The best double cleansing products to add to your routine

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No matter your skin care routine, removing dirt, grime and makeup from your skin is key to keeping it healthy and clean. That’s where cleansing, the process of washing your face to remove oil and buildup, comes in. In some cases, however, one quick face wash isn’t enough to remove excess gunk from your skin. (A tell-tale sign is seeing leftover makeup or dirt on your towels after you’ve cleansed, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. DiAnne Davis.) If this happens often, there’s no need to throw out your cleanser or increase your scrubbing time — you may just need to double cleanse.

SKIP AHEAD Step one: oil-based cleanser | Step two: water-based cleanser | Step Three: moisturizer | Is double cleansing good for my skin? | How often should I double cleanse? 

Double cleansing is the process of using an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser to get your skin as clean as possible without causing irritation, according to board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green. The oil-based cleanser breaks down surface-level products like makeup and sunscreen, while the water-based cleanser tackles pollutants, dirt, and debris. Below we’re breaking down everything you need to know to start your double-cleansing journey. We also interviewed two board-certified dermatologists about the best products to use during the process. 

Our top picks

Everything you need to start double cleansing 

Double cleansing was born out of fourteenth century Asian beauty practices, with roots in both Japanese and Korean cultures. Today, it’s a widespread practice that helps you achieve a deep clean of your skin.

Below, we used expert guidance to round up the best oil- and water-based cleansers (plus moisturizers to help avoid dryness) to ensure that your double cleansing routine is both effective and safe for your skin. We provided a range of products that cater to several skin types, including normal, oily and acne prone

Step One: Oil-Based Cleanser

Using an oily product on your face may seem counterintuitive, especially if you already have oily skin. However, “oil-based [products] are better suited to remove impurities that are also oil-based, such as makeup, excess sebum, and sunscreen,” says Green. As a result, starting your routine with a cleansing oil or balm will set your next cleanser up for success — it ensures that your pores are clear and open. Below, we provided a range of oil-based cleaners for normal, oily/combination and acne-prone skin types. 

Avene’s XeraCalm A.D. Lipid-Replenishing Cleansing Oil

Green recommends this Avene cleansing oil for its hydrating formula, which includes soothing ingredients like omega-6 and glycerin. Lather the oil in your hands, where it’ll transform into a foam. Then, massage the cleanser into your skin and rinse with lukewarm water — anything hotter will contribute to dry skin, according to the brand. 

Skin Types: normal, oily, combination

Versed Day Dissolve

This Versed cleansing balm is my go-to first cleanser since it effortlessly melts away makeup and oil while leaving a fresh, matte finish on my skin. It’s infused with vitamin E, a hydrating antioxidant, and a selection of natural oils that draw out impurities and soften my skin. I scoop a dime-sized dollop onto my dry fingertips and massage the balm directly into my skin for a few seconds. Then, with wet hands, I continue massaging until a milky residue forms. From there, I rinse everything off with warm water before proceeding to my second cleanser. 

Skin Types: normal, oily, and combination

Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Waterproof Makeup Remover

While micellar water isn’t oil-based, our experts recommend it as another great first-step cleanser option for acne-prone skin because it can effectively remove oil-based impurities without clogging your pores. Start by saturating it on a cotton pad, then using it to wipe your face until all makeup is removed, or until you feel cleansed. You won’t need to rinse this off before moving on to your second cleanser. 

Skin Types: acne-prone

Step Two: Water-based cleanser

Now that you’ve removed the first layer of dirt and makeup from your skin, you’re ready to deep-clean your pores with a gentle, water-based cleanser. There’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to this second-step — just be sure to choose a product, whether it be a cream or a gel, that aligns with your skin type, says Green.

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Green recommends this gentle cleanser for dry to normal skin types because of its formulation: it has glycerin and niacinamide in it to help with hydration and also removes impurities. After working the cleanser into your skin, the brand recommends leaving some excess product behind and rubbing it in with your moisturizer as an extra skin barrier treatment. 

Skin Types: dry to normal, sensitive 

La Roche Posay Toleriane Hydrating Gentle Cleanser

Ceramides, lactic acid, and hyaluronic acid are key cleanser ingredients for dry skin types, which is why La Roche Posay’s Ceramide-infused cleanser is a great option, according to Green. She particularly likes its creamy formula as it gently cleanses your face while also softens and moisturizes the skin. I have sensitive, combination skin myself, and love that this leaves my skin feeling soft and hydrated right out of the shower. I immediately follow it with La Roche Posay’s Toleriane Double Repair Moisturizer to lock in as much moisture as possible. 

Skin Types: dry, sensitive

La Roche Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel Cleanser

Green also recommends the brand’s purifying gel cleanser for acne-prone and oily skin types thanks to its gentle, non comedogenic formula. It provides a deep cleanse without drying out the skin and includes Zinc pidolate, which helps reduce both inflammation and excess oil production, according to Green. 

Skin Types: oily, acne-prone 

Step Three: Moisturizer

The double-cleansing process helps you achieve the deepest, cleanest version of your skin, however, it also means stripping your face of its essential oils twice over. This makes moisturizing an essential part of the double-cleansing routine since it ensures that you’re adding moisture back into your skin, says Davis. After rising off your second cleanser, Green recommends applying moisturizer while the skin is still damp to maximize hydration and enhance your skin’s natural protective barrier. 

CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion

Green recommends this lotion for dry to normal skin types because of its ceramide-based formula that locks in moisture and strengthens your skin barrier. Plus, you can use it as a body lotion too. If you struggle with more severe dryness, she suggests trying the brand’s moisturizing cream for a thicker, fast-absorbing formula.

Skin Types: normal, dry

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Moisturizer

Noncomedogenic moisturizers are essential for combination, oily, and acne-prone skin, because they prevent further clogging of your pores, according to Green. That’s why Green recommends this water-based option for oilier skin due to its lightweight hydration. (Lotion formulas, on the other hand, can add on grease to oily skin types, she says.) You can use this oil-free water-gel on your face and neck as a moisturizer, and under makeup too. 

Skin Types: combination, oily, acne-prone

Is double cleansing good for my skin type? 

If you have balanced skin and don’t typically wear many products, there’s no need to risk over-stripping your skin with double cleansing, says Green. Both experts we spoke with say if you experience the following factors, you will likely benefit from an extra cleanse: 

  • Oily and acne prone skin 
  • Heavy makeup use 
  • Frequent use of medical face masks
  • Living or spending extended time in polluted or humid environments

Anyone with skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, or those who struggle with dryness and general sensitivity, should avoid double cleansing completely since you can risk over-stripping your skin of its natural oils, leading to irritation, Davis says. 

How often should I double cleanse? 

Save double cleansing for your evening routine, especially after particularly sweaty days or ones where you’ve worn heavier makeup. Davis recommends paying attention to your skin’s unique needs — if you’re extremely oily, you may benefit from double cleansing twice a day. If you try it and your skin is getting too irritated, too dry or breaking out, then double cleaning may not be for you, she says. 

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Michele Green is a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist in New York City. 
  • Dr. DiAnne Davis is a board-certified dermatologist in Dallas, TX. Davis has previously partnered with CeraVe, Cetaphil, Neutrogena, and La Roche Posay. Because of this, we only used her general guidance about double cleansing and did not ask her for specific product recommendations. 

Why trust Select?

For this piece, Mikhaila Archer interviewed two board-certified dermatologists about the  benefits of double cleansing. 

Catch up on Select’s in-depth coverage of personal finance, tech and tools, wellness and more, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

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