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Does Oil Gritting Actually Help With Clogged Pores? I Tried It.

What is this skin gritting method you’ve seen all over your For You feed and is it legit? Never one to shy away from a skin care trend, I decided to give it a try in hopes of ridding my face of the tiny black dots on my nose and chin once and for all.

What is Skin Gritting? 

Skin gritting is a new skin care trend that has gained a lot of traction on social media recently. Also known as “oil gritting,” it is the act of massaging oil into the T-zone for several minutes with the goal of shrinking your pores by coaxing the gunk out of them. Many report seeing and feeling small black fragments (“grits”) on their fingertips after several minutes of rubbing. The practice is often combined with a detoxifying mask, applied and removed between two oil massage sessions. According to Popsugar, “Users on TikTok are saying [sebaceous] filaments will come off into your hands as you're massaging your face with oil, leading to super-smooth and super-clear skin.” 

Blackheads Vs. Sebaceous Filaments

First things first, let’s talk about these black spots, also known as sebaceous filaments. Often confused with blackheads (and vice versa), sebaceous filaments are microscopic “tubes” that allow sebum (the oil produced by the body) to run from the sebaceous glands — where oil is made — to the surface of the skin. This keeps skin hydrated and moisturized and helps give it a smooth, healthy glow. In other words, sebaceous glands are a good thing. But that doesn’t mean you have to like the look of them. Age, skin care habits and the thickness of hair follicles can all contribute to how noticeable they are. 

According to US Dermatology Partners: “Blackheads are a type of acne. They’re open bumps on the surface of the skin that fill with excess oil and dead skin. In a blackhead, a plug of sebum is at the surface of your skin. The plug prevents oil from traveling through the pore.” Sebaceous filaments, on the other hand, aren’t a type of acne. They don’t have plugs, so oil travels freely to the surface of your skin. Again, a good thing! Sebaceous filaments look like dark spots, but they are generally smaller and they’re flat on the skin and lighter in color than blackheads — more like gray or light brown.

Since I’m coming clean about my own struggle with these annoying dots, I’ll admit that I thought my sebaceous filaments were blackheads for most of my life. Maybe that explains why all my attempts to "get rid of blackheads” did little to fix the problem.

Oil Gritting Routine

Ok, now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s deep dive into this new trend. It can be done in a few ways, but one of the most popular seems to be the “oil, clay, oil method.” Here’s how it goes:

Step 1: Apply a facial oil or an oil cleanser to the T-zone and rub it in with your fingers for 5 – 15 minutes. 

Step 2: Apply a mask — usually charcoal and clay-based — to the area and allow it to dry for about 10 minutes. 

Step 3: Gently remove the mask with a warm, moist cloth and then apply facial oil for a second time to the same area.

Step 4: Massage the oil in for another 5 – 15 minutes.

At some point during step 4, according to the #SkinTok brigade, you’ll see and/or feel the tiny black grits coming off onto your fingers. The theory is that these are blackheads or sebaceous filaments being ejected by the pores. Sounds almost too good to be true. 

Of course, I had to give it a go. The act of simply sandwiching a mask between two sessions of massaging my skin with oil-based products to help bring impurities to the surface sounded easy enough compared to some of the things I’d tried (including metal blackhead removers, pore strips, glue and harsh peels). I’ve been on a decades-long quest to rid my nose and chin of those tiny black dots and have spent more time than I care to admit trying to make them disappear. While I’ve found some temporary fixes in my 20+ years as a beauty junkie (detoxifying masks, physical exfoliants, BHAs and an unforgettable spa facial on vacation), I have yet to find a permanent way to make them less noticeable. 

I’m an oil cleanser girlie. When I realized in my late teens that oil-based cleansers can be used on oily skin (oil attracts oil), there was no turning back. I like my skin to feel clean but not stripped. I also like my cleanser to remove my makeup in one step. One of my longest relationships has been with oil cleanser. Sure, I’ve dabbled in other textures here and there (it’s my job to test drive the newest skin care formulas), but I always find my way back to my old faithful. Lately, the Stone Crop Cleansing Oil. But more on that later.

Speaking of an old faithful, I’ve been a loyal fan of charcoal in skin care for decades. A natural detoxifier, this ingredient is very effective in reducing excess oil and impurities from skin, which helps to eliminate buildup and tackle pore congestion — like blackheads. “[Charcoal] may help to unclog pores and improve the overall appearance of your skin,” says Dr. Hooman Khorasani, a quadruple board-certified dermatologic and skin cancer surgeon in New York City. “Activated charcoal has been used for centuries as a toxin-absorbing agent, likely due to its high mass-to-surface-area ratio. In essence, it binds to toxins and prevents them from entering the body.” When used in skin care, charcoal is also thought to have the ability to help draw out impurities. 

