Washing your face is one of the most important parts of your skincare routine.¹ And if you’ve come across the idea of “double cleansing,” you may have wondered: Can washing your face twice in a row really make that much of a difference? And can you overdo it?
It’s certainly true that over-washing is possible, and it can lead to skin irritation and potentially cause more problems than it solves.² However, in the right circumstances—and with the right products—double cleansing can help break down stubborn makeup, excess sebum (oil), and skin cell deposits on your face. But double cleansing correctly isn’t as straightforward as just “washing your face twice.”
So, exactly what is double cleansing? We asked our skincare experts at Curology to explain what this skincare method is, what it isn't, and how you can get the most out of double cleansing for your skin type.
The double cleansing technique has been around for a long time in Asian cultures and is widely considered to be a staple of K-beauty routines. In the past few years, this cleansing method has found increasing popularity among Westerners, partially due to social media influencers—after all, who hasn’t found themselves watching face-washing videos on TikTok?
The key to double cleansing is that it uses two different cleansers. Usually, it starts with an oil-based cleanser, which is then followed up by a hydrating or water-based cleanser—however, the specifics differ based on individual needs. Different skin types may require different products, and what works for one person won’t always be as effective for another.
For example, some cleansing oils are okay for acne-prone skin, while other cleansers are better for oily skin. Matching your cleansing products to your skin type will help avoid irritation that can result from over-washing and over-drying. So, it’s important to know your skin type and to base your cleansing method around that. That said, your skin type can also change over time.
While the products you use may differ depending on your skin type, the cleansing process will generally be the same.
Wet your face with lukewarm water, then apply your first cleanser.
Use your fingertips to gently massage your skin in circular motions, breaking up oil, dirt, and makeup—avoid scratchy washcloths or abrasive pads.
Don’t scrub! You still have another product to use, and you don’t want to cause irritation.
Rinse the cleanser (and all the oil and debris it removed) off of your face with lukewarm water, but don’t dry yet—you’ll want to leave your skin wet for the next application.
Apply your second cleanser and, using the same method, gently massage it on your skin’s surface (still no scrubbing!).
Rinse the second cleanser off of your face with warm water, and gently pat dry.
After completing these steps, continue with the remainder of your skincare routine.
It almost seems like it would be counterproductive to use an oil-based formula on oily skin. But in reality, some oil cleansers actually attract excess oil and leave the skin clean without damaging the skin barrier function.³
If your skin is naturally oily, try starting with an oil cleanser or micellar water to break up the sebum, sunscreen, makeup, and other impurities you might have collected throughout the day. Then, follow up with a hydrating cleanser to revitalize your skin and lock in moisture.
Normal skin typically has a little more freedom when it comes to choosing cleansing products, as this skin type seems to tolerate most products and cleansers. But even if you have normal skin, you should still avoid any alcohol-based products that can dry your skin out or harsh abrasives that can irritate your skin.
Dry skin runs a higher risk of irritation from over-washing, so you might want to start with cleansing balms infused with moisturizers. Follow up with a hydrating cleanser and finish with your preferred moisturizing cream, such as any of the following.
If you have a more sensitive skin type that gets easily irritated, or you are more prone to acne breakouts, you’ll probably want to go for milder products that are free from any added dyes or fragrances.
You’ll also want to look for products that contain ceramides to help replenish your skin’s lipid barrier to lock in moisture,⁴ and hyaluronic acid to boost your skin’s hydration.⁵
Here are several options that you may want to consider:
A double cleansing routine is a generally safe and effective way to get a truly deep, hydrating cleanse on your skin, and can really give your skincare routine the added boost you’ve been looking for.
But to get the most out of this technique, it’s important to know which products you should be using for your skin. It may take a little trial and error but eventually, you should be able to find the perfect combination for your skincare goals.
If you want to take the guesswork out of your skincare routine, Curology’s here to help. Our team of licensed dermatology providers is ready to answer any questions you may have and help you find a solution that fits your individual needs. Sign up today for a 30-day trial* at Curology for a one-on-one consultation and take the first step on your personalized skincare journey.
You should wash your face when you wake up in the morning, at night before bed, and after working up a sweat, but the double cleanse routine should generally only be done once a day at most. If your skin is naturally dry or sensitive, you may find that even once a day is too much, and you might want to double cleanse only a couple of times a week.
That’s really up to you. It can help to break up the day’s makeup and sebum build up before you go to bed, but for naturally oily or combination skin, it might be better to do it in the morning (after your face has rubbed all over your hair and pillow).
Toner can be used as part of your overall skincare routine, but it’s not necessary for a double cleanse. Ideally, toner should be applied after exfoliation, which would come after your cleansing steps anyway.
Ludmann, P. and Schleehauf, B. Acne: Tips for managing. American Academy of Dermatology Association. (2022, November 16).
American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 skin care habits that can worsen acne. (n.d.).
Walters, R.M., et al. Cleansing Formulations That Respect Skin Barrier Integrity. Dermatology Research and Practice. (2012, August 13).
Meckfessel, M.H. and Brandt, S. The structure, function, and importance of ceramides in skin and their use as therapeutic agents in skin-care products. J Am Acad Dermatol. (2014, March 20).
Bukhari, S.N.A., et al. Hyaluronic acid, a promising skin rejuvenating biomedicine: A review of recent updates and pre-clinical and clinical investigations on cosmetic and nutricosmetic effects. Int J Biol Macromol. (2018, October 1).
Meredith Hartle is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Curology. She earned her medical degree at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kirksville, MO.
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Meredith Hartle, DO