Double Cleansing 101

“Double cleansing” isn’t a term that you come across often in American media as it relates to beauty, so what does it mean? As the name implies it’s a two-step cleansing process.

How does it work?

The first step consists of applying an oil cleanser which acts as a makeup remover. The second step involves applying a water-based cleanser to complete the process and remove any excess product and dirt that might have remained. At the end your skin is supposed to feel squeaky clean and baby soft, in addition, this helps prepare your skin for the next steps in the K-beauty system.

But let’s be real, we’ve all been in that situation where we were out too late, drank a bit too much, came home and the last thing on our minds was washing our face. So the thought of double cleansing is probably overwhelming—like I don’t feel like washing my face once, much less twice and go through another eight steps—BUT trust me once you get on with it you feel so much better and you look radiant the next morning.

One tip that I read about getting yourself into the habit of the Korean 10-step system is to wash your face as soon as you get home. This is great because the products that you end up using will have a longer time to work on your skin, plus it’s just better to get it out of the way.

So why double cleanse?

The theory is, it’ll take you as many steps to clean and clear your skin of products as it took you to put them on. Some makeup enthusiasts for example will have primer, concealer, foundation, setting powder, blush, bronzer and eyeshadow all layered on their skin, so imagine the task of stripping all that away to reveal fresh skin so that your skincare products can work on a clean canvas. You’d honestly be surprised how much residue is left on your face when using some traditional cleansers and just one product; even makeup wipes only remove so much, there’s always a wee bit left behind.

So let’s get into it…


Step 1: Oil Cleanse

What this does is breakdown all the makeup and dirt that’s accumulated on your face after a hard day outside. Usually you’ll find Banila Co.’s Clean it Zero recommended as an intro product for this step but as I haven’t used that personally I can’t speak on it, however its gotten great reviews overall.


Tatcha’s Camellia Cleansing Oil 

This product has received rave reviews for good reason, it works! Simply pump 2-3 quarter-sized squirts into your palm and apply to dry face. You’ll immediately see the makeup melting and breaking down, water-proof mascaras and matte liquid lipsticks don’t stand a chance against this stuff. After you’ve rubbing for a bit, wet your hands and start cleansing your face and washing off the product, you’ll notice it turns white and emulsifies.

It won’t leave a grimy or oily residue on your face. The story behind this product involves the lore of geishas using tsubaki oil to remove their makeup, so the brand was inspired to follow their tradition.

Let’s breakdown what camellia oil does and why it’s a preferred ingredient: the number one thing is its anti-aging and moisturizing properties, it’s also non-comedogenic which means it won’t lead to breakouts for some skin types. It is said to also help repair damage from the sun and stimulates collagen production and elasticity. And best of all it helps heal and blot out blemishes from acne!

The full-sized 5.1 ounces bottle will last you for a while. I believe I had my first bottle for about 3 or 4 months before I ran out. You can also get an intro to this brand and double cleansing with their Kyoto Cleanse system which includes the Classic Rice Enzyme Powder—a fantastic exfoliator that leaves your skin baby soft and a perfect second step cleansing option—for $27.

As an easy to acquire starter that you can walk into Sephora and pick up, I highly recommend it.

Step 2: Water Cleanser

This step is meant to rinse off all the remaining bits that the first step didn’t get. This can actually even become a third step if you use something like a micellar water or makeup removing wipe before oil cleansing.


Su:m37 Miracle Rose Cleanser

Kind of a cult product, and one of the first stick cleansers to gain popularity amongst K-beauty enthusiasts. It is not water based but it’s one of my favorite products that I’ve tried from Korea. The name isn’t hyperbole either, it feels luxurious and leaves your skin feeling amazingly cleansed and soft. Since it comes in a solid stick form it’s super travel friendly and best of all it’s got real rose petals in it.

The experience of using it is quite fun; simply wet your face and rub the stick on it, it lathers up nicely.

Why rose? This product contains fermented damask rose extract which is great for hydrating skin.


Neogen’s Green Tea Real Fresh Foam Cleanser

A cool second step option and another one with fun and unique packaging, as it comes with real tea leaves in the bottom of bottle. It’s liquid but the pump lets out the most satisfying wisp of foam. I also love this for my morning cleanser; I don’t double cleanse in the mornings, although some people do. I mostly recommend this because it is gentle and you can grab it in store at Sephora.

Why green tea? This product contains fermented green tea extract (noticing a pattern here?) and it cleanses without stripping the skin. The first ingredient listed is Camellia Sinensis Leaf Water (noticing a second pattern?) Green tea helps improve skin tone, it detoxifies and heals blemishes. It even helps to fight signs of aging and aids in reducing sun damage, which is another great reason to incorporate this cleanser in your morning routine; some studies point to it working in tandem with a zinc-oxide based sunscreen to help protect skin from UV damage.

Hack: a lot of skincare products primary and first ingredient listed is water, it’s important to note when a products don’t list water first, as that means there’s more concentration of the good stuff. You know you’ve found something special when the first ingredient is not water or if it’s glacier water.


Kiehl’s Calendula Deep Cleansing Foaming Face Wash

A gel-based cleanser that works amazingly well as a standalone or part of the second step. This is another one that I like to use for my morning routine or as my first step cleanser if I’m out of a cleansing oil.

Why calendula? Calendula oil is extracted from marigold flowers. It’s a great moisturizer for dry skin, helps heal small cuts and wounds and minimizes scarring, fights acne, brightens skin, and stimulates collagen production.

What do you get out of this?

As you see all the ingredients add up to some pretty amazing skincare benefits. Everyone is always seeking that squeaky clean feeling after cleansing their face, but you don’t want to strip your skin of moisture either, so while you are cleansing twice, the ingredients in these products are also giving back by replenishing moisture and helping to fight the signs of aging.

Doesn’t the double cleanse routine seem worth it now?

Next up exfoliating! This is key to helping you remove dead skin cells, white and blackheads, and creating a flawless canvas for the application of the subsequent layers of moisture and your makeup.

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