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Here’s Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Double Cleansing

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Main image – Studiofirma/Stocksy

You’ve probably heard of ‘the double cleanse’ but what you may not know is why it’s a thing or if it’s really necessary. “Cleansing twice? What a waste of time and money!”

Yes, good point. But before you write it off completely, we’ve asked the experts what exactly it does for skin, how to do it and whether everyone really needs to double cleanse (spoiler alert: no, but there are definitely circumstances where it can help).

Keep scrolling for advice from board-certified dermatologist Dr Davin Lim and skincare expert Dr Jodi LoGerfo as well as some of my own favourite, beauty editor-approved cleansers if you want to try double cleansing.


What is double cleansing?

Put simply, it means to cleanse your face – twice! So, cleanse once then cleanse again with another product. “It involves using two different types of cleansers, one right after the other,” explains Dr Lim

“Most commonly, an oil-based cleanser, balm, exfoliant face scrub or cleansing cloth provides the first clean, followed with a regular, water-soluble cream, gel or lotion cleanser that’s suitable for your skin type.”


Image – Hannahcriswell/Stocksy


The benefits of double cleansing

Skincare expert Caroline Hirons once told me that your first cleanse loosens dirt, and your second cleanse hoovers it up. It also depends on what products you’ve been wearing throughout the day and where you’ve been. 

 And it seems Dr Logerfo agrees. “The benefit is thought to be that the first cleanse would remove makeup and sunscreen and the second would remove environmental pollutants, debris, dirt, etc.”

“The theory is based on the thought that by doing a double cleanse, you would eliminate more impurities and make the face that much cleaner than [with] a typical single washing,” she adds. 

Dr LoGerfo says that not only does a double cleanse thoroughly clean your skin, but it can also make it glow too. “Double cleansing may make your skin look better – brighter and more luminous,” she adds.

Dr Lim also says it helps your other skincare products to work more efficiently. “With good facial cleaning it primes the skin, ready for skincare actives such as vitamins, hyaluronic acid, skincare acids and antioxidants to work harder to achieve your goal,” he explains. 


The downsides

The good news is, there aren’t many. “The only issue I see with double cleansing is if you over cleansed an area,” explains Dr LoGerfo. “If using a double cleansing method, you don’t want to disrupt your skin’s barrier – do it gently. This is especially true if you have sensitive skin, dry skin, or use unnecessarily harsh products as you cleanse.”

And you should be particularly careful if you have eczema, acne or rosacea. “You must be even more gentle in your method of double cleansing as to not increase your skin sensitivity,” she adds. 

What about purging (the process of making causing skin to breakout by introducing new products)? “If done sensibly (i.e once per day) it should not cause purging,” Dr Lim says. 


Should everyone double cleanse then?

Not necessarily, no, according to the experts. Dr Lim explains, “It isn’t a deal breaker for more skin types, however, it can be useful under certain circumstances.”

Such as? “If you wear transfer-resistant makeup as well as high residue physical sunscreens (think zinc oxide). By double cleansing this will remove both the makeup and the sunscreen, which allows leave-on skincare actives to work better.” 

It’s good news for oily skin types too.  “Patients with oily skin can also benefit from using two relatively gentle cleansers instead of one harsh exfoliant. Double cleansing in this context can remove more oil, sebum & dirt compared to a single clean cycle.”

If you do have very sensitive skin though and you don’t where heavy SPF or makeup, the experts explain that a single evening cleanse with a gentle face wash will probably be enough.


Image – Annatabakova/Stocksy


How often should you double cleanse?

The advice is to only double cleanse once daily and to stick to the time of day when there is more to wash off. “The best time to double cleanse is in the evening,” says Dr Lim

“Most dermatologists would suggest you do not require double double cleansing (namely both am and pm) as this can strip your skin of its natural oils, leading to skin irritation.”

And even if you have oily skin and you’re still tempted? “Even if you have oily skin, you shouldn’t cleanse more than twice a day,” Dr Lim explains.

“For people who suffer from oily skin, more frequent cleaning often leads to a rebound in oil production,” he adds.


