A staple of any Korean beauty regime is the first step: oil cleansing. As the first half of a double cleanse, or your only cleansing method, it is a great way to remove makeup, residue, and general debris that your face comes into contact with on a daily basis. I’d hope that it isn’t a wholly alien concept for those who are somewhat into their skincare… But apparently, the length of time you should be oil cleansing for is a trending topic. So – what is oil cleansing, why should you do it, how long for (What is the 242 method???), and what products do I recommend? Keep reading, soon-to-be oil cleansing afficionado.
What is Oil Cleansing?
Oil cleansing is the practice of using an oil based cleansing product and putting it on your face. It is often used as the first step of a skincare routine, as oil effectively removes makeup and sebum without the need to tug harshly at your skin. This is because makeup and sebum are oil-based, and oil attracts oil, so using an oil cleanser means the particles attract and it is easier to lift them from your skin without the damage you get with pulling or scrubbing.
Oil cleansing has been around in both the Eastern and Western beauty scenes for quite some time.
On the Eastern (Korean) side of things, the earliest blog post I can find on naver is from 2003, about the DHC (Japanese brand) cleansing oil, and one of the first news articles I can find is from the same year, talking about how cleansing is a top priority for skin. So that’s a good 17 or so years that the method has been recommended for skin. Lima from fashionicidereminded me that oils for cleansing were/are used by Geishas to remove makeup, so I’d imagine they have been used in the Japanese skincare community far before that. In fact, DHC have a little historical blurb about the history of Japanese oil cleansing and the Geisha community on their website. Lima also brought the whole point of this post about, when she shared oil cleansing on her instagram stories.
On the Western front, the earliest I can find is from 2005 on the ‘essential daily spa‘ forum. They mention another forum – The Long Hair Community – introduced them to the Oil Cleansing Method, but I can’t find where they found their info. I’d imagine that it’s probably from the natural beauty community, or beauticians.
Why should you oil cleanse?
Aside from the fact it is a lot more gentle on your skin than using other types of cleansers, it’s a great cleansing method for all skin types. Whether your skin is dry, problematic, oily, oil cleansing will work for you. When the mainstream media picked this up in around 2010, there was a run of initial bad press saying that people with skin troubles shouldn’t use oil cleansers, but research into the effects has pretty much rendered that train of thought outdated (see dermatologists recommending oil cleansing here).
Oil cleansers do not disrupt the pH levels of your skin, unlike foaming cleansers which are typically higher pH to get all that foamy glory. This means that they don’t leave your skin feeling tight or stripped, even though they tend to perform deeper cleans to get the gunk in your epidermis out. Oils have been used in herbal medicine for hundreds of years, so it makes sense that they are kinder than chemical counterparts.
Oil cleansers do not disrupt the natural oils of your face either, which is what water-based cleansers tend to do. Even though adding more oil to your face may sound counterproductive, especially if you are oily, it isn’t! Usually, your skin overproduces oil if there is an imbalance, and not having any naturally occurring, protective oil on your face from stripping it off with a harsh cleanser, is definitely an imbalance. So I’d recommend trying to introduce an oil cleanser in your routine and seeing how your skin fares.
The 424 method went ‘viral’ in Korea in 2012 in a bid for normal people to get skin like idol and actress Suzy Bae/Bae Suji. This method involved massaging oil cleanser into your skin for 4 minutes.
Eastern beauty practices have almost always be far, far ahead.
The current kicker: How long should I oil cleanse for?
This seems to be a … new addition to the oil cleansing rhetoric. According to Nayamka Roberts-Smith, she has coined/created the #60secondchallenge, where you cleanse your face for 60 seconds… which is great. And I mean, yes the hashtag does belong to her in a cleansing sense…
But the actual act is hardly revolutionary. The method of cleansing your skin for 60 seconds or longer has been a staple of the Korean beauty scene for a long, long time. The article I mentioned from 2003 suggests massaging the oil into your skin for 2-3 minutes to smoothly and cleanly melt away makeup. Although this article doesn’t necessarily mention the skincare benefits of cleansing for 60+ seconds, the title of the article states that ‘moisturising cleansing’ is top priority (when skin concerns are yellow dust and pollen).
Suzy Bae (Bae Suji / 배수지) and the 424 method
The 424 method went viral in Korea in 2012 when Suzy was invited on the program ‘Get It Beauty’ to talk about her flawless ‘bare face’ (you can watch the video here). She revealed that her secret to clear, glowing, skin was her method of cleansing: the 424 method. 4 minutes of oil cleansing with a circular facial massage, 2 minutes of foam cleansing, followed by 4 minutes of rinsing with water, 2 minutes lukewarm, 2 minutes cool. This quickly caught on as an easy way to get flawless looking skin, cementing the importance of the first step of skincare: cleansing.
The Korean beauty ethos has always been centred on skincare as self-care, but programs like ‘Get it Beauty’ make the task of getting flawless faces way more achievable, as they invite celebrities, aestheticians/beauticians and dermatologists to talk about their recommended skincare routines. Part of the reason for going so viral was Suzy’s elevated status as an idol, especially with her title as ‘nations first love’, and the fact that she has seriously good skin.
But why should I cleanse for 60+ seconds?
The longer the oil is being worked into your skin, the longer the oil has to attract other oil. The goal of oil cleansing is to gently pull the daily gunk that builds up in your pores out, via things called oil or sebum plugs, which can also be a more fancy term for the beginnings of acne. If you’re oil cleansing regularly, then you probably won’t see a lot of these plugs come out vs if you’re oil cleansing for the first time, or the first time in a while.
Where as I don’t think Nayamka’s method is revolutionary or in any way new, she really does go into detail about the why which is wonderful. She talks about why oil cleansing is good for different skin types, and what oils you can use if you want to go the natural oil way (things like castor oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, canola (rapeseed) oil, rosehip oil etc).
Enature Skin Pot / Enature Moringa Cleansing balm – vegan, cruelty free. The Skin Pot cleanser uses hemp seed oil (no traces of THC), to effectively remove everything, and the Moringa Cleansing balm helps to build natural collagen to help fight fine lines and wrinkles with moringa pterygosperma seed extract.
Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Oil – an affordable option for a hydrating cleansing oil that refreshes the skin as well as nourishes. I love the Innisfree Green Tea Cleansing Water, and the rest of the line. For an even cheaper introduction you can try the Innisfree Apple Seed Oil which includes vitamin C.
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So. Oil Cleansing. Great for your skin. Really really great. I don’t really recommend doing lengthy oil cleanses more than once every 2 weeks as it can offset the balance of oils on your skin, but I do recommend oil cleansing for 2-4 minutes a day. It’ll do wonders for you, no matter your skin type.