How to Double Cleanse: The Ultimate Guide

woman smiling with cleanser on her face

Although it adds an extra step to the cleansing process, double cleansing your face has its perks and is worth evaluating to see if it makes sense for you. So in this guide, we’re going to look at all aspects of how to double cleanse, including:

  • Who it’s for.
  • The different types of cleansers you can use.
  • How to incorporate it into your skin care routine.

Note: this post contains some affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.

WHAT IS A DOUBLE CLEANSE ROUTINE?

Double cleansing is a two-step cleansing method that involves the use of an oil (or oil-based cleanser) for your first “wash” and a water-based cleanser for your second “wash.”

Here’s why many fans of this two-step process believe it’s better for the skin:

  • Makeup, dirt, sunscreen and everything else that we’re exposed to each day, mixes with the skin’s oil. In order to wash all of that away, you need a pretty strong water-based cleanser. However, by using oils first, we take advantage of the “like dissolves like” principle. Basically, the oil cleanser mixes with the oils on the skin and makes it easier to lift off makeup and dirt without tugging on the skin (or over cleaning).
  • Oils are nourishing and don’t disrupt the skin pH or skin barrier the way strong cleansers do.
  • Since the first step does most of the heavy duty cleaning, the cleanser in the second step doesn’t have to do too much work. So you can go for something gentle. Ultimately, your skin shouldn’t be left feeling stripped if double cleansing is done correctly.

One thing to note is that there are different variations on double cleansing that involve using products like micellar water and cold cream (more on these later).

WHO SHOULD DOUBLE CLEANSE?

Double cleansing is great for most skin types, especially anyone who:

  • Wears makeup, including long-wear and waterproof makeup.
  • Doesn’t wear makeup but wears sunscreen.
  • Has very sensitive or dry skin that is easily irritated by harsh cleansers.

In addition, if you have acne-prone or oily skin, you can usually benefit from double cleansing too. It may sound counterintuitive but remember that:

  • the first step of double cleansing is very gentle and doesn’t disrupt your skin barrier. Since acne-prone skin tends to be accompanied by a compromised skin barrier, this is actually a plus.
  • cleansers made for acne-prone or oily skin often contain harsh ingredients that strip the skin of its natural oils. This results in the skin making more oils as a way of compensating and you get caught in an endless cycle of excess oil production.

WHICH OIL IS BEST FOR DOUBLE CLEANSING?

bottle of jojoba oil for double cleansing

In general, plant-based oils – such as almond, castor or olive oil – are good as the first cleanser in a double cleansing routine. However, vegetable oil and mineral oil are also used for double cleansing and they’re found in some cleansing oil formulations.

That said, the oil you use also depends on your skin type.

Here are some general guidelines for double cleansing oils based on your skin type:

  • Dry skin: jojoba, castor, avocado or almond oil, fractionated coconut oil.
  • Oily skin: jojoba, grapeseed, sunflower, fractionated coconut oil.
  • Sensitive or inflamed skin: jojoba, rosehip, sunflower, sesame.
  • Acne-prone skin: jojoba, rosehip, sunflower or safflower oil.
  • Mature skin: jojoba, apricot kernel, fractionated coconut or hemp seed oil.

These oils can be used individually or in a blend. 

When making a DIY blend, castor or jojoba oil are often used as a base oil, with one or two more oils added in (based on your skin type).

WHAT TYPE OF CLEANSER IS BEST FOR DOUBLE CLEANSING?

For the first step of double cleansing, the following cleansers are ideal:

  • Natural oil: castor and jojoba oil are two popular options.
  • Cleansing oil: these are specially formulated products that contain oils and small amounts of surfactants. The surfactants allow the oil to foam up while also providing mild cleansing benefits.
  • Cleansing balm: these are very thick, balm-like cleansers that are formulated with oils, plant extracts and some surfactants. They generally do a better job of removing stubborn/long-wear makeup.
  • Micellar water: a gentle liquid cleanser made of water and mild surfactants.
  • Cold cream: this heavy duty cream (intended as a moisturizer) is actually a pretty potent makeup remover And because it’s a combination of oils/fats (such as beeswax) in water, it moisturizes the skin too.

For the second step of double cleansing, you can use:

  • Foaming cleansers.
  • Gel cleansers.
  • Cream cleansers.
  • Cleansing bar.
  • Clay-based cleansers.

When choosing your step 2 cleanser, what’s most important is that the ingredients are suitable for your skin type.

For example, cleansers containing salicylic acid or tea tree oil are usually best for acne-prone skin, while dry skin benefits from cleansers formulated with honey, hyaluronic acid or rose water (just a few examples).

