Is Double Cleansing Worth the Extra Step in Your Skincare Routine? A Derm Weighs In

The spring refresh your skin deserves.

By Langa Chinyoka
Woman double cleansing in mirror.

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We’re calling it: 2024 is the year we go back to the basics. If you’re also tired of the microtrend cycle, you might be craving a return to form. Some beauty hacks we’re keeping forever—some we already regret. But if 2023 was about taking risks, this year’s trends point to pairing back and finding what truly works for you. One thing I’ve learned in my years as a beauty editor? All the creams and serums in the world can’t help if you’re washing your face wrong. To give your skincare routine the spring refresh it deserves, we’re learning how to double cleanse properly—once and for all.

At first glance, double cleansing might seem over the top. But if there’s makeup residue on your towel after washing your face, it’s time to reconsider. Ditto if you have oily or acne-prone skin (though all skin types might benefit from double cleansing products).

Turns out, makeup wipes are full of harsh chemicals. Plus, scrubbing a disposable cloth around your face tugs at your skin and could accelerate aging. But with waterproof, long-wear makeup and mineral sunscreens, how do you make sure you’re squeaky clean? Easy answer: the best double cleansing products.

Featured image from our interview with Iskra Lawrence.

Skincare products.

Why You Should Be Using Double Cleansing Products in 2024

Double cleansing is more than a fad. It’s dermatologist-approved. I spoke to Rachael Gallo, esthetician and COO of Silver Mirror facial bar, and Dr. Loretta Ciraldo MD FAAD, a Miami-based board-certified derm and founder of Dr. Loretta skincare, about the benefits of double cleansing and the best double cleansing products.

“The method has become more popular because there are more “waterproof” and long-lasting makeup products on the market and these are often difficult to remove with standard non-soap cleansing formulas,” says Dr. Loretta.

According to Gallo, each step in your double cleanse has different benefits. “The first is to remove the top layer of makeup, and dirt from environmental causes The second cleanse is to brighten and hydrate the skin.

Your second cleanser should be tailored to your skin type and needs. But for your first cleanser, the best double cleansing products might be a cleansing oil, balm, or micellar water. Read on to discover which products to use and how to double cleanse the right way for a fresh face and softer skin.

Woman looking out window.

How to Double Cleanse

“When double cleansing, ensure you remove all residue from the first cleanser before moving to the second cleansing step,” says Gallo. “Pick a brightening, hydrating cleanser for your second step to correct any skin concerns.”

Adding Double Cleansing to Your Skincare Routine

“Many women have started to double cleanse,” says Dr. Loretta. “First using a product that features oil to wipe away the makeup and then a cleanser to cleanse the skin.”

Gallo recommends double cleansing for your evening routine. “This step is often missed after a busy long day but it is the most important as cellular turnover happens when we are at rest.”

Who Should Double Cleanse

“Women who wear makeup and men with facial hair should double cleanse,” says Gallo. “Men often neglect the skin under their beards and this is important to prevent ingrown hairs and keep their follicles clean and soft.”

Who Should Avoid Double Cleansing

Gallo says that anyone “with sensitive skin should use a gentle cleaner as their first option to ensure they are not applying too many exfoliating ingredients to their skin. A balm would be the best option in this case.”

Woman double cleansing.

What is the difference between a cleansing balm and oil?

“A cleansing balm usually has a thicker heavier texture,” notes Gallo. “We recommend using a balm for heavier makeup removal and more sensitive skin. Oil is great for dehydrated skin, and someone whose makeup doesn’t last through the day would benefit from a rich, oil-based cleanser.”

Dr. Loretta echoes this, also suggesting using a balm if your skin leans on the dryer side of things. “The balm tends to hydrate more than an oil,” she says.

The Best Double Cleansing Products

“The double cleanse is, as its name suggests, a two-step process,” says Dr. Loretta. “First you’d use an oil, micellar water (which has oil suspended in water), or an ointment-like balm. All of these will remove silicone-based and waterproof makeup. Then you use a non-soap cleanser.”

“For the initial cleanse, we use anything containing micellar water, which attracts the dirt off the top layer of skin and absorbs the oils,” says Gallo. “Using an oil balm is great for makeup removal as it is gentle on the skin but effective to remove even waterproof mascara. Depending on your skin type, we recommend using a gel or cream cleanser for your second cleanser.”

Babba Rivera Headshot

Ingredients to Look For in Your First Cleanse

Dr. Loretta recommends hyaluronic acid or aloe for their hydrating properties. She considers any ingredients that “help hydrate and protect the skin without stripping,” her go-to’s. Bonus: these heavy-hitting ingredients are known to help reduce redness as well. Be sure to keep an eye out for antioxidants and anti-inflammatory products, too.

