Call us beauty-obsessed but there’s a certain thrill that comes with unlocking the potential secrets that the vanity table holds. The question of today: does the term ‘double cleansing’ ring a bell? It’s a fifty-fifty odds that it does and if you do, chances are that you’ve already been in on the make-up cleansing ritual for a substantial amount of time now. The cleansing method, which first popped up in the K-beauty realm, consisting of a two-step cleaning process, has long been the gold standard of South Korea’s skincare routines. Yet somehow, it has still managed to remain shrouded in mystery and overlooked by most—despite its overwhelmingly clear benefits.
Pandemic-induced mask regulations have started to loosen up and putting on a full face, should you wish to, is officially a thing again. It’s undeniable that there are some days that going full glam still reigns status quo, but it’s what comes after, that most of us collectively dread. The cleanse.
The truth of the matter is that the amount of time it takes to put on a foolproof make-up look also translates into an equally lengthy session of removing it all using just a facial cleanser or worse still, make-up wipes. Hence, we re-introduce you to the double cleanse: where two different cleansers are used consecutively to target different aspects of one’s made-up face—from the actual products used on one’s visage to the unavoidable build-up of oil and dirt throughout the day.
But despite it being a cult favourite amongst K-beauty connoisseurs, it stands to reason that some would still have their qualms; the idea almost draws too close to the possibility of one’s countenance being stripped of moisture or even subject to double the slew of chemicals should we do it too often. And there’s also the question pertaining to our individual skin biology: How does the double cleanse affect our different skin types and conditions? To set it all straight, we speak to Dr Teo Wan Lin, a professional dermatologist at TWL Specialist Skin and Laser Centre to shed some light on the real magic behind the double cleanse routine and how we should adjust our cleansing methods according to our skin types.
What does ‘double cleansing’ refer to?
Double cleansing refers to using 2 separate cleansers in separate steps consecutively—for a thorough cleanse. The first step removes oil-soluble makeup or sunscreen by using either an oil-based or micellar cleanser, before using a lathering cleanser that removes residual dirt and grime, whilst also ensuring that your face feels clean and hydrated after.
Why should we start a double cleansing regime? Is it safe for our skin?
Double cleansing is not considered unsafe and is actually regarded as a beneficial skincare step that supports a healthy skin microbiome. Make-up pigments and sunscreen are oil-soluble and are hence not efficiently removed with your traditional single-step lathering cleansers. Those who try will end up using either too much product or resort to excessive rubbing to remove their make-up off; thus disturbing and aggravating the skin barrier further. By using two different, targeted products, it helps to ensure that all our bases are covered for a good cleanse—be it our make-up products or the build-up of grime at the end of the day.
Considering our hot and humid climes and mask-wearing lifestyle, a proper cleanse is truly paramount for us. Residual environmental pollutants on skin can accelerate damage caused by free radicals and cause skin ageing. By ensuring our skin is thoroughly cleansed, it allows for better skin renewal, improved skin radiance and better absorption of skincare.
Many fear ‘over-cleansing’ the face when we double cleanse. How would you address these concerns?
This issue is actually most prominent with the use of facial wipes: whether they are marketed as 2-in-1 options or as makeup remover wipes. Whilst these wipes have impressive solvent capabilities, the harsh chemicals they utilise are extremely disruptive to the skin barrier.
If you’d like to take greater care in your make-up removal routine, use a dermatologist-recommended cleansing milk or oil, followed by a gentle lathering cleanser. When removing makeup using the cleansing milk or oil cleanser, use a makeup remover pad made of microfibers that are designed to physically attract particles—hence removing makeup more efficiently.
@dermatology.doctor How I remove my make-up 💄 how about you? #dermatologist #dermatologydoctor #skincare #fyp #makeupremoval #doublecleanse #foryoupage #learnontiktok ♬ original sound – Adam Wright
How do we adjust our double cleansing methods for different skin types?
If you have dry/sensitive skin or any active dermatological conditions…
You should avoid heavy makeup that requires double cleansing if you have eczema, rosacea or any active forms of dermatitis that affect the skin barrier, until your skin is more stable. Regardless of how efficient one’s make-up remover is, the cleansing process still requires the physical action of exfoliating—be it via a makeup remover pad or cotton pad—which can irritate very sensitive skin.
In these cases, the double cleansing regime should be adapted; one can use a cleansing milk as the main cleanser and follow up immediately with a lathering moisturising cleanser—without rinsing one’s face in-between. This should also be done without any makeup pads, sponges, or cloths. The use of cold water when lathering one’s face will also minimise disruption to the skin barrier.
If you have oily/combination/normal skin…
You can follow the standard double cleanse with ease. Use a moist, soft makeup remover pad or cotton pad to wipe make-up and other product build-up off. Follow up with a lathering cleanser; preferably one that consists of amino acid surfactants, botanicals, or honey as these are all natural emulsifiers which are gentler on one’s skin.
If you have oily skin, make sure to cleanse with a gentle foaming cleanser and refrain from a dehydrating one. Singapore’s climate predisposes one to reactive seborrhoea—an excessive discharge of sebum which results in paradoxically oilier skin when astringent cleansers or toners are used. A common misconception is that the addition of salicylic, AHA and lactic acids are beneficial to oily skin. On the contrary, these acids used in cleansers can actually increase sun sensitivity which works against the extreme UV rays we are exposed to all year round. My personal recommendation is to incorporate these acids into your toner step once a week, instead of your daily cleanser.