Below are some cleansers to use based on your skin type

Bioderma Sensibio Micellar WaterFor step 1.
All skin types, particularly sensitive and dry.
GET IT HERE
Farmacy Green Clean BalmFor step 1.
All skin types.
Contains turmeric, sunflower oil and papaya enzymes.
GET IT HERE
Biossance Squalane Antioxidant Cleansing OilFor step 1.
All skin types.
Contains soothing squalane, oat oil and evening primrose oil.
GET IT HERE
Farmacy Clean Bee CleanserFor step 2.
All skin types, particularly sensitive and dry skin.
Made with honey, hyaluronic acid, aloe, chamomile and more.
GET IT HERE
Botanic Hearth Tea Tree and Mint Face WashFor step 2.
Acne-prone skin.
Contains tea tree oil, cooling mint, argan oil and more.
GET IT HERE
This table lists ideal cleansers for double cleansing

HOW TO DOUBLE CLEANSE AT HOME: WITH OIL, MICELLAR WATER, COLD CREAM, LASH EXTENSIONS AND MORE

1. With Oil

These steps apply to plain oil. If using a cleansing oil or balm, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

  • Dispense 1 to 2 teaspoons of oil into the palm of your hand.
  • Massage the oil onto dry skin for about 20 seconds. 
  • Let the oil sit on your face for up to 30 more seconds.
  • Run a soft washcloth under hot water. Wring out the washcloth.
  • Lay the washcloth flat on your face and gently press it onto your skin for about 10 seconds.
  • Fold the washcloth in half and use it to gently wipe off the oil from your face.
  • Proceed to step 2 by washing your face with a cleanser (foam, gel, cream and so on).

2. With Micellar Water (without oil)

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the micellar water.
  • Rinse your face.
  • Proceed to step 2 of the double cleanse method and wash your face with your preferred water-based cleanser.

For more on tips, be sure to read this quick guide on how to double cleanse with micellar water.

3. With Cold Cream

  • Dab cold cream on different parts of your face: forehead, cheeks, chin and nose.
  • Massage and spread the cream over your entire face.
  • Once your face has been fully covered, use a wet cloth to wipe your face.
  • Proceed to step 2 of the double cleanse method and wash your face with your preferred water-based cleanser.

4. With Eyelash Extensions

Since oils can ruin eyelash extensions, micellar water can be a better option for step 1 of double cleansing with eyelash extensions.

Here’s a video that illustrates how micellar can work for both your face and your lashes.

After using the micellar water, you can proceed to step 2 by using a water-based cleanser of your choice.

5. For Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, consider using either a natural oil or micellar water in step 1 of double cleansing.

Then for step 2, choose a gentle cleanser formulated specifically for dry skin.

6. For Oily Skin

For step 1 of double cleansing, you can use plain oil, cleansing oil, cleansing balm or micellar water.

In the second step, choose a cleanser formulated specifically for oily skin.

WHEN TO DOUBLE CLEANSE (MORNING VS NIGHT) AND HOW OFTEN

  • Double cleansing once a day is enough.
  • Ideally, double cleansing should be done in the evening (to help remove makeup and dirt accumulated throughout the day).
  • If you are brand new to double cleansing, you can start by doing it just a few times a week. Then eventually work your way up to doing it daily.

FAQs ABOUT DOUBLE CLEANSING YOUR FACE

Do I need to double cleanse if I don’t wear makeup or if I only wear sunscreen?

Even if you don’t wear makeup, your skin can still be exposed to a lot of dirt (depending on where you live) that mixes with your skin’s natural oils. In addition, if you wear only sunscreen, it’s a good idea to remove it at the end of the day. In both cases, double cleansing will be beneficial for your skin.

Can I double cleanse with the same cleanser?

It is possible to double cleanse with the same cleanser (such as a foaming or gel cleanser), as long as the formulation is very gentle and doesn’t contain harsh cleansing agents that could dry out the skin or disrupt the skin barrier.

Can I just use an oil cleanser without the water-based cleanser?

Although it’s possible to get your face to look clean just with an oil cleanser, it’s not enough to actually remove all dirt. So, it’s always a good idea to use a water-based cleanser that will get rid of any residue on your skin. 

Doing this will ensure that any other products you apply onto your face – such as a serum or moisturizer – are able to penetrate your skin.

Can I double cleanse with Cetaphil or Cerave?

Both Cetaphil and Cerave can be used as the water-based cleanser in the second step of double cleansing.

CONCLUSION

At the most basic level, double cleansing involves the use of an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser.

However, some people prefer to replace the oil-based cleanser with things like micellar water and cold cream.

Hopefully this guide has given you a better understanding of the options that are available to you. Now all you have to do is test to see which option your skin likes!

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