How to Double Cleanse Your Face (Because You Really Should If You Wear Makeup or Sunscreen)

We know, we know. Sometimes after a long day, it’s almost too much effort to even push a makeup wipe over our faces before bed. But double cleansing, a two-step method that Korean skin-care brands have touted for years, just might be the answer to many of your skin woes—particularly if you’re prone to breaking out. Here’s why, according to the experts.

Psst...You're Probably Washing Your Face Wrong

Meet the Experts:

What Is a Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing, although tedious sounding, is actually just a quick two-step method for ensuring even the heaviest makeup is completely dissolved without rubbing and scrubbing.

Instead of just using wipes that don’t remove everything or even washing your face once as we’ve all been taught, double cleansing involves massaging a cleansing oil or balm over your skin to dissolve makeup first. Once the makeup is gone, your face wash can do a more effective job of cleaning out your pores.

When Should You Double Cleanse?

Technically you can benefit from double cleansing every day, but if you had one of those days where you haven’t left your couch (and therefore haven’t put anything on your face), you can stick to a single cleanse or yes, even a quick wipe down.

However, if you’ve applied any makeup or even sunscreen, which tends to form a film on your skin, we’d recommend a double cleanse to ensure you get everything off before you resume with the rest of your routine.

How to Double Cleanse:

As the name hints, double cleansing is a fairly straightforward process that involves just two steps and two products.

Step 1: Massage a few pumps of cleansing oil or a small scoop of cleansing balm onto dry skin. This is the most important thing to note when using these types of cleansers. (Note: Both cleansing oils and balms will remove makeup efficiently without leaving your skin feeling dry, so it mostly comes down to a matter of preference.) No matter which one you choose, again, just make sure to hold off on the water.

Unlike face wash, which is meant to be used on wet skin to create a lather, cleansing oils and balms work best on dry skin. Massage it over your face in circular motions, lingering over any areas with heavier makeup on them like your eyes and lips. Because of their slippery nature, you can safely use both cleansing oils and balms around your eyes to take off even the most stubborn makeup without having to tug at your skin. Once you’ve sufficiently rubbed off most of the makeup, rinse off any remaining residue.

Step 2: Next, wash your face as you normally would using your cleanser of choice (or the occasional scrub). Again, you want to use gentle circular motions and pay extra attention to oft-neglected areas like your hairline and in-between/over your eyebrows, where sweat and dead skin cells can get trapped and lead to breakouts.

Alright, now that you know how to double cleanse, let’s get you some options for getting the job done.

DHC’s Deep Cleansing Oil is gentle, fragrance-free and dissolves makeup and grime without stripping skin of natural oils. It’s lightweight yet hydrating, and while it does go on slick, it softens in water to deep-clean your skin without leaving any greasy residue behind. But don’t just take our word for it—just look to Dermstore, where over 1,200 loyal users have rated it a five out of five.

To some, face washing is just another chore. But to others, it’s a self-care ritual. If you fall into the latter category, this decadent cleansing balm needs to become part of your routine ASAP. Made with a base of rose and mimosa waxes, it’s supercharged with algae and infused with a blend of hydrating oils and nine, blissfully aromatic essential oils. Think of it as aromatherapy and a luxurious makeup remover in one jar. Bonus: Leave it on your skin for up to ten minutes when you need a hydrating boost.

There’s a reason why this classic has withstood the test of time: It works. Cetaphil’s daily facial cleanser is dermatologist-approved for getting a nice deep clean without leaving your skin dry or irritated. Its low-lather formula removes any remaining traces of makeup or oil on your face and includes a blend of vitamins B3 and B5 and hydrating glycerin to help defend against the most common signs of skin sensitivity like a weakened skin barrier, roughness and tightness. We’re also fans of the easy-to-use pump applicator and wallet-friendly price.

When you have acne (or even just the occasional blemish), it can be tempting to find the strongest anti-acne cleanser possible. When you have acne and sensitive skin, though, you know that harsh cleansers will only make your skin worse. This one from EltaMD (yep, the brand with that best-selling sunscreen), is the opposite: It’s an oil-free, pH-balanced formula that gently cleanses without irritating or drying your skin. With more than 500, 5-star reviews on Dermstore, it frequently gets glowing reviews like this one: “Great cleanser for dry skin with uneven texture! Once applied onto damp skin, it foams up and gently exfoliates while cleansing. It leaves the skin feeling fresh & healthy but not dry or tight!”

Get two products in one with this pick: a cleanser and an exfoliator. Infused with glycolic and salicylic acid, this dual-action cleanser works to remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. As Dr. Y. Claire Chang, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York previously told us: “This cleanser is formulated with a powerful combination of lipohydroxy acid, glycolic acid and salicylic acid to decongest pores and brighten the skin, which makes it a great option for people who are prone to clogged pores.” Used twice daily, it removes dead skin cells and dissolves excess oils and any debris that can lead to future blackheads or breakouts.

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