As the name suggests, double cleansing is the Korean process of cleaning your face twice before layering the remainder of your evening skincare. The first cleanse flushes away the majority of oil based impurities including pollutants, makeup, sebum, bacteria and layers of sunscreen. The second picks up what the first misses and also effectively removes perspiration, cell debris and dirt.
According to Dr Susan Mayou, consultant dermatologist at London’s Cadogan Cosmetics clinic:
Make-up is now formulated for its staying power, so it often needs a double cleanse to remove it thoroughly.
Research shows that when skin isn’t properly cleaned, the surface layer can prevent active ingredients from working effectively as they don’t penetrate the skin sufficiently. Studies conducted by Lancome and Olay indicate that women who cleansed their skin properly saw significantly better results from anti-ageing products compared to those who did not.
Furthermore, Dr Philippa Lowe, dermatologist, confirms that insufficient or ineffective cleansing “can lead to blocked pores, irritation, skin barrier damage and spots”. Blocked skin pores create the perfect conditions for inflammatory acne to develop.
the first cleanse
An ideal choice for a first step is a cleansing oil, micellar water, cleansing water or balm. Which you choose is dependent on preference and performance. A balm will liquefy when rubbed into the skin, making the solid form better for travel compared to its liquid counterparts. However, all are designed to perform the same task.
Most are gentle enough to remove all makeup including mascara and eye liner which tend to be the hardest elements to wash away. However, make sure to read the label carefully before applying any product around the eyes. Oil based cleansers make an excellent choice for blackhead and breakout control for oily skin types. Since oil attracts oil (like dissolves like), the cleanser penetrates the sebum inside the pore to flush it clean. Furthermore, all skin types will find them nourishing, moisturising and soothing.
the second cleanse
The second cleanse should be water based. This may include gel, foam, powder and cream varieties. An acidic cleanser is best, the ideal pH being around 5.5 to protect the skin barrier and preserve essential lipids and ceramides. Neutral and alkaline pH cleansers can damage the stratum corneum, exposing it to bacteria which can cause irritation, inflammation and acne.
Problem and blemish prone skin can benefit from gentle cleansers that include salicylic acid, glycolic acid or niacinamide. As tempting as it might be to over-cleanse or cleanse harshly in an attempt to control surface oils, stripping the skin barrier is even more problematic, so the gentle approach is best.
Cleansing oils and balms are usually applied to dry skin, massaged in to melt away makeup, sunscreen and excess sebum. Once complete, tepid water is added to emulsify the formula and permit easy rinsing, ideally without greasy residue. Depending on the performance of your oil cleanser, you may or may not require a gentle face cloth for optimum results. Micellar and cleansing waters help absorb and dissolve impurities without irritation. The oil particles in these products work on the same principle as a cleansing oil/balm.
The primary difference in use is that a cleansing oil or balm is applied directly to a dry face, whereas micellar and cleansing waters are soaked in a cotton pad for swipe application.
A water based cleanser may be applied on a damp face to form a lather or foam (depending on the type used), massaged gently but thoroughly and then rinsed off. The face should always be patted dry with a towel instead of rubbing to avoid stripping the skin.
It’s important to minimise the amount of cleansing performed so as to avoid stripping the moisture barrier. Double cleansing is only really required to start your evening skincare routine, as makeup, sunscreen, pollutants and sebum collect on the skin throughout the day. Since skin is clean at bed time, it is not necessary to double cleanse in the morning. A light clean with a water based cleanser or even just a splash of water is often sufficient to prepare the skin for the morning routine.
the product selection
As with any skincare product, different skin types will respond better to some cleansers than others. The key is to ensure both steps remain gentle by using sulphate-free products that won’t strip the skin of natural oils. When a cleanser works well, it should leave your skin feeling clean, fresh and hydrated not oily, irritated, dry or tight. A cleanser may exhibit brilliant properties and be created using an ideal ingredient list but in practice it may not be perfect for you, so try gentle products and decide which best suits your skin. After all, there is a huge range out there, many of them great, some of them brilliant and some not so good.
Do your research and know what’s in the product you’re putting on your skin. A higher price doesn’t necessarily indicate a better product, so check out the ingredients and reviews and decide for yourself. Pharmacy and budget cleansers will often do a comparable job to high end equivalents and if you time it right, there’s always a sale to exploit. If it’s free of harmful additives and irritants and it makes your skin glow and feel clean, it can’t be wrong. Product choice really comes down to personal preference, just keep it gentle.
Examples of first cleansers include:
Whilst second cleanse options include:
Bombarding your face with toners, essences, serums, oils, masks and moisturisers may be a good idea but it may also be a waste of time and money if your skin isn’t properly cleansed. Evidence of impurities and dead or flaking skin cells on the surface won’t allow them to be efficiently absorbed thus their benefits cannot be fully appreciated or experienced. So double cleanse at night and your skin will thank you for it.
Korean skincare is available at April & Ko.
Why you should wash your face twice before bed Claire Coleman
The Double Cleanse Method Just About Skin
Double Cleansing: The Secret To Better Skin NetDoctor
Please read in context with my disclaimer.