Oil Gritting Is Trending on TikTok—But Is It the Real Deal?

Oil Gritting Is Trending on TikTok—But Is It the Real Deal?

Oil Gritting Is Trending on TikTok—But Is It the Real Deal?

At the peak of my pre-pubescent middle school days, I would resort to questionable methods to treat my acne—and some valuable lessons were learned (for example, peeling glue off your face won’t banish blackheads). Of course, now I’m a beauty writer, so every time I see an attention-grabbing beauty hack on social media, I naturally have to investigate it before trying it myself. And now, I can safely test them out with guidance from the professionals.

So when I stumbled upon oil gritting for the skin, a viral TikTok hack that claims to remove blackheads by rubbing your face with oil for 5 to 15 minutes, I was skeptical. But oil gritting videos soon took over my For You Page. Alas, it was my destiny to try it out. Keep reading for everything you need to know about the trending hack, including input from board-certified dermatologists Dustin Portela, DO, and Dendy Engelman, MD.

What Is Oil Gritting?

“You just apply a really good oil to your face for five minutes and really massage it in,” says Hasini Kay, a beauty content creator, in a video with over 19 million views. “[Sebaceous filaments] will come off on your hands like this, and you’ll have super smooth skin.” Also referred to as oil pulling—not to be confused with oil pulling for the teeth—the apparent logic behind the technique is that using oil to massage continuously for 5-15 minutes will bring the oil-based impurities in your skin to the surface. 

According to these TikToks, the proof is in the gritty pudding: Those grainy particles on your hand, which result from oil gritting, are supposedly the sebaceous filaments you’ve successfully removed. The result sounds too good to be true: A clearer, blackhead-free complexion that emulates a skin-smoothing Instagram filter.

What the Experts Say

Turns out oil gritting is, in fact, a little too good to be true. Portela says that while it does “cleanse some excess oil off the skin, [oil gritting] will not penetrate deeply into the oil glands.” And those gritty particles that look like sebaceous filaments? “It’s actually just little clumps of dead skin, which you would get if you were rubbing any cleanser on your skin for 15 minutes,” he says.

So, while oil gritting can help with exfoliation, the claims made in these viral TikToks aren’t backed by any scientific evidence. “Using oils on the skin can potentially be effective in removing oil and dirt as well as makeup,” Engelman adds. But “it ultimately does not help eliminate sebaceous filaments…. Or yield long-term results.” 

My Oil Gritting Experience

Of course, I had to try out oil gritting for myself. Over two weeks, I experimented with different massaging techniques, time frames, and oil-based cleansers. I already have an elaborate skincare routine, but I have to say, this was like a HIIT workout for my hands: Concentrating around my T-zone, I continuously rubbed my face for 5-10 minutes in gentle circular motions. 

No matter how long I took, I found that, around the five-minute mark, I began to feel those grainy particles on my hand. Upon closer inspection, though, those grainy particles were not my blackheads or sebaceous filaments but dead skin, as Portela said. Contrary to what many TikTokers claimed, my skin looked the same—though it did feel exfoliated to a small extent.

As I became more comfortable with the practice of oil gritting, however, I also began to experiment with different massage methods for my face, massaging in upward motions similar to what I would do with a gua sha. This, I found, was my favorite aspect of oil gritting. My face felt less tense and more sculpted after this massage (and the light exfoliation was a bonus). “It’s a nice self-care practice,” Portela adds. “If you combine it with techniques like gua sha, you could experience some depuffing.”

What Else to Know

If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, oil gritting might not be suitable for you. "Be careful about massaging your face that long because it could create some irritation in and of itself," Portela advises. "But if you have [balanced] skin and you don't have a lot of sensitivity, there's probably not a lot of harm in the practice, as long as you're still trying to be gentle with your skin."  

Though some oil-gritting TikToks swear by using cooking oils like olive oil, Portela warns against it. “They can go rancid because they don’t have the same types of preservatives in them [since] they’re meant for consumption… If you want to try out oil gritting, I would recommend a product that’s intended for the face.” Engelman recommends using more gentle facial oil cleansers with nourishing ingredients like squalane, safflower, or vitamin E: “They are non-comedogenic and work on all skin types,” she says. 

If you’re interested in trying oil gritting yourself, I’d recommend Typology’s 7-Ingredient Cleansing Oil ($26), which has a super simple formulation that’s also effective at removing makeup. A budget-friendly option is Byoma’s Melting Balm Cleanser ($15), which has a satisfyingly velvety texture that melts into the skin while strengthening the skin’s barrier. Tatcha’s Camellia Cleansing Oil ($50) is every beauty influencer’s go-to for a reason—it’s super nourishing, not drying, and removes makeup without any irritation.

The Final Verdict

Oil gritting can be a fun self-care practice to try out, but not everyone has the time in their day to spend 15 minutes rubbing their face. My skin wasn’t necessarily worse after oil gritting, but it wasn’t particularly smoother or more poreless after, either. Of course, I still swear by oil cleansing—which is basically oil gritting but only takes up a minute of your skincare routine. “Oil cleansing lifts excess sebum, cleanses clogged pores, and removes dead skin cells and makeup,” Engelman says. “Every night, I use a double-cleansing ritual to draw out sebum and bacteria using a gentle makeup remover and [an] oil cleanser with lukewarm water.”  (Check out some of our favorite cleansing oils here.) Alternatively, Portela recommends using products with salicylic acid to remove excess sebum, like CeraVe’s Renewing SA Cleanser ($12). 

As always, the experts are right. If you don't have sensitive skin but do have the time in your day to try out oil gritting, it may help you gently exfoliate your skin. But for those who'd rather spend that time binging Sex and the City, oil cleansing can do the job in just a fraction of that time. And while it was nice to massage my face for several minutes, I'll leave that job to my gua sha.

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