Double cleansing is a method of facial cleansing that dates back to the 14th century. Proponents refresh their skin in two steps: first, an oil-based cleanser, then, a water-based cleanser.

There is no one-size-fits-all skincare routine, but TikTok and social media in general have wholeheartedly embraced the double cleansing method, so let's take a look at the possible advantages and disadvantages, and how to adapt it for different skin types.

How To Double Cleanse

Using your hands, apply an oil-based cleanser to dry skin and massage using gentle, circular motions. Rinse using your hands or a washcloth and lukewarm water—don’t use very hot water, as this can damage skin barrier function and dry out your skin.

Next, apply a water-based cleanser to your damp skin and massage. Rinse off with your hands or a washcloth — again making sure the water is not too hot — and pat dry with a towel. Follow up with any serums and moisturizers as usual. Double cleansing is most effective at night but can also be done in the morning if desired.

woman washing her face in the sink


How Double Cleansing Works

The oil-based cleanser breaks down sunscreen and makeup and removes dirt and excess oil from the skin. This can help the water-based cleanser, which addresses individual concerns such as dryness or acne, better fulfill its goals.

This two-step method can also help products like serums and moisturizers penetrate the skin and work more effectively.

smiling woman cleaning her face



Double cleansing may be beneficial for people who wear heavy makeup or sunscreen, or those who live in polluted areas. People with acne or oily skin often avoid oil-based cleansers, but the double cleansing method can break down excess oil and help regulate sebum production, and the oily product is not left on the skin.

Double cleansing can benefit those with dry skin because two gentle cleansers may be less drying than one stronger formula.

woman applying face oil in the morning


Potential Drawbacks

Double cleansing isn’t for everyone. The method may leave the skin feeling stripped of natural oils, or may even cause breakouts. Sometimes this is a result of choosing the wrong cleansers and may be resolved by experimenting with different products.

People with very sensitive skin, or with conditions like rosacea or cystic acne, may find that double cleansing aggravates their symptoms.

young man looking at an acne breakout on his face


For Normal or Combination Skin

People with normal skin don’t need to worry too much about which cleansers they select. In general, it’s best to avoid products with harsh ingredients such as surfactants, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances, as these can cause irritation and repeated exposure may trigger a skin sensitivity.

For combination skin, choose hydrating cleansers that aren’t too heavy and contain skin-friendly ingredients like antioxidants and fatty acids.

woman applying a cream cleanser to her face


For Oily Skin

People with oily or acne-prone skin will need to choose an oil-based cleanser that is non-comedogenic—that is, one that won’t clog the pores. Oils that are good for oily skin include argan, marula, and rosehip. Avoide avocado, olive, and coconut.

Micellar water is a good option for people who don’t want to use oil for step one. For step two, gel cleansers are popular, and ingredients like salicylic acid can help fight breakouts.

smiling older woman applying a face oil


For Dry Skin

For people with dry skin, choosing the right products is key to avoiding overwashing and drying out the skin even further. Look for an oil-based cleanser with nourishing oils like jojoba, coconut, and shea to add moisture to the skin. The water-based cleanser should be gentle, hydrating, and PH balanced.

Avoid drying ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, salicylic acid, alcohol, parabens, and artificial fragrances and dyes.

woman examining her skin in the mirror


For Mature Skin

Generally speaking, mature skin requires similar care to dry skin. This is because our skin loses moisture as we age, causing a loss of elasticity and the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Retaining the skin’s moisture is key to fighting the signs of aging, so look for hydrating ingredients like ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamins A, C, and E.

older man checking his face in the mirror after a shower


For Sensitive Skin

Choosing the right products for sensitive skin can be difficult. Luckily, many skincare brands have products specially designed for sensitive skin that are free from harsh chemicals and artificial fragrances.

Rosemary and camellia oils are good choices for step one, as they are known to soothe irritation.  Hemp seed oil is a good choice for hydrating and repairing damaged skin. Choose a hypoallergenic water-based cleanser with gentle ingredients like oat, rice, or coconut water.

rosemary essential oil with a dropper


Variations on the Double Cleansing Method

Although using an oil-based cleanser followed by a water-based cleanser is the most popular way to double cleanse, it’s not the only way. Some people prefer to use the same cleanser — oil- or water-based — twice or to swap out the oil-based cleanser for micellar water or cleansing milk.

Instead of a water-based cleanser, you can try out a glycerin-based one, which may improve hydration. Everyone’s skin is different and it might take a little experimentation to find the perfect fit.

woman applying micellar water to a pad for face cleansing


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