Do You Really Need To Double Cleanse?

by Gio

need to double cleanse

You’d think washing your face would be easy…

When I was a kid, my mom told me to use plain old soap and water. It made my face squeaky clean… and dry as a bone.

In my teens, I graduated to foaming cleansers. That worked better. I got clean skin without the dryness. Until I finally started wearing sunscreen every day. Most foaming cleansers were no match for it.

That’s when I discovered the only thing that dissolved my stubborn sunscreen was an oil-based cleanser. But oils have the annoying tendency to leave a greasy residue behind… *sighs*

I was about to give up all hopes of ever finding the perfect cleanser when I learned about double cleansing.

What The Heck Is Double Cleansing?

Double cleansing is just that: you cleanse your face twice. First, with an oil-based cleanser. Then, with a water-based one.

The theory is that you need different types of cleansers to attract (and remove) different kinds of impurities.

Oil-based cleansers work according to the “like attracts like” principle. Their oils attract, and bind to, the oils in your suncreeen, makeup and excess sebum, washing them away from your face.

You then follow up with a water-based cleanser that removes whatever other watery-based (yes, that’s the scientific term 🙂 ) impurities (think dirt), are still left on your skin.

In case you’re wondering, yes, this is something you only do at night. Unless you sleep with your makeup and sunscreen on. But you DON’T, right?

You’re Probably Already Double Cleansing

I know what you’re thinking: “I can barely bother to remove my makeup before I go to sleep and you want me to use two cleansers, Gio? Are you nuts?!”

I’ve got good news for you. You’re probably double cleansing already.


Here’s the deal: Very few cleansers are either oil- or water-based. Most are either oil-in water or water-in-oil emulsions.

An example of an oil-in-water emulsion is Clarins Pure Melt Cleansing Gel With Marula Oil. Its oil droplets are dispersed in water with a little helping hand from emulsifiers. As the oil is surrounded by so much water, it disappears quickly into the skin, removing ALL impurities from it. This type of cleanser works well even for oily and acne prone skin.

Cold creams, such as the old classic Pond’s Cold Cream, are usually “water-in-oil” emulsions. This time, the water is encapsulated within the oil droplets. The oil reaches your skin first, creating a thicker barrier that both cleanses and moisturizes. Water in oil cleansers are better for dry or mature skin types.


Related: How To Choose The Right Cleanser For Your Skin Type

Should you double cleanse (As In Use Two Separate Cleansers)?

If most cleansers can double cleanse, why are Korean women using two cleansers? Is the double cleanse craze from the East a fad?

Yes and no.

If you ask me (and I guess you are, if you’re reading this blog), Korean women are too quick to embrace whatever fad marketers throw at them. The secret to their glowing skin has more to do with their obsession for sun protection and a healthy diet rich in fermented foods than the use of 300 skincare products.

But, there’s no doubt that you need to thoroughly cleanse your skin every night. Even the best skincare products won’t be able to do their magic if they have to fight with layers of dirt to reach your skin. Plus, if you let all that dirt build up in your pores, pimples are going to be your new BFFs. I know, don’t let that happen to you.

But do you need two cleansers? It depends:

  • If your current cleanser is already doing an excellent job at cleansing your skin, you don’t need to change anything. Just keep doing what you’re doing every night. You’re on the right track.
  • If your cleanser is still leaving traces of makeup and sunscreen behind, it’s time to up your game and invest in an oil-and-water-based cleanser.
  • If your cleanser is doing a great job at cleansing your skin but is leaving a greasy residue behind, then it’s time to double cleanse. Use an oil-based cleanser to remove your makeup and a water-based cleanser to get rid of the residue.

Related: Did You Know That Triple Cleansing Is A Thing? Here’s Why You Should Not Do It

The Bottom Line

I know I said it before, but I’ll say it again. You need to thoroughly cleanse your skin every night. But, how you choose to do that, it’s up to you.

Do you double cleanse? Let me know what you think of double cleanser and your experience with it in the comments below.



Janessa January 26, 2016 - 4:25 am

I definitely double cleanse! I use DHC’s oil cleanser (for breaking down waterproof makeup and sunscreen) and Fresh Soy cleanser (for removing the rest of my makeup) after.

