Your Guide to Double Cleansing for the Best, Clearest Skin of Your Life

Updated: Jan. 12, 2024

Washing your face once is fine, but double cleansing will give you the flawless skin of your dreams

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You probably know that when it comes to your skin-care routine order, washing your face is the first step. And it’s an essential one. Simply put, making sure your complexion is clean is an absolute must before you slather on face moisturizer, sunscreen or sweatproof makeup (or any type of makeup, really!). But did you know that there’s an extra step you can add to your face-wash regimen that will get your skin even cleaner? It’s called double cleansing.

Popularized by Korean beauty routines, the process is now at home in the United States as well. Adding a step before you apply face wash may sound tedious, but it’s easy and won’t add much more time to your skin-care process. Plus, the perks are worth the extra step. Double cleansing can lead to clearer, fresher-looking skin.

Intrigued by the idea of this type of skin cleansing? Keep reading to learn more!

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What is double cleansing?

As the name implies, double cleansing involves washing your face twice. But there is a bit more to it than that.

“Typically, you’ll start with an oil-based cleanser or micellar water to remove excess oil, dirt, makeup and sunscreen,” says Brian Hibler, MD, of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “Once you rinse that away, you’ll wash your face a second time with a cleanser that addresses a specific concern of yours—like a cleanser for acne or a hydrating cleanser.”

This form of cleansing is mainly used at night to remove makeup, dirt and pollutants that accumulate on your skin throughout the day. By double cleansing, you are giving your skin a deep-clean before you move on to the rest of your nighttime skin-care routine, so your face serums and moisturizer or night cream can really sink in and do their job.

Who needs to double cleanse?

Anyone can double cleanse their skin, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should. If you have sensitive or dry skin, this process may strip away too much of your face’s natural oils and can lead to dryness and irritation, Dr. Hibler says. Plus, if you strip away too much of your face’s oils, it could cause your oil glands to go into overdrive—an attempt to replenish lost oil stores—and breakouts may occur.

Given all this, if you do double cleanse, you definitely don’t want to be doing it twice a day—that would strip your skin far too much.

So, who is double cleaning right for? “I recommend double cleansing to people who wear makeup and sunscreen and find it difficult to remove those things with regular cleansers,” says Dr. Hibler. “I also might recommend it to people who complain of having excessively oily skin before the end of the day.” While you’re at it, here is the best skin-care routine for oily skin.

With these guidelines, the double-cleansing method could be ideal for times when you have on a little more makeup than usual (say for an event or a party) and want to make sure you’ve gotten it all off at the end of the night. It’s also great for days when you wear both sunscreen and makeup on your face.

What products do you use for double cleansing?

Before you can get started with double cleansing, you’ll want to make sure you have the right products in your arsenal. Most people start with a facial-cleansing oil.

“My favorite method is to use an oil-based balm, which starts off as an oil in a jar but turns into a sorbet texture that melts into an oil upon contact with your skin,” says Susan Yara, the creator behind the Mixed Makeup YouTube channel and founder of the Naturium skin-care brand.

Dr. Hibler says that if you just have a light buildup of dirt and makeup, you can use micellar water (essentially oily molecules suspended in water) instead of an oil-based cleanser as your first step. “Just gently wipe your face with a cotton pad soaked in the water,” he says.

The other product you’ll need is a regular face cleanser. Dr. Hibler says you can choose one based on what your skin needs—like a moisturizing cleanser, an acne-fighting option, a cream for aging skin and so on.

Yara is a fan of gel cleansers. “A light gel texture won’t strip your skin, but it will get the rest of the grime off,” she says.

How do you double cleanse?

@susanyara How to double cleanse! #skincare #makeupremover #skincareroutine #selfcare #caudalie #face ♬ Funky Town – The Dance Queen Group

OK, now you’re ready to get your double cleansing on. The first few times, you may need to refer back to these steps. But it’s an easy process (we promise!), and you’ll be able to do this quickly and mindlessly in no time at all. (Bonus: You probably won’t need to break out the makeup remover.) Here’s how to double cleanse:

Step 1: Start with a dry face

Squirt an oil-based cleanser into the palm of your hand. Or if you’re using a cleansing balm, scoop a fingertip’s worth out of the jar and rub it between your fingers to start emulsifying it. Apply your cleanser to dry skin, rubbing it gently into your skin in circular motions. And as Yara points out, don’t forget your neck!

“Once I’ve applied the balm all over, I add a little water to turn it into a milky texture and further break down makeup,” she says.

Reaching for your favorite drugstore-brand micellar water instead? Dr. Hibler says you can apply some to a cotton pad and gently rub it over your entire face.

Step 2: Rinse

Young woman awakening, washing and cleaning her face with splashing waterOleg Breslavtsev/Getty Images

Once you’ve massaged the oil cleanser into all areas of your face and neck, rinse it away with some warm water. Avoid hot water, though. It’s drying, which is why you really shouldn’t wash your face in the shower.

Don’t worry if there’s leftover makeup on your skin—that’s why it’s a double cleanse, says Yara.

Step 3: Apply your second cleanser

Next, squeeze a quarter-size dollop of your facial cleanser (a gel or a cream works just fine, but avoid harsh face scrubs) onto the fingertips of one hand. Rub the fingertips of both hands together to lather up cleanser with both hands, says Yara.

Massage the cleanser into all the same areas you did with the oil cleanser, being careful not to miss any spots.

Step 4: Rinse again

Using warm water, rinse away the second cleanser completely. This is your final rinse, so you’ll want to make sure you’ve properly washed away both cleansers, leaving behind clean skin.

Step 5: Pat dry

Using a soft towel, gently pat your skin dry. You’re done! From there, you can apply your eye cream, face serum and face moisturizer.

“It sounds like a process, but it’s quick,” says Yara. “Once you get in your groove, you realize it’s much faster than struggling to get makeup off with one cleanser.”