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Dermatologists: If You Wear Makeup and Aren’t Double Cleansing, You’re Going to Bed With a Dirty Face

Skin pros says washing your face twice is key for healthy, glowing skin

After a long day, it feels great to wash your face to take off makeup, sunscreen, excess oil and all the stress of the day. But if you’re only washing your face once at the end of the day, you might not be getting it as clean as it should be to keep you looking beautiful. Taking the extra step to do a double cleanse or wash might seem unnecessary, but dermatologists say it’s important for the health of your skin to rinse and repeat. And MDs aren’t the only ones singing the praises of double cleansing as beauty influencers on TikTok are sharing their skin care routines by tagging videos with #doublecleansing and racking up over 750 million views. Want to know how to double cleanse and how skin benefits from it? Keep scrolling!

What is double cleansing?

Double cleansing is the process of washing your face twice, and it’s a popular Korean beauty ritual that’s gained popularity in the U.S., says Deanne Mraz, MD, FAAD, dermatologist, President of Modern Dermatology in Westport, Connecticut and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital. First you use an oil-based cleanser, and then you follow up with a traditional water-based cleanser, explains Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City and New Jersey and an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Cornell – New York Presbyterian Medical Center. Another popular way to do double cleansing is to use a micellar water paired with a traditional cleanser, notes Dr. Mraz.

“It is thought that the first step of this process can gently and effectively lift away debris, makeup and excess sebum without irritating the skin,” says Dr. Garshick. And the second “wash” removes any lingering makeup, dirt, oil and other impurities, leaving a clean slate for skin care post-cleansing. There’s also a reason why you should use an oil-based cleanser before a water-based one. Most makeup and sunscreens contain oil, which allows an oil-based cleanser to easily break down and remove these products. And because sweat and dirt are water-based impurities on skin’s surface, they are easily whisked away with a water-based cleanser.

Why is it important to double cleanse skin?

Double cleansing is beneficial to eliminate buildup, excess oil and makeup when a traditional cleanser is not sufficient, says Dr. Garshick. And it’s especially great for heavy makeup wearers, notes Dr. Mraz because it completely removes makeup. When makeup, sunscreen and other impurities are left on skin they can clog pores along with interfering with skin’s natural repair mode and cell turnover process. This can cause skin to breakout, look dull, feel dry, become irritated and more.

Plus, getting skin adequately clean before using skin care is also important. Unclean skin can prevent skin care from absorbing properly to maintain skin health. Adds Dr. Mraz, “Clean, open pores are more receptive to the actives in your serums and lotions.” So if you don’t feel like your skin care is doing its job, it’s possible your face isn’t clean enough.

How to double cleanse

Ready to get your skin twice as clean so it looks youthful and glowing? Read on for the two simple steps.

Mature woman using micellar water to double cleanse

Step 1: To begin a double cleanse, as mentioned above, you’ll use an oil-based cleanser, cleansing oil, cleansing balm or micellar water. “In general, cleansing balms or oils are often applied to dry skin, and typically emulsify on contact with water,” explains Dr. Garshick. So first, work a quarter-size amount of an oil cleanser, balm or a cotton pad-soaked with micellar water on a dry face for one minute. Next, dampen hands and massage for another minute before rinsing. Dr Garshick’s tip? “It is best to stick with lukewarm water to prevent drying the skin out when gently rinsing.”

Step 2: While skin is still damp, apply a pea-size amount of a water-based cleanser and massage into skin for one minute. Finish by rinsing off the cleanser, pat skin dry and immediately apply skin care.

Watch the video below from the Mixed Makeup YouTube channel to see double cleansing in action.

Related: The Key to a Firmer, More Radiant Complexion for Pennies? A Face Massage

How to pick a cleanser that will best suit your skin type

“Those with oily skin may prefer a lightweight formulation as part of the first step,” notes Dr. Garshick, while those with dry or sensitive skin may prefer a cream-based hydrating option like a cleansing balm. And for those with sensitive skin, micellar water is ideal as it’s gentle and easily removes makeup.

Both water-based and oil-based cleansers also contain ingredients that can help treat skin at the same time. “Some key ingredients, especially for those with dry skin include hyaluronic acid or glycerin, which help draw moisture in [skin],” adds Dr. Garshick.

Related: “Doing These 4 Steps Every Morning Ensures a Youthful Glow!” 

The best products to use for a double cleanse

Here, Dr. Garshick and Dr. Robison share some of their favorite affordable cleansers to use when double cleansing skin.

Oil-based cleansers for step 1 of a double cleanse

Pond's Cold Cream Cleanser

Pond’s Cold Cream Cleanser (Buy from Amazon, $5.78)

This creamy cleansing balm has a cult following and for good reason. It contains a blend of nourishing oils that gently cleanses skin without leaving it feeling dry or stripped, says Dr. Garshick. 

Simple Micellar Cleansing Water

Simple Kind to Skin Micellar Cleansing Water (Buy from CVS, $10.99)

If you prefer to use a micellar water, this one works wonders to clean skin. “For those with very dry skin, it eliminates dirt and buildup but still leaves the skin feeling hydrated,” says Dr. Garshick. “This can be incorporated as part of a double cleanse routine or used on its own.”

Product image of LaRoche Posay Cleansing Oil, a product that's used for how to double cleanse
LaRoche Posay

La Roche-Posay Lipikar AP+ Gentle Foaming Cleansing Oil (Buy from Amazon, $16.99)

Dr. Mraz likes this La Roche-Posay cleansing oil that is gentle enough for use on both the face and body. It’s also rich in skin-brightening niacinamide (aka vitamin B3) and hydrating shea butter that make skin look luminous and supple.

Andalou Naturals Deep Hydration Nourishing Cleansing Balm
Andalou Naturals/Walmart

Andalou Naturals Deep Hydration Nourishing Cleansing Balm (Buy from Walmart, $16.40)

Dr. Garshick likes this waterless cleansing balm that doesn’t need to be rinsed from skin — instead, it’s wiped off with a damp cloth. “It contains hyaluronic acid to help boost moisture,” she says along with hydrating and nourishing sunflower and coconut oils.

Water-based cleansers for step 2 of a double cleanse

Untoxicated Clean Start Facial Cleanser

Untoxicated Clean Start Facial Cleanser (Buy from Untoxicated, $17.95)

This water-based cleanser works great for the second cleansing step, especially if you have dry skin. It contains glycerin and ceramides that restore moisture and strengthen skin’s barrier to ward off irritation.

Product image of Vanicream Gentle Face Cleanser, a product you use for how to double cleanse

Vanicream Gentle Face Cleanser (Buy from Amazon, $7.65)

For a gentle cleanser to use for the second round of washing, Dr. Mraz recommends this one from Vanicream. And it’s a great choice for those with delicate, sensitive skin as it’s chemical and fragrance-free.

For more skincare tips, click through these stories:

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Collagen for Women: Adding a Little To Your Smoothie May Make Skin Look Years Younger

Dirty Sponges and Makeup Brushes Could Make You Sick, Cautions Dermatologist

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