Simplifying Skincare & Travel with OCM

August 6, 2015

For those of us who enjoy traveling often, to foreign places, and with little luggage, anything we can do to save space and lower maintenance is a godsend. Particularly helpful, then, is finding a skincare routine that uses internationally available ingredients, replaces an arsenal of products, and works for all skin types in all climates.

Ladies and gentlemen, the oil cleansing method.

It’s Ancient History

Though many of us are just now adopting the oil cleansing method, or OCM, it’s actually an ancient practice dating back to 5th century Rome. Before the widespread availability of soap, it was common to cleanse with olive oil. The Romans, when visiting the communal baths, would massage it into their skin, then use a curved blade called a strigil to remove the excess oil, dirt, and sweat.

An ancient oil flask with two strigils, the instruments used to scrape excess oil, dirt, and sweat from the body after bathing.

An ancient oil flask with two strigils, the instruments used to scrape excess oil, dirt, and sweat from the body after bathing.

Our society is pretty oil-adverse. With the popularity of products such as oil-free cleansers, oil-blotting sheets, and oil control mattifying moisturizers, it’s no surprise that people aren’t inclined to cleanse with oil. The problem these products pose (besides stripping, drying, and irritating our skin) is that they can actually cause overproduction of oil. From a beauty industry perspective, this may not be bad (did someone say “cha-ching?”) but for the end user, it can be a vicious cycle.

It’s Simple Science

The other issue is a matter of basic chemistry: like dissolves like. That is, the best way to dissolve oil (along with the dirt and bacteria that amasses in it over a day) is with other oils. With the right combination of oils, you can cleanse your pores naturally and gently while nourishing and protecting your skin. The result: beautiful, balanced, luminous, low-maintenance skin. For our purposes – in this case packing light – low-maintenance is great!

The absolute beauty of OCM lies in its simplicity. With only a couple ingredients, in only a few steps, we can eliminate an arsenal of skincare products while tackling such issues as dry, dull, oily, and sensitive skin; blackheads, whiteheads, and sebaceous filaments; and acne. Plus, we can have significantly lighter toiletries bags!

It’s Easy

Whatever oil or combination of oils you use, the method is the same:

  1. Prepare your face by wetting it with warm water, then patting it dry.
  2. Using your fingertips, massage the oil into your skin in a firm but gentle circular motion for 2 to 5 minutes.
  3. Hold a hot, wet washcloth to your face for 15 seconds, then use it to wipe off the excess oil and impurities.

You can rinse and repeat step 3 as necessary, but that’s it! A couple of ingredients, a few minutes, et viola!

It’s Multipurpose

As an added benefit, space-saver, and way to stay within the liquids maximum for carry-on luggage, the oil you use for your OCM routine can serve multiple purposes. These include removing make-up, moisturizing, and shaving.

How to Get Started:

This is a travel website and not a beauty blog so I won’t delve too far into specifics (although I’ll do my best to answer any questions), but following are some oil options. A good place to start is with mineral oil (fragrance-free baby oil), because it is noncomedogenic (unlikely to clog pores or cause breakouts) and inert (won’t react with anything in your skin). Feel free to experiment with combining multiple oils to take advantage of their various benefits. Such as:



  • Hemp seed oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Safflower oil
  • Sunflower oil



Lightly Hydrating

  • Grape seed oil*
  • Jojoba oil*
  • Olive oil*
  • Sesame oil*



Rich & Nourishing

  • Almond oil
  • Avacado oil
  • Coconut butter & oil**
  • Soybean oil**




  • Castor oil (very drying – make sure you dilute)
  • Neem oil (not drying but smells weird)
  • Tea tree oil (also very drying)


*Slightly comedogenic

**Highly comedogenic

An itinerant entrepreneur, Nadia travels slow and low in search of clean eats, dirty Jeeps, and good vibes. Meanwhile, she works with entrepreneurs and organizations to create memorable and successful brands.

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