not A Fan of Oil Cleansing?
Which brings me to the subject of oil cleansing. If you had asked two or three years ago if I would be into it or at least try it, I probably would have said yes. But the truth is I've always been so happy with using honey as a facial cleanser that it didn't make sense to mess with that.
However, the more and more dry my skin got, I knew in my gut it was the excessive amounts of oil I was putting on my face that was the culprit.
Drenching your skin in oil day in and day out is not a good idea because you're telling your skin to stop producing oil. Especially when you're using a warm to hot washcloth to remove it (warmer water can actually dry out your skin).
The oil cleansing method might feel great for a while, even years. But I would be wary of doing it in the long run, especially if you're moisturizing with facial oil afterwards.
Our skin overcompensates when it gets signals from us, whether that's to produce too much sebum or nearly none of it at all.
I believe oil cleansing might lead to your skin producing less and less sebum over the years.
It was not easy to bring my dry skin back to life, but I managed to. I had to stop wearing a moisturizer at night to trick my skin into producing more oil. I also went through a bit of a phase of not knowing what to moisturize with. I was using primrose oil, but realized it wasn't benefiting my skin the way I needed it to. It felt like it was just sitting on top of my skin and not penetrating it.
Since switching to DIY beauty, there's only been a couple of rare instances where I've used actual products. I used a couple of creams from Mountain Rose Herbs back in the day just to try them out. I liked them, but always went back to using different types of oils. When my skin when dry, I was back to desperately trying to find a product that would ease my super dry skin without over-moisturizing it.
After using several products and oils unsuccessfully I succumbed to Dr. Haushka's rose cream during the day and their Night Serum as the only thing I put on my face at night. I will credit those two things as bringing my skin slightly back into balance. Once my skin started to correct itself (it took at least a couple of months), I began to think of the next step. I knew I didn't want to use Dr. Haushka in the long run. What I really wanted to do was get back into using very simple natural products that I could make myself.
After doing quite a bit of research I ordered argan oil. I was reading time and time again that people loved it as a moisturizer because it was light and easily absorbed into skin. I tried it and realized that a little bit goes a long way. The tiny bit that I used left my skin feeling supple.
These days I just put a tiny bit of it on my face along with some aloe vera gel. I only use coconut oil to remove eye makeup, which I rarely wear.
I would say now it's so much better than where it was a year and a half ago. My sebum has come back although I'm still working on balancing my skin completely. My lower cheeks along my jaw are still drier than I'd like, but my goal with my current skincare program (the one I use in the Free Clean Beauty Challenge) is to bring my skin back into balance.
I would love for my skin to get back to a healthy balance of sebum; not too much and not too little. It was there for a moment when after I had been using natural beauty recipes for a while and before I began to over-moisturize day in and day out.
If you're thinking of oil cleansing, I would be wary. Over-using oil (especially with a steamy washcloth day in and day out) could potentially lead to really dry uncomfortable skin. That being said I'm a huge fan of using certain organic vegetable oils on skin, but only a little bit at a time to moisturize.
I prefer raw honey as a facial cleanser. It's super gentle, which is what we want for our skin. And it won't rob your skin of its natural oils like over-using oil on your skin can.
Two more things I want to address. You might get fantastic results from oil cleansing right off the bat and even for some time. But I urge you to think long term. That has been my major lesson with skincare over the years. I've gone to two extremes (from oily to balanced to dry to balanced) and I know I need to be somewhere in the middle in my skincare routine.
That's why I prefer honey as a cleanser and just a bit of argan oil and aloe vera to moisturize.
I also don't wear much makeup such as foundation. If you wear a lot of makeup and are having trouble getting it off with honey, you can bring a washcloth into the mix and double wash your face with honey. It's still better than dousing your face with oil in my opinion.
As far as eye makeup, I've found that coconut oil works great at removing it. If you wear eye makeup often, I would suggest also using a soft washcloth to remove it afterwards so it's not sitting on your skin. I have mixed feeling about coconut oil as a moisturizer.
There are a lot of fans of oil cleansing who probably won't agree with this article. But the purpose of this article is to be careful about the long-term effects of oil cleansing and the over-use of oil on skin.
Just remember, a little bit of the right kind of oil goes a long way.
Disclaimer: All information on Salt and Ritual is based on my experience and is provided for educational and general informational purposes only. The topics discussed in this post may not be suitable for your particularly situation and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek professional medical advice before trying anything you read online. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and your individual results may vary.