Double Cleansing Method. What You Might Be Doing WRONG.


If you’re not familiar with the double cleansing trend, it is a technique recently popularized by Korean beauty bloggers. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like; you wash your skin in the evening not just once, but twice. The first part of the process is to use a cleansing oil or balm (oil-based cleanser) to break down makeup. Then, follow that with a water-based cleanser such as a foam or gel to deep clean the pores. Fans of this method really love it. While I do believe that heavy makeup and water-resistant sunscreen wearers could benefit from cleansing twice, I don’t agree with the type of product (a balm or an oil) being used as the first step. Here’s why. 

For starters, the whole purpose of properly cleansing your skin at night is to remove makeup, dirt, bacteria, and debris from the skin. (Did you know that your face is the dirtiest place on your body? Yes. You touch your face all day and transfer bacteria directly onto the skin.) In the evening since you’re no longer being exposed to the sun’s harmful rays, it’s imperative that you feed your skin with ingredients that encourage repair. Hello, retinol, peptides, and antioxidants! This creates an environment within the skin that promotes optimum beauty sleep. In order to achieve this, you want an impeccably clean canvas. 

When you first cleanse your skin with an oil or a balm (shown in the above photo), it leaves behind a residue even if you rinse and wipe it off really well. When you follow with a water-based cleanser, it can cut a bit of the oil but there may still be a coating left on the skin. This could prevent the active ingredients from your nighttime serums from getting as deep into the skin to perform their best. Balms and cleansing oils have large molecules while serums have smaller molecules. You don’t want a tiny molecule on top of a giant one. This would prevent the smaller molecule from penetrating through. Read why you might be using your facial oil all wrong.

In a world where there are still so many harsh, high-detergent soaps and foaming cleansers that leave the skin feeling tight, dry and irritated, I completely understand why people would love using cleansing oils and balms. They leave the skin feeling silky soft due to the lubrication they provide to the skin’s top layers. But this is what your moisturizer, the last step in your nighttime routine, provides. Cleansers CLEAN and moisturizers MOISTURIZE! If you want to use a skin oil to make your skin feel silky smooth, use it as the last step over your night moisturizer to seal everything in. Again, you want the largest molecule to be used as the last step in your routine, not as the first one. (Note: Many of the balms and cleansing oils that I have personally seen are fairly greasy and will definitely leave a residue. However, it really depends on the surfactant to oil ratio used in the formula that will determine how much oil is left on the skin after washing off. Not all balms or oils are equal and some CAN wash away clean.)

Overall, I believe a more efficient way of cleansing to properly remove makeup is to use a lightweight, water-soluble, cleansing lotion with emulsifiers applied directly to dry skin (not damp skin) and massaged in circular motions for 30 seconds. By massaging it onto dry skin first, the emulsifiers in the cleanser more actively break down the oils/silicones in makeup. Next, wet your fingertips, massage through again on the face and then rinse well with lukewarm water. Most importantly, wipe the face with facial sponges or a gentle baby washcloth to lift off makeup. You should see the makeup being transferred onto the cloth or sponge; this lets you know that it’s coming off properly.

After the first cleansing, you can use a foaming or gel cleanser, particularly if you’re an oily, acne-prone skin type and experiencing some breakouts. However, a cleansing lotion alone should be adequate for normal to dry skin types. If you weren’t very thorough in your cleansing, following with a toner will capture any leftover makeup residue.

Even if you’re not wearing makeup, using a lotion-based cleanser is beneficial for those wearing water-resistant sunscreens. A second cleanse with a sulfate-free, non-drying gel cleanser could be helpful to ensure proper removal, since sunscreens have a reputation of clogging the pores. Read how to prevent breakouts from wearing sunscreen.

The key to proper cleansing is to be thorough with your technique. Use something that is lightweight and doesn’t leave a residue, and avoid using anything that leaves your skin feeling dry. (Avoid sulfates in your cleansers!) It’s also very important that you apply your next product within 60 seconds. This will prevent moisture evaporation from the skin which can deplete hydration levels. Use a toner next, then a serum, then finally a moisturizer. Hope this provides some helpful insight into the most beneficial way to clean your skin. 

Oh, and by the way. I’m definitely NOT a fan of cleansing wipes. Here’s why.

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Disclaimer: Content found on and, including text, images, audio, or other formats were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.


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  1. Hello,
    Interesting article. Since you don’t believe in cleansing balms, what do you recommend to take off makeup before cleansing? I have acne prone skin and am using a bha cleanser at night and don’t feel right using that to remove makeup.

    Posted By: Lauren  | 

    • Hi Lauren! I have two great cleanser options for that! The vitamin-infused cleansing emulsion, and the soothing aloe cleansing milk! These cleansers work to dissolve oil, debris, and makeup while making the skin look calm and refreshed.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  2. Hi Renee,

    I have melasma and have dehydrated skin. I’m in my early 40’s so probably drier too. I use a thick moisturizer but my skin feels tight and uncomfortable despite this. I use micellar water as a first step to remove the many layers of sunscreen I have on and then cleanse with gentle cleanser with a bamboo cloth. I think the cloth may be irritating my skin, despite its softness. If one doesn’t/can’t use a cloth, what do you do? If I used an oil cleanser first followed by gentle cleanser (no cloth) doesn’t the cleanser help remove the oil when rinsing it all off?
    I tried just cleansing with lotion/cloth, and I still had product residue on my face.

    Posted By: lara  | 

    • Hello there! I would suggest skipping your micellar water for all purposes except eye makeup removal. Creamy cleansers are designed to be applied to dry skin so using micellar water as your first step will make your cleansing lotion less effective. If you find that you need a second cleanse after the creamy cleanser you can follow with a second cleanse using a gel cleanser. The Moisture Protecting Cleanser is a good option for your concerns. The best option for removing products like cleansers and masks is baby wash cloths. They are super soft and dry quickly!

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  3. Hello! I’ve been really struggling to figure out how to go about my cleansing routine as I work very early in the morning coaching a couple of classes, then go to the gym during the day and then go back to work in the afternoon.. I know I need to wear sunscreen all day and is put it on before and after I go the gym. But does hat mean I should be double cleaning twice a day to get the sweat and sunscreen off??? I’d appreciate and advice!

    Posted By: Ele  | 

    • Hi there! You really don’t need to double cleanse unless you have long-wear makeup on or aren’t using a cream cleanser. Simplify your routine at night by using a cream cleanser and following with a toner. Of course, be sure to choose items that suit your skin type.

      Posted By: Renée Rouleau  | 

  4. Renée, what make up removing cleanser can skin type 3 use? I don’t feel right cleansing a full face of make up with BHA Cleanser. I’ve used the gentle all skin type gel based – brands Fresh soy, Kiehl’s etc.

    Posted By: Ashley Cordell  | 


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