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Are you double cleansing? Here’s why you should be

May 8 | 3 minute read


Words Emily Deacon and Sherine Youssef

Originally published on | May 8

Two different cleansers, two extra minutes - is washing your face twice really worth it? You bet! Here's why you should be double cleansing.

Double cleansing is a two-step process where you use two different cleansers to wash your face two separate times. The first cleanse helps to purify your skin of sunscreen, makeup, pollution, dirt, debris and basically anything that can be found in your pores, or on the surface of your skin, at the end of the day. The second cleanse ensures anything that wasn’t removed in the first step is washed away, including leftover residue from cleanser number one. The end result is skin that’s gloriously clean and ready to absorb your next skincare products. Here are the dos, don'ts and everything in between when it comes to perfecting your double cleansing routine.

What are the benefits of double cleansing?

How about clear and healthy skin, for starters? If your skin is not properly cleared of the day's dirt and grime, there is a potential for breakouts (not to mention enlarged pores and a dull and dry appearance). It also means that all the other skincare products that come after cleansing are able to work to their full potential. If the surface of your skin is not thoroughly cleaned, your next steps have a lesser chance of penetrating and actually getting into your skin, where they need to be to do their job.

Which skin types can benefit from double cleansing?

Most skin types! Oily and breakout-prone skin will love that a double cleanse whisks away the sebum and bacteria that can lead to blemishes and may want to opt for oil cleansers, which are incredibly effective at dissolving excess grease. A micellar water works too. On the other hand, dry skin types might find that two gentle cleanses are better than relying on one powerful cleanse to get rid of makeup, dirt and sebum.

There are, however, two skin types that should proceed with caution: super sensitive skin (which may find just the first oil or milk cleanse is enough to keep skin clean and happy) and those with cystic acne (which could become overstimulated by double cleansing and just exacerbate the problem).

When do I double cleanse?

Generally, double cleansing is reserved for the evening only, and that's for two reasons. First, to wash the day and all its pollution, sunscreen or makeup away. Second, it’s best not to overdo it; over-washing your face could lead to a compromised skin barrier and a whole host of other problems.

How to double cleanse:

OK, hopefully we've now convinced you that double cleansing is a good idea (it is!), so let's dive into exactly how to double cleanse.

Double cleansing dos:

Do use a cleansing oil, balm or milk as your first cleanse.

These types of cleansers are very, very good at dissolving sunscreen (which you're wearing every day, right?) and longwearing makeup, and they can get inside the pores where oil and product tend to build up. For a nourishing oil cleanse, try the Mario Badescu Cleansing Oil. To keep things gentle, opt for Moon Juice’s Milk Cleanse Gentle Wash. Or if your skin is sensitive, a balm cleanser like the Alpha-H Melting Moment Cleansing Balm with Wild Orange Leaf Extract will leave skin hydrated and soft rather than stripped, tight or dry.

Their effectiveness comes down to their formulations. You know how water and oil don't mix? That’s why oil-based cleansers are so good – they can dissolve oil-based makeup and sebum on the skin, which means they also work for those with shiny complexions.

Do apply your cleansing oil or balm with dry hands to start with and then add water

Massage cleansing oil, balm or milk all over your face to melt products and lift off any impurities (most are usually fine to use around the eyes, but always read the label). Take your time. This is the step that feels a bit spa-like and so good. When you're ready, wet your hands and go over your face again; this will emulsify the cleanser and turn it milky, so everything will wash off when you rinse.

Do use a foam or gel cleanser as the second cleanse

Foam or gel cleansers like the Tatcha’s The Rice Wash or Drunk Elephant’s Beste™ No. 9 Jelly Cleanser ensure your skin is left squeaky clean, but not tight, stripped or dry, by removing any residue from your first cleanser and any lingering traces of product or sunscreen. You don't need to use a lot of product here, as the first step has already done a lot of the hard work.

Double cleansing don'ts:

Don't use a foam, gel or exfoliating cleanser for both steps

This will strip, dehydrate or over-exfoliate your skin, which is not something you ever want to do. Using two different formulas for the two steps is the key to keeping your skin clean and happy.

Don't use very hot water

Scorching water will dry out skin and compromise the skin barrier, which means it'll lose moisture at a more rapid rate. Stick to lukewarm water.

Don't dry your face with a dirty towel

Not double cleansing-specific, though consider this one as general skincare advice. You never know what kind of microorganisms are lingering in your towel, particularly in a warm and damp bathroom, so always use a clean and dry face washer.

Oil and balm cleansers to try as your first step:

For your first cleanse use either oil-based liquids or balms, or micellar water. The MECCA COSMETICA Clean Slate Micellar Water or Clinique’s Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm will do an excellent job of dissolving any makeup, sunscreen, impurities or sebum on the surface of the skin and in pores.

Cleansers to try as your second step:

Second cleansers are generally water-based, either a foam, lotion or gel formula, with ingredients that are more suited to your specific skin type, whether that’s oily and breakout prone. For oily or breakout-prone skin, try the Dermalogica ClearStart Breakout Clearing Foaming Wash. Formulated with salicylic acid, it will help clear dead skin cells and remove excess oils. For dry skin, look for ingredients like hyaluronic acid to give the skin a much-needed hydration hit. The Allies of Skin Molecular Silk Amino Hydrating Cleanser will break down excess grime whilst nourishing the skin.

Related topics and brand tags

CleanserSkin careOily skinSensitive skinREN Clean Skincare

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