Other ingredients for double cleansing include:

  • Shea butter
  • Jojoba oil
  • Moringa oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Rose oil
  • Lavender oil
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Green tea
  • Tea tree oil
Mary Ralph headshot.

The Best Cleansing Oils to Add to Your Routine

Wonder Valley Oil Cleanser

This rich olive oil-based cleanser softens and nourishes your skin and replenishes your moisture barrier. It’s ideal for taking off sunscreen or clearing away the day’s impurities.

Liquid Gold Cleansing Oil

This silky formula combines jojoba oil and elderberry in a rich blend that won’t clog your pores.

CeraVe Hydrating Oil Face Cleanser

CeraVe is a drugstore favorite for a reason. Slather on this hydrating oil formula, then let it lather into a foam as you add water. Use it as your first step or as a double cleanser in one.

Marie Veronique Pure + E.O. Free Oil Cleanser

Remove debris, sunscreen, and makeup with this microbiome-friendly cleanser that helps replenish your skin’s natural protective oils.

Tata Harper Nourishing Oil Cleanser

Vitamin E and vitamin A are the superstar antioxidants in this skin-supporting makeup remover. The multivitamin cleansing oil breaks down buildup without stripping the skin for a soft, supple sheen.

The Camellia Cleansing Oil

Camellia oil gently melts away even waterproof makeup. This silky formula washes off without leaving any residue, giving you a clean canvas for your next step.

Pai Skincare Light Work Cleansing Oil

Pai’s cult-favorite botanical oils don’t stop with their serums. Try this cleansing and brightening blend of rosehip oil, olive oil, and vitamin E.

The Best Cleansing Balms for Healthy, Hydrated Skin

Evolve Gentle Cleansing Melt

Nothing smells or feels as good as this lush, vanilla, baobab, and rose balm. Massage it into your skin to remove surface makeup and product as well as deep impurities.

Youth to the People Superberry Dream Cleansing Balm

Hyaluronic acid and superfoods combine for a cleansing balm that replenishes moisture as you cleanse. This flash-melting makeup remover rapidly dissolves waterproof and long-wear products.

Versed Day Dissolve Cleansing Balm

This milky solution moisturizes with vitamin E, eucalyptus, and jojoba oil without leaving any oily residue.

Paula’s Choice Paula’s Choice Omega Complex Cleansing Balm

Jojoba and meadowfoam seed oils thoroughly cleanse and nourish without disturbing the skin’s barrier.

Augustinus Bader The Cleansing Balm

You already know and love The Rich cream, so prepare to fall for this rich cleansing balm. Decongest and cleanse your skin of environmental pollution with high-potency botanicals and clean actives.

Oat Cleansing Balm

This yummy oat oil is a hydrating, milky cleanser to moisturize the skin and remove SPF. The high level of skin-beneficial natural actives soothe irritated skin and reduce redness. Leave it on for extra long as a ten-minute nourishing mask.

Papaya Sorbet Enzyme Cleansing Balm

This cult favorite K-Beauty balm turns to a milky oil and harnesses naturally smoothing papaya to satisfy and resurface the skin. It creates a soft and smooth canvas without compromising your skin barrier.

The Best Micellar Waters for Double Cleansing

Futurna Skin Acqua Serena Micellar Cleansing Essence

Give your fresh face a radiant glow with this two-in-one toning cleanser. Olive leaf water and olive-enriched micelles purify and restore the skin’s pH.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Sensitive Skin Micellar Water

The one and only. This French-favorite micellar water sweeps away every trace of makeup or product without compromising sensitive skin.

Perricone MD Micellar Cleansing Treatment

Perricone MD’s Micellar Cleansing Treatment cleanses and balances skin with a powerful formula of copper peptide and hyaluronic acid. This no-rinse cleanser works to remove makeup and purify pores, plus vitamin B3 erases pigmentation while vitamin C brightens skin tone.

Matcha Micellar Water

The matcha and supreme almond oil in this micellar water contain moisturizing, repairing, and emollient properties. Its natural surfactants and hyaluronic acid deeply hydrate and restore lost elasticity.

Caudalie Vinoclean Micellar Cleansing Water

The Caudalie Vinoclean Micellar Cleansing Water removes make-up and cleanses the face in one step. It’s packed with grape water to hydrate and leave skin soft and clean.

Avène Micellar Lotion Cleanser and Make-Up Remover

This lotion cleanser and makeup remover contains hydrogenated castor oil and glycerin suspended in the signature Avène thermal spring water to deeply cleanse and nourish in just a few swipes