Gio January 26, 2016 - 8:32 am

Janessa, I love DHC oil cleanser. It works so well, and it’s such great value for money,

Tam January 26, 2016 - 5:16 am

Great post! Excluding the use of sunscreen, how do you know if a double cleanser needs to be added to a skincare regimen versus your cleanser being sufficient? Are there some other telltale signs of needing more cleansing?

Gio January 26, 2016 - 8:39 am

Tam, good question, You can try the toner test. Pat your face with a cotton ball after cleansing. If it comes out clean, your cleanser is doing a great job on its own. Otherwise, it may be time to switch to double cleansing,

Annette January 29, 2016 - 12:10 am

I double cleanse when I’ve been wearing makeup or have been out and about. However I’m at home most days inside my office so I don’t have much grime to remove.

My latest cleansing love is Lyon’s Leaf Beauty Balm. I’ve always loved Antipodes Grapeseed Butter Cleanser but it can be a bit waxy. The Lyon’s Leaf Balm is thinner and melts on your face. You need to try it!

Gio January 29, 2016 - 7:46 am

Annette, sounds fab! I definitely will, thanks. 🙂

Anna September 7, 2016 - 8:36 pm

My friend uses oily eye make-up remover for the whole face. What do you think about that. Many thanks in advance.

Gio September 18, 2016 - 4:20 pm

Anna, there really isn’t much difference between eye and face makeup removers. The cleansing ingredients are the same, although there are some ingredients for the face that are banned in eye products. So, while I wouldn’t use face makeup removers on the eyes unless stated it’s safe to do so, I don’t see any problems in doing the opposite. The only con is that eye makeup removers tend to come in smaller packaging so you’ll have to buy them more often. May not be the cheapest option.

audrey March 8, 2017 - 10:18 am

What about using only micellar water? It’s an oil-in-water cleanser (micelles) so I use it to cleanse my face in the morning and at night. I never use other cleansers for the past few years because I avoid tap water and most cleanser needs to be washed with water (except Avene Gentle Cleansing Lotion).

Gio March 17, 2017 - 8:49 pm

Audrey, micellar waters are good in the morning but if you need to remove your makeup, they won’t do. They never cleanse skin as well as an oil based cleanser.

audrey March 18, 2017 - 3:08 pm

Wait … all this time I thought micellar water is oil-based cleanser & water-based at the same time? The micelles are oil inside water, something like that. So is that false?

Gio April 6, 2017 - 8:55 pm

Audrey, I’ve written about micellar waters here:

But the gist is: they’re good for emergencies but they’re NOT makeup removers.

Rios Fernandez December 13, 2017 - 8:18 am

I double cleanse for the reason that I have such dry, sensitive, but acne prone skin. Cold creams like ponds have mineral oil which breaks me out, cleansing oils usually have comedogenic ingredients, and with a gentle/sensitive low pH cleanser (the cleansers I have used in the next sentence) I have not laid the foundation for enough moisture. I’ve used both CeRave’s and Neutrogena’s gentle cleanser and my skin feels so dry after. Finally, I started oil cleansing with my own homemade cleansing oil blend which very nutrient-rich, protective, non-comedogenic oils such as safflower oil as the base, rosehip for pigmentation, and frankicense for the acne itself. Yet just oil cleansing left me super oily. I figured out by doing research that double cleansing was the only way my skin would feel clean but not stripped or oily, just right. I started double cleansing from this point forward and its the only way I can cleanse my skin from now on.

Gio December 23, 2017 - 7:44 pm

Rios, I’m glad you found something that works well for you. With skincare, there’s no one size fits all. You need to experiment to find out what works best. Thanks for sharing your experience. 🙂

Gina August 4, 2019 - 10:33 am

I started using oil cleansers only until recently, I massage the oil and enjoy seeing how it gets rid of sunscreen and pores grit, then I add a bit of water to emulsify, massage again and rinse. My face feels totally clean afterwards, but yet the first two or three nights I followed with a gentle foam cleanser and that felt like way too much for me, so I figured the oil was enough, but I’ve been navigating the internet and everybody insists on the need of using a second product!!! I was afraid of being very wrong about it, until this post! Thanks for being straightforward about it. I’ll keep using my foam cleanser alone in the mornings and the oil one alone in the evening because that simply works for me 🙂

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