What is Double Cleansing & How to Properly Double Cleanse

what is double cleansing and how to double cleanse

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Double cleansing has become the mainstream face-washing method. It’s touted to be the gentlest way of washing your face where cleansing itself becomes sort of a moisturizing step as opposed to the traditional drying step. But is there any truth to its benefits other than anecdotal evidence? We break down everything there is to know about double cleansing including what it is, the benefits, who it is for, and how to properly double cleanse. Dig in!

What is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing is a face washing method where you first use a balm or oil cleanser or micellar water and then follow up with a regular gel/foam cleanser. The idea behind double cleansing is not about washing your face twice with the same cleanser.

It’s about using two different types of cleansers. The oils in cleansing oils or balms are effective in dissolving oil-based residue on the skin. These can be your skin’s sebum, sunscreen, waterproof eye makeup, or heavy, transfer-proof foundation.

Once you’re done with your oil cleanser, your regular cleanser removes any remaining dirt as well as the dissolved makeup on the skin.

One thing to remember here is that the first step of double cleansing is more about melting makeup and dirt and kind of separating them so that they come off easily.

So using oil cleansers in the first step is less about actually cleansing and more about breaking down oils so that they come off easily with your second cleanser.

Can You Use Any Oil For Double Cleansing?

So if double cleansing is removing makeup with oils, does that mean you can use any oil to remove makeup? No. First of all, it doesn’t matter if it’s a cleansing oil or a cleansing balm, or butter, they all work the same way in a double cleansing routine.

However, oil cleansers are not the same as regular oils in the way they work on the skin. Cleansing oils contain surfactants and emulsifiers, which make it possible to remove the cleansing oil by washing your face.

Think about applying olive oil all over your face. Yes, it’s going to be able to attract the oils on the skin and dissolve them. But when you try to wash your face with water or even with a gel cleanser, it’s going to be really difficult to remove the olive oil.

You’re going to need to wash your face a couple of times with a cleanser just to remove the olive oil and prevent it from clogging your pores. And that’s just going to defeat the whole purpose.

In summary, cleansing oils are formulated differently. So keep this in mind if you want to DIY your own oil cleanser using olive oil or coconut oil.

What Are The Benefits of Double Cleansing?

Benefits of double cleansing

1. It thoroughly removes makeup.

The most important benefit of double cleansing has a lot to do with makeup. If you regularly wear makeup including waterproof makeup or foundation, or if you wear water-resistant sunscreen, you’re likely to wash your face twice. When there’s that much makeup, it becomes difficult to remove everything with one wash no matter how good your facewash is.

And even the gentlest cleanser can hurt your skin when you use it twice, which will cause dryness, sensitivity, and even irritation. Double cleansing dissolves makeup with its rich, emollient texture. This makes sure your second cleanser washes everything away without needing multiple uses.

2. It is moisturizing for the skin.

Another major benefit of the double cleansing method is moisturizing the skin. And it’s especially helpful for people with dry skin. Because cleansing tends to leave dry skin tight and drier (1).

As oil or balm cleansers are incredibly nourishing and moisturizing, people with dry skin don’t have to deal with the traditional, stripping feeling post-facial cleansing. Because oil cleansers do not hurt the skin barrier and remove necessary lipids from the skin (2).

3. It’s great for oily skin.

Double cleansing is also beneficial for people with oily skin. And there are some amazing cleansing oils for oily skin. If you have excess oil that doesn’t seem to come off with your regular gel or foam cleanser, you’re inclined to fash your face twice, which leaves oily skin dehydrated. In some cases, it can even aggravate acne.

Instead of going harsh and twice with the same cleanser, you go gentle with two different cleansers without having to deal with either residual sebum or the tight feeling. Plus, some plant oils have amazing anti-bacterial benefits that can even help ease acne.

4. It supports your skin’s elasticity.

When you wear makeup often and you wear it a lot, you tend to rub your skin a lot to make sure you get everything off. When you do this several times for years and years, you’re inevitably going to hurt your skin’s elasticity by stretching and pulling.

Simply by massaging an oil cleanser into the skin, you reduce friction remarkably. That’s why double cleansing is also great for people who have aging skin or who are following an anti-aging skincare routine. Most plant oils in cleansers also have antioxidant properties that help with signs of aging as well.

