If you suggested we apply our essence, serum, or moisturizer twice in a row, we’d laugh and tell you this isn’t Groundhog Day. But there is one step in our skin-care routine that might bear repeating: cleansing. 

In fact, the act is so popular that it even has a name. Double cleansing has long been practiced in Korea — and remains the backbone of many K-beauty skin-care routines — but only started picking up traction in the United States about five years ago. 

In the time since, we’ve discovered there’s a whole lot more to double cleansing than just, well, washing your face twice. We talked to dermatologists to get the scoop on the how, why, and who when it comes to double-cleansing.

Meet the experts:

  • David Kim, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Idriss Dermatology in New York City.
  • Rita V. Linkner, MD is a board-certified dermatologist at RVL Skincare, a concierge care cosmetic dermatology practice that operates in the greater New York City area, Aspen, and Miami.

In this story:

What is double cleansing?

Like we said, double cleansing isn’t just repeating the act of washing your face. It’s about switching up what you’re washing it with to achieve a deeper clean. “I define double cleansing as using two separate types of cleansers to wash your face,” says traveling board-certified dermatologist Rita V. Linkner, MD.

“First, [use] an oil-based cleanser or micellar water,” says New York City-based board-certified dermatologist David Kim, MD. (We like DHC Deep Cleansing Oil or Garnier SkinActive Micellar Water.) This helps remove any makeup you might be wearing as well as sunscreen (which we know you’re wearing, right?).

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

Heavy makeup-wearers as well as those with oily skin might prefer an oil-based formula to a micellar one. “Because makeup and sebum are lipophilic [meaning they dissolve in oil], using an oil-based cleanser can be more effective,” says Dr. Kim, who’s a fan of Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm. The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm is also a great makeup remover, especially for those with sensitive skin thanks to oat’s soothing properties

Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm

Now it’s time for your second cleanse, which helps take care of the stuff you might not necessarily see with the naked eye, like pollutants and debris. Any gentle cleanser of your choosing should do the job here, like Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser or CeraVe Hydrating Face Cleanser. Again, the keyword here is gentle — avoid formulas with active ingredients like exfoliating acids or benzoyl peroxide.

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

What are the benefits of double cleansing?

If “wear sunscreen” is the golden rule of skin care, “wash your face” certainly takes home silver. That’s because a clean face is a healthier one — and ultimately, one that’s better able to absorb and benefit from the skin care you apply on it afterward. Think of double-cleansing as a one-two punch to tackle both surface and deep-down impurities.

Who should double cleanse — and when?

Although we’re all after the same goal of a clean face, double cleansing isn’t the best path to getting there for everyone. If you have oily skin and/or wear makeup daily, you might find double cleansing every evening works just fine for you. If your skin isn’t particularly oil-prone or you’re only an occasional makeup wearer, double cleansing every single day probably isn’t necessary — a gentle cleanser alone should do the job, says Dr. Kim. 

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