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What is Double Cleansing and How to Do It

by Ewa Sieniawska 14 Nov 2022

Cleansing is arguably the most essential part of any skincare routine—which is why doing a once over with a makeup wipe doesn’t cut it. The best way to ensure your skin is thoroughly cleansed and free from bacteria, makeup residue, oil, sunscreen, dirt, and pollutants? The double cleanse method.

What is Double Cleansing?

While double cleansing might be hot and trendy in today’s skincare world, it has long been a mainstay step in Korean skincare routines. The process involves two different products: an oil-based cleanser and a water-based cleanser.

The first step is to apply the oil cleanser or cleansing balm to dry skin. The oils break down makeup, sunscreen, and oil-based impurities like sebum. And if you’re worried about applying oils to the skin, don’t worry—these cleansers are formulated with non-pore-clogging oils and rinse-off formulas that don’t leave you feeling greasy. For those with very sensitive skin or who don’t like the feeling of oil-based cleansers, you can also use micellar water as your first cleanse.

The second step, the water-based cleanser, cleanses the skin from those residues as well as water-based debris like sweat. It also balances and nourishes the skin, so you can get the most out of its active ingredients.

Why Double Cleanse?

One cleanser is not powerful enough (typically) to remove everything from the skin, including makeup, SPF, and environmental pollutants. A two-step cleansing routine breaks down residues and removes impurities, so your skin has a better environment to rejuvenate overnight, your pores are less likely to become clogged, and the rest of your skincare products can effectively penetrate the skin.

How to Effectively Double Cleanse:

  1. The first step of the double cleanse method is to grab your oil cleanser, cleansing balm, or micellar water. Apply the cleanser onto dry skin using gentle motions to break down all the makeup, sunscreen, sebum, etc. If you’re using an oil-based cleanser, now is the perfect time to add a quick 1-minute face massage.
  1. Rinse away the first cleanser. If you’re using an oil-based cleanser, you’ll notice that the cleanser emulsifies when combined with water. This milky emulsification ensures the oil cleanser and the captured debris are effectively rinsed from the skin.
  1. While your skin is damp, move on to your second cleanser. This should be a water-based cleanser—which is most likely the face wash you usually reach for. It can have different active ingredients, such as niacinamide or fruit enzymes; it can have a gel texture, a foaming texture, or a milky moisturizing texture. As long as the cleanser works for your skin type, that’s all that matters.
  1. Cleanse for 30 seconds to 1 minute before rinsing with lukewarm water.

When Should You Double Cleanse?

Most skin experts recommend double cleansing every night, even if you’ve not worn makeup, since sunscreen and other daily impurities will still be on the skin. However, you don’t need to double cleanse in the morning—a simple water-based cleanse or even a splash of water will do just fine before you apply the rest of your skincare routine.

If you’ve stayed inside all day and haven’t worn any makeup or sunscreen, a single cleanse will work. But there’s no harm in doing a double cleanse, even on those days.

Who Needs to Double Cleanse?

Everyone, regardless of skin type or gender, can benefit from the double cleanse method. It’s especially critical to double cleanse if you wear makeup or sunscreen, live in a polluted climate (like a city), or have had an adventurous day outdoors.

If you have dry skin, try:

First cleanse: CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm


The CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm has a unique texture that effectively removes makeup, oil, and grime while supporting the protective moisture barrier. Like the rest of CeraVe’s products, it contains soothing ceramides as well as nourishing jojoba oil.

Second cleanse: PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser


Dry skin types need a face wash that won’t strip their skin of its natural oils. The PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser is packed with moisturizing plant oils and hydrators such as glycerin and aloe vera to keep skin soft and nourished.

If you have oily skin, try:

First cleanse: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micellar Water Ultra for Oily Skin


Formulated for oily skin, this micellar water has a thin, water-like texture. It gently purifies the skin by encapsulating dirt, oil, makeup, and other grime in the micelles.

Second cleanse: EltaMD Foaming Facial Cleanser


This gentle, oil-free foaming face wash by EltaMD contains a blend of enzymes and amino acids to cleanse and reduce inflammation. The foaming formula doesn’t strip the skin of its essential oils but leaves it feeling clean and refreshed.

If you have acne-prone skin, try:

First cleanse: PCA Skin Daily Cleansing Oil


This beloved cleansing oil is a lightweight formula, so it’s great for oily, acne-prone skin. Key ingredients include grapeseed oil, which is rich in linoleic acid, an omega fatty acid that can help calm inflammation and keep acne at bay.

Second cleanse: SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

For troubled skin, an exfoliating combination of AHAs and BHAs can help unclog pores, treat blemishes, and brighten dark spots.

If you have sensitive skin, try:

First cleanse: Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water


This best-selling micellar water should be a staple in anyone’s skincare routine, especially if you have sensitive skin. The Sensibio H2O formula contains soothing cucumber extract and ultra-gentle micelles to remove impurities.

Second cleanse: Obagi Nu-Derm Gentle Cleanser


This soap-free gel cleanser is gentle enough for super sensitive skin. It removes dirt, sweat, and other impurities without dryness or irritation.

If you have normal or combination skin, try:

First cleanse: Osmosis MD Lift Away Cleansing Balm


This cleansing balm by Osmosis Beauty is an all-around great cleanser that gently dissolves makeup and impurities for ultra-clean skin. It’s also infused with elderberry juice, avocado oil, and mangosteen to nourish and hydrate.

Second cleanse: SkinCeuticals Simply Clean Gel Cleanser


Normal and combination skin types can benefit from a simple but powerful gel cleanser like Simply Clean. This gel cleanser is enriched with an amino acid surfactant system, a 6% concentration of sulfonic acid, and citric acid to effectively cleanse and remove dead skin cells for brighter, softer skin.

 If you have mature skin, try:

First cleanse: ClarityRx Balm It Off Nutrient Rich Pre-Cleanse


This replenishing cleansing balm melts into a silky oil emulsion when worked into the skin, gently dissolving makeup, sunscreen, dirt, oil, and other impurities. It’s great for mature skin thanks to its soothing plant extracts, antioxidant-rich plant oils, and radiance-boosting vitamins.

Second cleanse: PCA Skin Creamy Cleanser

 Mature skin types need products that are moisturizing and deeply nourishing. The Creamy Cleanser by PCA Skin supports mature skin with ingredients like skin-softening plant oils and anti-aging antioxidants.


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