How to double cleanse like a pro

Here is Dr Lim’s step by step guide to double cleansing like a pro.

  • Dispense your cleansing oil-based product and apply it to your hand, mixing well. Massage this solution on your face for a minute before washing off.
  • Rinse or gently remove the cleanser with a soft, wet washcloth.
  • Next, dispense a small amount of your regular water based facial cleanser and apply it to damp skin, massaging in gentle circular motions. Rinse the second cleanser and pat your skin dry with a clean, soft towel. This second phase removes the residual oil-based cleanser as well as adding another layer of removal for dead skin cells and residue.
  • From there you can start your evening skin care actives or apply your moisturiser of choice.

For more tips on how to get the best from your face wash, take a look at our guide on how to cleanse your face here.


The best products for double cleansing

As we’ve heard already, experts advise using an oil-based cleanser first. “Oils are adept at dissolving many types of makeup, breaking down sebum (skin’s natural oils) and can also help remove sunscreen residue,” says Dr Lim

“The oils work differently from the surfactants found in facial cleansers. Modern cleansing oils contain an emulsifier which allows the oil to mix with water making it easy to rinse from skin instead of leaving a greasy residue as pure oils can.”

And yes, before you ask; oil cleansers are definitely still appropriate even for oily skin types (on the basis that oil breaks down oil and that they’ll cleanse without stripping the skin and potentially aggravating it).

I like CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser (£14.50 from Boots UK /$18.99 from Ulta Beauty US) as it’s super gentle. 

A balm is a great choice for your first cleanse too as it has a similar consistency to an oil. My favourite is Balance Me Superberry Cleansing Balm (£39 from Look Fantastic UK /$46.80 from Feel Unique US) for its beautiful smell and smooth feel on my skin, both during and after use. 


Image – Cult Beauty


So, that’s your first cleanse, what about the second? A cream or gel is advised. “Gel cleansers deeply cleanse, decongest pores, remove impurities and provide mild exfoliation,” explains Dr Lim. Try Caudalie Vinopure Purifying Gel Cleanser (from £20 from Cult Beauty UK /$30 from Caudalie US) which is my absolute favourite for when my skin is feeling particularly oily. 

“Cream cleansers are thick and creamy, ideal for dry, sensitive and rosacea-prone skin and they cleanse without stripping natural oils,” Dr Lim explains. I personally like La Roche Posay Toleriane Dermo-Cleanser (£16 from Cult Beauty UK /$25.99 from La Roche Posay US) because it’s gentle and efficient on my skin, whatever it’s going through.


The takeaway

A double cleanse means pretty much how it sounds. To cleanse twice. Use two different cleansers, preferably an oil-based one for your first and a gel or cream for your second.

The benefits include glowier skin, a more thorough cleanse and improved efficiency of your other skincare products. Most skin types can double cleanse, just once daily to avoid irritation. 

Not everyone needs to double cleanse though and if your skin is prone to acne, eczema or rosacea you should pay extra attention to which ingredients you’re using in case they are too harsh for your skin type. 


Meet the experts

Dr Jodi LoGerfo is a skincare expert, Doctor of Nursing Practice and a Family Nurse Practitioner certified in Family Medicine and Dermatology.


Dr Davin Lim is an Australian board-certified laser, procedural and aesthetic dermatologist and a member of the American Academy of Aesthetic Medicine. He is considered one of the world’s leading experts for laser-treated skin disorders and rejuvenation therapies that include tattoo removal, acne scar revision and laser resurfacing.


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Beauty Editor

The former Beauty Editor of Glamour UK, Philippa has been a beauty and lifestyle journalist for over 16 years, picking up countless tips and tricks from makeup artists, hair stylists, dermatologists and celebrities. In that time she’s written for names like Cosmopolitan, The Sunday Times Style, The Telegraph, Grazia, Refinery 29 and Byrdie. Philippa lives in the UK with her husband, two children and their hyperactive cockapoo, Paddy.

Expertise: Makeup, hair care
Education: Oxford Brookes University

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