Perfect Skin 101: Everything You Need to Know About Double Cleansing

clean skin portrait

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As with many things skincare, we often turn to Korean beauty trends to help guide us on our quest to beautiful skin, and double cleansing—yep, washing your face twice—is no different. We get it: Sometimes, you don't even have the energy to clean your face with a towelette (especially after a couple glasses of wine at happy hour). So the idea of double cleansing probably seems like a little much for lazy-girl beauty routines. But while using hacks to achieve the perfect cat eye or beachy waves can seriously save time, a couple extra minutes can make a world of difference when it comes to skincare.

To learn everything there is to know about double cleansing, including its benefits and best products to use for each skin type, we spoke to esthetician Jodi Shays and board-certified dermatologist Annie Chiu who tout the face washing method for giving gorgeous skin—and fast.

Meet the Expert

  • Jodi Shays is an esthetician and owner of Queen Bee Salon and Spa in Los Angeles.
  • Annie Chiu is a board-certified dermatologist in Manhattan Beach and specializes in both cosmetic and clinical dermatology.

Read on to learn more about double cleansing and how it could benefit your skin.

What Is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing gets rid of "grime that sits on top of your skin," along with makeup, excess oil, and dead skin, says Shays. You may be wondering: "Doesn't my normal cleanser already do that?" Not necessarily. according to Shays, you really need to double-cleanse if you live in a polluted climate—yes, your city can be wreaking havoc on your skin—or if you wear a lot of sunscreen (that's everyone, right?), as these can leave deposits that are hard to get off. If you wear makeup every day, a double cleanse will also help get all of your makeup off. "If your skin is thoroughly cleansed, it’s easier for moisturizing serums and creams to be absorbed," she adds.

The process involves washing your face using two products: an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser. "The first step draws out oil-based impurities such as sebum, SPF, makeup, and pollutants while the second step cleanses water-based debris such as sweat and dirt," says Chiu.

The Benefits of Double Cleansing

Chiu also notes that the process of double cleansing is brimming with skincare benefits. For one, it prevents sebum buildup and bacteria, which can help fend off acne-related flare-ups. "Sebum buildup causes infections that lead to acne," says Chiu. "Oil-based cleansers are great at removing oil-based dirt, residue, cosmetics and most importantly sebum, which is overproduced when someone has acne." Especially if you're a heavy makeup wearer (or are prone to oil), double cleansing is a safety net for preventing sebum-related breakouts.

Double cleansing can also improve the efficacy of your other skincare products. "A double cleanse, especially in the evenings, can help your other products penetrate better," explains Chiu. The result? Your pores are clean and better prepared to draw in your serums and moisturizers.

If you have dry skin, Chiu says you may find that your skin is better off with a double cleansing routine. "You'll find that two gentle steps work better than one strong formula to combat sensitivity or overdrying," she says. "Dry skin particularly benefits because of the non-stripping makeup cleansing step that can leave a little moisture behind."

How to Double Cleanse

The first step of double cleansing involves a cleansing oil, balm, or micellar water. Apply it onto dry skin to break down makeup, toxins, pollution, SPF, and sebum. "Be sure to massage the cleanser into your face for a minute before rinsing with lukewarm water—this helps to minimize irritation and drying out skin, and is important if you suffer from rosacea," notes Chiu. After rinsing away your cleansing oil, move onto your second cleanser, which should be a water-based one, and wash as normal. "This step cleans deeper and provides the type of 'cleaning' that people associate with typical face washing," explains Chiu. "It also removes residues of the preceding step of oil-based cleansers and ensures all impurities are removed." Wash for one minute before rinsing with lukewarm water.

Shays notes that if your skin is looking dull, you can add a bit of face scrub to your second cleanser and gently massage it in before rinsing it off with water.

How to Choose the Right Cleansers

Double cleansing can be helpful for all skin types—as long as you're using the right formulas. If you have dry skin, Chiu says to look for gentle cleansers that will not strip skin of its natural oils. "Cleanser with a neutral pH will ensure skin isn’t dried out further, as will ingredients like shea butter, jojoba, plant oils, honey, and squalene." For oily skin, anti-inflammatory ingredients like vitamin E and polyhydroxy acids can help fight blackheads. Combination skin types will benefit from a balancing cleanser that contains ceramides to retain moisture as well as something lightweight to hydrate while controlling oil, notes Chiu. Finally, if you have sensitive skin, opt for mild formulas that are fragrance-free.

If you have ultra-sensitive skin, be aware that there can be too much of a good thing. For instance, Shays says she'll never double-cleanse if she's suffering from a rosacea outbreak—instead, she'll opt for only an oil cleanser or gentle cleansing milk. If she's treating a client with cystic acne, she'll stick to one cleanse, as double cleansing can over-stimulate the skin and aggravate it further.

Best Cleansers For Each Skin Type

Below, find the best cleansers for each step according to your skin type.


InstaNatural Rose Cleansing Balm
InstaNatural Rose Cleansing Balm $16.00

Start out your double cleansing routine with this ultra-hydrating balm, which features manuka honey and a blend of coconut, sunflower, and geranium oils to replenish moisture while removing makeup.

Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser
Philosophy Purity Made Simple One-Step Facial Cleanser $25.00

A two-in-one cleansing and toning face wash like this one from Philosophy is ideal for dry skin as it ensures skin is clean, balanced, and moisturized all in one.


L'Occitane Cleansing 3-in-1 Micellar Water
L'Occitane Cleansing 3-in-1 Micellar Water $24.00

If you're concerned about oily balms breaking out your oily skin, Chiu says you can swap the typical oil-based first step with a micellar water. This one from L'Occitane features cucumber as its MVP ingredient, which feels ultra-refreshing, especially after cleansing away heavy makeup.

Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser
Antipodes Juliet Skin-Brightening Gel Cleanser $32.00

For your second step, opt for a water-based gel cleanser like this one from Antipodes—it's 100 percent natural and features New Zealand-favorite ingredients like the famed, antioxidant-rich vinanza grape as well as kiwi.


Guerlain Abeille Royale Cleansing Oil
Guerlain Abeille Royale Cleansing Oil $65.00

This honey-smelling cleansing oil from Guerlain helps wash away pollutant particles, which Chiu notes can contribute to aging and pigmentation.

Khalm Foaming Cleanser
Khalm Foaming Cleanser $65.00

Foam cleansers are ideal for combination skin types, as they remove excess sebum without drying out the skin. Khalm's cleanser conditions skin with oud essential oil and pomegranate extracts.


DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil $28.00

This fragrance-free cleansing oil removes stubborn waterproof makeup (eyeliner and mascara included) and highlights 100 percent organic olive oil as its dissolving agent.

Re:Erth Clarifying Cleanser
Re:Erth Clarifying Cleanser $55.00

Chiu recommends this cleanser for sensitive skin types: "It leaves the skin pH-balanced, is made without dyes, and formulated to protect the skin barrier health," she says.

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