Experts weigh in on whether that extra step is worth it.
Woman washing face
Credit: Karen Moskowitz / Getty Images

We all know the importance of a well-curated, effective skin care routine—and for so many, less is more. For these minimalists, reconciling double cleansing, a two-step face wash method, can be tough. After all, does this extra step really make that much of a difference? To find out, we tapped Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and Dr. Anar Mikailov, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of KP Away, to explain whether or not this trending cleansing technique is worth your time.

Double Cleansing, Explained

Aptly named, double cleansing, an at-night-only technique, involves using two cleansers to wash your face. The first formula is often a balm or oil, and is meant to break down makeup, dirt, oil, and debris and clean them away; the second, which might be a more traditional foaming or gel cleanser, should pick up whatever the first cleanse might have missed the first time around, and leave your face squeaky clean.

The Pros of Double Cleansing

The biggest benefit of the double cleansing method? It is designed to remove makeup, dirt, excess oil, and debris sans harsh ingredients or physical scrubbing. According to Dr. Mikailov, using harsh or strong chemicals during the makeup removal process can lead to irritating skin reactions; aggressive rubbing can also traumatize superficial capillaries and blood vessels, which causes redness. Double cleansing allows you avoid both, since it calls for gentler products and a more intentional approach. Dr. Graf agrees and notes that the first step of your double cleanse allows you to carefully break down whatever it is you need to remove; the second should restore hydration and offer soothing benefits. "The other benefit of this method is that you are removing all the dirt before using another cleanser, which can better be worked into your skin," she adds. Considering these benefits, both experts affirm that double cleansing is worth the extra step.

The Cons of Double Cleansing

While double cleansing works across most skin types—it's particularly suited for those with oily complexions, since you have two chances to remove (but not strip!) oil—Dr. Graf notes that it can be drying. If you are already on the drier side, this method might take away the little oil that you make on your own. There's another con to consider: If you're not someone who wears a lot of makeup regularly, it can lead to over-cleansing, notes Dr. Mikailov, which causes irritation. Ultimately, the only way to know if double cleansing is for you is to test the method out. If you wake up with more balanced skin, it's a win—but if you feel dry or tight, it's best to revert back to a single cleanse.

How to Double Cleanse

Double cleansing is simple—all you have to do is add one more step to your normal night cleansing routine. First, take your oil-based cleanser and work it into your skin; you can also use a micellar water, says Dr. Mikailov, which should be applied with a cotton or reusable microfiber pad or towel designed remove makeup. For eye makeup specifically, he says to place the pad over your eyes for 15 to 20 seconds to break down the products for easy removal. Then, wash your first cleanse away with lukewarm water before going back in with your second cleanser, which should either be foam- or gel-based. Dr. Graf says to message this product into your face in a circular motion. Finally, rinse off the second product and gently pat your face dry.

Products to Double Cleanse With

Interested in the double cleanse method, but aren't sure if your current products are up to the task? Our experts have you covered. Dr. Mikailov prefers the Glow Recipe Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm ($32, or the Biossance Squalane + Antioxidant Cleansing Oil ($30, for the first step in a double cleanse. During part two, he turns to the Avene Oil-Free Gel Cleanser ($27,, which offers a gentle cleanse.

Dr. Graf prefers the Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser ($8.24, for the first step; it is hypoallergenic and can remove excess oil without disrupting your natural moisture barrier. She then recommends following up with the IMAGE Skincare the MAX Facial Cleanser ($35,, which contains calming, soothing peptides and plant extracts.


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