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What to Do When the Oil Cleansing Method Makes Acne Worse

Using the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) is a scary concept, purposely putting oil on your face every day.  However, I’m here to tell you that it works! 

glass bottle of oil on white background with greenery in vase

But I only had success when I used this brand , though. When I tried to DIY using household oils, my acne flared up, so be careful what you use!

This post was updated October 2019. In the five years that I’ve been using the oil cleansing method for my hormonal acne prone skin, I have been very pleased with how my skin has responded. I hope you feel the same way, too, and don’t want you to be discouraged. So keep on reading to find answers why this natural beauty cleansing method might not have worked the first time around.

Has the Oil Cleansing Method Made Acne Worse for You?

If you have been washing your face with oil and still have breakouts and acne, or you don’t think your skin looks as good as it should, there could be a good reason.

First of all, switching the way that you clean your face is going to take some adjustment.

“Any time you make a major change in your skin-care routine you can expect to see some break-outs, a period of time referred to as an “initial breakout period” or an ‘oil cleansing purging stage” said Jaime McGuigan, Holistic Chemist for the W.S. Badger Company.

The process of washing your face with oil changes the way that your skin has been behaving, too.

How Good Oils Get Rid of Acne-Causing Oil

“The concept behind the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM) is that like dissolves like which means that the new oil will dissolve and replace the old oil that is deep inside your pores. As this old oil loosens, particularly in heavily congested areas of your skin, you will often see break-outs as a response. It can take up to a month for your skin to adjust to your new skin care routine but once the old oil has been thoroughly cleaned from your pores this response should subside,” McGuigan said.

glass bottle of oil on marble background with wooden bowl and flower vase

And if you are using oil cleansing for dry acne prone skin, you are really changing your skin’s behavior. So you might be experiencing problems that you weren’t before as your skin becomes more hydrated.

So, as you are cleaning your face with oil, all of the bad stuff from weeks and months past come to the surface.

Including dirt, pollution, makeup and dead skin cells.

As all of this stuff starts coming to the surface, it will need to be replaced with healthy oils that you want in your pores.

I experienced this myself, as blackheads seemingly rose to the surface on their own and popped out. Which is something that never happened when I was using a mineral cleanser that ended up drying out my skin.

grey towel on grey background

4 Reasons Why Oil Cleansing Could Make Acne Worse

If it has been longer than a month and your oil cleansing method made acne worse, there is likely something else going on, according to McGuigan. 

The oil cleansing method to get rid of acne might not be working for you if you are doing it wrong. These are the top four things that she sees that can actually make acne worse while trying the oil cleansing method:

  • Wrong combination of oils for your skin type – be sure that you have really done a thorough assessment of your skin-type; this is something many people get wrong. If you switch you should be able to see positive results fairly quickly (There are several Badger face cleansing oils for different skin types. This Badger face cleansing oil I have used for years and love. I also use and highly recommend Derma-E Nourishing Rose Cleansing Oil. It smells so good!).
  • Water temperature – should be shower hot but really doesn’t need to be beyond that and can cause irritation at higher temps.
  • Over-enthusiastic exfoliation – may lead to irritation that can appear to be acne but actually isn’t. Use of the washcloth when removing oil should be firm but gentle (not scrubby). You want to draw the dirty oil off, not rub it all back in.
  • Leaving old oil behind on the face to be re-absorbed –  a good number of people who are switching to this method will not remove the oil thoroughly enough, leaving a film of old oil on their face that gets rubbed back in. This situation will eventually resolve itself, because you keep replacing a portion of the old oil, but this will slow the process down. It is far preferable to gently draw off as much of the dirty oil as you can at each cleaning.

glass bottle of cleansing oil on white background with leaves

What About Hormonal Cystic Acne?

If you have hormonal cystic acne, there is only so much that a face cleanser, such as cleansing oil, can do for you. While you will be able to clear up more of the acne, you will still have hormonal changes that will always work against your skincare routine.

Be sure to talk with a doctor that understands the delicate cycle of hormones in your body. And knows how to get them under control naturally. 

