If you’ve spent any time at all reading about beauty, skin care or makeup, you’ve probably seen the term “double cleanse” pop up somewhere. You might have also seen terms like “oil cleanser,” “foaming cleanser,” “second cleanser,” and “cleansing balm,” and they probably all seem a little confusing.
Unless you’re the kind of person to spend a lot of time falling down internet rabbit holes on random topics (guilty!), I wouldn’t expect you to know what double cleansing is all about! It originated in the Korean beauty scene, but it’s definitely a more mainstream concept now.
I know it seems kind of gimmicky or like a way to sell you extra products, but trust me. This is one of the biggest skin care game-changers I’ve ever encountered.
I know it seems kind of gimmicky or like a way to sell you extra products, but trust me. Double cleansing is one of the biggest skin care game-changers I’ve ever encountered.
Double Cleansing Isn’t Just Washing Your Face Twice
Again, nobody could blame you for thinking that double cleansing is just about extra face washing. The truth is that it’s actually a two-step process that utilizes two different types of cleansers: one that’s oil-based and one that’s water-based.
Before I launch into explaining why you need two different types of face wash and two rounds of cleansing, I need to confess something: I hate washing my face. I always have. I do it, but it’s the part of my beauty routine that annoys me the most. I don’t know why I dislike it so much, but ugh. I hate it.
I say that to say this: I religiously double cleanse. If I’m wearing sunscreen or makeup, you better believe I’m double cleansing at the end of the day.
Does that give you an idea of how big of a deal double cleansing is? I hope so!
You Really Do Need Two Types of Cleansers
Let’s start with the basics.
1. Round One, or the “First Cleanse”
“First cleansers” are oil-type products that are meant to do the heavy lifting when it comes to breaking up any and all accumulated grime from your day. This includes makeup, sunscreen, leftover skin care, sweat, sebum, microscopic dust, dirt … whatever. All of it. Oil cleansing is especially helpful if you wear waterproof makeup, full-face makeup, or sweat-resistant sunscreen since these are all meant to last a long time.
Oil cleansers come in liquid or balm form, so you can experiment with different types to find one that works for your skin. Some people also use micellar water as a first cleanser, but this really only works if you wear little or no makeup and non-waterproof sunscreen. I like to use it in the mornings to refresh my face and remove PM routine residue without drying my skin out.
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Using an oil cleanser is different than using plain oils, which you might have seen some people talk about as a way to have cleaner, clearer skin. I personally don’t like fussing with plain oil because it’s really difficult to wash off. Thankfully, this isn’t the case with oil cleansers. They’re specially formulated to emulsify and rinse off easily when you add water so you’re not left with greasy oil residue.
One more important thing to note is that ALL skin types can benefit from using an oil cleanser as well as a second cleanser. Yes, even those of us with oily skin. Especially those of us with oily skin, because it can break up some of those excess oils that clog our pores!
After you’ve massaged the oil cleanser into your skin and rinsed off the majority of the gunk on your face, it’s time for the next cleansing step.
2. Round Two, aka the “Second Cleanse”
Whatever face wash you’re currently using probably falls into the “second cleanser” category.
Second cleansers can be:
The type of cleanser that you use for this step is totally up to you. They all perform the same task, so it’s really just a matter of personal preference and what feels good on your face. The only universal requirement for a second cleanser is that it’s formulated at a low pH so that it doesn’t irritate or dry out your skin.
A second cleanser’s job is to wash away any oil cleanser residue and really get down to cleaning your skin. When you’ve rinsed off your second cleanser, your skin should feel soft (but not tight!) and free of any sort of film—no soap, no oil, no shiny sebum traces.
Why Double Cleansing Is Important For Healthy Skin
Not everyone needs to double cleanse every day. And even if you do double cleanse every day, you only need to do it at night.
If you don’t leave the house, you can get away with just rinsing your face or using a gentle micellar water to prep your skin for skin care.
If you don’t wear makeup and don’t use heavy-duty sunscreen, you don’t need to double cleanse every day.
Double cleansing is really just intended to give you a deeper, more thorough cleanse so that the rest of your skin care can be more easily absorbed into your skin. Spending a little extra time prepping means the rest of your routine is more effective.
Oily-skinned people can especially benefit from a good double cleanse because it helps to dissolve pore-clogging sebum, and it can even loosen oil plugs that are currently clogging your face! I have significantly fewer blackheads since I started oil cleansing regularly.
Tips on Double Cleansing
1. Oil cleanse on dry skin! Because these cleansers are meant to be rinsed away with water, it’s hard to get the full benefit if your skin is already wet. If the cleanser is dragging uncomfortably on your dry skin, add another pump or two to your hands.
2. Massage the oil cleanser into your skin for at least 30 seconds (but realistically as long as you’d like!), and focus on using sweeping, circular motions.
3. Be gentle with both steps! Scrubbing harder won’t get your face any cleaner, and you’ll end up irritating your skin.
4. Second cleanse your skin while it’s damp. These types of cleansers work best on skin that isn’t totally dry.
Do You Double Cleanse?
And there you have it! A quick rundown of what double cleansing is and why you should definitely be doing it.
Do you have any tips, tricks, or favorite cleanser recs? Drop them in the comments below!