My Skin Gritting Journey: Step-By-Step

Choose Products 

It was time to give it a shot. As an employee of Eminence Organic Skin Care, I’m lucky enough to have access to so many amazing products. Since the goal was to eliminate the look of sebaceous filaments on my nose, I decided to double down on the charcoal by using the Charcoal & Black Seed Clarifying Oil for steps one and three, and the Charcoal & Black Seed Clay Masque (which contains mineral-rich illite clay) for step two. Both products also contain black seed, which is packed with antioxidants and has been shown to fight acne and reduce the look of clogged pores. 

While some charcoal masks can be drying, the velvety Eminence Organics Charcoal & Black Seed Clay Masque hydrates as it balances, absorbs excess oil and minimizes the appearance of pores. Since a blackhead is a blockage or plug at the top of a pore (on the surface or raised slightly above the surface of the skin) and a sebaceous filament is a tiny collection of sebum and dead skin cells around a hair follicle, the charcoal in the mask is a great option for minimizing the appearance of pores.

Product Picks

Step 1: Apply Oil and Massage #1

I put three drops of the Charcoal & Black Seed Clarifying Oil onto my fingers and applied it to a clean face. I set the timer for 10 minutes and started gently massaging the oil into my speckled nose and chin. Even with my favorite podcast playing in the background, 10 minutes seemed like a long time. As my fingers started cramping up, the timer went off and I was ready for the next step.

Step 2: Apply Clay Mask

I gently wiped my nose and chin with a damp cloth and then applied the Charcoal & Black Seed Masque. It felt fresh and cool, which was nice. Once I had a thin, even layer on my T-zone, I let it sit for 10 minutes. One more wipe with a warm, moist cloth and I was ready for the main event.

Step 3: Apply Oil And Massage #2

This was potentially going to be a game-changer for my entire skin care routine. I added three more drops of oil to my nose T-zone and started rubbing again. This time, I checked my magnifying mirror every couple of minutes to see if I noticed any difference in the volume or size of the black dots. No change. I kept going for the full 15 minutes, despite very tired arms and crampy fingers. The things I’ll do for science. About four times in this process I noticed what felt like tiny grains on my fingers. Grits! When I looked down at them, they were in fact tiny black dots, smaller than a grain of sand. Were they sebaceous filaments? Were they the gunk from a blackhead released from my nose? Or were they just dead skin or even remnants of the charcoal mask? I may never know. 

When the 15 minutes were up, I took a nice, long look in the mirror and still didn't notice a change. When I looked again a couple of hours later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that maybe, just maybe, some of the dots seemed smaller in size and lighter in color than before I’d started.

The Results

My takeaway? Since the products are already effective on their own, adding the labor-intensive oil gritting process did not seem to amp up the efficacy or my results.

There may have been a slight improvement in the look of the sebaceous filaments, but nothing to get excited about, especially considering the time and effort I put into the whole ordeal. The products on their own are enough to get the job done.  

While oil gritting is a type of mechanical exfoliation, experts seem to agree that the small grits are most likely just dead skin cells, not necessarily sebaceous filaments. After massaging your skin for an extended amount of time, "you may get a good exfoliation of the skin, [but] it is unlikely to get rid of prominent pores and [the process] also takes longer and [is] more work than just simply double cleansing," Dr. Edward Chen tells Popsugar.

I don’t plan to give up my oil cleansing routine, but will stick to the basics moving forward. I love washing my face morning and night with the Stone Crop Cleansing Oil, which removes impurities and makeup without leaving my skin oily. A customer, Akinlove, calls this oil her “holy grail,” saying in an online review: “I am blown away by how good this is. It brightens, gently removes and just makes you feel refreshed. My skin is so calm after. I will purchase this time and time again. Please never stop selling this. I am in love.” Same, girl, same.

Closeup of author's pores on face

At night I’ll continue to apply the Charcoal & Black Seed Clarifying Oil because I’ve definitely noticed my skin looks more balanced and less oily since I incorporated it into my routine a few weeks ago. And not to worry, 30 seconds of massaging it in is more than enough to get results. I’ll add the Charcoal & Black Seed Clay Masque once or twice a week for that extra help making my pores appear smaller. 

Can Everyone Try Skin Gritting? 

While there’s no harm in giving this trend a try in most cases — assuming you have a spare 30 minutes — there are a few skin types that might want to steer clear. Those with sensitive skin or conditions like acne, rosacea or psoriasis should check with a dermatologist to see if skin gritting is right for them. And, according to Healthline, “Frequent massaging that’s too aggressive could irritate the facial skin and lead to micro injuries, inflammatory lesions and even broken capillaries.” So go easy and be gentle if you’re going to give it a try. 

Skin Gritting: My Final Verdict

Again, if time is in short supply, I wouldn’t recommend skin gritting since the products work really well with congested pores when used as directed.

If you’re looking for some help with extractions, your best bet is to visit a Spa Partner who is trained in the delicate procedure and can help target blackheads (while leaving those sebaceous filaments to do their job). A decongestion facial with our Charcoal & Black Seed Professional Desincrustation Gel helps estheticians prepare your skin for extractions by softening and dilating follicles.

To book a facial with an Eminence Organics Spa Partner, visit our Spa Locator to find the location nearest you.