5. It enhances penetration.

Double cleansing leaves nothing to chance. You melt away oils, makeup, sunscreen, pollution, dust, and city dirt with your cleansing oil. And then you remove everything else with your second cleanser.

No more surprises when you apply your toner with a cotton wipe. And clean skin prevents your pores from clogging, which might lead to breakouts. It also makes sure your skincare products absorb better with this increased penetration.

How To Double Cleanse

Simply put, the steps of double cleansing go like this; cleanse with oil, rinse, cleanse with regular cleanser, and rinse. Keep reading to learn how to properly double-cleanse your skin.

First of all, do not wash your face before you start double-cleansing. A cleansing oil won’t work effectively on wet/damp skin. Get a scoop out of your cleansing balm or a pump out of your cleansing oil. Massage your cleanser into the skin all over the face including the eye area.

Your oil cleanser, combined with the heat from your skin, is going to dissolve makeup on your skin. As your makeup separates, your face will be painted black from mascara, brown from the foundation, and red from lipstick. It means you’re doing it right. Now everything is kind of up on the surface of the skin ready to be wiped away.

Give it a minute before moving on to the next step. After that, you can choose to wash your face with lukewarm water or wipe it away with a cloth. Once you’re done with your cleansing oil, wash your face with your regular gel/foam/lotion/cream cleanser as you’d normally do. Then rinse everything off. You’ll see that your skin is squeaky clean but still soft.

How Often Should You Double Cleanse?

You should double cleanse your face once a day in the evening. There’s no rule out there saying how often to do it. But as you wear makeup during the day, there’s no need to double cleanse in the morning just to wash away your evening skincare products.

Should You Double Cleanse If You Don’t Wear Makeup?

Double cleansing is a way of enhancing your cleansing step. So there is no “have to” or “must”. It’s all up to you. If you don’t wear makeup or if you have normal skin or if you’re generally happy with your one-step face washing, there is no need to double cleanse.

But if you regularly wear makeup, or if you have very oily skin and find yourself needing multiple uses of your regular cleanser, double cleansing can make things a lot easier for you.

How To Choose A Double Cleanser

When choosing a double cleanser, you should always keep your skin type in mind. Below is how to choose an oil cleanser for double cleansing based on your skin type.

Dry Skin

If you have dry skin, look for cleansing oils or balms that contain fatty-acid-rich oils. This will ensure maximum moisture benefits. You can also benefit from ceramides in your cleansing oil to help restore the compromised skin barrier.

Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser

Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser - How To Double Cleanse

Oily Skin

If you have oily and acne-prone skin, look for cleansers that contain non-comedogenic oils. You can also look for exfoliants like salicylic acid, which will help with enlarged pores and acne. This type of oil cleanser will reduce your reliance on hard, exfoliating cleansers.

Belif Aqua Bomb Cleansing Balm

Belif Aqua Bomb Cleansing Balm - How To Double Cleanse

Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin or rosacea, go for cleansing oils and balms that are really minimal and fragrance-free. Oils that are fragrant like lavender oil can irritate your skin or cause redness. You can also go for micellar waters as your first step in double-cleansing.

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm

Combination Skin

Depending on your skin’s tendency to be combination/oily or combination/dry, you can go for a balancing oil cleanser. It’s best to stay safe and avoid comedogenic oils and go for light, emollient oils so that both dry and oily parts of your face can benefit.

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm

So this is how you properly double cleanse, what to keep in mind, and what to avoid. If you’re ready to jump on the trend without putting a dent in your wallet, check out these drugstore cleansing oils.


  1. Kottner, J., Kanti, V., Dobos, G., Hahnel, E., Lichterfeld-Kottner, A., Richter, C., Hillmann, K., Vogt, A., & Blume-Peytavi, U. (2017). The effectiveness of using a bath oil to reduce signs of dry skin: A randomized controlled pragmatic study. International journal of nursing studies65, 17–24.
  2. Chen, W, He, M, Xie, L, Li, L. The optimal cleansing method for the removal of sunscreen:Water, cleanser or cleansing oil? J Cosmet Dermatol. 2020; 19: 180– 184.

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