need to double cleanse

What is this double cleansing thing?! When I was a kid, my mom told me to use plain old soap and water. It made my face squeaky clean… and dry as a bone. In my teens, I graduated to foaming cleansers. That worked better. I got clean skin without the dryness. Until I finally started wearing makeup. I needed something I could use all over, eyes included. Most foaming cleansers sting them like crazy.

That’s when I discovered oil-based cleansers. They take EVERYTHING off without the sting. They catch? They have the annoying tendency to leave a greasy residue behind… *sighs* I was about to give up all hopes of ever finding the perfect cleanser when I learned about double cleansing.

Originating in Korea, double cleansing is taking the skincare world by storm, it promises to take everything off – including sunscreen – in just two simple steps. But, is this extra step really necessary? I mean, I always cleansed my skin in one step and didn’t see this massive amount of grime left behind… Have I been blind all along or is double cleansing just another fad?

What Is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing is just that: you cleanse your face twice. First, with an oil-based cleanser. Then, with a water-based one. The theory is that you need different types of cleansers to attract (and remove) different kinds of impurities.

Oil-based cleansers work according to the “like attracts like” principle. Their oils attract, and bind to, the oils in your suncreen, makeup and excess sebum, washing them away from your face. You then follow up with a water-based cleanser that removes whatever other watery-based (yes, that’s the scientific term 🙂 ) impurities (think dirt), are still left on your skin.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is something you only do at night. Unless you sleep with your makeup and sunscreen on. But you DON’T, right?

Related: What’s The Oil-Cleansing Method And Should You Try It?

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Benefits Of Double Cleansing

So why should you wash your face twice, with two different cleansers? Fans of double cleansing (you’ll soon find out I’m NOT one), say double cleansing give your skin a deeper clean. It’s supposed to remove stubborn, water-proof, oil-based skincare and makeup products with ease, so that you don’t have to rub at your skin for 10 minutes to take every last trace of grime on. Fans also says it removes more than one cleanse would – some impurities you may just not see.

Problems With Double Cleansing

Double cleansing itself doesn’t have any major side effects. You won’t harm your skin by double cleansing unless… you use drying cleansers. The cleansing process is always a bit traumatic for skin. Gentle, pH-balanced cleansers are a must to remove impurities and makeup without irritating skin. If you’re using cleansers with a high pH or that are too harsh for your skin type, you’ll experience dryness and irritation. Choose wisely!

Who Should Double Cleanse?

In theory, anyone can double cleanse. But double cleansing is more suitable for women (and men) who:

  • Wear a full face of makeup (a la Kardashian)
  • Have oily or acne-prone skin that produces a lot of excess oil
  • Live in very polluted areas

Who Should Avoid Double Cleansing?

It’s true that anyone can double cleanse. But, I don’t recommend it to people with sensitive skin or rosacea – at least during active flare-ups. Why? Your skin at this time is very delicate and overcleansing may dry it out and irritating even more. Instead, use as little makeup as possible and cleanse once in the morning and once in the evening with a gentle creamy cleanser.

When Should You Double Cleanse?

If you’re going to double cleanse, do it in the evening, as the first step of your routine (obviously!). Here’s why: at night, you need to remove makeup and sunscreen, two products that usually have a high concentration of oils (especially the waterproof kind!). You need something stronger for that. But at night, you just have your skincare on. So, in the morning, you don’t have anything heavy to wash off. You could double cleanse, but it’d be a waste.

How To Double Cleanse

If you really want to use two separate cleansers, here’s how to double cleanse.

Step 1: Use an oil-based cleanser to remove makeup and sunscreen to remove oil-based impurities. Massage it in gentle circular motion to wet or dry skin for 30-45 seconds.

Step 2: Massage a water-based cleanser to remove the oil-based cleanser and any other impurities still left on your skin.

Step 3: Pat your skin dry gently with a face towel and continue with the rest of your skincare routine.

What Are The Best Oil-Based Cleansers?

