The Beginner’s Guide to Double Cleansing


By Nica Dobles

The surprisingly easy K-Beauty routine that’s backed by science

I’ll admit, I was skeptical when I first heard about the double cleanse. As someone who struggles with oily skin, the idea of putting more oil on my face sounded like a recipe for disaster.

But reading up on the routine convinced me. The science behind it is sound, and thousands of Korean women — and other women who have since picked it up — swear by the ritual.

How does it work?

It might sound redundant to clean your face twice. But think about it: we’re taught from elementary that oil and water don’t mix — so your usual cleansing foams won’t do much against the excess sebum or your base makeup like foundation (which tend to be oil-based).

The idea behind double cleansing is that like dissolves like. Instead of clogging your pores, the cleansing oil works to dissolve oil-based impurities like sebum, makeup, sunblock, and general grit caused by pollutants like city smog. Whatever’s left — basically, water-based impurities like sweat and dirt — will be taken care of by the water-based cleanser.

How often should I do it?

Generally, you should double-cleanse twice a day. First when you wake up in the morning — you’d be surprised at how much oil your face produces while you’re asleep, plus it helps to prep your face for the rest of your makeup routine — and then before you go to bed at night (regardless of how much makeup you’re wearing).

Step 1: Apply the oil-based cleanser.


Apply a pea-sized amount of product (about 1–2 pumps) onto a dry face and massage it into your skin in gentle circles. This lets the cleanser reach into your pores so it can get to work, and as an added bonus, boosts circulation to give your skin a bit more glow.

After about a minute, rinse your hands in lukewarm water and then massage for another minute. The water works to emulsify the oil (essentially, makes it easier to wash off with water) — you’ll know it’s working if the oil looks a bit milky, and you should see and feel your makeup dissolving.

Bonus: The oil cleanser can double as a makeup remover! Just apply with a cotton pad to get rid of that pesky eyeliner and mascara.

Choosing the right oil-based cleanser:

Oil-based cleansers can come in liquid or balm form. The most important thing is to choose a cleansing oil, and not just any old oil, because the cleansing oil will have the ingredients that allow it to emulsify with water. Regular coconut oil or olive oil won’t wash off and will only clog your pores.

Normal/combination skin types can use a lightweight cleanser — that goes for oily skin types too, but if the idea of adding more oil to your face still scares you, you can also try micellar water. For dry skin, go with a product that has moisturizing benefits. If you’ve got sensitive skin, make sure your cleanser has no alcohol or fragrances.


Step 2: Rinse


Rinse off the oil cleanser with lukewarm water. You can repeat this step if you feel like there’s still some oil on your face.


Step 3: Apply the water-based cleanser


Add another pea-sized amount of the cleanser into hands and work it up into a lather. Massage onto your face for another minute with the same gentle circular motions.

Choosing the right water-based cleanser:

After all that oil, you might feel tempted to use a strong cleanser, but stick to something gentle and lightweight. Over-cleansing might aggravate your skin and will actually cause your face to compensate for the dryness by producing even more oil. In short, avoid cleansers that make your skin feel dry and tight afterwards. 

If you enjoy the feeling of a foaming cleanser, make sure to avoid ones with strong sulfates. More dry or sensitive skin types might want to stick to a cream cleanser with some moisturizing power.


Step 4: Rinse again, and you’re done!


Rinse again with lukewarm water. Continue on with the rest of your skincare routine!

It might seem pretty high-maintenance, but trust me — once you get the hang of it, it really doesn’t take much time or effort. After picking up the routine, your skin will feel cleaner, softer, and more refreshed in no time!

Already doing the double cleanse?


Let us know how it’s worked out for you in the comments section below, or share some other K-beauty staples you’ve incorporated into your skincare routine!