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Double cleansing – what is it?

If you struggle with clogged pores and repeated breakouts, one problem could be product build-up on your skin. Especially sunscreen or creamy foundations have a tendency to leave an invisible layer of oil-soluble residue on top of it leading to clogging, zits, and a lackluster complexion. The solution: double-cleansing!

What is special about double-cleansing? It treats make up removal and cleansing as two separate steps. I therefore recommend double-cleansing to anyone who wants to maintain clear pores and skin, and properly prepare their skin for the skin care it deserves.

What is double-cleansing?

Double-cleansing, for the uninitiated, is a special cleansing technique that originated in Japan, and that’s where I’ve also encountered it for the first time almost nine years ago. It involves using first an oil or balm cleanser, and second a foam or gel cleanser – hence double-cleansing.

The secret behind the double-cleansing method is in the chemical make up of the dirt in our pores and on our skin.

Chemically speaking same attracts same, and since sebum, make up, creams and sunscreen are comprised of waxes and/or oil, oil-based cleansers are better at dissolving and removing them than water-based cleansers. Also due to the more sticky and viscous consistency of oil-based cleansers, they trap dirt and dust more efficiently as well. Cleansing with a water-based formula afterwards then rinses away residues from the oil or balm cleanser. The result: perfectly clean and clear skin.

Consider double cleansing, if you use sunscreen, creamy make up products, waterproof make up products, or just want to be thorough in general. It will change your life!

Choosing an oil or balm cleanser

Personally, I use the Clinique Take The Day Off Cleansing Balm and can recommend it without hesitation. I just love, love, love that stuff! I find balms in general less messy than oil, yet still super effective at breaking down hardened matter, sunscreen and even waterproof make up. If you are interested in more options, however, here are a few more oils and balms worth trying out:

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Keep in mind that if you are already using an oil or balm cleanser, a separate make up remover is unnecessary. The oil or balm will already take care of it sufficiently.

Lately, people have also started to use oils such as coconut or olive oil to cleanse their skin “naturally”. While this is not harmful per se, regular oils are not formulated to rinse off upon contact with water. So if you choose to remove your make up with natural oils, double-cleansing is even more of a must so as to avoid clogging due to oil residues.

Choosing a foam cleanser

Whether foam, mousse or gel type, please keep in mind that your cleanser should never, I repeat, never dry out your skin.

People often mistake the tightening feeling of the skin as a sign of thorough cleanness, but a tightening feeling only indicates that your skin is stripped from necessary lipids. This in turn can irritate the skin and lead to increased sebum production to make up for the loss. The consequence is only more clogged pores and spots.

Whether your skin is acne prone, oily, dry or sensitive, I would always advise you to use the most gentle cleanser you can possibly find. Try to find a cleanser without

since all of these are common skin irritants. Your best bet, in my opinion, are cleansers suited for sensitive skin types.

Myself, I use the SK-II Facial Treatment Gentle Cleanser and love it. True to its name it’s really gentle and unlike many other cleansers does not dry out the skin. I also use it to wash my face in the mornings and it always leaves my complexion radiant and smooth right afterwards.

However, if I had to replace it with something new, I would choose one of these:

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Since foaming water-based cleansers are to be preferred for double-cleansing, I’ve included no milk or lotion type cleansers.

How to double-cleanse

Taking an appropriate amount into your palm, first rub and warm the oil or balm up between your fingers, then start to gently massage your entire face using rotating motions from the center up and outwards removing make up and dirt. Thoroughly rinse with clear water at room temperature when you are done.

Before drying your face, move on to the foam cleanser, lather it up in your hands, and repeat the same process as with the oil or balm cleanser for no more than two minutes. Then rinse thoroughly and repeatedly with clear water at least eight times. Make sure to get rid of all residues and avoid rinsing with hot water because it will irritate and dry out your skin.

Please also note that even if you do not double-cleanse, never rub or massage your skin strongly when washing it! The tearing could both irritate your skin and also deepen fine lines.

When finished with cleansing and rinsing, lightly pat dry with a clean towel. Again, do not rub!

Follow up with a toner of your choice.

Personal experience with double-cleansing

I was worried that cleansing with water like this would irritate my skin and result in only more spots. But quite to the contrary, my skin is soft, clear, and I’m finally free from clogged pores!

Sure, it’s not from double-cleansing alone. My skin already started to improve wonderfully the past few weeks first thanks to the daily AHA, then by quitting dairy again. But double-cleansing definitely helped and still helps in maintaining the clarity of my skin. It’s the first time in a while I’ve been this happy with my skin.

Being gentle to your skin and using the right kind of products is definitely important here, though! Therefore I hope my recommendations and tips regarding double-cleansing will help you in finding one that suits you.


  1. Sara says

    Hi V,

    A certain skincare brand advisor once told me to cleanse twice if I was wearing sunscreen. At the time I was pretty sceptical about whether it was really necessary. I’m pretty lazy too when it comes to my skincare routine so I never bothered to try.

    Now that I’ve read your insightful post, however, I am definitely going to give it a try. The fact that there’s an actual terminology for it must mean it’s legit right? ;)

    How would you classify hot cloth cleansers though? Would you use it for the first cleanse or the second cleanse?


    P.S You have no idea how relieved I am to see your blog is public again. Yours is the only blog I come back to time and time again (and one that I actually read, as opposed to just scrolling through pretty pictures). I’ve been an avid reader of yours throughout all your web reincarnations since you started blogging years ago. So welcome back! Can’t wait to see how this blog will grow :)


    • Hi Sara,

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment! I feel absolutely honored for having such a loyal and attentive reader! It’s true, I’ve changed blogs so many times. It’s a miracle you never lost sight! I appreciate it a lot! :) I’m curious about how this blog will do in the future myself. But I’m confident that this time I’m here to stay :)

      Yes, I think especially sunscreen is difficult to remove, and one of the main reasons double-cleansing makes a lot of sense.

      If you’re using a hot cloth for cleansing, I’d recommend to use it after the first cleanse. Hot steam, like hot water, can irritate and dry out the skin, and contrary to popular belief does not actually open up the pores and deep-cleanse them but draw out the moisture from your skin. Since oil or balm cleansers will form a protective film on top of it, however, the hot cloth will mainly remove the oil/balm instead of the moisture, so I think that should be safe!

      I hope I could help and the deep-cleansing brings out good results for you! Keep me updated if you have any more questions. :)


  2. Pingback: Comes and Goes plus Wing Wing | missboulette

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