How Do Fancy Cleansing Oils Compare To The DIY Oil Cleansing Method?

Save money with a customized oil blend, or save time with a mass-produced product? Let's weigh the pros and cons.
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Save money with a customized oil blend, or save time with a mass-produced product? Let's weigh the pros and cons.

I am rather aware that face oils are having a MOMENT, seeing them in their medicinal-looking bottles with glass dropper attached, colorfully populating every Sephora aisle and taking all your money. I love nothing more than having my skincare served up in glass bottles with droppers. It feels so science--or rather, it feels so Death Becomes Her REDUX. 

I, however, have not landed a rich husband (yet) who can finance my “maintenance” for the years to come. Currently, my trophy-wife aspirations are a slim second to my financial priorities.

Speaking of which, rewind to last August when I was peddling my wares at a trade show at the Javitz Center (big convention space in Manhattan). One of the designers in the booth next to me was way into Ayurveda and explained to me the Oil Cleansing Method, which has apparently been a thing for, like, centuries. So if it was potentially good enough for broads like Cleopatra, I can do! 

Looking it up further, I learned that I could basically customize the oils I use according to my skin’s needs. Neato! Having decided on a cocktail of argan oil, jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and castor oil, the OCM was a vast improvement for my frequently dry yet seasonally breakout-prone skin. After about a month of doing it, once my skin normalized from the shock of NO SOAP ALL OIL ALL THE TIME, everything was evened out, generally smooth and even brighter. ANCIENT MIRACLE INDEED. No more hemming and hawing in the pharmacy aisles over which cleanser would do all the things I need it to. 

The concept behind OCM seemed pretty legit to me: oil dissolves oil; the reason your skin breaks out is because it’s overproducing oil to make up for the oil that most face cleansers deplete. So why not just give it what it wants? It worked for me, but I get that it’s not for everyone.

Fancy pump bottle from specialtybottle.com, AKA "Here, have all my money for frivolous purposes."

Fancy pump bottle from specialtybottle.com, AKA "Here, have all my money for frivolous purposes."

So yeah, the OCM has been working for me since that fateful discovery, up until about two or three months ago. Dry patches, general dullness, and my chin/mouth-zone breakouts returned. DAMNIT. I thought I had you sorted, face! 

If you are reading this caption you have already viewed the UNFLATTERING CLOSE-UP.

If you are reading this caption you have already viewed the UNFLATTERING CLOSE-UP.

Not wanting to go back to regular soap cleansers, I thought that perhaps my skin was just tired of my hippy DIY oil concoction. The benefits had plateaued. Perhaps I needed something a bit more sophisticated? 

Knowing that oils are making a She’s All That-like comeback, I knew that I could easily find some good oils specifically made for facial cleansing. I went to two of the most obvious (in my mind) sources for innovative skincare based on some kind of regional tradition.

There's a real hi-lo going on here. 

There's a real hi-lo going on here. 

First, I tried out Shiseido Ultimate Cleansing Oil. It’s designed to thoroughly remove makeup and long-wearing foundation and sunscreen. 

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The texture of it is very watery and you apply it with dry hands on dry face, rubbing it in and making sure you get all your makeups thoroughly loosened, then rinse with water. It does stick around a bit on your face when you dry off, but it feels silky--not sticky. The smell is faintly “fresh laundry” scented. 

I did this for about two weeks, only nighttime. In the AM, I would either just rinse with lukewarm water or every two or three days use a honey and sugar exfoliator I made (it’s just raw/organic honey, plus brown sugar). For $25 a bottle, it’s not even necessarily a splurge, considering you only use it at night. 

My skin evened out texture-wise, though the tone remained less than cherubic. Baby steps, baby steps…

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I was excited to try Shu Uemura’s cleansing oils, mostly because Shu Uemura is KNOWN for their cleansing oils. I wanted to try the Ultim8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil because out of all of their options (there’s like six of them, not including their “limited edition” collaborations, which might just be that someone arty redesigned the packaging); it seemed to cover the most bases and it has the best reviews. 

A 15 -ounce bottle is $90. Pretty steep; however this is like a Cosco-sized bottle and you get three times as much as the small bottle. You will seriously use it for, like, a year. If you like something and it works for you, it’s worth it to splurge a bit—especially if it will last a long-ass time. That’s just my opinion anyway. 

ANYWAY. The Ultim8 refers to the eight “exquisite” oils blended into this cleanser (jojoba, olive, shea butter, ginger root, soy bean, safflower, camellia, and corn). Camellia oil is one of my favorites for skin and hair, and I already know that my skin likes jojoba. The ginger root oil is a great anti-inflammatory and oxidation preventer, plus brightener. Soy bean oil improves blood circulation and helps heal sun damage. Shea’s got your omega fatty acids, and safflower oil helps reduce redness and eczema. Honestly, the corn oil threw me, mostly because I immediately think of high fructose corn syrup (weird, right?), but apparently corn oil has lots of fatty acids which act as emollients to protect skin from dryness.

After massaging this ULTIM8 combination on my skin nightly for two weeks, my skin definitely felt softer and smoother overall. The cleanser works a bit differently in that, you start dry, rubbing on your dry face with dry hands (again, get all your makeup loosened), but then you add a tiny splash of warm water and the oil “emulsifies” to a milky liquid. 

Rinse that off and BAM--that’s some 90-dollar skin you got on that face. 

Added bonus: it smells heavenly. It smells like fancy lady perfume that has elegantly faded throughout the day. 

It's really hard to photograph this emulsified oil, but you can see the milkiness a bit gathered in my head and/or heart line

It's really hard to photograph this emulsified oil, but you can see the milkiness a bit gathered in my head and/or heart line

I can’t say much about the breakouts because who can tame the hormonal wave that crests each moon cycle? I did not break out more than usual, but facial oils aren’t really there to treat zits necessarily, so that’s a whole different struggle. However, I did appreciate the texture improvements and ease of using these. 

With the OCM, the ritual took, like, 10 whole minutes (hard to commit to when you’re reallllly sleepy) to do the wash cloth in the hot water, wring out the hot water, put the wash cloth on the face, press it on the face, let cool, repeat until the oil is removed to a non-slimy amount. It feels nice and spa-like, but after a while, it gets a bit tedious. Apparently my skin thought so, too.

Using higher-end facial cleansing oils allowed me the same benefits of the OCM but with express checkout. Plus, I don’t have to do laundry as often when I run out of washcloths!