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What is double cleansing?

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We all know that taking off our makeup at night using a makeup wipe isn’t the best thing we can do for our skin. Makeup wipes, aside from being particularly bad for the environment (please don’t ever flush them down the toilet!) don’t remove all of the makeup and dirt on our skin.

If you don’t believe us, try using a makeup wipe, and then use a cream cleanser with cotton wool. You’ll be amazing by how much makeup still comes off. Failing that, use a white pillow case and look for tell tale makeup stains in the morning!

So we know that proper cleansing, using a gentle, creamy cleanser that’s made to support and nourish healthy skin is a good choice for our skin.

But what about the concept of double cleansing? What is double cleansing, how do we do it, and is it really that beneficial? Here’s what we discovered on the subject.

Why should I double cleanse?

Much like our analogy of the makeup wipes followed by a cream cleanser to remove the makeup and grime that’s left, double cleansing is a way of making sure your skin is squeaky clean.

Old, stale makeup, dirt, grime, pollution, cellular debris, dead skin cells and excess sebum (the waxy, oily substance naturally produced by the skin) can all buildup on the skin, if we don’t cleanse our skin properly.

When this happens, it can clog the pores of the skin, and lead to pore blockages, spots, breakouts and a dulling of the skin.

So it makes sense to cleanse our skin thoroughly, no matter if we have the most well behaved skin, or skin that’s non conformist, stressed, acne prone, dry, oily or simply playing up. And this is where double cleansing comes in.

Not only will double cleansing help to keep our skin clean and, more importantly, happy. Taking the time to perform a regular skin cleansing ritual is mindful and indulgent, and is truly ‘me time’ well spent.

So, how do we double cleanse and what products should we be using?

When should I double cleanse?

Double cleansing is more important in the evening, rather than the morning, after our skin has been exposed to environmental pollutants, pollen, toxins, sweat and makeup. (Our skin goes through an awful lot, doesn’t it?)

Plus, most of us have more time to spend on our skin in the evening. But what if you know you’ll struggle once the kids are in bed, the washing up is done and you’ve been dozing on the sofa in front of the television? The makeup wipes are within tempting, handy reach and it would be oh so easy to just use them… (Or even worse, you flop into bed complete with the day’s makeup and grime on your face.)

If this sounds like you, then make a point of cleansing your face early. After dinner is a good time, because any excess oil from the food you’ve eaten will also be cleaned away. (This can contribute to oily skin and acne around the mouth and chin area.)

How to double cleanse?

The good news is, unlike some beauty rituals (anyone else sorting their own hair removal or dying their own hair during lockdown?), double cleansing is really simple, but so effective.

The trick is to use two different cleansers (not as you might be forgiven for thinking, using the same cleanser, twice). But we hear you, oh ok, here’s a skin care brand telling me I need to buy double the amount of cleansing products…

But trust us, skin care experts and specialists all agree - double cleansing is the way forward! (Or at least it’s the way to super clean, healthy skin.)

Should I double cleanse if I don’t wear makeup?

Absolutely yes. As you’ll see below, double cleansing thoroughly removes makeup but it also helps to remove dirt and grime that builds up on the face - so even if you don’t wear makeup, it’s a good idea to double cleanse.

What should I use to double cleanse?

The first cleanser should be an oily cleanser. Look for natural, plant based, gentle cleansing oils that are designed to be used when the skin is dry (as in, you haven’t added water to it, yet).

You can even rub most of these into the eye area to remove even the most stubborn of eye makeup, but you can choose to use a dedicated eye makeup remover if you prefer. If you do, remove your eye makeup first.

Oil based cleansers attract oil based girt (grime) and makeup. Even if your makeup is oil free, an oil cleanser will attract this kind of ‘dirt’ and will begin to dissolve it and lift it away from the skin.

Spend a few minutes massaging this oily cleanser into your (still dry) skin to really make sure it’s getting to work. Make sure you don’t neglect your neck and jawline and that you go right up to your hairline.

Your oil based cleanser can be a gentle balm, if you have particularly oily skin and you’d rather not add oil to your already oily skin.

Then you need to ‘emulsify’ this oily cleanser, by adding a splash of warm water. You should notice that the product begins to turn white and creamy as you massage the water into your skin.

Then, using a muslin cloth, gently wipe away the oil, water, makeup, grime mix. This will help to remove the product and the oily dirt, as well gently exfoliate the skin. Give your skin a splash with more, clean warm water.

Next up comes the second cleanse. For this stage, a water based cleanser is needed - so whichever you prefer and works best on your skin. This can be a milky, creamy cleanser, a watery gel cleanser or a more traditional foaming but soap free cleanser. (Soap is very stripping of the natural oils in the skin.) It’s just important to make sure it’s an oil free cleanser.

Then use this water based cleanser to attract and lift off water based dirt, such as pollen, sweat and environmental pollutants and toxins. Apply to damp skin as you would normally, paying attention to all of the areas of the face.

There’s no need to emulsify your water based cleanser, after a minute or so of massaging it in, rinse with fresh warm water and pat your skin dry. Apply your favourite serum, eye cream and night time moisturiser and there you have it - doubly cleansed skin!


Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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