Here are the best oil-based cleansers for the first step of double cleansing:

  • Banila Clean It Zero Cleansing Balm Original ($19.00): A cult favourite, it effortlessly removes every last trace of makeup and sunscreen without irritating skin. Available at iHerb, Soko Glam, Stylevana, and Yes Style.
  • CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleansing Balm ($13.99): A rich balm enriched with ceramides and natural oils to deeply moisturise skin while cleansing. It takes off sunscreen and water-proof makeup with ease. Available at Dermstore and Ulta.
  • Clinique Take The Day Off Makeup Remover ($38.00): Enriched with safflower seed oil, this makeup remover gently glides onto the skin, taking off stubborn makeup with ease. Available at Beauty Bay, Boots, Clinique, Look Fantastic, Sephora, and Ulta.

What Are The Best Water-Based Cleansers?

Here are the best water-based cleansers for the second step of double cleansing:

  • Cosrx Low-pH Good Morning Cleanser ($14.00): A foaming, pH-balanced cleanser for oily skin that removes impurities without irritating or drying out skin. Available at Boots, Cult Beauty, Look Fantastic, Sephora, Soko Glam, Stylevana, and Yes Style.
  • La Roche Posay Toleriane Softening Foaming Gel Cleanser : A very gentle foaming cleanser even dry and sensitive skin will love – and yes it does a good at removing impurities. Available at Look Fantastic and Sephora.
  • Neogen Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser ($19.00): A gentle foaming cleanser that removes impurities without drying out skin. There’s green tea in here, but the antioxidant just ends up down the drain when you wash the cleaner off. Available at Beauty Bay, Soko Glam, and Stylevana.

The Truth About Double Cleansing (You’re Probably Already Doing It)

I know what you’re thinking: “I can barely bother to remove my makeup before I go to sleep and you want me to use two cleansers, Gio? Are you nuts?!” I’ve got good news for you. You’re probably double cleansing already. Huh?

Here’s the deal: Very few cleansers are either oil- or water-based. Most are either oil-in water or water-in-oil emulsions.

An example of an oil-in-water emulsion is Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel With Marula Oil. Its oil droplets are dispersed in water with a little helping hand from emulsifiers. As the oil is surrounded by so much water, it disappears quickly into the skin, removing ALL impurities from it. This type of cleanser works well even for oily and acne prone skin.

Cold creams, such as the old classic Pond’s Cold Cream, are usually “water-in-oil” emulsions. This time, the water is encapsulated within the oil droplets. The oil reaches your skin first, creating a thicker barrier that both cleanses and moisturizes. Water in oil cleansers are better for dry or mature skin types.

Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Should You Double Cleanse (As In Use Two Separate Cleansers)?

If most cleansers can double cleanse, why are Korean women using two cleansers? Is the double cleanse craze from the East a fad?

Yes and no.

If you ask me (and I guess you are, if you’re reading this blog), Korean women are too quick to embrace whatever fad marketers throw at them. The secret to their glowing skin has more to do with their obsession for sun protection and a healthy diet rich in fermented foods than the use of 300 skincare products.

But, there’s no doubt that you need to thoroughly cleanse your skin every night. Even the best skincare products won’t be able to do their magic if they have to fight through layers of dirt to reach your skin. Plus, if you let all that dirt build up in your pores, pimples are going to be your new BFFs. I know, don’t let that happen to you.

But do you need two cleansers? It depends:

  • If your current cleanser is already doing an excellent job at cleansing your skin, you don’t need to change anything. Just keep doing what you’re doing every night. You’re on the right track.
  • If your cleanser is still leaving traces of makeup and sunscreen behind, it’s time to up your cleansing game and invest in an oil-and-water-based cleanser.
  • If your cleanser is doing a great job at cleansing your skin but is leaving a greasy residue behind, then it’s time to double cleanse. Use an oil-based cleanser to remove your makeup and a water-based cleanser to get rid of the residue.

Related: Did You Know That Triple Cleansing Is A Thing? Here’s Why You Should Not Do It

The Bottom Line

I know I said it before, but I’ll say it again. You need to thoroughly cleanse your skin every night. But, how you don’t need to use two separate cleansers to do that. Most cleansers are already double cleansing!