Double Cleansing 101

Double Cleansing 101

What Is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing is the process of using two cleansers:

  1. An oil-based cleanser or micellar water to lift makeup and impurities
  2. A water-based cleanser to wash them away

First Cleanse

The first step to double cleansing is using an oil-based cleanser (I love Pestle & Mortar Erase Cleansing Balm) or micellar water to “take the day off.” An oil-based cleanser breaks down makeup and sunscreen, lifts airborne bacteria and pollution, and removes dead skin cells, sebum, and sweat.

Second Cleanse

Once the impurities are removed, a water-based cleanser can get deeper into the pores to do its job of cleansing. Make sure the cleanser is gentle and pH-balanced (4.5-6.5) so that it doesn’t damage your moisture barrier. Some lovely ones are Pestle & Mortar Renew Gel Cleanser and Good Science Beauty Skin Renewing Polishing Powder

Basics of Double Cleansing

First Cleanse

Apply an oil-based cleanser to dry skin and use a gauze or cotton wipe (I love White Rabbit Plain Cotton Pads) to remove it. When removing eye makeup, do not rub your delicate eye skin! Instead, press the wipe to your eye and let it sit for 30 seconds, then gently wipe it away.

AM or PM?

Oil-based cleansers are typically necessary at the end of the day to remove makeup and sunscreen.

Even if you don’t wear either, you should still double cleanse because you’re exposed to environmental pollutants and accumulate sweat, sebum, and dead skin cells throughout the day.

Double cleansing is not necessary in the mornings.

Second Cleanse

Continue with a water-based cleanser, but be sure to massage it in for one to two minutes. Most people don’t cleanse nearly long enough, and therefore don’t get all the benefits from the cleanser and its ingredients.

People who say that the type of cleanser doesn’t matter because it’s not on your skin long enough to do anything are simply not using it long enough to allow it do anything.

Water Temperature

Lukewarm water is the ideal temperature to ensure you get the most out of your cleanser.

Hot water is too stripping, irritating, and interferes with your moisture barrier. On the other hand, cold water can help constrict blood vessels and reduce puffiness, but it’s not ideal for everyday rinsing. If you have redness, try cool (not cold) water instead.

Removal & Drying

Double Cleansing

You can remove your second cleanse by rinsing with water, but I prefer to wipe it away with a moist cotton wipe.

When drying your face, only use a washcloth if you can change it every day (they harbour bacteria) and if you pat instead of rubbing (they can be very abrasive on the skin).

Those of us who don’t live in a hotel with unlimited access to clean, plush washcloths are better off drying with a gauze or cotton wipe, or even with a paper towel.

Electric Cleansing Tools

Extended or too frequent use of electric facial cleansing tools can over-exfoliate and damage your skin. They also harbour bacteria, so be sure to clean them regularly with rubbing alcohol.

AM or PM?

Many people forgo their morning cleanse in favour of water rinse or micellar water wipe.

I prefer a traditional cleanse (only water-based, though; no need for an oil-based cleanser first) for three reasons:

  1. I live in a large, metropolitan city. No matter how clean I keep my apartment, city grime still manages to get in and settle on my face overnight. This is also the reason I don’t like to simply use micellar water: to quote Any Dwyer, “sometimes when I wipe, I’ll wipe and I’ll wipe and I’ll wipe a hundred times. It’s like I’m wiping a market or something.”
  2. I sleep on a silk pillowcase and change it often, but sweat, dead skin, and impurities from my hair still accumulate overnight. 
  3. I want a fresh canvas onto which to apply my morning routine, and therefore need to remove last night’s products, including occlusive sleeping masks.

Shower or Sink?

Avoid getting hot shower water on your face. As Caroline Hirons says, “stand with your back to the shower and your chin raised – like the shower has greatly offended you.”

That said, I love applying my oil-based cleanser before getting in the shower and wiping it off after the shower is complete. This both gives the cleanser more time to work and protects your face from the shower steam.


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