Why TikTok's 15-Minute Cleansing Challenge Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be

Gross but oh-so-satisfying.

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I'm all for a beauty trend or hack that's been born from social media. They're not always that realistic, and sometimes are a little wacky for the sake of being wacky, but you can actually get some amazing tips and tricks if you search carefully. The latest hack to go viral is the TikTok 15-minute oil cleansing challenge, which involves (yep, you guessed it), cleansing your skin for 15 minutes with an oil. I gave it a go and here is what happened...

What is the 15-minute oil cleansing challenge?

The idea is that cleansing your skin for this long with an oil formula releases “plugs” of gunk from your pores, giving them a deep clean and removing debris.

The “challenge” came to people's attention after TikTok user Adrika (who goes by the handle Opulent Jade) posted a video she teased with: “If you have blackheads, you need to see this.”

“I saw a video from an aesthetician on YouTube and she talked about how oil cleansing for 15 to 20 minutes can get out little oil plugs [in the skin],” she says in the video. “I thought 'no way in hell is that going to work on me’”. However, after giving it a go, Adrika is visibly impressed, as she shows her hand to the camera and reveals the black sebum plugs – oily, waxy secretions created by sebaceous glands – that have come off on her fingers.

The technique is named gritting, and is named as such due to the little plugs of sebum which you're left with. It was hailed by U.S. aesthetician Nayamka Roberts-Smith, whose YouTube video inspired Adrika.

Speaking about the technique, Roberts-Smith says: “Oil dissolves oil. Oil cleanser attracts lipids in your pores and on the surface of your skin to wash it away.”

“If you have acne-prone skin, oil cleansing is going to loosen congestion in your skin in a really gentle, non-inflammatory way.”

Is oil cleansing recommended by experts?

Experts I have spoken to have differed in their view on this one. While Mark Curry, co-founder of affordable skincare brand The Inkey List explained he didn't see anything wrong with this method of skincare, Megan Felton, co-founder of skincare consultancy Lion/ne, recommends approaching with caution.

“I would say that there is no evidence to suggest that you aren’t trading one problem for another,” says Felton. “This trend could lead to further pore clogging and additional build up/production of sebum long term.”

She suggests it needs to be assessed on a “case-by-case basis,” but that it may not work for everyone.

Does oil cleansing actually work?

I gave the challenge a go, and what I will say above all else is that this hack takes serious commitment. 15 minutes may not sound like a lot of time, but when it's spent rubbing oil into your face, it feels like a lifetime.

To break it up a little, I used my Gua Sha (jade massage tool) to rub in some of the oil, but used my fingers for the most part. As I went, I did notice a few little bits of sebum on my fingers, but there wasn't the dramatic reveal at the end, as is shown in the now-famous TikTok video.

I will say that my pores definitely felt less tight at the end, meaning I could (carefully, with a tissue) squeeze them to unclog and get the little bits of gunk all out. For my nose, I actually used a charcoal nose strip afterwards too, which seemed to extract more than normal from my pores.

On the whole, however, this wasn't the miracle treatment it has been hailed to be. Perhaps it just works differently on different skin types, and depending on how large or tight your pores are. The results for me were a mixed bag. On the bright side, my skin positively glowed after I'd finished, just as if I'd had a professional facial. However, having used a cleansing oil rather than a hydrating oil, my skin was left on the dry and stripped side afterwards. My nose even got a little bloody in parts. I therefore needed a good hit of hydration after trying the challenge, in the form of a hydrating sheet mask, lots of hyaluronic acid serum, and a thick moisturiser.

Give it a go if you have some time on your hands, just be open to the fact it may not give you that gross but oh-so-satisfying result you've been hoping for. One thing I will be doing more often from now on is taking two or three minutes to massage my face when using cleansing oil, as the glow after I tried this challenge was real. It's a great mini facial to boost your skin each evening.

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