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Does your skin care routine require two cleansers? Here’s what an expert says

Follow these pro tips to get the deepest clean.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

If you took a poll of 10 random people about how they wash their face, you're bound to get a variety of answers. Some will say they have a solid routine they’ve stuck with for years, while others will admit to always hunting for the next best thing. You might even run into a few who settle for a bar of soap and water and call it a day.

When it comes down to it, we can all agree on at least one thing: you need a cleanser of some kind. But what if you use more than one?

Double cleansing has risen in popularity in recent years — the hashtag #doublecleanse has garnered 197 million views on TikTok — so we consulted skin experts about what it is and whether or not we should actually be doing it.

What is double cleansing? | What products should be used for it? | How to do it the right way | Oil-based cleansers | Water-based cleansers | FAQ | Meet the experts

What is double cleansing? 

“Double cleansing is a two-step skin care process that involves using two different cleaners to thoroughly clean the skin,” says Liana Sahakyan, RN, MSN.

The first cleanser is to help remove the skin of makeup and superficial debris. The second cleanse is to help balance the skin, decongest clogged pores and deliver more targeted cleansing benefits such as reducing and diminishing breakouts, and improving the overall skin texture and appearance.

What types of products should be used for double cleansing?

The first step of double cleansing typically involves an oil-based cleanser — cleansing oil, cleansing balm or micellar water — to remove oil-based impurities like makeup, sunscreen and excess sebum.

Look for products containing natural oils like jojoba, argan or grapeseed, as they effectively dissolve makeup and impurities without stripping the skin’s natural oils.

The second step involves using a water-based cleanser — foaming, gel or cream cleansers — to remove any remaining residue, dirt and water-based impurities. You'll want to choose a gentle and pH-balanced product that suits your specific skin type and concerns. 

No matter which products you choose, Sahakyan recommends always conducting a patch test when using new products. "Consider consulting with a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized recommendations,” she adds.

How to properly double cleanse

Sahakyan offers a step-by-step guide to get the best results out of your double-cleansing routine:

  1. Apply the oil-based cleanser to dry skin and gently massage it in circular motions.
  2. Emulsify the oil-based cleanser by adding a few drops of water, turning it into a milky consistency. Rinse thoroughly with lukewarm water.
  3. Apply the water-based cleanser to damp skin and massage it gently in upward motions.
  4. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat your face dry with a clean towel.

Oil-based cleansers for double cleansing

CeraVe Makeup Removing Cleanser Balm

Type: Cleansing balm | Size: 1.3 oz | Key ingredients: Ceramides, jojoba seed oil, hydrogenated castor oil

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Howard Sobel recommends this makeup removing cleanser balm from CeraVe. It's fragrance-, paraben- and soap-free, suitable for sensitive skin and non-comedogenic so you won't have to worry about clogged pores.

Bioderma Sensibio H20 Micellar Water

Type: Micellar water | Size: 16 fl oz | Key ingredients: Cucumber extract

Both experts recommend micellar water to help with removing makeup. It’s ideal for sensitive skin and has gotten the stamp of approval from more than 38,000 verified Amazon shoppers who gave it a perfect five-star rating.

Caudalie Vinoclean Makeup Removing Cleansing Oil

Type: Cleansing oil | Size: 5 fl oz | Key ingredients: Castor, sweet almond, grape seed and sunflower oils

This vegan cleansing oil will melt away makeup while cleansing and adding hydration to your skin. It’s a great option for those who experience dry, dull and uneven texture on your skin. According to the brand, the key ingredients are good for everything from softening the skin to supporting lash growth.

Babor Hyaluronic Cleansing Balm

Type: Cleansing balm | Size: 150 ml | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, marula oil, argan oil, macademia oil

Sobel recommends this hyaluronic cleansing balm from Babor. It’s made with hydrophilic oils — marula, argan and macademia — to thoroughly remove dirt and makeup.

Water-based cleansers for double cleansing

CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser

Type: Gel cleanser | Size: 16 fl oz | Key ingredients: Ceramides, hyaluronic acid, glycerin

This cleanser is designed to help hydrate your skin without stripping any moisture while working to remove makeup, dirt and excess oil. Nearly 86,000 verified Amazon shoppers have sang its praises with a perfect five-star rating.

La Roche-Posay Toleriane Purifying Foaming Cleanser

Type: Foaming cleanser | Size: 13.52 fl oz | Key ingredients: Ceramides, glycerin, niacinamide

This cleanser has earned Sahakyan's seal of approval. It's free of sulfates, soaps, parabens and fragrance, so those with sensitive skin won't have to worry. The brand says you can even use it on your hands!

Paula's Choice Resist Perfectly Balanced Foaming Cleanser

Type: Foaming cleanser | Size: 6.4 fl oz | Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid, ceramides, aloe

Packed with hydrating and moisturizing ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, ceramides and aloe, you can complete your double-cleansing routine confidently with this cleanser from Paula's Choice. One Amazon reviewer said they saw a difference in their skin after just five washes.

Caudalie Vinopure Pore Purifying Gel Cleanser

Type: Gel cleanser | Size: 5 fl oz | Key ingredients: Salicylic acid, rosemary oil, peppermint oil

Promising exfoliation while simultaneously absorbing excess oil and purifying skin, this gel cleanser from Caudalie is a perfect second step for your double cleansing ritual. It touts the ability to unclog and tighten pores, tone and refresh the skin.

Meet the experts