Do I Reallllly Need to Double Cleanse?

Shilpa Bhim
The Buff

I take skin care seriously, but have always filed “double cleansing”—a Korean skincare technique that guys and girls all over the world are adopting—in the too-hard basket.

Surely I get points for remembering to remove my makeup at night, is it really that important to cleanse twice? People seem into it though, swearing the extra step of cleansing with oil first leaves your skin squeaky clean. So, I reached out to Dr Shari Marchbein, a leading NYC based dermatologist, to get the low down on double cleansing.

What is double cleansing?

“Double cleansing is a technique of washing your face twice, and is the backbone of many skin care regimens especially Korean beauty routines,” says Dr Marchbein. The process usually involves washing your face with an oil-based cleanser first, followed by a gentle water-based cleanser. You can use your regular face oil, or a rosehip/jojoba oil blend, if you don’t have specific cleansing oil. “The benefit of using oil-based cleansers is that they are excellent at dissolving makeup,” explains Dr Marchbein. The oil cleanser lifts dirt and grime from your face and the water-based cleanser washes the dirt away.

Is double cleansing more effective than a one-step cleansing routine?

Double cleansing removes all the gunk (makeup, dirt and pollutants) that accumulates on your face during the day, better than simply using a water-based cleanser solo. “Not only do these cause oxidative damage to the skin, but they contribute to the breakdown of collagen and development of wrinkles and sun spots,” says Dr Marchbein. So, yes, it is supposed to be more effective than a one-step cleansing routine.

How often do I need to double cleanse?

According to Dr Marchbein, most dermatologists recommend washing your face twice daily. However, you don’t need to double cleanse twice daily, and should stick to the extra step in the evening only. “It is extremely important to remove makeup, dirt and pollutants that have accumulated on your skin during the day, before heading to bed.”

So, should I bother with the extra step?

After hearing Dr Marchbein’s advice I feel like I’m going to be all over this double cleansing routine—it’s only an extra minute or so each day, and sounds worth it. I don’t want to wash my hair every time I double cleanse, so have started throwing my hair on a topknot and using a headband each time.

In my test-run, the oil cleanser did an amazing job at removing my makeup (BB cream, blush, eyeshadow, mascara and tinted lip balm). A quick mirror check after washing with the oil revealed that my eye makeup was totally gone. When using a water-based cleanser on its own, I find it takes a fair bit of scrubbing to feel totally clean, but the oil step was much gentler and more effective. After the second cleanse with a water-based formula, my skin felt really fresh, clean, and didn’t have that stripped, dry feeling that sometimes happens after cleansing off a full day of makeup and dirt.  

By the end of a full week of double cleansing my skin looked and felt great. Clean. Kind of like I’ve had a facial, but without the spend. A smattering of pimples that were across my forehead earlier in the week had also disappeared. Worth adding an extra step to your beauty routine? Absolutely.