I have struggled with hormonal cystic acne for over a decade before finally starting to have my acne clear up. It was one of the reasons I knew I needed to see an endocrinologist. My hormone lab results showed that I had a pretty big imbalance with my hormones. Thankfully, I did find relief from so many symptoms of hormonal imbalance and I am doing much better today with natural HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

Acne is not just the only symptom of having your hormones out of balance. There’s so much more that you could be struggling with by not finding the answer. I encourage you to seek out a great doctor if you are suffering but think that your hormones will just magically adjust themselves.

Tired of sensitive skin from beauty products? Why not make your own products with food-safe ingredients?

Get my new eBook! Discover 51 natural beauty recipes using ingredients from the kitchen!


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Saturday 26th of September 2020

I started using the brand Simple with their Hydration Cleansing Oil and let me just say, I've never broke out so horribly from a skin care product. I have really oily sensitive skin to start with...and since i've heard a lot of great things about cleansing oils, I figured I'd use the Simple brand because their for sensitive skinned people. Well, I am now suffering with red, inflamed, hard pimples. I look like I just got done putting my face over the stove and then rubbed butter all over it. Seriously, it's bad. All along my jaw line, forehead, and going down my neck. All where the oil has touched. I heard about the "like dissolves like" since my skin is so oily, I was like "okay! I'm going to try this!" Never again. Ever. I'm on a anti-biotic for my skin as of 2 days ago, and now am back to my Clinique Ance Solutions face wash ( I used Cetaphil before) and Skin Food's Aloe Vera gel afterwards. Nothing toner, serums, or moisturizers. My skin looks awful. No More Oils for ME!!!

Kimberly Button

Sunday 27th of September 2020

Ugh! That's frustrating! Everyone's skin is different, which for people with acne is frustrating. Because a breakout can take weeks to clear up. Sorry you went through that. Hope your skin clears up quickly!

michelle lidya

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

its my first time using the oil cleansing method. it has only been 5 days, but I noticed a pimple just appeared on my cheek area. I usually have pretty clear skin, except some fungal acne on my forehead. I rarely have pimples on my cheek area. The size of the pimple is also bigger than usual. Should I stop or wait for a couple more days?

Kimberly Button

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

It's hard to say. A dermatologist or aesthetician would likely have to help you out. If your skin is clear, is there a reason that you would like to switch to the oil cleansing method?


Thursday 25th of June 2020

I've doing this cleansing now for about 3 weeks and I've never had acne but now it looks like I have acne but more like a rash. Any suggestions on how to get my skin back to where it was? I was pretty clear before except on the chin and nose area

Kimberly Button

Saturday 27th of June 2020

I'd consider stopping. There's nothing that says you HAVE to wash with oil. Maybe your skin likes other types of soap better. For me, it worked better. But not everyone's body chemistry is the same.

Amanda Malek

Tuesday 26th of May 2020

I have been oil cleansing for almost 2 weeks now and have combination skin (more dry on my cheeks and more oily on my t zone) and i've noticed a bit of purging from a couple spots under my skin that are now coming to the surface. I'm worried this will continue after the month but I'm trying to stick it out to see if oil cleansing is for me


Friday 23rd of February 2024

@Amanda Malek, did your skin get better after the month

Abby Cowler

Thursday 7th of May 2020

I have always had good skin besides a few breakouts around my period. I oil cleansed two times a week ago, and my face has exploded in cystic acne along my jawline, as well as small rash-like breakouts on my chin and around my nose. I'm scared to keep cleansing, as I have never had acne this severe. What should I do?

jem cat

Monday 13th of July 2020

Hello! The same thing happened to me too! ? I used to have clear skin but now I developed somewhat small pimples or rashes around my chin and jawline weeks into OCM. May I know if yours has already cleared up? And how did you do it? ? I'm really anxious now. ?


Saturday 6th of June 2020

Hey Abby, Im experiencing the exact same thing right now. Two weeks into oil cleansing and I'm breaking out. I too, have always had fairly good skin.. Did you continue oil cleansing? May I get an update about how your skin is doing now?

Kimberly Button

Friday 8th of May 2020

Abby, I would stop doing it. It is very common for acne to get worse before it gets better when oil cleansing. However, I can't say what the issue is, so I'd stop or consult with someone.